Album Review: Call Me Malcolm – I Was Broken When You Got Here

Meet the soundtrack to your summer. FFO: Less Than Jake, The JB Conspiracy, Lightyear, Random Hand.

I Was Broken When You Got Here is destined to be the soundtrack to your summer. London’s Call Me Malcolm have taken all the best elements of late-90s ska punk and rolled it into one irresistable package, modernising it by opening up about depression and anxiety.

It has been a long time since I’ve encountered an album that I couldn’t take off repeat, but I’ve listened to very little else for the last three weeks. It is due for release on Be Sharp Promotions and Bad Granola Records on Friday April 6th and take my word for it: you need this album in your life.

Press Art - Album CoverIt is not often nowadays that a ska-punk album comes along and completely stops you in your tracks. It’s not 2003. Ska-punk is no longer in vogue, if it ever was, however for those of us who do like our punk brassy, sunny and loaded with upstrokes, it is a very special thing. Arguably there has been a resurgence this year, but it’s been spearheaded by the return of some legendary live bands, not by new album releases.

Then Call Me Malcolm blast in out of left-field and drop this catchy, infectious masterpiece that grows more ingrained into your skull with every listen. Call Me Malcolm have been on the scene for quite a number of years and, although I’ve always liked them, I would never have expected them to come out with an album that, with the right marketing, could honestly rival Less Than Jake. Perhaps it’s my lack of presumption and expectation that allowed me to be wowed by this record, however it’s stood up to hundreds of repeat plays without becoming a ounce less enticing. Continue reading “Album Review: Call Me Malcolm – I Was Broken When You Got Here”

EP Review: Traits – Illuminate

The new ballsy, melodic punk rock EP from Leeds’ Traits will gnaw its way into your subconscious. FFO: No Use For A Name, Lagwagon, The Human Project.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

The Traits were a garage rock band formed in 1967 who had a hit with Nobody Loves The Hulk in 1969…this isn’t them! It’s amazing the blind alleys Google can lead you down when you’re researching a band for a review. Traits, minus the ‘the’ are a new four piece band from Leeds featuring members of Random Hand and The Human Project, and a guy called Jon who is apparently lovely, according to one of the write ups my Google search threw up. I’m sure they’re all splendid chaps equally. [Ed: Sarah W personally vouches for this!]

Traits (don’t go putting “the” in front of it!) are a straight ahead, melodic punk rock band. By that description alone you can probably start to build a mental image of how these guys sound and you’d probably fall pretty close to the mark. Now, being honest, there are a million bands doing this kind of stuff right now so the question is, how well do Traits fare against their peers? Fortunately they fare extremely well. For such a new band, albeit with plenty of individual experience, they have a fully-fledged and powerful sound with a keen grasp on song writing and an ear for a naggingly catchy melody. Each song here has at least one hook that will gnaw its way into your subconscious, whether it’s the insistent chorus of I’ve Made My Bed or the quirky riff that rears its head during Drop The Status Quo. If the band had a mission to grab your memory and hold on tight then they’ve ticked that box!

Traits Illuminate EP Cover.jpg

As you might expect, the energy remains high throughout, rarely dipping below an ADHD endorsed 100mph but, on the odd moments when the Ritalin kicks in and they slow it down, it provides a welcome breathing space and shows a strong grasp of song dynamics. The guitars of Jon Simmons are tight and edgy and stand front and centre in the mix whilst the rhythm section of Joe Tilston on bass and Dan Powell on drums lock together tighter than a pair of shagging dogs! Johnny Smith’s voice is an interesting one, and may be an acquired taste for some, although it’ll be a favourite for fans of The Human Project. He operates in the higher registers but still maintains some grit in his throat. In fact, and this may make him cringe, he would also make a pretty good metal singer, as evidenced on I’ve Made My Bed which flirts tantalisingly with thrash metal in places… fortunately staying just on the right side of the line though. He has a credible power and delivery to his singing though that should bring round anyone who might, at first, find his voice a little irritating. Continue reading “EP Review: Traits – Illuminate”

Album Review: Waterweed – Brightest

The new album from Japan’s Waterweed is the perfect mix of heavy and melodic, due for release on Lockjaw Records in April.

