Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Detached - None The Wiser EP

It's safe to say that ska-punk is very much in rude health in the U.K. right now. Wherever you look, there are bands using the potent mixture of off-beats, bouncing horns and belting punk riffs to craft anthems aplenty. What's particularly refreshing is that nearly all of these bands carry their own identity with ease, and this offers a swift and effortless rebuke to certain hacks who accuse the genre of being generic, samey and hard to take seriously. In all honesty, most of these hacks are hardly the kind of people worth wasting the effort needed to take them seriously, but should you encounter one in the near future, then please point them in the direction of, on balance, the two best live acts on the circuit at this moment in time: Tyrannosaurus Alan and Random Hand. While you're at it, chuck them a copy of Detached's 'None the Wiser' EP and demand that they play it very loud on the headphones over a pint or four of beer, just to make sure they get the message.

Detached are a band I was told to look out for by quite a few people in 2010, and on the evidence of their set in Sheerness at the start of this month, this hype is nicely justified. That day, I witnessed a band high on energy and bursting to the seems with hooks, but sometimes tampered by a slightly schizophrenic delivery. To be honest, the recorded output on display on this disc does nothing but back up those impressions,but one thing I will say is that the ADHD tendencies (namely flipping between beats and tempos in the same amount of time it takes most of us to blink or register a light being switched on) seem less obvious here. I put that down to me getting to know the songs a little better after repeated listens - it seems first impressions can be misleading.

So, with that criticism disposed of in a back-alley dustbin, we are left with a collection of songs that batter the listener over the head with equal parts melody, energy, frantic tempos and fun. It's fair to say the Caerphilly sextet nail their colours firmly to the mast and aren't for turning away from the formula they've brewed, and quite frankly, why should they when it sounds this good? The six tracks fly by in short, sharp, white-hot shocks, with Rhys Mence and Owain Evans' frenzied guitars and Josh Clark's pounding drumbeats driving the action forward before allowing bursts of horns from Gareth Talbot and Ben Nicholls to mesh in and out of the action to great effect. Mence's gravelly, bellowed vocals work very well, and bassist Gethin Lock does a mean job of keeping the guitars on a tight leash and locking everything together. Overall, the band, despite their numbers, are a potent and razor-sharp cocktail of speed and musical chops. If one is looking for direct comparisons, then try to imagine an unholy alliance between Less Than Jake and mid-90s era NOFX, with the result being as good as that combination sounds.

As for the songs, can I just say that whoever wrote the intro/chorus riff to 'F.U.B' deserves a beer for writing hands down one of the catchiest riffs this year and for many years. Oh yeah, and the song it's attached to isn't too bad either. Opener 'Don't Bite The Crust' sets the frantic tone from the outset, and the closing one-two burst of 'Horizons' and 'Rid Of It' are also highlights in the festival of punchy hooks and melodies. 'Teeth Rattling Boneshaker' is perfectly placed mid-disc, as it offers a nice, skank-tastic interlude, and is guaranteed to whack a smile on your face; that's assuming the tracks surrounding it haven't done that already, of course, which is highly unlikely, as this is overall one of the most enjoyable discs I've heard in a while.

I could be picky and say that the production quality, whilst brilliant at boosting out the guitars, makes the bass and drums sound a little rubbery, or that the songwriting is still a little rough around the edges, but the bottom line is this: there are records that I listen to once or twice, then put on the shelf and occasionally dig them out now and again thereafter, and there are records that I put on and winding up listening to start to finish multiple times in succession. This EP falls squarely in the latter category. Great fun, and if this is a blueprint of the future, then bring it on - 2011 is there for the taking for Detached on this evidence.

Label: None (Unsigned)
Release Date: 13th March 2010

Rating: 8.5/10

Standout Tracks: 'Don't Bite The Crust', 'F.U.B.', 'Teeth Rattling Boneshaker'.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Live: Random Hand ft. The Skints, Dirty Revolution and others - Camden Underworld, London 11/12/10

You know something? This whole local punk scene thing has it's upsides. 2 gigs in 2 consecutive Saturdays, both blessed with awesome lineups of the movers and shakers of UK underground punk and ska music. And both featuring Tyrannosaurus Alan, funnily enough. But, whilst the Medway boys were the undisputed stars of the show last week in Sheerness, a crammed Camden Underworld packed with an all-star lineup from the length and breadth of the UK is a different proposition. Make no mistake, this is a step up from last weekend, as good as it was; this is a heavyweight showdown in the heart of the capital, and one that has 'gig of the year' stamped all over it, top to bottom.

There's two ways you can view Tyrannosaurus Alan's (9/10) opening slot - either, it's to guarantee a blazing start to proceedings, or a result of booking agent politics that does the band a disservice. In a way, their 30-minute set gives evidence for both cases - for the former, they blast out their fantastic rap-ska-punk hybrid and get bodies moving with no effort at all despite the 4:30pm start time and a distinct lack of alcohol consumed thus far (I say that - I wouldn't put it past some members of this audience to have been drinking since sunrise), and for the latter, their set is of such storming quality (as always, really) that it leaves the nagging impression that they should be hitting the stage later and further up the bill. That would be the case in a perfect world, but a) I can understand the reasons behind the scheduling, and b) to be honest, the T-Alan crew don't look like they give a fuck about such issues - they're just here to kick ass and have fun, just as always, and it's only good and proper that they have a like-minded audience, with skank pits kicking off without a second invitation. The dual-vocal attack is as always a devastating combo, with guitarist Ollie Bill Harries spitting, bouncing and skanking, and partial trombonist Simon Champ hollering, barking and urging the crowd on. Drummer Craig Shepard holds everything together with tight and ruthless beats, and the horn section of Sam Wilson (trumpet) and Tom 'with dreads' Broster and Chris Humphrey (saxophones) deliver hooks aplenty in the eye of the storm. A blazing start to the event, and a childhood dream (if you believe the band) fulfilled in style. If there's any justice, this lot should be back here in more prominent slots - who knows, maybe even headlining - in the near future.

I spoke before about how difficult it is to follow on from T-Alan, and tonight it's the turn of Broken Nose (5.5/10) to try and step up in the wake of the explosive opening. What doesn't help this particular band's cause is a lead singer who's constant screamed vocals sounds like Zach de la Rocha getting raped by Frank Carter and Kid Rock in the toilets - this may be personal opinion, but I couldn't stand them. The rest of the band appeared to follow suit, spewing forth a somewhat functional blasting of punky, hardcore-y heaviosity that, combined with (and mainly because of) the razor-blade-being-rammed-into-my-ears vocal delivery, begins to grate very swiftly. However, occasionally they'll switch to a slower reggae groove, and it's here that they earn a few points back, because they're much superior in this element. It's almost cunning how they do it - just when I'm really getting pissed off over the terrible screaming, a nice reggae section or riff comes along to calm me down again. Yes, I see what you did there, Broken Nose, you sly bunch, but it's still not enough for me to fully enjoy your set, especially when you toss aside the reggae pretensions anyway for a final two songs of crashing caterwauling. Like I said, this could be personal opinion; I mean, a fair few people seem to think Laila from Sonic Boom Six's vocal delivery is maddeningly awful, and I quite like it. Also, the idea of ska-core as a genre doesn't really wash with me, so what I will say is give them a listen for yourself - if this is your thing, then take this review as ignorant bile. Otherwise, steer clear.

It appears screamed vocals are en vogue tonight, as next band up I.C.H. (7/10) are also quite keen on them. But instead of shrieking-cat-in-a-washing-machine, I.C.H.'s frontman prefers gruff, whiplash barking to get his point across, and it's a little easier to digest, if no easier on the ear. I was told minutes before their set that these boys are due to tour sometime next year with The Jack Brews, and it doesn't take long to work out why - crushing, rollicking old-skool punk rock with hardcore overtones are the order of the day here, delivered with absolutely no subtlety and a lot of devastating pace. If you're looking for a metaphor to describe them, try to imagine Rancid doing a set composing entirely of covers of all of Lars Fredrikson's favourite 1980s UK street punk and hardcore bands, and you have a fairly accurate summation of I.C.H.'s schtick. It's relentless, with buzzsaw riffs and runaway train drumming battering you senseless, and although I don't have much time for hardcore music personally, there's enough punk rock crunching guitars and attitude in the melee for me to be drawn in. It does suffer from getting a bit samey, but in a short, sharp, half-hour shock of a set, the lack of deviation from the standard formula works well, especially with the amount of alcohol now starting to float around the venue. Job well done, and that tour with the Brews sounds like an enticing prospect.

The first of the three touring bands, Dirty Revolution (7.5/10), are up next, and...hang on, are you sure this isn't The Skints arriving early? A female-fronted band playing mellow reggae...actually, that's where the similarities end. For one, The Skints actually have memorable tunes - too many of DR's early songs just seem to float absent-mindedly out of the venue without ever leaving any kind of mark. Which is rather odd, considering I've been led to believe that these guys (and girl) are known for a gritty and powerful mix of punk, ska, and reggae - I can only think I got the wrong Facebook page, although it did look very convincing. Because what I'm seeing, and what I'm hearing, isn't particularly dirty, and it's not very revolutionary either, if you'll pardon the pun. I did miss the very start of their set, so maybe I missed a few gems, but what I did see was pretty run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter stuff, with their music lacking the chilled, easy melodies of Captain Accident or Jaya the Cat, or the gritty street feel of The Skints. It's desperately crying out for an identity, which is why it's refreshing to see them chuck the reggae pretensions in a skip for the final couple of songs and up the tempo, and it's now that they reveal themselves as a fine little ska band with real promise in this area. And by ska, I do mean just ska, for a change - as I've said before, whilst ska-punk is all very well and good, there seems to be an absolute deluge of bands ploughing that particular furrow currently (including the two bands at the top and bottom of this bill), and not much exclusivity for either ska or punk rock as individual styles, and I'd love to see Dirty Revolution progress with their ska overtones, not only for the reason above, but because they seem so damn good at it. The excellent band anthem 'I Love Reggae (I Love Ska)' proves this with a fine ending to their set, but it doesn't seem enough. It may be that the earlier reggae-orientated stuff needs repeated listens on Myspace to sink in, but it's the 2-3 ska tunes at the end of the set that earn them most of the points, because they were the only tunes that managed to hold my attention and get me interested.

