Review by Ollie Stygall.
I thought I’d prepare for this review by Googling Liverpool, home of Down And Outs, to see how much of the city’s cultural heritage is dominated by The Beatles. It turns out it’s quite a lot! Tough luck if you’re a band from Liverpool, you have some very big shoes to fill! This is a bloody shame, as the three guys that make up Down And Outs are kicking up some top quality, melodic punk rock.
It turns out these guys are time served, having been around since 2004, and have an impressive and extensive catalogue of releases under their belts. It comes as no surprise to see they’ve had releases on a number of labels, including the fantastic Boss Tuneage Records.
Double Negative is a short, sharp blast of ultra-melodic, ultra-catchy, ultra-economical jangly punk rock. Of the 13 tracks here none exceed the two and a half minute mark. This is a band who say what they have to say, then they get the fuck out of Dodge. They get their point across quickly, eloquently and effectively, which makes for an impressive listening experience. Each song is a little blast of gold dust that does its job perfectly.
The band claims influence from acts such as The Clash and Leatherface, which kind of makes sense. They have assumed The Clash’s knack for penning catchy pop music within a punk framework and Leatherface’s rough-hewn charm, albeit with some of the spiky edges smoothed off. One comparison might be to a more stripped down Hot Water Music crossed with the heavier elements of someone like Soul Asylum (does anyone remember them? No? Just me then), and maybe a touch of classic old-school punk like Stiff Little Fingers, whose lyrical tales of hometown life seem to match Down & Outs’ own world view.
Considering this was self-produced by vocalist/guitarist Mark Magill, the sound quality here is excellent. The guitars have an edge but beautiful clarity that allows chords to ring out while the bass and drums converge to deliver a meaty punch to the chest. The vocal harmonies are completely on point to give each song an all-important lift where they need it to produce majestic, sing along refrains that would echo for days in a sweaty pub.
It isn’t all perfect, however. The piano ballad I Think I’m Falling Apart, while a brave attempt to inject a little variety in the onslaught, does come across as slightly cloying and unnecessary. Whilst not a terrible song, it certainly doesn’t play to the band’s strengths… a bit like when Black Sabbath did Changes!
If you like your punk rock brimming with earworm melodies; short, concise perfectly crafted songs; a veneer of pop; evocative working class lyrics and just enough dirt under the finger nails to bring to mind sweaty clubs then Double Negative is a perfect way to spend half an hour of your life… before catching up with the band’s back catalogue. There is a lot more to the Liverpool music scene than The Beatles!
Double Negative was released on 14th February. You can pick up an LP copy from All In Vinyl or Yo-Yo Records. You can stream and download the album direct from Down And Outs’ Bandcamp page (below). Keep an eye on their Facebook page for news ‘n’ gigs ‘n’ that.
While you’re here, check out Sarah’s review of their live show with Consumed from Jan 2018.
Review by Ollie Stygall.