Review by Joëlle Laes.

“I have something you might like”, Sarah said. To say I was excited to review Waterweed’s Brightest is an understatement. I’ve been trying to get my hands on it since it came out in 2017 but outside of Japan it’s nearly impossible to find. Thanks to Lockjaw Records it’ll be widely available in Europe from April 6th!

That’s not all: this Japanese band will embark on their first European tour in April as well. They’ll start off in the UK and head to the mainland as well to play in the Netherlands, France, Czech Republic and Germany. Audiences can expect to be floored by their heavy approach to melodic hardcore… it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy bands from the thriving Japanese punk scene on our Western shores. This is a do not miss.

I must say I’m already a Waterweed fan. I am quite fond of their earlier records but was a bit worried when I heard mixed things about Brightest. “They became soft. It’s too poppy. It’s not fast enough,” some fans said. As far as I’m concerned, they are dead wrong. This album is a perfect mix of heavy and melodic.

The first song Red Eyes definitely sets the pace, though the tracks that follow appeal to me far more. From the second track Beyond The Ocean onward, the album becomes a lot more melodic and the vocal harmonies flow together smoothly, which leaves me excited for what’s left to come on the album. Continue reading “Album Review: Waterweed – Brightest”

Album Review: Nosebleed – Scratching Circles On The Dancefloor

Leed’s sharpest dressed garage punks, Nosebleed, are making a rock ‘n’ roll racket and they’re dragging you along for the ride.

Review by Sarah Williams.

If I had to criticise the previous two Nosebleed releases, their Something In My Head and It’s Alright EPs, I’d have to say that there’s simply not enough of them. This trio from Leeds have a talent for writing short, energetic punk ‘n’ roll ditties, enough to get the soberest of crowds cavorting madly around a dancefloor. If you do not want 22 minutes of solid gold hits then Nosebleed are not the band for you.

The problem with having a reputation for electrifying live performances, as Nosebleed have been building for themselves since 2014, is that the recorded equivalent is often a bit of a damp squib. That’s far from the case with their debut album Scratching Circles On The Dancefloor (up for preorder from TNS now). This record will have you jiving in your bedroom, in your kitchen, in your car, at the bus stop and spinning round on your office chair until your boss yells at you. Scratching Circles transports Nosebleed straight into your home, like Dickie’s set up his drum kit on your sofa, Ben’s stomping on your coffee table and Eliott’s spitting lyrics at your face while you try to calmly sip your morning brew.

There is a lot of new material on the album, plus some recycled hits from the previous releases. Reworking a handful of songs works in this context; Nosebleed are the kind of band who become even more appealing when you are familiar with the words, so opening the album with I’m Okay is the perfect way to draw the audience in. If you’ve seen Nosebleed live then you will already be a fan of Time And Time Again, Psycho and I Can’t Tell You Anything. Good news: the re-recorded/re-mastered versions are even more killer. The production’s got a lot more depth, richness and clarity that makes a world of difference.

 

Nosebleed Scratching Circles On The Dancefloor TNS Records 1.jpg

The first new track is I’m Shaking which sets the scene for the lo-fi garage punk party we’ve dived into. There’s a lot of twangy rock ‘n’ roll riffs followed by grittier palm muted sections. Through the whole album, every single guitar solo makes you bust into a silly grin: this is proper, dirty punk ‘n’ roll just the way you like it. Continue reading “Album Review: Nosebleed – Scratching Circles On The Dancefloor”

Album Review: Down And Outs – Double Negative

“Double Negative is a short, sharp blast of ultra-melodic, ultra-catchy, ultra-economical jangly punk rock.” FFO: Leatherface, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers.

