EP Review: Tragical History Tour – Old Words

Gritty Scottish Americana that irresistibly combines confession, sadness and hope. FFO: Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan and growling, gruff vocals.

Review by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Gordon MacKenzie.

Tragical History Tour’s new EP Old Words is four tracks of great, gritty, emotive songwriting. This is the mostly-solo project from Make That A Take Records’ Derrick Johnston, the latest EP in a long and colourful history of similarly spirited projects.

Johnston’s a seriously accomplished songwriter, and Old Words continues to demonstrate the richness of his talent. A lot of sadness, sorrow and thought has gone into these songs, which allows them instantly to tap into your emotions. It’s feels like a slice of perfect Americana or alt-country, but with a Scottish backbone that’s both unusual and fucking delightful.

Title track Old Words is a hefty foot-tapper of an opener. The tones of the acoustic guitar remind me of Love Is Hell-era Ryan Adams, while Johnston’s vocal recalls Chuck Ragan if he’d spent the last five years smoking Marlboros and gargling glass shards. Towards the end the song lifts with an unexpected little electric guitar line that weaves into the rest of the tune seamlessly, contrasting beautifully with the pessimistic lyrics.

The lighter, finger-picked opening to Gratitude is a nice change to Old Words, and it feels like a good natural progression between songs. This mournful track starts to incorporate some more earnest storytelling, demonstrating how well Johnston’s mastered his craft. His Scottish accent still gives his chewing-on-grit vocal a unique sandpaper edge that works well in these gentler songs. Lyrics like, “I refuse to give into choices I didn’t choose,” match the bitterness and optimism that’s conveyed in the combination of the gruff vocal and heartwarming, bright acoustic guitar. Continue reading “EP Review: Tragical History Tour – Old Words”

Album Review: Sounds of Swami – Furniture for Modern Living

Sounds of Swami’s second album delivers raw post-hardcore full of live energy. FFO: Fugazi, Fucked Up and At The Drive In.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

When a band says that their latest album is ‘recorded live onto 2″ tape in a converted chapel’ they instantly have my attention. Furniture for Modern Living by Sounds of Swami shows a raw and rough approach to recording that is lacking in today’s Pro Tools marketplace.

Sounds of Swami are a well known post-hardcore act who excel in mixing punk and atmospheric noise in an inventive, prog-influenced style, underpinned by lyrics that promote left-wing politics and DIY sensibilities. They’ve built up a strong reputation for exciting, aggressive live shows and they’ve captured that live intensity on Furniture for Modern Living. This follows their self-titled debut album and two EPs, all of which had had a uniquely raw production style that’s further developed on the new record.

Album opener Lull gives a lush post-rock sheen akin to ISIS and Godspeed. It draws you into a release full of dynamic shifts and a real sense of space. Guillotine takes the not-quite dissonant aspects of Lull but has solid riff work at it’s core. It is a more dynamic track that segues nicely into the next more traditionally hardcore song. Kill Me Already sounds like Fucked Up had a baby with Queens of the Stone Age and it grew up listening to Royal Blood. It is a phenomenal track, and a clear testament to the live ability of a band that have a real chemistry together. Continue reading “Album Review: Sounds of Swami – Furniture for Modern Living”

EP Review: Arms & Hearts – Fortitude

Arms & Hearts’ second release is a short, passionate EP full of heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting. FFO: The Gaslight Anthem, Chuck Ragan and Ducking Punches.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Arms & Hearts has just released Fortitude, their second EP, via Real Ghost Records. The short release sounds like a glimmer of lonely hope, with heartfelt lyrics and a big-room production feel.

First track, Fortitude is a bright, foot-tapping acoustic song. It’s our first taste of Arms & Hearts wistful, romantic and comfortingly cliched songwriting. “Home is wherever you happen to be that night,” is such a pure turn of phrase that it sends an arrow straight through your heart. The warm tones tells you their live show is going to be at its best in quirky, intimate venues; ideal for a candlelit date-night with your tattooed sweetheart.

