Colin's Punk Rock World.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
I love punk rock, I love the music, I love going to shows, I love the people I meet and I love what it stands for. The purpose of this blog is for me to review gigs and CDs and give my personal opinions on what gets me more excited than anything in the world - punk rock and roll!
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Seattle based Phantom Racer put out their debut release Strikes Again back in October of 2017. Strikes Again is a curious name for a debut release and I was keen to check it out due to the great album artwork. Phantom Racer are a four piece band consisting of Doug (guitar and vocals), Joe (guitar), Tony (bass and backing vocals) and Nick (drums and backing vocals). They formed in 2015 and are influenced by 90s skate punk legends such as Propagandhi, Lagwagon, NOFX, Bad Religion and No Use For A Name. Phantom Racer sound like my cup of tea.
Strikes Again starts out in an explosive fashion with Powder Keg. At just over a minute long it feels like Phantom Racer are giving you a taste of what they're about before starting properly. The track features fast guitars, powerful drums and soaring vocals with great harmonies and backing vocals. Most of all, the song is packed with a combustible energy that makes you think it could explode at any second. That incredible energy spills over into the next song, Control The Narrative. I love the pace that Doug delivers his vocals on the verse adding even more to the huge energy that Phantom Racer omit. The song is a political number that talks about the media trying to take away democracy. I enjoyed how the delivery of the line "they're trying to take our democracy" gets more and more intense every time that it's sung. The third song is named In The Event Of A Cave In. This track doesn't start in such an explosive fashion but more with more of a slow(ish) build. Whilst you're not immediately drawn into this song, it doesn't take long before you are throwing your body around with excitement for it. The song jumps nicely between a more restrained approach and a build where you just go crazy. What A Waste starts out with some fantastic duelling guitars being accompanied by a simple drumbeat. Continuing the theme of high energy skate punk, here Phantom Racer sing about remembering the past and not throwing what you've learnt away.
Worst Liar Alive starts out with such a great guitar shred, really showing what great musicians Phantom Racer are. The opening of the song leads you to believe that this will be a metal tinged track, ala Propagandhi, but as soon as the vocals kick in I immediately feel more inclined to think of this as a pop punk song. There is a great contrast between the music and the vocals that makes this song vital listening. The sixth song, Origin Story, is the most pop punk song on Strikes Back. It's about how you first got into punk music and how the obsession began. I'm sure we all have our own origin story like this. This makes the song incredibly relatable. I really enjoyed the moments when it's just Doug's vocals with some muted music accompanying him. You can't help but get lost in his words. The penultimate song is named Lost In The Comment Section. It's a thirty-two second angry attack on the ridiculous and horrible comments you find in comment sections on the Internet. Finally we have Negative Partisanship. Negative Partisanship is another track that could find itself in the more metal/shredding side of punk rock. There is a very punchy stop-start sound to the opening verse of the song that I had a little trouble really investing in. Then the chorus hits and I'm in. The repeated lines of "the reveloution, that's what we're ready for" come in and get me pumped up, shouting along and throwing my fists in the air. Phantom Racer finish Strikes Again with some flurry!
This is a really strong debut release from the four piece. Strikes Again is very well played and written. It takes the genre of skate punk and makes it sound fresh again some twenty years after it really hit its height of popularity. Well played, Phantom Racer.
My absolute favourite thing to do on a Sunday is to visit the New Cross Inn in South London to spend the day at one of their legendary all-dayer gigs. This one was just a little bit different and a bit special. Be Sharp Promotions were putting on an all day acoustic show headlined by Ray Rocket of Teenage Bottlerocket and supported by Sam Russo, Alex from Wonk Unit and nine other acoustic performers. I imagine the sound guy working the event has had fewer easier days than this one. I however had the unenviable task of reviewing twelve chaps with acoustic guitars and making it sound varied.
We arrived at the New Cross Inn a little late (because trying to find the way into London Bridge station is a mission at the moment) so the opening act C-Rage's set was already underway when we arrived. I knew nothing of C-Rage before the set began but quickly recognised him as a regular of the New Cross punk gigs. He played a fun acoustic pop punk set with plenty of songs about girls, one about finding punk on the radio and another about feeling left behind by his friends that are going out and doing all that boring growing up and getting married stuff. In what turned out to be a bit of a running theme of the day, he played a couple of covers - one being Hope by the Descendents and another being a cover from one of Be Sharp Promotions Paul Smith's old bands. This was a really fun way to start the day. Also, to try and add to variety to this review - C-Rage was the only person to play a left handed guitar.
Following C-Rage was Northern Irish acoustic guitar man Mark Noble. Now based in London, Mark was perhaps one of the days performers who was most used to performing acoustically. He also dealt with some rowdy punters at the bar superbly simply by informing them that he had the microphone so would be louder. Playing more of a folk punk (opposed to simply acoustic punk) style than the rest of the day's artists really made him stand out. Mark played a selection of his own songs, some traditional folk songs as well as three excellent covers of Billy Bragg's A New England (a song we were talking about on out train journey in), The ’59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem and, most surprisingly and hilariously, Hit Me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears. During the Britney cover he even managed to get a pub full of punks to sing-a-long and provide backing vocals. Excellent work.