I happen to end up directly stage front for the start of Moral Dilemma's (7.5/10) set, and as a result I end up getting shot-blasted in the face with an assault on the senses as they kick into their set. It's a 3-piece, with a singer touting a Gibson SG and a female bassist who contributes backing vocals, but any comparisons to The Subways are given a stern battering over the head with a stick of wood before being dumped in the gutter. Like I.C.H. earlier, MD are all about the hardcore punk, and just in case you hadn't gotten enough screamed vocals for the evening, frontman Craig Temple knows no other way of delivering vocals than by screaming them like an outraged bear.
Musically, they remind me a lot of Black Flag, and for most that would be a massive complement - but I'm not a big fan of Black Flag, sacrilegious as that probably is. So by all rights, I should stick my fingers in my ears and head for the bar, but again like I.C.H. earlier, there's more than enough here to keep me heartily engaged, no matter how much the vocals begin to grate - and believe me, they do. First off, the sheer amount of energy on display is pretty astonishing, from all members. Bassist Chloe Chourrout snarls backing vocals and bounds around the stage with wild abandon, and Temple himself is a mass of sweat and frenzied spasms of movement - when he's not abusing his guitar or loosing his temper with the microphone, he's rallying the troops in the crowd in between the songs with stirring anti-authoritarian speeches, topically revolving around the student protests and riots in London a few days ago, and whilst I do think it's easy nowadays for bands to shout 'fuck the police!' and get a reaction, much like it was cool for US bands to shout 'Fuck Bush!' intermittently a few years ago, the level of passion and righteous fury these sentiments are delivered with deserves much respect. Secondly, they aren't afraid to mix the standard hardcore formula up occasionally, either by slowing the tempo a little (which isn't saying much considering their standard tempo is somewhere between stupidly fast and hyperspeed) or breaking things down, bit by bit, allowing Chourrout a chance to exhibit some neat and excellent bass skills, before building things back up to a riotous conclusion. It's these moments that prevent things from getting too samey, and this (admittedly rather slim) level of restraint gives the high-octane moments more impact. I'm curious to see if they develop on this in the future. For now, I can best sum them up as Black Flag mixed with 80s UK and US hardcore punk, so if you're a big fan of those styles, then feel free to dismiss my ramblings, because you'll almost certainly enjoy Moral Dilemma.

Since when did it get so crowded in here? Seriously, there's suddenly no room to move in here, with bodies crammed shoulder-to-shoulder on the Underworld floor. Actually, it's no surprise that the room has filled up so quickly - we're at the business end of the gig, and the penultimate band on have been the go-to band to support pretty much every big US punk/ska band that has toured here in the last 18 months or more. Yup, it's time for me to see what the fuss is about and catch The Skints (8.5/10) live for the first time, and whilst I do enjoy their set of gritty street reggae/dub stylings, it bewilders me just how maniacal the crowd get - moshing, pogoing and stagediving at the slightest opportunity, which seems odd considering the music they're actually hollering along to, though I suppose with the amount of drink flowing around the venue by now, you could put some dross by Coldplay on the speakers and people would still go berserk to it, and as I've already said, The Skints collective have been gathering fans left, right and centre over the last year or so to form together a hardcore band of followers. All of what I've written so far sounds like I'm being condescending to The Skints, which would be doing them a disservice - their high musicianship and technicality flows into the gritty, guttural rapped vocal lines to create a lovely fusion of melody and bubbling rhythm. They see T-Alan's 2 co-vocalists and raise them 3 here - drummer Jamie Kyriakides is probably the pick of the bunch with a throaty and soulful delivery, which meshes brilliantly with quasi-frontwoman and multi-instrumentalist Marcia Richards at stage front. Richards' vocals veer sometimes into dancehall in a rootsy trip through reggae's history books, and it always has this lovely feeling of flitting over the top of the music around it. The only weak link is guitarist Josh Rudge - his rapping is often close to God-awful, and sometimes downright cringeworthy, but it does improve in all fairness as the set goes on. Musically the band are close to spot-on, with Richards' threatening to steal the show whilst flitting between vocals, saxophone, flute, melodica and keyboards with ease, but to be honest the true heroes of The Skints are the rhythm section of
Kyriakides' drumming and Jon Doyle's excellent and fluid basslines. The band themselves recognise this and allow Doyle a nice solo section in one of the songs, and his bass work subtly drives each song forward. In reggae, great bass work is absolutely vital, and The Skints have that area nailed to a tee. Overall, a higly enjoyable set, although it still doesn't convince me that the band are worth the rabid adoration they are affored. Maybe I'm being overly cynical, and The Skints themselves certainly deserve plaudits for an excellent and unique take on roots reggae.

So, just like last week, the penultimate band on the bill threaten to steal the show, and also just like last week, a fair few people seem to bail, thinking that there's nothing else to offer. Unlike last week though, a) there's still a very healthy contingent in the crowd for the headline act, and b) there's absolutely no way Random Hand (10/10) will allow themselves to be upstaged by one of the support acts, and as they charge into action, there's a sense of something pretty special erupting. 2010 hasn't been the best of years for the Hand, but now that they have a new drummer in place, they've returned and are ready to make up for lost time. The formula they've crafted and honed demonstrates the advantage of restraint I talked about earlier - the furiously skanked verses mixed with anthemic choruses and buzzsaw riffs to form a ridiculously catchy, energetic and powerful ska-punk-rock explosion quite unlike anything I've heard. The closest comparison I can perhaps give is a ska-influenced Billy Talent, but even then that particular metaphor is tenuous to say the least. What is so special to behold is that nothing the band does feels at all forced; it's all so natural, effortlessly fluid and razor-sharp. Frontman Robin Leitch is an intense whirligig of energy during songs, and a warm, friendly presence between songs, chatting with the crowd in his distinct Bradford burr, and directing the captive audience to pull off a couple of Camden Underworld firsts: the first ever 'crawl of death' (as opposed to Wall of Death, see?), and the first ever figure of 8 circle pit around the twin pillars on the Underworld floor. As a promised reward for this, he gives us 'partial nudity' in return - basically him struggling to get his sweaty T-shirt off. All fun stuff, especially with guitarist Matt Crosher interjecting occasional lines, and a brief technical delay with Crosher's guitar is smoothed over effortlessly. So, with any divide between band and audience well and truly dismantled, we're invited to join in heartily with the Hand's ska-punk party, through any way possible - outright moshing, pogoing, skanking, hollering along with Leitch and his cohorts, crowd-surfing, stage-diving, you name it, people are doing it without a second thought; almost as if it's obligatory, nay, compulsory. Even members of the other bands are at it, with several members of T-Alan in particular dancing and grinning like idiots (and even stagediving at some points). They inspire that level of rabid emotion through almost every second of their set - and when you've got an armoury of tunes of such high quality as this, coupled with such a superb live show, it's no surprise at all. Every member plays their part - new drummer Sean Howe is a powerhouse of crashing beat precision, bassist Joe Tilston stakes his claim to be one of the best bassists in the business at the moment with a superbly rhythmic and fluid performance, and the dynamic duo of Leitch's barked vocals and Crosher's dynamic guitar work are the formidable icing on a brilliant and anthemic cake. Speaking of anthems, the Hand certainly aren't short of one or two of those -
the obligatory new songs from delayed new album 'Seething is Believing' show a nice progression from the already existing material, ramping up the riffs and trombone hooks to new levels. But with a back catalogue as strong as this, inevitable fan favourites have already been formed, and nearly all of them are unleashed tonight; the rousing 'Play Some Ska' comes early on, and the stunning double-gut-punch of 'Anger Management' and 'Scum Triumphant' ends the regular set. After a one-song encore, the band say their goodbyes and depart, to leave behind the wreckage of a sweaty and delirious crowd, delighted with the night's entertainment.

I began this review by touting this gig as possibly one of the best of the year, and overall, despite some dips in quality (and a contingent of plastic punk posers trying not to spoil their mohawks, but we'll talk about that in another post), tonight has lived up to billing in some style - a great combination of reggae, ska and uncompromising hardcore punk, bookended by probably the two strongest ska-punk bands in the U.K. at this time. And on tonight's evidence, 2011 looks like a fantastic year in prospect for the UK underground scene.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Live: We Are The Union & others all-day show - The Ivy Leaf Bar, Sheerness, 4/12/10

Considering the continuing presence of mysterious white powdery stuff on the ground, the fact that this gig even took place is a small miracle in itself. Seriously, it goes beyond funny and into the realms of facepalm-inducingly pathetic just how bad this country - mainly the government and local councils - are at dealing with the snow. After a week couped up inside listening to interminable news reporters standing around looking stupid and wittering on about 'the treacherous conditions taking their grip' and other such bollocks, I was rather up for a decent gig, and it appears Mother Nature agreed, easing up on the snow just in time for what, on paper, looked like one of the gigs of the year. A great little venue playing host to a roster of bands which read like a who's-who of the UK scene, complete with American headliners fresh off of tour with none other than Less Than Jake. This was a gig not to be missed, and by hook or by crook, and with a helping hand from Messrs Wayne and Tom with Dreads, I hitched a lift down and was able to bare witness to the fun that unfolded.

