Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Matilda's Scoundrels - Beasts in Disguise EP

Matilda’s Scoundrels have been causing a bit of a ruckus on the south coast punk scene over the last few months, and their first recorded offering, Beasts in Disguise, had a suitably chaotic launch night in Hastings last Saturday. The EP itself is 4 tracks long, and is an excellent overview of what the band is all about, minus gratuitous nudity and the face full of beer you would usually find at their gigs (but how you listen to it at home is up to you).

Opening with Beasts in Disguise, one of the more folky tracks, where we get blasts of acoustic guitar, accordion and mandolin, before heading into Feed the Machine, a song that has been stuck in my head for a few days since I last heard the finished track. It’s reminiscent of Bootscraper for me, absolutely by no means a bad thing. It’s a track that builds as it progresses like a runaway train. The 3rd track, Our Wake, introduces the tin whistle into the mix, which if you’re anywhere near Jason, is much nicer to hear on the EP rather than when he’s playing the music from Lord of the Rings on an early morning festival campsite. This track reminds me of Dropkick Murphys with the mix of the whistle, mandolin and accordion. It’s the slowest track on this EP but for me one of the band’s strongest. The final track, Folk Shit Up, has (I think) finally escaped the shackles in my brain when it was about crabs. It’s the noisiest track on the EP and probably my favourite. For me everything about this track is what a song should be. Less than 3 minutes long, shouty vocals and all you want to do when you hear it is throw yourself around in a sweaty gig venue.

Job well done boys! You can find the EP on where you can either stream or download for whatever price you want. So what are you waiting for? 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Salem Rages - Aspects of the Deepest Gloom

With barely a pause for breath, only a couple of months after the LP Splinters saw their EPs collected into one disc Liverpool’s Salem Rages have struck again with their first full length album Aspects of the Deepest Gloom. In fact not just struck again, but struck hard and fucking fast – this is a more immediate and powerful beast than previous releases, despite a title which sounds like it should belong to a member of the Barrier Kult (non-skateboarders might need the help of a search engine for that one). From the opening crackle and driving rain of instrumental ‘1692’, the album utilises the same format of between song samples as heard in Splinters, but the riff which breaks through the noise is a heavier and angrier than what has come before. This sets up what is to follow, with the short sharp blast of ‘One for Sorrow’ almost sounding like it could have belonged to singer Russ Weasel’s outfit Cold Ones. With attention now fixed, ’13 Times’ pulls on the reins slightly and channels the gothic spirit which has driven the group from the beginning.
Amongst aficionados of German expressionist cinema the spiral is a powerful connotation of madness, something which most likely more people will have seen appropriated in the works of Alfred Hitchcock.‘Deathtides’ continues in a mid tempo vein - a powerful slice of goth rock from which The Damned could learn a thing or two – when out of the murk surfaces a spiralling organ sound, a brief interlude that nevertheless highlights perfectly what makes Salem Rages stand out in the DIY music scene. ‘Black/White’ was one of the highlights of Splinters, and is the only song which resurfaces on Aspects… with added tinkling ivories at the end, as the descent into madness begins again. Before falling completely into the abyss, however, ‘A Smokescreen Afterlife’ chugs slowly into life; a menacingly slow guitar riff and drum beat which is gradually overlaid by some surf-influenced guitar sounds, think the Night Birds on tramadol jamming an instrumental. The shorter instrumental ‘1985’ plays through in a similar vein but acts more as an opening for follow up track ‘Shadow of a Rat’, with the group starting to rev back up and throwing in a good solid fist pumper of a chorus as well. B.A.T.S. is an all-out hardcore stomper, male/female vocal duality used to good effect for what will be a definite crowd-mover live.