We'd previously seen SKIV under his previous stage name Sweater Songs at another New Cross all-dayer back in July of last year. Former DropThis singer Jordan Harris again played a wonderful set that shows off his wonderful vocals. He had a great confidence between songs and was more than happy to banter with the crowd and tell jokes. When he opened his set Jordan joked saying "we're SKIV" alluding to the fact that it's normally a full band effort including Cereal Box Heroes guitarist Conor. For me the highlights of his set were his two new songs In A & E and Thumb Print as well as his excellent cover of the Descendents song Dreams which he expertly had the crowd singing harmonies for.
Up next was someone I was particularly looking forward to seeing. Dan Peters of RxR and contributor to CPRW. I've known Dan for a few years thanks to the wonder of the Internet but this was my first time meeting him let alone seeing him play. Because I do consider him a pal I'm a little concerned about sounding overly biased in my praise for his performance. I would have said that Dan was my favourite performance of the entire day but I changed my mind the next day because I had the pop song Call Me Maybe stuck in head and it was super annoying. Dan's set was covers from start to finish with him playing acoustic versions of songs from MXPX, NOFX, Rancid, Blink 182, Dead Neck and old friends Müg. There might have been more but I was busy taking a picture and sending it to the CPRW group chat. Dan has a brilliant enthusiastic charm on stage and plays with a big smile on his face, exactly what I like to see. He also plays a tiny guitar.
I was also quite looking forward to seeing Call Me Malcolm frontman Lucias take to the stage. I must admit I was kind of expecting more of a ska acoustic sound from Lucias. We didn't get this but we did get another thoroughly entertaining set. At times spell binding and at times hilarious it was impossible not to stay completed fixated by the man on stage. Playing a selection of his own material including Call Me Malcolm and 24 Hour Punks songs as well as some excellent and varied cover selections including Coolio's Gangsters Paradise, Lit's My Own Worst Enemy and a hilarious parody of Tom Petty's Free Fallin'. I was so impressed with Lucias voice here, I hope he performs more acoustic sets between playing with his other bands.
The big problem with all-dayers is finding the time to have a food break, especially at an acoustic day where the changeovers are quite quick. This means you inevitably have to miss out on some or all of a performer. Unfortunately due to the need to eat we only got to see three songs of Wayfairers set. From what we saw Ian was as great as ever playing tracks from both his excellent EP's Drifting and Losing My Cool.
We got back from a quick bite to eat just in time for the next act, Stew Gush. Stew Gush is a melodic acoustic punk rock artist from Redhill. Despite the day all being men with acoustic guitars it was at this point of the day I'd realised how varied all the artists had been so far. Stew's melodic set was great as he showed a great amount of skill and versatility on his guitar. Sometimes playing energetic punk rock and sometimes adding a bluesy element to his music. His set of course had some covers in it as well including NFOX's Monosyllabic Girl and MXPX's Doing Time. Stew is recording his music soon and I'm looking forward to checking it out when it's released.
Up next was Triple Sundae's Hassan Afaneh. When he took to the stage he mentioned that he was supposed to be joined on stage by other members of Triple Sundae but unfortunately they hadn't been able to sort out a practice in time so he was flying solo. Not that took anything away from his set at all. Hassan has an incredibly passionate and powerful vocal that really blew me away. I'd not realised on my previous times seeing Triple Sundae just what a strong voice Hassan has. This was without doubt one of the most punk rock sets of the day and had me wishing I knew more words to Triple Sundae songs so I could have sung along some more as the way they were performed truly deserved some big sing-a-longs. 2018 is going to be a big year for Triple Sundae, with a new EP being released on Umlaut Records soon and I'm sure plenty of shows on the horizon. Make sure you check them out!
After Hassan had finished we had a bit of an extended break due to the day actually running early. This gave us a good chance to catch up with some pals before Dan Goatham from Spoilers took to the stage. This was the part of the day when the whole feeling of the day shifted from a bunch of mates playing for each other down the pub to a proper gig. Spoilers are a band that, despite knowing about for a while and only ever hearing great things about, I still haven't gotten round to seeing (yet - they are at Manchester Punk Festival this year). After seeing Dan perform solo acoustic he has really wet my appetite and made me want to change that. Despite waking up that morning with a cold he put on an engaging and entertaining performance. This was one of the first times of the day that the room was completely silent with everyone's attention glued to the stage. Dan exuded confidence and charm on the stage and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. So much so that he managed to get the whole crowd providing backing vocals for final track Punks Don't Die - ingeniously getting the crowd to sing at the right times by moving his eyebrows.
Up next was one of the most loved and respected punks in the UK, Alex Wonk from Wonk Unit - and he wasn't alone. Because this was a hometown show, Alex decided to invite Wonk Unit members Simon on keyboards and Pwoison on bass. Having seen Wonk Unit full band a few times over the years, it was most interesting to see this stripped back version of the band and it was superb. Wonk Unit are a band like no other, even in this form, being at their most weirdly entertaining best playing along to some of the most passionate fans around. Wonk Unit and Teenage Bottlerocket toured the UK together back in 2015 so it was no surprise to see Ray jump on stage to help them sing the chorus of crowd favourite Lewisham. Being this acoustic version of the Wonk it was a chance for the band to throw in some old songs they don't play so much anymore as well as all the new favourites. This, as always, was a great fun set from Wonk Unit.