It's pretty much a given that any all-day event will never start on time, and I arrived just after the 4:45pm eventual start time, to be greeted with the slightly surreal sight of a bloke bobbing around on stage with an acoustic guitar doing tongue-in-cheek covers of Disney themes and old 90's pop songs. It didn't take long to deduce that this was in fact opening act Team Harry (6/10), though it's debatable whether the 'Team' element could be applicable, seeing as it was only the 'Harry' part, in the form of vocalist and guitarist Harry Broster, present onstage. He took the opportunity of having a stage to himself to essentially dick around for half an hour, poking fun at James Blunt and cheesy boy bands, amongst others. Hell, this was about as life-affirming as the toast I ate that morning, but it's still good fun all the same, and actually comes across more as a stand-up comedy set than a live music show, not that that's a bad thing at all.

Dodgy S Club 7 covers aside, the first band on proper were Gravesend's own My Third Leg (7/10), a band I seem to have seen live more times in the last few months than I have eaten hot dinners. And to be honest, there wasn't that much different about this show to the previous three times I've seen them - you could practically copy-paste my review of them at Piccadilly Circus at the end of October and you'd have an accurate picture of tonight's show. Frontman Will Woodrow was as always warm, witty and humble, acting as a counterpoint to bassist Dave Ja Vu, who bounced around the stage non-stop and punctuated nearly every song with staccato 'eys!' and other yelped backing vocals. Drummer Paul Smith had a fairly decent set, making only a couple of mistakes - it's just a shame then that they were both so glaringly obvious that a deaf man wearing earmuffs in Timbuktu would've winced at them. It wasn't a great set overall for the Smith brothers - guitarist Mike also suffered problems with his amp cutting out, and overall the set felt a little flat compared to previous shows. Perhaps it was the early start time, a lengthy journey down from Gravesend, maybe both? I'm not sure, but what is certain is that they are admirably consistent in the quality of their performances, which considering the amount of gigs they've gotten through this year, will serve them in good stead. The challenge now in the new year will be to see if they can lift themselves up another few gears as a unit and go from 'good band' to 'great band worthy of headline status at events like this'.

I know what you're thinking - that bloke in the picture doesn't look much like either of The Plan's vocalists, Tom Crabb or Andrew Keech. That's because neither of them were actually present, for some reason or another. So rather than bail altogether, bassist Wayne Tully and drummer Ben Gower hastily recruited Captain Bastard and the Scallywags' resident mandolin player Jordan Harris (pictured) as makeshift frontman, renamed themselves Mexican Wave (6.5/10), and proceeded to belt out a set of various Nirvana and Green Day covers with varying degrees of success. Of course, mistakes and technical sloppiness in these circumstances are about as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning and politicians lying to save face, so we wound up hearing the same verse to 'Longview' repeated 3 times (in fact, most bands have a problem with that song - Dr Goon brutally buttfucked it, and even The Submission struggled with the lyrics), and 'When I Come Around' clunked badly at times, but all things considered, the group actually did pretty well. Wayne's slick bass playing and Ben's driving beats formed a strong backbone when they fire together, just as they do on a regular basis with The Plan, while Harris brought an energetic delivery and barked vocals to the party. The Nirvana covers in particular went down very well, and as they ended on another Green Day cover, the criminally underrated 'Burnout', there was a sense that the trio might have stumbled on a combination that has potential to work if it's actually formed into a proper band. It'll be interesting to see if they decide to progress with the idea.

Next up came part one of the Welsh invasion, in the form of Caerphilly's Detached (8/10). I'd heard a lot about this highly-touted ska-punk sextet, and tonight I saw exactly why they're creating such a buzz. This is proper ska-punk, in the purest sense of the word - snarling guitar riffs meld with bouncing horns and skanking beats to create a vicious, hook-laden assault that owes heavily to Less Than Jake and Big D and the Kids Table, but there's also a mild pop-punk streak running through their repertoire, bringing to mind early Kids Can't Fly or perhaps a revamped version of A Boy Named Girl with an added horn section, if you can imagine that. Frontman Rhys Mence was a livewire firecracker of energy with a vocal delivery to match, and bassist Gethin Lock cut an imposing presence next to him as they led the charge from the front. They did fall at times into a familiar trap experienced in this genre, in that some of the songs flit undisciplined from tempo to tempo, and there's never much time for a hook to embed itself in your head before they veer onto another one. Just because you have a lot of weapons in your armoury, doesn't mean you have to use as many as you can at any one time. They certainly don't suffer this as badly as other bands (I'm looking at you, Sonic Boom Six), and it didn't detract from what is an exhilarating performance full of high technical skill and chemistry. Watch out for a review of their current EP very soon, which I picked up immediately after their set from the merch stall.

Part Two of the Welsh invasion came courtesy of the band I was most looking forward to seeing for the first time - Cardiff's Captain Accident and the Disasters (9/10). Considering the enormous gamut of ska-punk bands littering the scene right now (in itself no bad thing), CA&TDs embracing of reggae so wholeheartedly makes for a refreshing change of pace, and they laid down a set of relaxed and heavily melodic grooves which got heads bobbing and bodies swaying with consummate ease. This is music so infused with the spirit of summer that it felt criminal that we were hearing it on a cold December evening, but the truth is, everyone was too busy having fun to notice - much like Jaya the Cat, this is music to loose yourself for half an hour with, swaying with the chilled melodies. Frontman Adam Parsons, in his alter ego as Captain Accident, had a soulful delivery with his vocals, and was very friendly and affable in between songs. His Disasters backing band were a smooth and fluid combination, with Earl Christian's excellent basslines and Huw Jones' nifty drumbeats providing the perfect foundation for both Parsons and lead guitarist Ryan Steadman, who's gorgeous, surf-rock-infused lead parts added another dimension to the fun. Like a modern-day Jimmy Cliff or Toots and the Maytals, this Captain and his merry men are a shining example of just how joyous reggae music can be, and long may they continue - their Pick Up the Microphone EP/Album is another record I'll run the rule over in the next few weeks.

One Day Elliot (7/10) are a band who have certainly paid their dues and earned the respect of the scene - touring and recording for all of 12 years, with multiple big-money record deals turned down along the way, tells it's own story. Tonight they successfully managed to defy their age and delivered a set full of heavy, pop-punk-inflected action, with the occasional bursts of epic overtones a la Funeral for a Friend. I personally didn't take to their music as enthusiastically as others did, but that didn't stop me admiring the energy of the performance, with frontman Paul Richards working the crowd brilliantly. They also exhibited on the shiny new tracks some awesome vocal harmonies, something that caught me completely by surprise and adds another string to their already rather crowded bow. Impressive stuff, and a demonstration from the proverbial greybeards of the scene that they still have the drive and hunger to continue for many years yet - here's to another 12 years, eh?

We were by now heading towards the climax of the event, and despite the best efforts of a valiant band of Welshmen earlier to try and steal the show, the night was only ever going to be about one band - the pride of Medway, Tyrannosaurus Alan (10/10). From the moment the seven members crammed onto the stage and surged into action, it was complete carnage on the floor - bodies pogoing and skanking everywhere in an incendiary display of energy from both crowd and band. Co-vocalist and occasional trombone player Simon Champ took centre stage and led the troops, snarling and spitting his vocals with wild abandon and whipping the crowd up into a frenzy with ease, getting fists in the air and circle pits spinning. Guitarist and fellow vocalist Ollie Harries gleefully assisted in the mayhem, and the band as a whole drove home bouncing hook after powerhouse riff with stunning precision and unity. Horns blared, basslines boomed, drums crashed, Harries' guitar crunched and the aforementioned vocals chattered like staccato machine-guns in a devastating display of contemporary ska-punk, blending their wide-ranging influences (from hip-hop to funk by way of Skindred ragga-punk) into a seamless and rip-roaring stream of awesome and honestly life-affirming anthems. The horn hook from 'The Officer Problem' embeds in your brain like a piece of white-hot shrapnel, and if the likes of 'Cheer Up' and 'Tunnels' don't get you skanking frantically, then I'm going to save you the bother and declare you medically dead. Fantastic fun. Time to raise a glass for T-Alan, one of the finest live bands in the UK right now - 2010 has certainly been their year.