The piano which follows is a brief moment of new wave reflection before the assault continues with the goth rock of ‘New Grave’. The last two tracks eschew the hardcore thrust of the rest of the record, settling into a sprawling groove with ‘Fall of Greatness’ before a choral acappella which would not sound out of place on an early Steeleye Span record opens the lurching album closer ‘Purging the Flowers’. Slowly building from a TSOL-style riff and a drawled vocal, it continuously threatens to break into a faster and heavier beast without ever actually doing so. It is this tension which gives the song its power, I’ve no idea who I’m quoting here but horror films are always scarier when you never actually see the monster right? It is this ethos which drives ‘Purging the Flower’, leaving you not with a feeling of closure but with a sense that there is more to come – turning back to the horror film analogy, as the screen fades to black on the survivors slowly moving away, something stirs in the wreckage…

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Maid of Ace - Self Titled

Having grown up within spitting distance of Hastings, I can say without bullshitting that there has always been a solid punk scene lurking behind the peeling doughnut shops and once forlorn, now skeletal pier. Seeing both the Filaments and Capdown there on separate occasions as an impressionable young teenager before growing to hang around at the skate park, smoke weed in Linton Gardens, seeing bands play while the walls sweated in the Crypt - all of these things shaped me for better or worse. All of these things have clearly shaped Maid of Ace as well, a group of sisters who thrash out Hellcat-style punk rock as if their next cider depended on it. Opening tracks ‘Enemy Within’ and ‘Nothin’ on Me’ gives you a good idea where they are coming from, a whirlwind of pounding rhythm, distorted riffs and throat wrenching vocals. This is definitely the main thrust of the record’s attack, working particularly well on ‘Dirty Girl’ where a sludgy chorus with shouted gang vocals wrestles for attention with the furious speed of the rest of the song. If this was it things could get boring, but there are enough varying influences cropping up to keep the listeners attention. The mellow opening riff which brings a false sense of security to ‘Sick of You’ soon gives way to a punk rock assault but it is in this, in the creeping indie guitar of ‘Horror Show’ and in the 90s grunge influenced alternative love song ‘Cannibal’ that are visible the seeds of great things to come. Perhaps the main point to make out of these differing influences is that they are always played within context – i.e. not forced and sounding out of place, just another exclamation point to their juggernaut balls out rock n roll. Apart from the above mentioned tracks, high point for me is the psychobilly-tinged ‘Dickhead’ which calls someone out for moving to London and getting too Nathan Barley for his Ugg boots…we all know a couple right? This is a solid opening salvo of sea spray and cider-flecked gutter punk from a group who you are sure to hear more from soon.

By Jono Coote

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Wonk Unit - Nervous Racehorse

Wonk Unit are a band not easy to pigeonhole. This is possibly because they come across as having a higher modus operandi than merely playing catchy melodic punk music, which admittedly they do very well. It’s just that in Alex’s lyrical content which can switch from absurdist to heart-rending sincerity in an instant, in the snatches of shouted poetry between songs and in the acoustic moments of contemplation which are juxtaposed against the frenetic intensity of guitar and rhythm assault, there is the feel of a band who have truly found a niche within the punk rock world which no-one else has touched. They have now teamed up with the unstoppable TNS Records to release Nervous Racehorse, a perfect marriage of two groups who have gone channelled the spirit of DIY to create something very much their own. This is the end result of said marriage, a collection of musical curios which should intrigue as much as fuel the pit at your local independent venue.

Highlights? Highlights start from the very beginning with the acoustic guitar, Hammond organ and claps of ‘Wood Pigeon’, a mellow and haunting opening gambit before ‘Lewisham’ goes  full throttle in a manner which would turn half of the late 90s Fat Wreck roster green. After a few listens while skating around the streets, ‘Lewisham’ is my favourite song on here so far and has trouble staying out of my head for more than a day. ‘Nan’ shows the band’s darker side, with a downbeat melody and a recurring yell which brings to mind the halcyon days of Brit Pop. From here on in you’re into the genre-fluctuating world of Wonk - anchored to punk as it is, but by a very long rope which has clearly left room for plenty of exploration. Songs of angst, love and troubled friends are penned with an honesty which is almost uncomfortable but is kept from becoming so by a wry humour and a sense of optimism throughout, as well as being lightened by moments like ‘The Trail (French Booty Song)’ which is redolent of So Long and Thanks… era NOFX. It’s a reminder of why we get into punk music in the first place; for the innovation, the excitement and the sheer fucking fun which stems from listening to it.