The penultimate act of the day was the UK's number one acoustic punk rocker, Sam Russo, who had spent the entire week on tour with Ray. I've seen Sam play so many times now and every time he impresses me more and more. One of the few artists of the day playing songs that were actually written for acoustic performances, there was a fuller sound to his set that was perhaps missing from many of the day's performers. Playing everyone's favourites from both albums Storm and Greyhound Dreams, which got great reactions, and is there a better sing-a-long acoustic punk track than Sometimes? He also treated us to a little sneak peak of a song that's been written for his new full band project inventively titled Russo. This song was great! Much like Dan Goatham earlier, this track really has me itching to catch Russo perform at Manchester Punk Festival in April.
Lastly it was time for the legend that is Ray Rocket. Teenage Bottlerocket are one of the most beloved bands of the past ten years so seeing Ray perform solo in a small pub felt like a very special opportunity. This feeling clearly wasn't missed on the rest of the people at the New Cross as everyone gathered round the front of the stage to get up close and personal with the great man. Ray started out with the title track from his debut solo album Do You Wanna Go To Tijuana? and quickly had the crowd singing along with him. His set was mostly comprised of songs from that album which includes a cover of Pet Sematary by The Ramones and acoustic versions of Teenage Bottlerocket favourites such as Radio, Go With The Flow and Rebound. There was a cool section where Ray sang some of bandmate Kody Templeton's TBR songs including the awesome They Called Me Steve, where he was accompanied by Sam Russo and Alex Wonk on backing vocals. Between songs Ray took to the time to tell tales and banter with members of the crowd including revealing a secret about Sebby Zatopek who was in the crowd. He also told some stories about his much loved and missed twin brother Brandon who sadly passed away in 2015. He told some funny stories (Brandon had a two word saying he always used - "fuck acoustic") and some heartbreaking stories between a few songs about his relationship with his twin and how much he misses him. This part of the set was one of the most humbling and brave things I've ever seen on a stage and at time I myself had to hold back on some tears as it was an extremely emotional moment. The crowd lapped up Ray and didn't want his set to finish, but unfortunately all great things must end and Ray ended a great day in style.
Like I said 2000 words ago, New Cross all dayers are the best way to spend a Sunday.
It doesn't seem that long ago that Emma and I were at The Monarch in Camden for the album launch show for Ducking Punches' third full length, Fizzy Brain. That was in March of 2016 and there has been a lot going on the world of Ducking Punches since then. In the two years since its release, there have been countless shows (including two tours of America including very well received shows at Fest), a broken leg and a big line up change. Despite all of that, the newest version of Ducking Punches have found the time to record a new album named Alamort. Emma and I were most excited to attend another album launch show, this time at The Lexington in Angel.
Of course Ducking Punches weren't alone. They had invited Grieving and Nervus to play both the London album launch and the hometown Norwich show the next day. Grieving took to the stage first to what was already a quickly growing crowd. This was my first time seeing, and even listening to, the Cambridge based four piece and I was really impressed. Despite the band's lead singer having suffered with pneumonia for the previous six weeks, they put on a great show. Playing a great blend of emo and indie punk rock whilst channelling the powerful gruff vocal style of Hot Water Music, they certainly got the Lexington crowd warmed up. Grieving have a new album out soon that I'm really looking forward to checking out.
Up next were one of the most talked about bands in the UK punk scene - Watford based four piece Nervus. I caught a little bit of Nervus from the back of the room at 2017's Manchester Punk Festival and was seriously impressed. Since then the band's popularity seems to have grown and grown and seem destined for big things. Led by guitarist Em Foster, Nervus had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the very start of the set. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this was actually a Nervus headline set. They had plenty of fans down the front singing along to every single word. They played a selection of songs from previous album Permanent Rainbow, including the excellent Oh Joy, as well as three new ones from upcoming album Everything Dies. Nervus are an incredible charismatic band with keyboard player and backing vocalist Paul Etienne displaying some of the slickest dance moves ever seen at a punk show. The set finished with the song The Way Back where Em was joined by her dad to help play the guitar solo - which he also played on the record. This was a really fun set from a band that are set for big things.
Now it was time for the reason we were all at The Lexington, one of the UK's leading punk bands, the always incredible Ducking Punches. Since the big Ducking Punches line up change of last year where Dan (guitar & vocals) and Pete (drums) were joined by Marcus (guitar) and Ryan (bass), Ducking Punches have morphed into more of a straight forward punk rock band rather than one with acoustic and folk tendencies. I absolutely adored the last carnation of Ducking Punches so I've been slightly apprehensive about where this new sound might lead a band that I hold so close to my heart. I'm happy to report that the slight change of styles seems to have added even more power and emotion to the older songs that were played and the new tracks from Alamort fit perfectly into the set as well. As you would expect at an album launch, the set was heavy with new songs with some old classics thrown in for good measure. The old songs of course got the same great reactions as always, with Six Years in particular really getting a big emotional response from the crowd. As always Dan took the opportunity to talk to the crowd about the shocking amount of suicides that happen due to people not feeling able to talk about their mental health issues. This really is a topic that cannot be spoken about enough and adore Dan for always taking the time to bring it up. If it saves just one person (I'm sure it's helped many many more than that) then brilliant! I'm always a bit concerned when a band brings out a new album that it might kill the crowd during the set. People don't tend to react as well for songs they don't know. Other than the tracks that had been previously released in the build up to the album launch, I'd not had time to listen to Alamort before the gig so would be hearing a lot of songs for the first time ever. This wasn't the case with everyone though. There was clearly some folk who had spent the entire day listening to Alamort and managed to sing-a-long with every word. I enjoyed them live and was really looking forward to checking them out again on the record we'd bought at the beginning of the evening. This latest evolution of Ducking Punches feels like another step on their way to becoming the biggest punk band in the UK.