You really had to pity We Are The Union (8/10) - they were supposed to be the headliners and all-star international act, and yet they discovered tonight that it's almost damn near impossible to follow on from T-Alan, largely because, once the dust has settled, there's barely anyone actually left in the venue - I'd say around 20-30 people remained when the American ska-punkers hit the stage. It may well have made sense for the two bands to have swapped around on the bill, with T-Alan headlining instead - yes, WATU are internationally well-known, and it's a pretty big deal for them to be playing a tiny club in Sheerness having just come off of a UK tour with Less than Jake and Zebrahead, but let's face it, you could put Less Than Jake themselves on and offer free beer to all attendees, and they'd still struggle to pull a crowd on a par with T-Alan. The fact that WATU still managed to rip through an energetic set despite the thinning numbers (trombone player Matt Belhanger took time out after one song to bemoan this fact, and thank those who stuck around) is admirable and shows great conviction. Mind you, the music they play demands an energetic delivery by it's very nature - buzzsaw ska-punk rock that varies in pace between breakneck and blistering. In fact, I'm going to coin a new term for them - 'skate-ska'. Because listening to them felt like listening to a skater kid's mixtape, a mixtape that skips from Less Than Jake to NOFX to Black Flag to Bad Religion to Mad Caddies and back again. It's just a shame that they fell into the same trap I mentioned above with Detached and SB6 - ill-disciplined songwriting. In fact, forget just bad discipline, this was flat-out musical schizophrenia - if ten seconds went by without sudden tempo change, then that meant you had probably passed out unconscious on the floor, gibbering and foaming at the mouth. Their music has promise, definitely, it's just that it comes and goes so quickly that you'll wonder if you were just imagining it. Like I said earlier with Detached, pick one weapon, or perhaps two at the most at any one time, and batter us over the head with that - switching weapons every five seconds more often than not kills any momentum you've built up, and can mean that songs breeze by with a lot of bluster and flare, but with no end product. Whereas T-Alan's songs will be lodged in my head until sometime after Christmas, too many of WATU's tracks will slip into obscurity until I look them up on Myspace again. If they rectify this, then they have potential to be a great band; there's nothing wrong with their live show, which was tight and frenetic from first note to last. Drummer Jim Margle switched through the various tempos without breaking sweat, and his powerhouse drumming drove the entire performance with great precision and technical ability, whilst directly in front of him onstage, frontman Reed Michael Wolcott was a hunched, aggressive figurehead with a whiplash vocal style to match. In the end, this was never going to be the glorious finale it claimed to be - T-Alan ruthlessly saw to that - but it was nevertheless a decent way of wrapping things up, and there was more than enough on show to convince me that WATU are a band worth investigating further. If they can get whoever writes their songs to calm the fuck down, then there's a chance they can harness the explosive power they possess and focus it into something great.

Summation time: with a lineup this strong, it was always going to be difficult for this show to live up to the heavy weight of expectation, but do you know what? It actually does end up matching the hype, and then some. Arguably though, this was by far and away Tyrannosaurus Alan's night, and their spectacular performance was worth the trip down and admission fee on it's own. The likes of Detached, Captain Accident, We Are The Union et al all played their part well, but in the end they were all overshadowed by one of the absolute greats of the current UK scene right now, and it was a pleasure, as well as quite a thrill, to bear witness to them.

Overall 9/10

All photos by Vic Wintergreen.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Anti-Flag - The People Or The Gun

Allow me to be frank: In terms of new music, 2010 has been a barren wasteland of sand, more sand and dog turds. I thought I must've missed something in my coursework and A-level-imposed exile from society during the earlier months of the year, but since then I've been digging around on my hands and knees in the piles of generic, manufactured, Auto-Tuned to death excrement, and there really has been only two records worth noting this year - Feeder's Renegades, and Bad Religion's The Dissent of Man. Even Paul Smith, a veritable oracle on punk and rock 'n' roll music, and a man who has his finger relatively on the pulse of new releases, was at a loss to recall any decent records emerging this year.

If there has been anything I've missed in my musical dumpster diving, then please do endeavour to bring them to my attention, but for now, fuck it, I've had enough. Let's sweep aside into the recycle bin the droves of monotonous bilge that have made up 2010, and cast our minds way back to 2009, which while not being a classic year, was a damn sight better in terms of records. It appears, however, that I was too busy sticking the boot into Green Day for producing the obese, flatulent monstrosity that was 21st Century Breakdown to notice that another band had put out a political punk rock record - and what's more, it was infinitely better. Welcome then, to Anti-Flag's The People or The Gun, an album that, had I known about it at the time, could've gone up against The Submission and AFI for the 'Album of 2009' challenge belt, and given both a seriously bloody nose. It really is an absolute treat, and I thank Paul for finally bringing it to my attention.

I've long had a soft spot for Anti-Flag -
It doesn't particularly matter if you agree or not with the strident political and social observations present on nearly every song of theirs, as there's a lot to admire in the blisteringly hooky and punchy punk rock that these sentiments are attached to. They have a back catalogue positively teeming with anthems, and I'd recommend 2004's The Terror State and 2005's For Blood And Empire to anybody wishing not only to get into the band, but the genre of punk rock in general.

However, the latter of those two albums was released on a 'major' label, RCA Records, and this brings us to a sticking point with latter-day AF. Having openly stuck two fingers up at major labels earlier on in their career, their decision to defect to the dark side was met with howls of derision, and 2008's The Bright Lights of America was a lacklustre damp squib. They were subsequently dumped by RCA right around the same time the object of so much of their ire, a certain George W. Bush, was being forcibly ejected from the White House. Instead of putting their feet up and congratulating themselves on a decent decades' work, the band regrouped, returned to the independent arena with SideOneDummy, and instead refocused their crosshairs onto new targets, of which there are still plenty.

This fresh impetus of rage and rebellious frustration is what drives The People or The Gun, but what is refreshing about the record as a whole is that it is no backwards grab at credibility (hell, it's unlikely the band gave a shit about such trivial things in the first place), rather, a condensing of all the best moments and successful experiments of the last five to seven years into eleven tracks of vibrant hooks and varying degrees of punch. The slower numbers balance out the white-hot intensity of the faster tracks, giving a nice feeling of pacing and flow - it's no good just bombarding someone with endless sensory overload, as this simply dilutes the power and message and grows tiring really quickly. Exhibit A: The already mentioned 21st Century Breakdown. Exhibit B: The last few Call of Duty videogames. Anti-Flag are masters of pacing, and what helps is that when they do deviate off-script, some charming surprises crop up - 'The Gre(A)T Depression', loosely based around a Bob Dylan number and featuring guest vocals that read like a who's who of modern punk rock, is a nicely melodic, vaguely Springsteen-esque piece, and 'This is The First Night' uses a more folky rhythm to emphasise the uplifting lyrics.

That being said, it's when the band are foaming at the mouth with rage that the best tracks arise. Opener 'Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington DC' has all the battering ram energy of a runaway freight train, complete with religious references that would make Bad Religion proud, 'The Economy is Suffering...Let It Die' is a stinging indictment of the bank bail-outs strung to an outrageously catchy chorus, and 'You're Fired (Take This Job, Ah, Fuck It)' is a 60-second slice of crunching hardcore punk with a very AFI-esque backing vocal line. The highlight of the entire LP, and indeed one of my favourite punk rock songs for quite a while, is the fantastic 'We Are The One', which sounds not dissimilar to Rise Against's 'Savior' - with the big difference being that it's much, much better. Unfortunately they cannot quite sustain the same level of quality throughout, and the end of the disc isn't quite as strong as the start, but the clincher here comes in the overall consistency - there's not one bad track on the LP, and not once will you be reaching for the 'skip' button.

So, a punk rock group who not only survived a weakening of their powers in the hands of the big bad major label wolf, but emerged on the other side stronger than ever before? How many other bands can you think of who have managed to pull that one off, aside perhaps Bad Religion? If you were one of the many cynics who turned their backs on Anti-Flag the moment they signed on the RCA dotted line, you can come in from the cold now - this is a brilliant return to form. For everyone else who never doubted Anti-Flag's continuing power in spite of their dalliances with the darkside, then rejoice and rock away - you've just been proven right.

Album Details:
Label: SideOneDummy Records
Release Date: June 9th, 2009
Rating: 9/10
Standout Tracks: 'Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington DC', 'We Are The One,' 'You're Fired (Take This Job, Ah, Fuck It)'.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Artificial Nature - Distorted Noise EP

We've all known one, haven't we? That band that you're due bound to like because of obligations pertaining to inconvenient things like friendship and matedom, but you just can't bring yourself to do so because, well, they're appalling. No two ways about it. Yup, I'm talking about 'my mate's band'. The band you're forced to like and stick up for despite your better judgement (and your ears) telling you otherwise. You wind up either going to their gigs because they invite you along, then standing at the back nursing a beer and trying to make conversation with other people who are covering their ears at the God-awful cacophony, or making up some pathetic excuse to avoid having to sit through the torture in the first place.

Yeah, not really liking a mate's band is quite an awkward business, which is why I had reason to be anxious when a friend of mine told me he was putting together a self-described 'punk rock power trio'. Don't get me wrong, I was interested and curious to hear them, just as I am about any new punk band, but my inner cynic braced himself and started lining up possible excuses. That band soon broke cover and revealed themselves as Artificial Nature, and fortunately, the shotgun of harsh judgement gets to stay right where it is, because, if a 40-minute setlist at the Red Lion (a review of which will be on it's way shortly) and this EP are anything to go by, Artificial Nature are an enjoyable band full of youthful vigour and promise.

The first thing that strikes you within a matter of seconds of putting the disc on is...wait a minute, where did Brian Molko from Placebo come from?! Oh no, my mistake, that's just vocalist and bassist Rob Driscoll, doing what sounds like his best Brian Molko impression. Well, that's a bit harsh - he also breaks out into a decent Billie Joe Armstrong impression in other parts of the EP too, none more so than on 2nd track 'Be Who You Wanna Be'. In all seriousness, he and the rest of the band wear their influences on their collective sleeves, having listed Green Day and Placebo as personal favourites of theirs, so it's a good thing that they choose to purloin the best bits of the aforementioned artists - for example, returning to Driscoll's vocal delivery, he retains the snotty bark of Armstrong, and the dry drawl of Molko, using both to good effect.