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. Continue reading “Album Review: Down And Outs – Double Negative”

Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)

This split from Italy’s Actionmen and Manchester’s Dead Neck is an exciting and rare fast-punk find. FFO: Strung Out, Millencolin, Mr Bungle and having your mind blown.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Actionmen are a band that defy description. I’ve heard this Italian group called punk, funk, thrash, gypsy and psychedelia, which barely begins to sum up the fantastic, frenetic racket they make. Their sound is a flabbergasting melting-pot of different genre influences, although ultimately there’s the heart of a melodic hardcore band beating fast underneath it all. This is where they converge with Dead Neck, who are a similar melodic hardcore band from Manchester, with more traditional skate-punk influences evident in their intensely fast songs. Although Dead Neck don’t share Actionment’s flagrant disregard for genres, the two divergent sounds gel well together on this diamond of a split.

Actionmen are up first on the CD, which features four songs from each band. Opener Lion is the single they’ve chosen to stream ahead of the release, presumably because it’s the most accessible of their four tracks. The punk element is incorporated via machine-gun drumming under every second, however the guitars and vocal have more in common with trippy ‘indie’ rock sensibilities. There’s a depth in the distorted words, so gentle and slow in comparison to the percussion, that’s deeply appealing.

Born To Be High opens with a slightly mad little guitar riff. The combination of instruments and paces paints an intricate soundscape in your mind, like an artist daubing varied brushstrokes across your cerebellum, leaving you unsure whether to dance or nod appreciatively. Flowers has more traditional musical structure, nonetheless incorporating a variety of slightly disparate sounds, particularly in the higher-pitched guitar. Actionmen have a progressive approach to composition that borrows from a lot of different influences, bouncing between tones and time signatures with abandon, and yet they tie it together in a way that sound completely natural, flowing beautifully. It’s no surprise, considering two of the band are jazz musicians outside of this project, something which is clear in the skill and freedom of their songs.

If there’s one thing that unites the two bands on this, then it’s a love to short, fast songs. Actionmen’s contributions to the record are all within the under-two-minutes bracket, apart from C’est Dada which is by far the strongest (and maddest) song on the record. It begins with a staccato guitar part that grips your ears, before delving into a short punk section. The riff returns later on in an almost call-and-response section, that’s oddly reminiscent of the Mario Kart soundtrack (in a good way). The song descends into odd guitar twiddling that’s unusual but also intensely appealing.

Continue reading “Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)”

Album Review: Only Strangers (S/T)

Agonisingly good gruff, melodic punk rock with hooks aplenty. FFO: Hot Water Music, Iron Chic, Leatherface and Leagues Apart.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

One thing that punk rock needs is to be delivered with passion. It’s the passion that separates punk from guitar-based pop and stops bands sounding like Blink 182. Stoke-on-Trent 4-piece Only Strangers ooze passion from every pore on their debut full length album. Since their inception in 2010, the band have honed their craft with some independently released EPs and a split release with Liverpool’s Pardon Us, but it’s this album, on Manchester-based Horn And Hoof Records, that should and, I’m confident, will put them on the map.

Punk rock is a many hued genre, from the indecipherable noise of bands such as Chaos UK and Extreme Noise Terror, to Fugazi’s dub-infused grooves to Siouxsie And The Banshee’s gothic drama to NOFX’s nasal thrash. Only Strangers sit firmly in the middle ground with an excellent set of emotionally charged, high-energy punk rock songs. Taking their cue from punk rock Americana, Only Strangers are the UK’s answer to Hot Water Music. The similarity cannot be denied but does that matter? When a band releases as strong a bunch of songs as this, that bristles with a sense of urgency and energy as this does, then that is what counts. Let’s face it, if you’re going to be compared to another band it may as well be an awesome one. That said, beyond the quality of this release, Only Strangers show a huge amount of future potential and will continue to grow and develop into a world class band.

Continue reading “Album Review: Only Strangers (S/T)”