By Jono Coote

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Epic Problem - Lines EP

Epic Problem – Lines EP
The 90s were a brilliant time for punk compilations – as a teenager getting into punk music in the early 2000s, I found myself quickly giving up on the Punk-O-Rama’s and Give ‘Em the Boot’s being put out at the time and delving into earlier issues. While these compilations dipped a toe into the mainstream via Rancid, NOFX and the like (while still remaining brilliant, don’t get me wrong…well, at least until the 4th or 5th release by either series’), TKO threw together some awesome, angry and harder to come by releases under the title of Punch Drunk. These focused heavily on rough and ready street punk, ideal drinking music which also, while the media was calling any old shit with spiky hair and guitars skate punk, was picked up on by the SF based skateboarding company Deluxe and used as the soundtrack to actual, balls out skating rather than hanging out by the Corn Exchange wearing Bernie’s jeans and a fringe. I write this only because it seems a perfect starting point to talk about midlands-based punks Epic Problem, who have just released a four track EP called Lines and who would sound right at home on one of those classic compilations, taking those anthemic sounds but created something more intricate and dare I say mature sounding – I guess the opposite way to approach describing their sound would be to evoke Leatherface but with more drive and anger.

The record turned up on my doorstep a couple of days ago, resplendent in blue splatter vinyl and with stickers thrown in (I fucking love stickers), and I haven’t really stopped listening to it since – it is a perfect soundtrack to skating down the street, cheering up a stressed girlfriend or drinking wine dead fast because fuck it, you’re celebrating Wednesday. A clearer sound quality than previous releases does full justice to the four tracks, with a Scrooge level tightness to the musicianship backing up a gravel-voiced vocal which conveys a sincerity and passion you ain’t gunna hear in the charts any time soon. Some carefully placed harmonies add to their sound nicely, especially the ‘whoooaa’s’ which open ‘Sink’ and bring to mind the Bouncing Souls way back when they were good. With alumni from the Dead Subverts and Blitz being involved in this group it was never going to be a half-arsed job, and this definitely shows a band going from strength to strength. Whiskey-flavoured icing on the cake is a cover of the Beltones’ ‘Weak’, bringing me back round to the Punch Drunk comparison and giving some love to one of the Bay Area’s finest exports, fucking quality! I’m looking forward to checking them out live ASAP, as this is damn fine drinking and dancing music.

By Jono Coote

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man - 10 Year Anniversary 7"

It’s hard to believe that Revenge of the Psychotronic man have been going for 10 years. 10 years ago, I’d just finished school, probably only really just starting to get into punk and going to gigs properly. It wasn’t till 4-5 years later, when myself and a few mates got our hands on a comp called “Music by People Who Drink Cider in the Gutter” that we found out who this dead noisy, relentless sounding band were. We were all in instant agreement that this was the best possible name for a compilation album, and, I think, probably still is the best one I’ve heard today. We also all agreed that ROTPM were a band we needed to listen to a whole lot more, and so when the split with the Fractions came out, we pooled together our dwindling financial resources to get a copy. We only had 1 copy between 3-4 people, and we rinsed it. Make Pigs Smoke became our pre-gig drinking album that we’d listen to, in my final year at uni. Hell, I still listen to it now if I’m getting drunk, or need to do something really fast when coffee won’t cut it.