The band themselves exhibit a good tightness between them, and a youthful strut and swagger is evident from first note to last, for better or worse. For worse being in the low-fi production, occasional technical slip and sometimes appallingly cliched lyric line (whoever signed off 'I'm full of spunk and I hate my mum' as acceptable needs to see me afterwards), and for better being the occasional excellent guitar hook or burst of energy. They are a typical young garage rock band in that they can veer through the good, the bad and the ugly of rock 'n' roll at will, and at times it can be frustrating. For example, the aforementioned '...You Wanna Be' sounds like an attempt to be this generation's 'Longview' and juxtaposes the above dreadful lyric line with a genuinely catchy guitar riff and a neat driving drumbeat, and 'Turn Your Back' exhibits promise but ends up dragging its heels a little too much towards the end, despite more nifty drum work from sticksman Tom Parker.

Speaking of names, guitarist Nick Sands (here going under the pseudonym of Nicky Sparks) leads loudly and proudly from the front with crunching chords aplenty, and even gets the chance to bust out a solo or two, whilst Driscoll's rumbling basslines add meat to the rhythms. I've already mentioned Parker's excellent drum work, and I'm going to mention it again, because he threatens to steal the show at times, such is his beat dexterity. This is a crucial part of their armoury - power trios by their very definition have to be tighter than a nun's proverbial nether regions, and whilst they aren't quite there yet, AN showcase enough on this disc to tell me that they are close, and eminently capable of reaching this point. Standout track and EP closer 'Lonely Island' is probably the zenith of their collective powers, combining everything I've mentioned so far into just under four minutes of brash garage-punk mayhem, and it's immensely enjoyable. If this is the shape of things to come, then count me in - I look forward to enjoying the ride.

Nearly all of my reviews of underground/up-and-coming bands end up coming down to one question: do they have potential? And yes, Artificial Nature definitely do have potential. This EP is a warts-and-all declaration of their powers, strengths, and weaknesses, and there is enough evidence here to suggest that, as they gain experience on the gig circuit and gel more as a unit, they will grow into a fine little rock 'n' roll band worthy of the power trio tag. There's overtones of The Subways in their makeup, and look where that particular trio of rag-tag young scoundrels have ended up.

Rating: 7/10
Standout Tracks: Lonely Island, Be Who You Wanna Be.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Bad Religion - The Dissent of Man

You want a study in longevity, and how to keep sounding fresh and vital as the years, and even decades, roll by? Look no further than Hollywood's finest, Bad Religion. Their career is the very definition of rollercoaster, and how to fight back from adversity to produce one brilliant record after another, time and again.

It would be impossible to fully give their varied and storied history justice in this review, celebrating as they are 30 years as a band this year - I'll leave that to a future article. It's an incredible achievement that the band have even lasted this long, let alone still featuring four of the very original members from their earliest days. And, far from simply touring old classics in a half-baked nostalgic look back at past years, they continue to push on, fiercely rolling back the years to keep producing records as vital as their earlier output - indeed, the album I herald as their best ever is not any of their earlier, late-'80s work, as great as they are, but 2004's blistering 'The Empire Strikes First'. It, along with 2002's excellent 'The Process of Belief' and 2007's pounding 'New Maps of Hell', showcases the best characteristics of new millennium-era BR - all the energy and clusterbomb fury of those early releases, but honed, refined and tuned with additional shredding solos and hooky riffs, and the trademark 'oozin' ahhs' backing vocals infusing the fury with soaring melodies. And now, as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations that also saw them release a free-to-download live album earlier this year, BR proudly unveil the latest addition to their mighty back catalogue - 'The Dissent of Man'

Let me state right off the bat, first impressions of this record were not good. I had heard rumours that it wasn't very strong, so I dug up the tracks and gave them a listen - and I could see people's points. It felt...flat. I wouldn't say boring - the assault is still as brutally powerful as ever - but it definitely lacked something. Tracks seem to pass by without muster, and nothing jumped out at me. Indeed, some of the riffs sounded cobbled together and forced, lacking the natural flow that is such a trademark of BR's sound. Even singer Greg Graffin's lyrics lacked the usual intelligent bite to them, and were in danger in some places of falling into cliche. Indeed, of the 15 tracks on the album, it took me until track 9, 'Someone to Believe', for a song to grab me by the collar and yank me in. I was genuinely about to write off this record as the moment where BR's age had finally caught up to them, where they had finally run out of steam and plain out of ideas, after 30 years of defying all known laws of bands and rolling back the years, this would be the moment where I finally say it was time for them to hang up the guitars and call it quits.

But then, something happened. I gave it another listen, and something began to click. Something intangible. Yes, opener 'The Day The Earth Stalled' still passed by without really a second glance. But then 'Only Rain' burst into action, and suddenly it began to make sense. Suddenly, more tracks began to leap out at me and snatch my attention, such as the sizzling lead-off single 'Resist Stance', even send shivers up my spine at some moments. It's fortunate that I didn't review this album based on first impressions, as they can be deceptive - this album is certainly a grower. I was wrong to doubt them - the grizzled old dogs of punk have done it again, pushed themselves that bit more to create something that stands alone on it's own merits as part of their repertoire.

Having said that, I will still go as far as saying this is probably their weakest record of the last decade. The main problem is consistency, and pacing - they seem to stack the majority of the mid-paced, introspective numbers right at the end of the disc, which totally kills the balance of the album - it explodes into life at the start, but peters out with a bit of a shrug at the end. Even some of the faster songs can't seem to decide on a tone - melancholy or angry? Wistful or fiercely determined? It's inevitable to a degree that they will take more and more nostalgic looks back as they go on, and 30 years into their career is as good a time as any to do so I suppose, but it comes at a cost on some songs - 'Wrong Way Kids' (or 'Keeds' if Graffin is to be believed) gets caught in this particular limbo, and looses it's impact as a result, and 'Ad Hominum' winds up coming across as an inferior remix of '21st Century Digital Boy'. It's when they focus on one particular mood that their best tracks rise - 'Won't Somebody' and 'Turn Your Back' are the picks of the more mid-tempo, melancholic tunes in this regard.

I mentioned before how BR are never a band to stand still, and will keep trying to push their trademark sound to new levels, and while all the hallmarks - Brooks Wackerman's powerhouse drumming, the crushing three-guitar assault augmented with Brian Baker's howling leads, the 'oozing ahh's' backing vocals, and Graffin's gruff and emotionally charged lead vocal delivery -
are still present and correct, they do attempt to cram other influences and approaches into the smelting pot, with hit and miss results. The most obvious experimentation is the vaguely folksy 'Cyanide', complete with a neat slide solo from Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's guitarist Mike Campbell, which comes across as a slowed-down version of 'The Quickening' from TESF. The aforementioned 'Someone to Believe' gives a heavy tip of the hat to The Ramones with it's 'Beat on the Brat'-mimicking lead-off riff and buzzsaw guitar attack, and the also previously mentioned '...Stance' opens on a searing solo lead, and rides on the back of this epic riff for most of the song.

People will try to point to this album's weaknesses and suggest it is a sign that the band are finally starting to edge into decline after years of defying the odds. Indeed, I thought this myself on first listen. But though this record isn't quite as strong as it's most recent predecessors, it still wipes the floor with most of their late-90s output, and is a worthy addition to their canon. So what if they fancy looking back a bit more nowadays - after 30 years in the game, most of that time spent at the very top of their powers, they've earned the right to, and they still manage it a lot better than other much younger bands than they. Dismiss them at your peril - on the evidence of this, there's still a helluva lot of life in the old dogs yet.

Album Details
Label: Epitaph Records
Release Date: 28th September 2010
Rating: 7/10
Standout Tracks: 'Only Rain', 'The Resist Stance', 'Someone to Believe'.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Live: The Submission and others (All-Dayer) - The Railway Pub, Walmer, 23/10/10

Standing on the platform of a freezing cold Walmer station in the wee small hours of Sunday morning, waiting for the train that would take me homeward bound to Swanley, I found myself (amongst swearing under my breath at the fact my train was delayed, and perhaps yawning) reflecting on the previous 24 hours that had gone before it. Just down the road from the station I was sat at was The Railway Pub, and at this hour of the morning, only some broken glass on the pavement outside and some tatty posters in the windows gave any clue at what had come before it. It had seen me experience a gig like no other, one I had to travel nearly 60 miles just to get to, a fair distance for any gig, let alone one by local bands in a tiny pub in a small coastal town, but one that was a pretty hefty rollercoaster of music, beer, and great fun from its relatively slow start to its blistering finale. And now that I'm back home and back to normal levels of sleep and energy (just about), it's time for me to recount, in as much detail as I can, that hectic Saturday afternoon and evening.