This was another great gig showcasing three bands and shows how the UK punk scene continues to thrive.
Colin asked me if I would be interested in doing a Top Ten of my punk influences. I said yes I would. Here they are in chronological order (just about).
1 James and Alan You don’t know them but when I was growing up in the late 70s/early 80s, James and Alan were my Mum and Dad's friend's sons. They were 5 and 7 years older than me. I remember being in total awe of what they looked like (piercings, leather, coloured hair, mohawks) and also their record collections and posters on their walls – specifically the imagery on records by the Dead Kennedys and Crass – which as a 10 year old were shocking, confusing and alluring to me. With attitudes towards their parents to match their looks, James and Alan were definitely my first punk influence.
2 The Clash The Clash! Doesn’t need much explanation. The first band who really mattered to me and they still do today.
3 Skateboarding To skate (even badly) during the wonder years of skate videos like H Street, Public Domain, Future Primitive, The Search For Animal Chin, Shackle Me Not, Plan B etc. and the magic of the images burned into my mind from these videos (Mike Vallely skating the monuments in Washington DC, Rodney Mullen spinning in pink shorts in a barn, The Wallows in Hawaii, Lance Mountain’s ramp in his backyard etc.) were glorious times. These people were fucking “Rad” for sure and so was the music which soundtracked them. Skateboarding was anti-establishment, beautiful and there were no rules. It helped teach me that being individual was better than following the in crowd.
4 Chris Brown Not the woman beating R’n’B arsehole but a chef who I worked with when I was 17 who introduced me to and took me to see, amongst others, UK Subs, The Cramps and The Ramones. These were my first punk gigs and they were quite an eye opener.
5 Public Enemy As punk as any punk band and as far as I am concerned, The Clash of my generation. The first 5 albums are possibly the greatest ever first 5 albums of any band. Their iconic imagery and furious, political and (mostly) righteous message struck a chord with me from the moment I heard them. One of the first bands to politicise me and show me songs written about serious issues was where it was at. One of the first bands to go it alone and embrace the internet to promote their message and they are still making great, important music to this day. Chuck D is totally personable and approachable and ready and willing to engage one on one with you – no heirs and graces. Also the loudest band live I ever heard.
6 Beastie Boys A massive influence on me. Ever changing style, always sounding fresh. Started as a hardcore band and continued as one in attitude even when not sounding hardcore. Always original, innovative and masters of their art. Beastie Boys were punk.
7 Operation Ivy Amazing band, amazing music, amazing lyrics. Just great. Jesse Michaels's lyrics are simply brilliant and there are many lessons to anyone who cares to listen about unity and respect. Not to mention the raw production and amazing energy of the records. Not sure what Lint and Matt got up to after they split up but if they were to form a band it wouldn’t be a patch on Operation Ivy.
8 Anna I met the love of my life in 1997 having spent much of the decade in a haze of weed smoking and listening to a lot of Hip Hop. As you did with people you liked back then I made her a mixtape – she lent me Black Flag – Live ’84 and I knew it was love. It was Anna who re-introduced me to punk and also encouraged me and gave me the belief to start my own band just by being punk as fuck herself.
9 Nick Nick has been my friend for over 22 years and we played in a band together for 10 of them. He has introduced me to more bands than most people have had hot dinners and most of them have been fucking ace.
10 The UK Punk Scene More specifically the organisers of the 4 great UK punk festivals – Ben (Pie Race), Andy (Manchester Punk Festival), Alex (Wonkfest) and Derrick (Book Yer Ane Fest) These guys are some of the nicest and most industrious people I have been lucky enough to run into. They are responsible for helping introduce, support and promote hundreds of bands that otherwise we may never have heard of. They all also play in banging bands and inspire me to try and replicate a bit of the magic their creativity and hard work produces. 11 What do you mean I can’t have 11? Go fuck yourself then.
Check out Skank Agenda nad No Ta on Bandcamp here.
I love when new music is just dropped on us with no sing song or fanfare. And last Wednesday (at the time of writing this) Bristol Oi outfit Kearney’s Jig dropped an EP in our laps to enjoy on Spotify. Now normally I’m not much of a fan of this style of thing but there’s a big caveat to that. I think this sort of thing lends itself incredibly well to having a sense of humour and that is something very evident with Kearney’s Jig.
With songs like ‘Death By Erection’ and ‘Chronic Alcoholic’ you really know what you’re getting straight away, this isn’t likely to be the kind of thing you’d pull out for a date with that cute girl you just met (unless you met her at a basement punk show in Bristol). But it is the perfect thing to stick on loud with a bag of cans and all your buddies around. Everything is tongue in cheek and funny in an endearing way that doesn’t lose its charm on multiple listens.