The 10 Year Anniversary 7” EP is essential listening for everyone who's been to see this band over the last decade. In 10 years, they’ve become part of an established punk label, played hundreds of gigs across the UK and Europe, assembled what must be thousands of human pyramids, and more recently even did a session for the Radio 1 Punk Show. That’s big stuff! I think what I like most about this 7” is that not only is it still brutally fast, it also sums up what Revenge are about as a band. Anyone who’s heard of TNS Records will know the slogan “Get pissed, talk shit, dance like an idiot”. The vast majority of people who have ever been to a punk gig can relate to it, and are almost certainly still doing it. Rita, Sue and Bob too has been re-recorded and now sounds bigger and noisier than it did in the original 2005 recording. Side B switches things round a bit, with some remixes from the 2012 album, Shattered Dreams Parkway. Definitely a must for fans of bands such as China Shop Bull and Cradle to the Rave, who remixed Things I Have Learned in my Life so Far. The remix of Beer for Breakfast sounds great, however for me it’s the Cradle to the Rave remix which shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re using guitars, or keyboards, or computers, you can still make music sound fast, loud and heavy, which can be sometimes neglected in punk music. Embrace it!

I hope Revenge of the Psychotronic Man keep going for another 10 years and more. Still getting pissed, still talking shit and still dancing like idiots. Let’s hope it never changes.

Monday, 30 December 2013

U.S. Bombs @ Keighley Arts Exchange

There are undoubtedly plenty of situations I have got myself into in the past which could be married with the term ‘surreal’; a penchant for heavy drinking and smoking, coupled with an affinity to life’s less salubrious characters and a prudent avoidance of adult lifestyle choices like a full time job, means that I have witnessed my fair share of weird shit. However even by these standards, telling people that ‘I’m off to a gin bar in Keighley to see Duane Peters play a gig’ sounded like the start to a rubbish joke. With a venue in Sheffield (easy to get to on public transport, good city with stuff to do before and after a show) falling through last minute, somehow the U.S. Bombs’ show was moved a few miles down the road to Keighley (arse end of Bradford, little public transport, Friday and Saturday night hotspots include anywhere you can drink Lambrini or Frosty Jacks without getting picked up by the cops).
Of course, this was a gig for people of character – and we were chock full of that, a car full of us heading over from Leeds with more people meeting us there. It turns out that Keighley Arts Exchange is a pretty decent venue, with a wide selection of gin as advertised and a gig room that, despite looking like a school sports hall, had a really good sound. The gig opened with a band from Huddersfield whose name I forget, playing a strange mish-mash of genres which ended up sounding slightly like Faith no More (or maybe it’s just that one of the band had that band’s t-shirt on?) and went down as well as could be expected at a punk show…fair play to them, they looked to be enjoying themselves, and they were up there doing it, but it wasn’t what I expected for the night’s beginning. Thank fuck then for In Evil Hour, the next band up and a complete turn-around in sound. Female fronted hardcore punk with a slightly gothic bent a la the Nerve Agents, they played a hard, fast but still melodic set, the perfect sonic slap to the face to wake people up and get feet moving; well worth checking out if you don’t know them. A short acoustic set by Bombs’ guitarist Chip Hanna followed, an unexpected bonus set of which the high point was a cover of Sam Cooke’s classic ‘Don’t Know Much…’, and which was joined toward the end by Duane decked out in leopard print jacket and cane replete with urethane wheel base.
This set things up for the Bombs nicely, with everyone ready to git some as that familiar drum beat built up the tension before crashing into ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’. The night descended into a sweaty, drunken whirl of which details are hazy, so I won’t give a song-by-song account of what was played… but suffice to say Duane did his best Fred Astaire impression with the cane, I danced like an idiot, and everyone shouted every word to ‘Jaks’. There’s something about their melodic street punk that hits the nail squarely on the head, and by the end of the night everyone had smiles on their faces even after consuming varying amounts of gin. The U.S. Bombs are awesome, go see ‘em then go downhill on a skate!

By Jono Coote