It's pretty safe to say that the day hardly got underway in glorious fashion - in fact, if you had no prior idea of the quality of some of the bands following, you'd be well within your rights to have walked through the front doors, seen the first band playing on the first stage (what I'll call from now on the Bar Stage), and have turned round and walked straight back out the door again to stay in for the evening with The X Factor. I'm not joking - opening band Dr Goon (2/10) were so atrocious they had to be seen to be believed. Not seen for too long, mind - just long enough to realise that listening to them play was on a par with sticking a cordless drill in one ear and a screwdriver in the other. Their main problem (amongst the myriad of others) was that they looked like they had never even seen each other before, let alone played together. Lesson 1 for up-and-coming bands, kids - make sure you are relatively tight as a unit before you even think of looking for gigs. As much as I poked fun at the early iterations of My Third Leg for their technical sloppiness, at least they could hold a tune together. The Total Goons were so shockingly sloppy it sounded at times like each member was playing a completely different song - each very badly. Matters were hardly helped by a singer who looked utterly comatose, and a keyboard player who had got lost at a trad jazz gig and never found his way back home. The only reason they managed two scores was the fact that their guitarist and drummer at least looked into it, although the one shred of talent in the entire band was firmly with the guitarist - imagine Clem Burke after a particularly ham-fisted frontal lobotomy and you have Collection of Dribbling Goons' drummer. Which leads me nicely onto Lesson 2 for up-and-coming bands: if you are borrowing someone else's equipment, avoid breaking it, as the drummer did when he managed to somehow split the skin of the bass drum with the pedal. And then Lesson 3 - don't then use this pause in play to advertise a show you're playing on the very same day not very far away from there. This is perhaps one of the biggest faux pas you can commit, particularly when one of the chief organisers of the show you're currently playing (and owner of the piece of equipment you've just broken) happens to be standing right next to you. Fortunately, Mr Rich Harris kept his rebuke short and to the point (a barked 'fuck off') and the Travelling Band of Blithering Goons were allowed to leave with all of their members still in one piece. What made the incident particularly hilarious was how farcically awful they had performed - it made you wonder how on Earth they managed to get two gigs at all, let alone on the same day. Answers on a postcard please - for now, I'm calling bribery.

It's not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that anybody could look good following on from the pile of foul-smelling shite that had opened proceedings, but having said that, I genuinely quite liked Shattered Resolutions (6.5/10). They flitted from drop-C tuned metal-y, sometimes stoner-y fuzz rock to something a bit more faster paced, but whilst certainly not reinventing the wheel, they at least showcased a bit of flash and imagination. Of particular note is how the two guitarists, Aaron Dixon and James Revell, deliberately manufactured two different sounds from their respective guitars, which when combined together created an interesting mix, using it to try and expand the songs sonically. They traded solos nicely too, and when you throw in Tyler French's yelped vocals and the fairly dynamic rhythm section of Robby Levesley on bass and James Nesbitt (no, not the James Nesbitt) on drums, you have a group that have promise. They could've scored higher had their set had the energy and confidence their music deserved, but they are a young band, and have time on their side to iron these creases out.

Sadly, one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing pulled a complete no-show - The Moo Woos. In fact, a no nothing - not a phonecall, not an answering of a phone call, no appearance at all. Very frustrating, as it puts a big black mark next to their name, which their music doesn't deserve, and I'm sure they would've thrived in the intimate setting and atmosphere of the venue, but hey, their loss I suppose.

So we move straight back into the backroom stage where Shattered Resolutions had performed, and we find The Plan's Andrew Keech (complete with trademark flat-cap) and Ben Gower, but instead of their partners in crime in The Plan, instead they are backed up today by a myriad of different instruments and members. Time to welcome to proceedings Captain Bastard and the Scallywags (7.5/10), a band with not only a spectacular name, but a spectacular array of weapons in their sonic arsenal - alongside the traditional guitar/bass/drums triumvirate, we introduce an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, an accordion, and a penny whistle, just for good measure. I was told beforehand to expect folk-punk fun to rival Calico Street Riots, with perhaps some added Guinness and pirate shenanigans, and that's a fairly accurate description. They deviated from the standard, fast-paced folk-punk template at times though, and this refreshing change of pace enabled them to make better use of the wide variety of instruments at their disposal - the mandolin in particular, played with great aplomb by Jordan Harris, was particularly prominent, and pennywhistlist (is that even a word?!) Kayla Harlow lead off one song in fine solo fashion. Just like Calico, all of their songs are infused with the bouncing energy and sense of unabashed fun that makes the genre great. Two things largely let them down - firstly, Keech's vocals were suffering due to illness and were largely reduced to a series of barks and croaks, and secondly, the band are still a work-in-progress in terms of gelling as a unit - one song had to be abandoned and the drumming fell out in several other parts. But, as I was quick to remind Keech afterwards, they are a new band, having only played 2 shows before this, and particularly with this many instruments in the mix, it would take a little more time for things to start clicking completely smoothly. For now, they are a band easing into life on the circuit, and I look forward to seeing them progress, as there is a lot of potential laying in wait.

Next up on the Bar Stage were, from a personal perspective, the biggest surprises of the day - A Boy Named Girl (8/10). I'd seen them a couple of times beforehand, and both times had never really 'got' them, and I really don't know why. Maybe I had an in-built indifference and cynicism for the largely bland, generic pap that passes for modern pop-punk nowadays which clouded my judgement of them before, but on this particular evening, I went into their set with an open mind, and I was hooked from first outrageously catchy note to last. Y'see, this is how modern pop-punk should sound - yes, there's floppy fringes, yes, there's half-tempo breakdowns, but they are interwoven into tunes packed with hooks and properly shimmering choruses, and a sound that avoids being hackneyed and cliched, and a stage presence that sidesteps plastic posturing and concentrates wholly on having a damn good time, which is exactly what the crowd that gathers to watch them do have. The theme of being tight as a unit has run constantly throughout this review, and I have to come back to it, because that's one of ABNG's biggest strengths - good pop-punk has to be razor-sharp in it's delivery, and that's something the five-piece pull off brilliantly. Great job, and I'll happily admit to being wrong about them before.

I didn't actually watch directly the next act, the Disclosure Project (6/10), so take this rating as being based on what I heard whilst having a break from the music with a beer in the bar as they performed in the backroom. All I saw directly of them was their soundcheck, which told me that they were a expansive and technical three-piece. What I heard from them in the background after that proved that pretty much right, but also told me that they somehow had a knack of making even epic rock songs by the likes of Foo Fighters and 30 Seconds to Mars sound...well, kinda boring. I don't know why, they just didn't grip me. Let's put it this way - I was waiting for them to drag me away from the bar and into the backroom to watch them, but they never managed it. Every song of theirs seemed to drag it's heels somehow, and they came across as being a bit MOR for my liking. Still, I will give them credit for being musically tight and technically very sound, with a decent depth.

Hang on, I'm feeling a bit of de ja vu coming on here...or should that be Dave Ja Vu, to be precise? Yes, for the second time in as many days, it was time for me to check out up-and-coming ska-punkers My Third Leg (8/10),
Gravesend's chief representatives at the show, and the penultimate band up on the Bar Stage. Having seen them only the night before I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, and so it proved, as they turned in what was not only a step up from their performance in Central London, but the best performance I've seen from them so far in their burgeoning career. Bizarrely enough, despite the malfunctioning drumkit (still hungover from the brutalising it got earlier on in the day), drummer Paul Smith produced his most consistent tub-thumbing performance yet, with no obvious cock-ups - I can barely believe I'm writing this! - and the rest of the band also played to the top of their strengths. Frontman Will Woodrow was all-action, a powerful mix of crashing guitar leads and strong singing, and he was ably back up by his cohorts - additional guitarist Mike Smith was a highly rhythmic sidekick in the six-string antics, and bassist Dave Ja Vu was all beaming smiles and rippling, anchorweight basslines. Their standards were all wheeled out and given a battering - the joyous singalong of '3470 Miles', the skankpit-baiting 'Going for a Drive', and the moody 'Time Travel', and the rest from their Fift E.P., all present and correct and all sounding excellent in such a setting. A nice injection of ska-styled energy into an evening that was swiftly building towards an entertaining crescendo.

I had another break after this one to get another pint or so in and to conserve energy before the finale, so I missed IRIS's set, only hearing glimpses in the background - nowhere near enough to give them an accurate rating. The odd snatches I did hear did sounded heavy, technical and pretty creative in parts, so one to watch out for for the future perhaps.

In all fairness though, anticipation was by now building with all the speed of a runaway freight train for the arrival onto the Bar Stage of the local heroes to finish off the evening in spectacular style. And so, at around 10pm in the evening, The Submission (9.5/10) arrived on the Bar Stage, briefly tuned up, and blasted headlong into action, with a furious and spectacular medley of 'Reggae Rock Rebels', 'Stay in Action' and their rendition of the unofficial rock 'n' roll national anthem, 'Johnny Be Good.' And so began a rollercoaster journey through The Submission's personal vision of punk rock -
rip-snorting energy, raucous singalongs, buzzsaw guitar riffs, hooks aplenty, and pure, uplifting power. Frontman Richard Harris was as always the absolute heart and soul of the performance, channelling the spirits of Joe Strummer, Jake Burns, Tim Armstrong and other legendary punk frontmen into his ballistic, gung-ho delivery, bellowing his vocals, headspinning, jumping around and thrashing the life out of his guitar like it was his last night on Earth - just like every Submission performance, then. That's not to say they are a one-man operation - in fact, bassist Sadie Williams acted as the calm counterpoint, quietly grooving and locking the operation down with rock solid and neat bass work, and stayed cool and collected despite the chaos erupting around her. A lot of kudoes has to go to stand-in drummer for the evening Bernie Watts, who despite less than a handful of rehearsals with the group, slotted in with no problems at all, and was a reliable and steady hand behind the kit. Sadly, guitarist Phil Morgan was reduced to errant bystander for most of the set, as a stray beer glass caused terminal damage to his amp very early on, but in true Submission fashion, a little hiccup like this wasn't allowed to get in the way of the chaos.