The introduction to second track, Dagger Eyes has a reverberating big-room feel, not unlike The Gaslight Anthem’s slower pieces. The chorus has a gritty vocal refrain that would sound right coming from Brian Fallon, although there’s a clear Chuck Ragan influence also. The instrumentation across both tracks speaks similarly of Gaslight, but also of some of the more resonant pieces by City and Colour. The lyrics call up ‘broken glass’, ‘bleeding hearts’ and ‘blood on your hands’, further adding to the restorative Americana-type feel that’s present in both songs. That being said, there’s a British twang in the vocal that reminds me a lot of the solo Ducking Punches sound.

Arms & Hearts are touring with Chicago’s Andrew Paley, who’s known for similar heart-on-your-sleeve folk stylings. Make a date for one of the following:

  • 1st December: Manchester, Gullivers
  • 2nd December: Leeds, Singleshot
  • 3rd December: Nottingham, The Angel
  • 5th December: Peterborough, The Ostrich inn
  • 6th December: Brighton, The Pipeline

Fortitude was released on November 20th on Real Ghost Records, and it’s available for pay-what-you-want download from their Bandcamp. Make sure you check out Arms & Hearts on Facebook too.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride

The intense and heartfelt third album from Italy’s Thanx 4 All The Shoes is a solid skate-punk/thrash offering. FFO: Propagandhi, Strung Out, NOFX.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

Another Ride is the third album from Italian melodic hardcore outfit Thanx 4 All The Shoes, due to be released on November 25th on Disconnect Disconnect Records in the UK.

In their 11 years together, Thanx 4 All The Shoes have toured all over mainland Europe and Japan, building a reputation for their technical skill and thought-provoking lyrical messages. You can expect shades of melodic hardcore and thrash in the style of Propagandhi and Strung Out, however with a name like Thanx 4 All The Shoes I’m slightly gutted I’m not listening to a NOFX tribute band. Either way, I’m jumping in with gleefully expectant ears.

Opening track One Pen One Book instantly draws comparisons to Propagandhi, but I’m actually getting more of an 80’s thrash vibe from the quickly muted guitar attack and vocal approach. Think Anthrax and Megadeth if Chris Hannah wrote their newest tracks. It is a solid opening and a promising precursor to the rest of this album.

Title track Another Ride and it’s much of the same: fast and melodic with a twin guitar attack reminiscent of Propagandhi. What stands out most is the high-flying vocal harmonies and METAL AS HELL midsection where small guitar flourishes embellish another 80’s thrash thrill ride. This is what I want from this band: the sections where they truly let fly and break away from what’s ‘expected’ within standard modern hardcore are what set them apart. Continue reading “Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride”

EP Review: Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men – Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke

Tim Loud and Revenge of The Psychotronic Man translate a drunken idea into a beautiful reality.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men’s little EP Some of These People Have Come From Stoke is one of those marvellous bits of nonsense that make the DIY punk scene the best place to be.

The EP is a three-song collaboration between Revenge of The Psychotronic Man (famous for delivering ridiculously fast, fun noise) and Tim Loud (famous for fronting long-dead aggro-folks Bootscraper, and for his own antifolk solo material). Whilst on tour in April they drunkenly decided that a joint recording would be a great idea; the result is three quite different tracks, reflecting their individual tastes rather than their normal musical output. It’s a rollicking ride through punk rock mayhem, and it’ll be a great gem to look back on in years to come.

The EP opens with an Alan Partridge quote that explains the title, although it’s also a nod to Tim Loud and (drummer) Big Hands’ Stoke heritage. The first track The Queen is Dead, Long Live The King Singers is pretty classic, catchy anti-establishment punk, talking about knocking people off their pedestals. 

The second track Oh Yeah, Motorcycle is all hair metal, with a huge doom-laden build-up that’s every bit Motorhead. The song descends into some shreddery before returning to the heavy introductory riff, closing on a decrescendo of feedback and distortion. It’s masses of fun to sing-along to the lyrically profound chorus, “Ooooooohh yeeaaah, motorcycle!” although the song’s actually about what wankers motorcyclists can be. This is premium pit-fodder, and I really hope Revenge start playing this one live. 