That is until track number 5 rolls around. ‘Insanity Breakdown’ while not being bad in any sense, feels like it was written by or for another band entirely. There’s no humour to be found, the structure and tone are unrecognisable and it breaks immersion in the EP, especially when the very next song is about downing cans of Red Stripe!! As I mentioned, it’s a good song but feels pretty out of place amongst self-deprecating gross out comedy and beer songs. Maybe they should think of losing the Simpsons reference in the band name if they want to move into deeper subject matter.
Bristol is a hotbed these days for new talent and Kearney’s Jig fill a niche that I think is important in any thriving scene – a good time, drinking song, sing-a-long band. If you’re a fan of The Wonder Beers you’ll find a lot here to love but be warned, if you suffer from intense seriousness this is probably something best avoided altogether.
Today I'm listening to yet more fantastic Canadian punk rock. This time I'm listening to four piece Ontario based punk rockers The Back Nine. Back in October 2017 The Back Nine released their debut EP titled Par For The Corpse. Judging by how much I love many of their countrymen's bands, I had high hopes for the seven songs on this release.
Par For The Corpse opens up with Curse Of The Man-Child. This is high-tempo pop punk that will get you bouncing and is full of hooks. The song wastes no time in getting going and sets a great tone of what to expect from the rest of the EP. Curse Of The Man-Child is about parents being worried about the person you're growing into and being concerned about your life choices. Muscles & Money begins with a short and sweet drum roll before some more guitars that make you want to pogo. I'm sure you can have a good guess at what Muscles & Money is about - the frustration of girls picking guys who have all of the cash and the bodies ahead of Joe Average. I really enjoyed the line "At Least I've Got Charm And Wit" at the end of the track. The third song on the EP is titled Boy Meets Corporate. This track is about having a boss who expects certain sexual favours from you if you want to get a promotion. The band take quite a humorous and upbeat attitude to the song but I'm certain that it's meant to be sarcastic.
One Nighter, No Fighter is a real throwback with its sound. It takes you back the early 2000s pop punk era with bands such as The Starting Line and Home Grown. I was slightly disappointed in the production of the song as at times the vocals are very difficult to make out and I'm sure that's not supposed to be the case. The track is about having a one night stand and then not calling the girl again. I'm sure that this is another track that relies heavily on sarcasm and these aren't the actions of the band. Track five is titled Golden Years. Finding itself more in the skate punk realm, it wastes no time in getting started and continues with a high tempo throughout. There is a massive amount of energy in the song with the lead vocalist getting his lyrics out at a great speed. This is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the EP. I'm a sucker for high energy skate punk. The penultimate song on Par For The Corpse is named Brojob. The initial guitars on the track have a bit of an atmospheric sound before the song really comes in with a bang. From there it goes along nicely. I particularly enjoyed the sudden change of vocal melody for the chorus on the track, it hits you quickly and really peeks your interest in the song. Last up is Jimmy Goodtimes. This song is well placed at the end of the EP as it starts fairly slowly and builds towards its big chorus and ending. This song also feels like it will have a permanent home at the end of The Back Nine set list. It's about a friend who drinks too much and messes everything up.
If you're a fan of early 2000s pop punk music I'm very confident that you will enjoy The Back Nine. This is high energy pop punk that will find a permanent place in your head whether you want it to or not.
Slapshot Regatta are a melodic punk band from Ohio. The four piece are influenced by punk bands from the late 90s and early 2000s such as NOFX, Millencolin, Jimmy Eat World, Sugarcult and MXPX. Consisting of Jeremy Van Dress (vocals and guitar), Nathan Satola (bass and vocals), Keith Krysiak (guitar) and Derek Warfle (drums), Slapshot Regatta released their debut self titled album back in November 2017. Here's my take on it.
The album begins with Raised By Wolves. This song begins with some quite sombre guitars before the drums hit and we get treated with some great 90s skate punk. Van Dress's vocals soar on the song, singing with plenty of emotion. The track is about being brought up in a family that you don't feel like you belong in. The next song, Calling Out explores the pop punk side of Slapshot Regatta's sound. There is a lot more bounce in the melody of the track and it will have you happily swaying from side to side before you know it. The subtle use of harmonies on the chorus works well, adding an extra little layer to the song without going overboard. The third track Rewind starts slowly with what I can imagine is a great sing-a-long at a Slapshot Regatta gig before building towards a much more bombastic chorus. The band then repeat this trick for the next verse and chorus cycle. I feel like this song would really be the song that defines Slapshot Regatta to their fans, it's a fantastic pop punk song.