It's a measure of their quality as songwriters that their original songs, such as the stomping 'No Motivation' or the blistering 'No Tomorrow', merged seamlessly into the setlist alongside the gamut of covers they rolled out. Tonight the covers list included the traditional brace of Rancid tunes ('Radio' and 'Roots Radicals'), as well as their 100mph rendition of the classic Clash anthem 'White Riot', a frenzied rev-up (if it ever needed revving up in the first place) of Green Day's 'Maria', and further run throughs of 'Longview', 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' (which pushed the dancing and moshing to almost chaotic levels), blink-182's 'All The Small Things', the '80s pop hit 'Spin Me Right Round' and the Stiff Little Fingers' 'Barbed Wire Love' - all of them delivered with exactly the same hammerhead precision and relentless energy as their originals.

There was also just enough time for a mid-set interlude to finally unveil the surprise 'guest' band, Meat Whiplash, whom were in reality The Submission but with sadly departing landlord Stu and wife Wanda guesting on vocals and drums, respectively. As a way to bow out, guest-starring with the headline act at your own farewell gig is a pretty stylish way to go, and Stu celebrated the occasion by rolling back the years and giving as good as he got on covers of Department S's 'Is Vic There?', the Dead Kennadys' 'Holiday in Cambodia', and The Jam's 'That's Entertainment'. Wanda gave the drumkit a sound battering for a few numbers before allowing Bernie to re-take the hot seat and instead gave additional vocal support up front, and the Whiplash's brief set closed with a madcap run through Electric Six's 'Gay Bar', before they departed to allow The Submission to wrap things up in style, firstly with the aforementioned 'Should I Stay...' and 'Longview' covers before drawing the mayhem to a close with 'It Won't Stop', as defiant a statement as any to end what could possibly be their last showing at this particular venue. The only things that stops me giving them a maximum score was the issues with Phil's guitar, and the fact that the set sort of never really regained the early momentum after Meat Whiplash's cameo appearance, although neither of which can really be attested to the band, and they were still my personal favourite band of the entire day by some way - that's not to be disrespectful to the other bands, some of whom were excellent (okay, not Dr Goon), but that's more a measure of just how much I enjoy watching The Submission play - they are, to my mind, a live experience like no other.

So, here comes the part where I try and condense down everything into a handful of easily digestible sentence nuggets to summarise the entire review. Not easy, but I'll give it a go anyway: as a gig, it was sometimes inconsistent, although fortunately gradually improved to a spectacular zenith at the conclusion after a dreadful start, but as an experience, it was a fantastic day and evening which will last in the memory for a long time - long after I had departed Walmer on the first train back home, and long after I've even finished writing this very review. Congratulations to everybody involved in setting up and organising this great show, and I'd like to wish Stu and Wanda all the best in their new pursuits - if this is to be the last time rock 'n' roll comes to The Railway Pub in this fashion, then it's safe to say it went out in style.

Overall Review 9/10

Sunday, 24 October 2010

My Third Leg - The Fift E.P.

As I type now, my voice is largely destroyed, and I'm exhausted due to a combination of lack of sleep and huge amount of manic dancing and singing. All of this, plus an 100-mile plus round trip to the Kent Coast and back, plus a rather large hole in my wallet, was all very much worthwhile, however, as it meant I got to experience the madness that was The Railway Pub's send-off all-day show in all it's blisteringly loud, beer-spilling, raucous and hella fun glory. I will get down to reviewing this show once I've recovered a little more, but for now, I fancy having a look at an EP by one of the bands that starred at the show in question - ascending ska-punkers My Third Leg.

Funnily enough, I've been seeing rather a lot of MTL over the last few days (stop sniggering at the back) - how does two shows in as many days go? And during that time I've really had a chance to see how far the band have come in a relatively short space of time, and how much potential is still laying in wait. It's fair to say - and the band themselves even admit this to a degree - that in their early iterations, there was a relative lack of structure, and the feeling was that the band were often stuck on as the shits 'n' giggles first acts at most LSP gigs in and around Gravesend - well, wouldn't you do the same if you ran a promotions company organising punk and ska gigs, and handily happened to be in a ska-punk band yourself? But my point being here was that it was easy to not take them all that seriously, a bit of a laugh, mucking around, regularly swapping instruments, etc etc. But as I mentioned in my review of their Comedy Pub show, they've quietly gone about knuckling down to work on their craft, gelling more as a unit, and honing their songwriting and technical skill, and all this has resulted in them starting to become a band to be really taken seriously as a force - all seemingly whilst I wasn't looking. All this progress business has resulted in them recording and releasing their first E.P. of material, selling at shows and on their recently set-up merch store (I told you they were going up in the world) for the princely sum of 50p (hence the title, see?), and having procured a copy for myself on Friday, it's time to give it a spin.

What jumps out straight away is the crispness of the production and sound quality, which is a very high quality for a DIY recording - credit must be given to the producer, none other than The Submission's Rich Harris, who is rightly thanked in the sleeve notes. His biggest asset from a production and mixing standpoint appears to be his ability to keep all instruments balanced - even when all instruments are at full volume and intensity, the mix does well to avoid being muddy and clogged, and the vocals are nice and clear, something that characterises The Submission's own self-produced work. This high-quality production helps the songs themselves to shine through, and guess what? That's exactly what they do.

Some of the songs on the EP date back from the very first days of the band, but have been mercilessly honed, trimmed and refined into the catchy and addictive nuggets of ska-punk we are treated to on this disc. Two such songs combine to form a nice one-two opening salvo - 'Going for a Drive' and '3470 Miles', both of which are growing to become signature anthems for the group, and rightly so, as both of them encapsulate the best aspects of the band's sound - Will Woodrow's easily recognisable vocal delivery, the trading between quiet/loud and slow/fast sections, Will and Mike Smith's choppy guitar lines, Dave Ja Vu's fantastic, bubbling basslines, and drummer Paul Smith's primal skin-battering. Another MTL standard, Random Inspiration, bookends the disc, giving the record a strong start and a strong finish - something I always like to hear on records, and something that many much bigger bands seem to completely forget about.

However, don't think for a second that they've put their most recognisable songs at each end of the disc and padded out the middle with some random filler they had lying around the rehearsal room - far from it. If you can look beyond the rather embarrassing (and pretty funny) story told in the lyrics, 'Balls Deep' is a real gem, showcasing a slight Britpop feel to the skanking mayhem. 'Yes Please' is catchy as hell, and the furious end section is tailor-made to be bellowed along with at the more drunken gigs they play, and 'Time Travel' is quite possibly the best song they've written so far overall. It's actually quite a dour song, but they use this downbeat tone to their advantage - some delicate, echoey guitar lines flit in and out, Will's vocals are mournful and wistful without becoming mawkish and dreary, and though it does speed up at parts, it doesn't go completely balls-out at any stage, instead emphasising the slow-burning atmosphere of the lyrics.

This issue of restraint is probably my main criticism of other parts of the record - there is a feeling that they try to cram too much into certain songs. 'Random Inspiration' is the worst offender, as it seems to drag it's heels near the end, and ends up being about a minute too long, which dilutes the energy and punch of the song. I mean, I know bassist Dave Ja Vu's good, but do we need to hear his little bass solo another few times than we already do in the song? Personally, I reckon the final instrumental section would be better served in another song altogether, and trim this one down to keep it more succinct. This is the only song where it's really noticeable, and otherwise the mixing of different tempos and dynamics works very well, and is a core part of their sound, so I suppose all I'm saying is be careful of that problem rearing it's head again when writing new songs in the future. Perhaps Paul's drum work is still a bit slack, but considering how it was before, it's best to be grateful that he's made it this far.

In fact, any more criticism is needless nit-picking, because I really can't find anything else to moan about. What we have here is six strong songs that form a nice blueprint of My Third Leg's sound as of right now, but also where they could go from here, and perhaps that's the most exciting part - there's still a sense that there's more ascending to come from the band, as they continue to tighten up as a unit and gig relentlessly, and this E.P. is a good snapshot of where they are right now, and what to expect for the future.

Rating: 7.5/10
Standout Tracks: 'Going for a Drive', '3470 Miles', 'Time Travel'

Friday, 22 October 2010

Live: My Third Leg/Four Letter Cure - The Comedy Pub, Piccadilly Circus 22/10/10

It's been nearly 10 long months since I last checked out a local scene gig, which is an inexcusably long amount of time. Now that I'm safely out the other side of A-levels, coursework and exams in roughly one piece, and now looking forward to a gap year of doing precisely nothing except work and twiddle my thumbs a bit, I can turn my attention back to the scene, and tonight at a tiny subterranean bar tucked in the shadows of the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus, I decided to get a minor glimpse of what I'd been missing. At least, initially that was the plan.

Firstly, finding the damn place was a mission in itself, what with it being part of about 5 venues in the same street named 'The Comedy (blank)'. But having stumbled through pretty much all the variations of said venue title, I finally found the mystical set of stairs to ascend to the tiny basement bar which would form the setting for tonight's show. When I got there, I discovered that only one member of Four Letter Cure had actually showed up - I was told they were planning on calling quits after 2 more gigs anyway, so maybe they decided to speed the process up a bit? I dunno. I'm not gonna speculate further, and I'd be interested to hear from people about how the situation lies. Thankfully, all constituent parts of My Third Leg were there, plus what could be called a half-decent little entourage for them. Also, it's worth noting that I was being facetious earlier - there was a third band scheduled for this evening, but I saw nothing in their sound check or tunes to persuade me to stick around for their set. In fact, if anything, the sound check put me right off them - old good-time rock 'n' roll with watered-down rock, no roll, a desperate lack of a good time and a guitarist who had a bad case of head firmly stuck up own arse, with all the other members having to settle with mild case of face I want to punch hard. And keyboards that just shat on all the other instruments. I've heard bands with full horn sections not sound as messy as this, seriously. Oh, and buggering off after you've done your asinine and stupidly smug soundcheck and only arriving back at your own bloody show when it's your time to go on is only going to further people's impressions that you think you're bigger than you are and are therefore complete pretentious twats. Right, that's the surplus bile dispensed with, on with the two (or rather one and a half, ish) other good bands here tonight.