The third and final track Sensible Party is a return to a fuzzier punk rock format, although it’s still got plenty of rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks. The clear highlights of this song are the brilliant tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “If you’re still here then grab a coffee son, the party has only just begun,” or, “If it’s too busy we’ll find a fucking book and hide.” One almost gets the impression that these guys may not be inclinded to have a ‘sensible’ party as they’re so virtuously proclaiming. This is my new favourite party anthem, and it’s been firmly lodged in my head for over a week. Continue reading “EP Review: Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men – Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke”

Album Review: Aerial Salad – Roach

Aerial Salad’s debut is refreshingly raw, angsty punk. FFO: Greenday, Jawbreaker and Wonk Unit.

Review by Mark Bartlett.

As 2017 draws to its conclusion, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this is a banner year for underground UK punk. Trends in music are cyclical. I personally feel the current hordes of identikit easy-core bands are about to succumb to a new wave of diverse, substantial and purposeful punk rock bands, much like how the hair metal and gimmicky glam of the late ‘80’s was melted away by Sub-Pop, Epitaph, Reprise and Fat Wreck Chords. We’re lucky to be in a musical climate where you can see an amazing home-grown punk band every week without fail (and without spending a lot of money either!).

Manchester 3-piece Aerial Salad’s debut album Roach has (in my estimation at least) leaped right to the top of the pile in a year choc-full of quality releases across every sub-genre in the UK punk spectrum.

It’s a perfect storm of everything I look for in a first release; it’s focussed, confident and passionate. It boasts muscular production that stands toe-to-toe with major studio albums, and it’s filled to the brim with total belters. Everything here sounds large, from the stadium-sized drums to the rich crunch of the guitar work on offer, as well as throaty, full vocals that sit perfectly within the mix. Overall it all sounds pretty immaculate.

Aerial Salad Roach Cover

Before this review reads like it’s entirely gushing praise, it’s important to address the few flaws that steer Roach away from perfection. Aerial Salad are shooting for a sound that marries huge, early Green Day hooks to the raw grit of Jawbreaker, and they succeed, but as consequence Aerial Salad aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here. We’re in the strict territory of 3-chord punk rock and the quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamics of Nirvana. It’s derivative. I could also argue that the song-writing here is somewhat formulaic, with classic pop-punk chord patterns that we’ve all heard many times over.

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Aerial Salad, despite binding themselves to a strict sonic template, are utterly convincing and assured at every point on Roach. Vocalist/guitarist Jamie Munro has a really strong understanding of how to reel in the listener. His voice has a raspy drawl that emulates both Billie Joe Armstrong’s snotty enthusiasm and Kurt Cobain’s angsty inflections. Continue reading “Album Review: Aerial Salad – Roach”

EP Review: Clayface – Don’t Hold Your Breath

Clayface are back and ready to take punk by storm with this rough ‘n’ ready EP. FFO: Early Blink 182, Leatherface and Gnarwolves.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

First off, any band with ‘face’ in the name will instantly endear themselves to me: here’s looking at you Leatherface and Face to Face, who get double points. Anyway, right now I’m looking at new Clayface EP – Don’t Hold Your Breath, their first on Manchester’s Horn & Hoof Records, due for release on November 10th.

First off, the band lays out a beautifully intricate and delicate intro track rather fittingly called Intro. It has a Cheshire Cat-era Blink vibe that strangely doesn’t have any vocals but does serve as a precursor to just some of what you can expect later on.

The second track Just A Word completely shifts gears into a two minute ska-punk track that has a laid back 3 Doors Down style and impressive bass work over a fairly solid soft-hard-soft dynamic. It doesn’t have a strict structural base, but it flows quite effortlessly until the more reggae infused ‘breakdown’ that gets a bit Sublime, before launching straight back into a full-pelt distorted outro.

Next up is Only Guy In The World, a one minute Lars and The Bastards-style track that does again have a hint of Blink in there. This is more straight ahead than Just a Word but the focus shown here is more akin to what I would want out of future releases from the band. NOPE! Tell a lie… Nothing Left hits me next and is the best track on this EP, a perfect mesh of everything I’ve described previously but with a strong sense of stricture and even more nods to some classic 90’s pop-punk. Recommended listening for sure. Continue reading “EP Review: Clayface – Don’t Hold Your Breath”