Legendary brings us back to the skate punk world. The track is about the people you grew up with at a young age. Derek Warfle's drums really stand out on the song as he relentlessly pounds his way through the song. There is also a nice throwback to Pennywise's Bro Hymn, another song about losing the people you love, with some "whoa-ohs" towards the end of the track. Stick Around is a delightful melodic pop punk song that gives a bit of rest bite after the skate punk fun. There is definitely a more restrained approach to the song with Stick Around, they can hold back and still craft great music. The track is about staying in a relationship for too long and trying to make it work despite yourself. Half Empty is a ska punk song. What!? This was completely unexpected but also something I loved. I love ska punk. Playing homage to Goldfinger on the track with some brilliant ska guitar during the verse and some big pop choruses, it's a song that had me moving immediately. Half Empty was a really fun change of pace in the middle of the record and shows an extra side of the Slapshot Regatta dice. On my first listen of Run Away I was reminded of legendary Californian punks No Use For A Name, a band who were renowned for the poppier take on the 90s skate punk sound. I enjoyed the more melodic approach on Run Away with the band letting Van Dress's vocals carry the melody of the song.
Last Call To Lose It All is a punchy pop punk song that makes me think about to the glory days of Drive Thru Records, possibly the greatest pop punk label in history? The opening guitars make you think that this will be a heavier sounding song before the vocals come in. The chorus is as you would expect from a pop punk song - really catchy and gives you the urge to pogo up and down. This is just what pop punk should be like. The ninth song, Out Of My Mind, continues the pop punk sound with another catchy and upbeat sounding track. It's about struggling to deal with the tough times in life and feeling like you're losing some control. The chorus of "Going Out Of My Mind, I'm Not Feeling Right" will be really relatable to a lot of people and could be quite cathartic for them. The penultimate song is titled Superlative Flaw. Here we revert back to the skate punk. It really is great to hear Slapshot Regatta playing these two different styles of punk rock and doing both extremely well. It feels as if the band put a lot more of their passion and energy into the skate punk songs and I do find myself becoming more emotionally attached to them. Finally we finish the album with the song Emotional Devotional. The song begins slowly with just Van Dress's guitar and vocal. He recounts a bad time in his life that he wants to forget until things can be made better. Soon enough the full band join him for a fast paced pop punk song to finish off the album.
What I really liked about Slaphot Regatta was how they don't pigeon hole themselves with a particular style and are more than happy and capable of jumping between a couple of different genres, whilst remaining true to what makes them great. This is one hell of a debut album from an extremely promising new band.
Cold Years are a rocking and rolling four-piece from Aberdeen, Scotland. Simply put, they are more of a rock band than a punk band but they draw influences from punk rock as well as bluesy rock ’n’ roll and Americana music. As with many of my recent favourite artists that I’ve had introduced to me over the past couple of years, I have Colin to thank for telling me about Cold Years. On a cold and snowy early December weekend in 2015, Colin was in Dundee, Scotland, for Book Yer Ane Fest (we’d only known each other for a few months and his trip was already planned so I wasn’t with him – plus I didn’t much fancy the 11 hour bus journey!). One of the many bands he saw over the weekend was Cold Years. He described them to me as sounding like ‘A Scottish Gaslight Anthem’ and so I was sold – The Gaslight Anthem being one of my favourite bands of all time.
Cold Years’ last release was the EP Death Chasers in 2016 so I think we can all agree that we are keen to hear something new from the band. Well, the wait is almost over as a 4-track EP titled Northern Blue is set for released on 2nd March, on German label Homebound Records. This was one I was looking forward to anyway so I was all the more excited to get to hear it early. Here’s what I thought.
Cold Years launch into Northern Blue full pelt with pounding drums and forceful guitars opening up the first track, Seasons. At least, that’s what we get for the first ten seconds or so before the vocals come in. When frontman Ross’s wistful voice comes in, the guitars switch to a palm-muted style but you can tell that it won’t stay that way for long. The pace and volume pick up again as we head towards a belting chorus. This is pure dynamic and bold rock ’n’ roll. Seasons mulls over the subject of escaping to a better time and place. The bridge is a real highlight with the lines ‘Never could find the words to say, Never thought that I would lose you this way, Give me your hand and I’ll take you away.’ giving way to a huge guitar solo, soon accompanied by soulful singing of ‘No, no, no’. Next up we have the lead single from the EP that was released at the end of last year, Miss You To Death. This song starts fairly slowly with that sense of building once again ever present. It’s superbly melodic with the two guitars and bass taking their own distinct parts while the drums pound away holding everything together. Miss You To Death is a very nostalgic song – well, the whole of Northern Blue is to be honest but it’s particularly apparent here. The chorus is catchy, and it certainly keeps your head nodding along, but it’s the themes within the lyrics that really stand out – growing up surrounded by music, missing someone close to you (missing them to death, you could say) but most of all being thankful for those memories and moments. ‘So put the record on and play those songs you had behind, And all those songs that our mothers and fathers danced to in time, Put on that dress, Forget all the stress, Come with me and never look back…’
What I Lost is the third song on Northern Blue and it starts up with a super sweet opening guitar riff, backed up by the second guitar and a steady drumbeat. Of course, it’s Ross’s vocals take centre stage as soon he opens his mouth. That theme of nostalgia and sense of longing continues with What I Lost. You’d be forgiven for thinking this band was from New Jersey rather than Aberdeen – I thought it too the first time I heard them, at least until I noticed the undertones of a Scottish accent. We do actually get a nod to the mighty Springsteen in this song. ‘Young in our hearts and old in our souls, Even for the youth, No Surrender on the radio…’ There’s another intense guitar solo towards the end of this track that I think shows real rock ’n’ roll flare, before a lengthy melodic outro takes us into the final track of Northern Blue. Appropriately titled Final Call, this song begins with a clean dual guitar part that quickly holds the listener’s attention, perhaps even more so than on a song with pounding drums or bouncy bass. Less is more. Melody-wise, the guitars actually remind me of the Fake Problem’s song Songs For Teenagers but I think I’m thinking of the time when The Gaslight Anthem covered it as that was more of an acoustic version. Similarities aside, this is another brilliantly heartfelt and soulful track. It begins slowly, as Ross takes you on a journey with his voice, reflecting on the idea that time flies but we never forget the past and what it means to us. Final Call could have easily remained at its slower pace but Cold Years have plenty of energy left for the last third of the song. After the poignant lines of ‘And all the people who leave you behind, Are never far from your mind, Fading memories and haunted regret. These songs are etched into my head…’ there is a huge crescendo and POW, the full band is back with the volume cranked up. There is so much passion packed into the last minute of the song. Amazing end to an amazing set of songs.