Four Letter Cure (5/10) - or more like Two Letter UnSure considering as only frontman Hassan Afenah was present, along with two acoustic guitars (one rather cheap and battered) and his sidekick Asher on extra guitar and vocal duties - were on first, and it's rather hard to be harsh to them, considering the circumstances. If I tell you that they were practicing their set when I arrived, that'll tell you the level of preparation they were afforded, and considering it all, they did pretty well. What they lacked in tightness and accuracy, they made up for in easy humour, and when the stars did align and the two guitars and sets of vocals matched together relatively seamlessly, there was definitely promise on show. It might be an easy comparison to make, but a Torn Out vibe emanated from them, and Hassan's gravelly and soulful voice worked surprisingly well out of a harsh electric context, and their set showed a nice talent for reworking powerful punk songs into campfire acoustic singalongs - oh, and they earn additional kudos for nearly pulling off a great cover of Rise Against's 'Like The Angel', complete with an aborted attempt on the solo.

To give the next part of the review some context, my first local scene show was the epic all-day event in August 2009. That day, a band named the Constant G's graced the outside stage, and found themselves in a similar situation that Four Letter Cure found themselves in tonight - hastily re-organising their lineup and set in liu of members bailing out at the last minute. Their set was therefore pretty shambolic, but in keeping with the spirit of the day, it was still fun and full of energy. This hastily cobbled together lineup eventually formed the basis for the band we see before us tonight, My Third Leg (7.5/10). Maybe it's because of the not great first impression I got, and I might be being overly harsh on them, but I did view them for a while as a handy band to open every LSP show assembled - a nifty and fun little band to open every LSP show, but still, not a band I took entirely seriously. But in the time I've been away from the scene, they've really began to go places and, if you'll pardon the phrase, get their shit together. They've recorded an EP of material, been touring hard and working on their stage craft, and with a full album and possibly bigger venues and full-length tours on the horizon, M3L are ready to start really making a name for themselves in the scene - and smash any lingering and unwarranted cynicism I had about them through the bar windows and out into the street. In the end they did just that, and in some style too, with a set that mixed everything that was always good about them - plenty of skanking riffs and an eye for fun - with improved dexterity, confidence and precision. Singer and lead guitarist Will Woodrow has really grown into his frontman duties - he now has a unique character to his voice and I was impressed with how he flitted from delicate lead lines to high-intensity strumming with ease. Probably the biggest improvement of all is how the band now gel as a unit - transitions from time signatures and styles flow a little more now, where before they felt forced and a bit strained, and part of that credit has to go to the rhythm section of bassist Dave Ja Vu and drummer Paul Smith. Sure, Paul still arses up the odd fill, but he is now a technically solid drummer, and he and Dave create a foundation for Will and skank-tastic rhythm guitarist Mike Smith to lock into. And let's face it, it probably wouldn't feel right if Paul didn't arse at least one thing up.

So to sum up, a very enjoyable and fun evening, and a slice of humble pie is in the microwave as we speak. Now time to knuckle down for what should hopefully, fingers crossed and touch wood, be an epic in the making down in Deal tomorrow. See you there!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Feeder - Renegades

It's the eternal question for bands deep into a decent career, isn't it? How do you keep going when you've got many miles on the road, years in the studio and record sales racked up and under your belt? Welsh power trio Feeder have been having that exact problem. Hands up who can name any of the great rock anthems Feeder have been responsible for in the last ten-odd years? Buck Rogers, Seven Days In The Sun, Just A Day, Lost And Found, maybe Insomnia and a few others on there as well? Not bad at all for a band who tragically lost their original drummer and dear friend in an unexplained suicide shortly after their breakthrough album was released.

But there is a flip side to all this; Feeder have to also be held accountable for a whole lot of rather tedious dross. I'm sorry, but to my mind, having an album compared to Travis, Keane and Coldplay (2005's Pushing The Senses) is nothing more than panning it as moping, insipid bilge. And here's the frustrating part - we know that band leader and frontman Grant Nicholas is capable of creating great songs, and yet, we are forced to pick out the odd good track here and there from the most recent long players (for example, 'Miss You' from Silent Cry, 'Godzilla' from Comfort in Sound). And before anybody throws the accusation at me that not everything has to be up-tempo and rocking, I do actually like slower, quieter music as well - when done well. Feeder's attempts at such music has, pretty much always, been anodyne and, well, dreary.

After 2008's Silent Cry, Feeder could have slowly crested over the hill into retirement or something else. Their UK record label, Echo, was dissolved, and interest was waning - it was more a sort of nostalgic look back at previous hits rather than a current, electric buzz. So Feeder decided a novel approach, and it has worked perfectly.

Essentially, they donned a disguise - suddenly, they were Feeder no more, and a new band named Renegades had appeared in their place. They acted like a new band - EPs, small gigs in intimate venues, underground word-of-mouth promotion - and yet, the people involved were the same people involved with Feeder (aside from new drummer Karl Brazil, but he was a replacement in Feeder for Mark Richardson anyway). What gives?

Simple: Nicholas fancied getting back to their roots, taking things full circle, back to where they began in the '90s with the Swim mini-album and the excellent debut LP Polythene. Which means that rock is back on the agenda - the piano has been retired to a dusty corner of the studio, and the amps are being turned up to 11. No more moping, no more sorrow, time to have some fun. Bring it on.

And so we arrive at Renegades, the album. You can tell from the cover - a topless, balaclava-ed woman holding a battered skateboard - that this will have a little more of an edge to it than previous efforts. In fact, if the band are trying to rediscover their roots, then they do a damn decent fist of it just in the album artwork itself - it definitely has a feel of a young band starting out rather than a bunch of middle-aged veterans. And this is followed up by the music, which I must say, is excellent.

Opener 'White Lines' is a little bit of a curveball, as it does distinctly sound like something you could hear from the previous albums, but in the context of the album, it makes sense - it works as a book-end to what has come before and a signpost for what to expect across the album. It's not a bad album opener, but give it a minute...then first single 'Call Out' drops, and the album is underway proper.

This album, I'll be honest, absolutely stinks of a band who are really rather enjoying themselves. No longer do sales or the path of their career really matter - how some critics can accuse the band of sounding jaded and old on this I really don't know. Nicholas (for he is the chief songwriter) has used any and every influence that has ever been felt in the band's songs before, from the very start of their career onwards, to intelligently craft 11 very strong songs - an achievement in itself given the notoriously inconsistent nature of their previous output. Nope, the band aren't going through a mid-life crisis at all - just getting themselves down the gym, trimming off the unnecessary flab, and getting back the muscle they used to have years ago.

No, it doesn't sound exactly the same as those early efforts, but then again, tell me a band that can successfully sound the same as they did when they were 20-somethings forever? Bad Religion, perhaps? The Offspring, at a pinch? But even then, the natural process of evolution and growth does play into it. Here, it can be heard in a natural quality control that every song gets filtered through, as well as a myriad of subtle influences that are added into the mix alongside Feeder's own natural grasp on rock 'n' roll. For example, a Kasabian-gone-heavy melody populates 'Godhead', and the title track is a half-decent homage to Green Day, with it's bouncing, pounding beat and barked 'Heys!' in the chorus. The opening riff in 'Call Out' is a dead ringer to the intro riff from the Foo Fighters' 'All My Life', and the crunching verse chords of the excellent 'Left Foot Right' are reminiscent of Apocalyptica's 'Life Burns!'. Throw that in alongside the sound of them delving into their grungy '90s output for inspiration ('Sentimental', parts of 'This Town'), and you have a muscular and outrageously hook-laden combination of great rock 'n' roll.

Despite the change of drummer, the band are still as phenomenally tight as ever, with new boy Brazil pounding the kit with the same lethal precision as his predecessors in the hot seat. Taka Hirose is still solid and unspectacular, but really, the star of the show from this perspective is Nicholas. His lyrics may be still a little hit-and-miss, with the odd cliche cropping up, but when they hit, they hit hard. It's his constant knack for a melody that is the band's main strength, and something that really only comes out on the fast, rockier numbers - having said that, the album's one slow-burner, 'Down To The River' is pretty decent, helped by the occasional raucous bursts of drop-D riffage. But really, this album is all about energy, and lots of it. It's not reinventing the wheel, and certainly isn't anything radical - it's essentially what Feeder have been doing the past few years off and on. Now though, they've shunned the pretensions of being the next Travis, and in the process, whilst not quite sounding like teenagers again, they do sound energised, powerful, and, dare I say it, a lot of fun. And funnily enough, the fact that it isn't a tremendously radical sounding record may be an advantage - as many UK guitar bands desperately try to cram smart-arse lyrics and as many pointlessly twiddly leads into their songs as possible, the combination of relatively simple, energetic, outrageously catchy and well-crafted songs on this LP may be just the breath of fresh air rock 'n' roll fans are looking for. For now, it's taking pride of place as my current album of the summer and possibly one of the very best and most consistent albums Feeder have yet produced in their career.

Album Details
Label: Big Teeth Music
Release Date: 5th July 2010
Rating: 8/10
Standout Tracks: 'Call Out', 'Renegades', 'Home', 'Left Foot Right'.