Cold Years did not disappoint with Northern Blue. Each of the four songs on this release are brilliant in their own way but they also fit wonderfully together with recurring themes of reflecting on fond memories and the overall sense of nostalgia in their rock ’n’ roll guitar solos as well as soulful and contemplative lyrics.
Check out Cold Years on Facebook and keep an eye out for pre-order details for Northern Blue. In the meantime, you can stream Miss You To Death on Spotify. What are you waiting for?
Recently, probably like many of you reading this post, I went to see The Menzingers with PUP and Cayetana. You can check out Emma's review here. As I waited for The Menzingers to come on stage I looked around the room, and the sheer amount of people packed into the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and wondered "Where are all these people for the small local DIY punk rock shows?" It's something that I often think when I attend shows like this. It does frustrate me when I go see some of the awesome underground UK punk rock bands and a sizeable portion of the crowd seems to be either members of the other bands on the line up or friends and families of the bands. I don't understand why this is as the UK punk scene is absolutely brimming with incredible acts that really do deserve much more attention.
Getting people to listen to the underground bands we are privileged to have in the UK is a passion and to be honest a bit of on obsession of mine. So I decided to try and work out why exactly there are people who enjoy punk music such as The Menzingers or Bad Religion or Anti-Flag or Reel Big Fish or Descendents or Flogging Molly but don't seem willing to go and see small bands playing places similar to where these legendary bands got started. I asked the excellent folk of the CPRW team and Sarah from Shout Louder for their opinions on the subject.
Triple Sundae at Urban Bar, London
The first point and biggest point, and probably most obvious, is that people just aren't aware that a UK punk scene even exists. I guess it's called an underground scene for a good reason. After this point was made to me I instantly ask why not!? I understand that people might not be as passionate about music as me and might be more than happy to continue to listen to your favourite band you had as a teenager. I still listen to all of my favourite bands from my teens as well but in this day and age of streaming music it's so easy to discover a new band. If you're a user of Spotify they compile you a weekly playlist based on your listening trends to help you discover new bands similar to what you like. Bandcamp has an incredible discover section where you can lose hours finding your new favourite band. There is some real quality to be found out there, three of my top ten albums of 2017 were due to Bandcamp discovery - they were Flabbercasters, Plan 37 and Quitters. So what I'm saying is that there definitely is an underground scene out there just waiting to be discovered. You can also find your new favourite band at a local DIY punk show.
I appreciate that it is a big step to attend a show where you don't necessarily know the bands playing. Why should you give up your time and money to go and see bands you've not heard of before? You could rephrase that statement to say why WOULD you give up your time and money to go and see bands you've not heard of before? Rationally it kind of doesn't make sense. Even though most DIY punk shows will cost you less than £10, it's still money and time spent travelling to a venue where in all likelihood the sound won't be as good (and the toilets won't be as clean!). But you also won't have to queue for ages between bands and miss the beginning of your favourite band of the past twenty years set because you're paying an extortionate amount for a drink. Oh London drink prices, I do hate you. But there is a flipside to this! As I said in the previous paragraph, it is so simple and easy to check out a new band because of that wonderful thing called the Internet - it isn't just memes, GIFs, videos of cats and pornography. Because of social media it is also quite easy to find a local show and most promoters will post Bandcamp or Youtube links to the bands on the bill so you're not going in blind or, perhaps in a musical sense, deaf.
Flogging Molly at The Forum, London
Okay, so now you've found your new favourite underground band and they're playing a show local to you and you would like to go. But you've got nobody to go with as none of your friends have taken the time to listen to the band you've suggested - they aren't willing to go to the gig and hope for the best. You've got nobody to go with and don't really fancy going by yourself so you stay at home and watch videos of cats. When I first started going to gigs regularly I had a good posse of pals who were willing to come along. But as I started to discover more and more small bands and wanted to go to more and more gigs people started to jump off the bandwagon because of, you know, life and stuff. It got to the stage where it was either bite the bullet and go by myself or stop doing something I truly loved. Probably my first love. Easy decision to make really. Sure the hour long journey on the train after a full day of work sucks and the getting home at 2am the following morning and having to be at work at 8am is the worst thing that will ever happen to you, but that four hours of incredible music and performance in the middle makes it all worth it. The hardest thing for me when I started going to gigs by myself was walking in the door of a small venue you've never been to before. I used to get really anxious over the prospect of doing that but you soon get over it. You might worry about the people inside the venue. Will you fit in? Will people be rude to you? Will there be people? The answers to those questions are yes, no and then yes again. The folk you'll meet at a DIY punk show are amongst the nicest and best people you will ever meet. Just have a chat with them and you'll discover this. Some of the best friends I've made over the past few years are folk I've met at little DIY punk shows. Everyone there is at the same show to see the same band so you've already got things in common.
The travelling is the worst part of going to a show. Emma has said that in the past she's been put off of going to shows on her own because the venue has been in an awkward place, at a fair distance from the nearest Underground station and has felt unsafe walking to the venue. I can completely understand why this would put people off going to small gigs. There have been plenty of times when I've been on my way to a gig and had to avoid some unsavoury people. One time I was offered some of the hardcore drugs and called a devil worshipper by two separate groups within thirty seconds of each other. I wasn't called a devil worshipper because I accepted the drugs. I didn't accept the drugs. If this is a big issue for you perhaps a solution could be to message the gig's event page on the Facebook and mention your concerns and see if anyone can meet you somewhere you feel safe. Punks are good folk, I have no doubt someone would at least try and help you out and you'll probably make a new friend in the process.
The Filaments at New Cross Inn (for Level Up Fest), London
Emma and I do a lot of travelling for gigs which will mean we'll often get home from a gig way past our bedtime. This understandably stops people going to too many gigs because of work commitments. So you might be picky with your gig choice selection and probably go and see a band that you have loved for a long time and can guarantee a great show rather than a smaller DIY show where you don't know the bands very well, particularly if it is somewhere you think might be awkward to get to and you just think it might be a bit rubbish. (It most definitely won't be!)
Something else put forward to me as a reason for people only attending bigger gigs is because society associates monetary value with quality. After working in retail for far too many years I've seen this first hand, a lot. People will spend a fortune on the more expensive branded items rather than buying the cheaper own brand things that taste just the same. You can easily argue, and I would usually agree, that you get a better quality gig when you pay more for a ticket. You do often get more of a stage show at one of the bigger venues than you do in the backroom of a pub. Do extravagant light shows, fireworks, flying drumkits, backing dancers, video screens and the like make a great show? I wouldn't say so. They certainly add to a performance and make for great photo opportunities but it's not what makes a great show. Especially a great punk show. It's about the passion and energy coming from a band who do it for the love of it and will be doing the exact same thing you'll be doing the next day, going back to your boring day job. At a £5 DIY gig you get something that for me is huge - you get to feel part of a community and a movement of people coming together to do something very special. Due to a lack of space for a backstage area at a DIY gig the band will hang out in the crowd and you'll see that they are just the same as you. There is no sense of hierarchy at a small show. Everyone is the same and everyone is together. There's a special feeling to realising you're just the same as your heroes. So yeah, in summary, as in life, money is not a measurement of quality in punk rock.
Masked Intruder at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
I could probably go on about this for another 1500 words but if I did I imagine you'd get bored of my seemingly endless rambling and stop reading. So to sum everything up here are some pros and cons for bigger and small gigs.
Big Venue Pros
1. Bigger bands 2. Bigger stage show 3. More of your friends are likely to attend 4. The stage is higher up (helpful for short folk) 5. Better disabled access 6. Easier to find venues, more centrally located 7. Cleaner toilets
Big Venue Cons
1. More expensive tickets 2. Bigger queues 3. Overpriced drinks 4. Further away from the stage 5. Worse views 6. Less thoughtful crowd (eg. throwing beer, barging past people, people being unaware of the other people around them) 7. Less intimate 8. Merchandise is more expensive as the bands have to increase prices because the venue takes a cut 9. Ticket touts 10. Less of a community feel 11. People trying to film, Facetime and take six dozen selfies during a band's set 12. Sticky floors
Small Venue Pros
1. Cheap tickets (sometimes even free!) 2. No queues 3. Seeing bands before they get big 4. More variety of punk gigs at small venues 5. Intimate atmosphere 6. Friendlier crowds 7. More of a community feeling 8. Supporting independent venues 9. Supporting new music 10. The lovely feeling of feeling like you're contributing to the scene 11. Better views 12. Less people filming or Facetiming during the gig 13. It's usually just your name on the door so you save paper as you don't need a ticket 14. You can meet your heroes 15. You can become friends with familiar faces in the scene 16. Supporting local talent 17. More of an inclusive feel - no hierarchy, no discrimination, no cool club, everyone welcome
Small Venue Cons
1. Smelly toilets 2. You won't know all the bands 3. Some smaller venues can be a little difficult to get to 4. Sticky floors 5. Tickets can be hard to get for popular bands
Faintest Idea at the Portland Arms, Cambridge
Ultimately this column is the opinions of a handful of people who are extremely passionate about DIY punk rock and doing what they can to support it. Of course if you prefer going to a bigger show that's awesome, you do what makes you happy. We're very lucky to still have the option in this country and that there is a big enough punk scene that it can cater to everyone's tastes. This column is an attempt to encourage anyone reading who has never been to a DIY show to give it a go, hopefully it will become your big passion like it has become mine.