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”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In November

The nights are longer, but the music’s louder. Here are the best ways to support your local scene this month.

This is my favourite time of year. I could wax lyrical about the beauty of the leaves descending from the trees, but really it’s all about getting wasted on Halloween and pretending the next day’s eye-bags are part of your zombie costume. It’s the best time of year to waste money on minor-explosives to decorate the night sky, rarely pausing to wonder whether we’d have been better off had Guy Fawkes have successfully made a firework of the Houses of Parliament. Hopefully we’ll see some effigies of Donald Trump popping up.

Another reason I love November is that it’s just before all the commercial bullshit fully kicks off in the advent of Christmas. This may be the last time you can leave the house without fear of tinsel and cheesy musak for the forseeable future! Make the most of it with these awesome shows.

Gig Of The Month: Pie Race Festival

  • When: November 10th-12th
  • Where: Wharf Chambers, Leeds
  • Who: Matilda’s Scoundrels, Ducking Punches, Queen Zee & The Sasstones and heaps more
  • Tickets HERE, Facebook event HERE

I have shamefully never made it to Pie Race in the past, despite being desperate to go. I’m excited to be heading to Leeds for the whole weekend this year, and you ought to be too. Wharf Chambers is the ideal venue for a DIY show – small and full of character. There’s a wealth of great bands spread across three days, with plenty of spare time to catch-up with mates old and new.

The festival is curated by Ben Hannah of Nosebleed / Acid Drop fame (check out our interview here), and it’s basically a well-organised excuse to throw a party with all of his pals. Friday is a little treat for the early-birds, which sees Norwich’s best folk-punks Ducking Punches headlining, with a smaller evening line-up of Hollywoodfun Downstairs, The Zipheads and Pat Butcher.

It all kicks off properly on Saturday, with a mix of genres to keep you on your toes. Without mentioning everyone, I’m most excited to see The Fuckin’ Glorious, The Burnt Tapes, Almeida, Traits and, of course, Nosebleed and Matilda’s Scoundrels. It’s not dissimilar to the line-up we saw for Wotist Called Fest earlier in the year, and if it’s anything remotely like that it’s going to be incredibly fun.

Sunday’s another full day of punk, with a slightly more relaxed line-up and a few less bands (presumably to give us all some recovery time). I’m looking forward to catching some acts I’ve not heard of, as well as finally getting to see Incisions, who released a banger of an EP earlier this year. We’re also guaranteed the good times of Pizzatramp and The Crash Mats. Liverpool’s Queen Zee & The Sasstones will be headlining, bound to close the weekend with aplomb.

Makky’s written a brilliant preview of the festival so that I don’t have to. Check it out at Broken Arrow Magazine.

The JB Conspiracy – 10 Years of ‘This Machine’ Anniversary Tour

  • When: November 1st – 17th
  • Where: Across the UK
  • Who: Support from Tree House Fire

This Machine is one of my favourite albums of all time, and I can’t believe it’s been out for 10 years. The JB Conspiracy are celebrating this milestone with a UK tour, taking in London, Manchester, Leeds, Southampton, Norwich, Brighton, Plymouth and Bristol, plus three dates on the mainland. They’re also releasing This Machine on vinyl for the first time, in a lovely shiny blue.

I’m reluctant to describe The JB Conspiracy as a ska-punk band because they are so much more than that. Sure, they write tunes that are loaded with brass and upbeat, bouncy upstrokes, but their compositions are so complex they’re almost orchestral. There is layer upon layer of intricate horn-parts, piano and full-band crescendos. It’s marvellous. Even if you’ve never heard of This Machine before it’s definitely worth checking The JB – they’ll have you dancing and singing in no time. Tree House Fire are supporting, and are equally guaranteed to leave you in a sweaty, satisfied mess.  Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In November”

Gig Review: The Sinking Teeth @ The Old Blue Last [26/10/2017]

The Sinking Teeth bring raw post-punk straight from Melbourne, with support from Darko, The Burnt Tapes and Miami Nice.

Review by Sarah. Photos… also by Sarah. Prepare yourself for some truly terrible photos.

After a long week, sometimes small rooms full of big noises are exactly what you need. I’m just about coming to terms with the dark October nights and I’ve said a fond farewell to beer garden season. Shoreditch still looks colourful on a Thursday night, and the glowing lights of The Old Blue Last are like beacon of hope on this chilly evening.

I hadn’t heard of Miami Nice before this show, and I’m thoroughly impressed the second they hit stage. It’s certainly far better than I had expected from a band opening a free show organised at short notice; they’re fantastic. Once I discover that these locals have previously been in bands like Young Conservatives and Grand Central it’s less of a surprise, and everyone I speak to sounds equally impressed. The singer has a raw, stony quality and he belts out words with a huge weight of force and emotion behind them, sounding like his voice could crack at any moment. The band has some fantastic bluesier melodies in the backing, particularly on some of their later songs.

20171026_211223

I’m not going to lie: I’m a tad obsessed with The Burnt Tapes at the moment. Alterations has had so much play on my iPod recently that I think it’s permanently etched on my eardrums. Their signature gritty lead-vocal swaps between Pan and Phil give them a unique edge, showcased early in the set on Ghosts. It might be one of the weaker moments on their EP, but has some strong shout-along potential live. Similarly, Oh Marie has an enormous regret-fuelled chorus that grabs your heart and squeezes hard.

Throughout the night, all the bands are drowned in the classic blue lights of The Old Blue last, and at no point is it more fitting than for The Burnt Tapes. They’re the masters of sad punk, transforming some deeply depressing themes into songs you want to dance to. Phil introduces a song by saying, “This is a sad one…” Normally that might be a bad thing, but I’m immediately filled with excitement knowing they’re about to play Things Get Weird. The chorus is so visceral that you can nearly feel the broken teeth in your mouth as you sing along. Continue reading “Gig Review: The Sinking Teeth @ The Old Blue Last [26/10/2017]”

Gig Review: Punkle Fester [14/10/2017]

Southampton’s skate-punk extravaganza slayed. Featuring Darko, Fair Dos, PMX, Almeida, Grand Collapse and excessive caffeine consumption.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Alia Thomas, video by Rob Piper.

When I first saw the line-up announcement for Punkle Fester, it was an immediate no-brain decision to go. Featuring the likes of Darko, Fair Dos, PMX and Almeida at the top of a bill of thirteen acts, it is conceivably the best UK skate-punk shred-fest I have ever encountered. The bar for this gig is set extremely high; clearly worth the four hour trip to The Talking Heads in Southampton.

We have Lee Warren and local Southampton skate-punks Captain Trips to thank for this monstrously good line-up, and they’re in good spirits when I rock up at Saturday lunchtime. Portsmouth trio The SLM kick things off, turning out silly fast punk reminiscent of The Ergs. They throw some nice metallic guitar licks into the mix, coming across a bit like a drunken NOFX practicing for a Slayer covers set. Or Slayer practicing for NOFX covers set, I can’t decide.

DSC_0959

Their songs cover a range of important topics, with titles like Bitten By A Zombie, Turtle Shark and Here Come The Raptors. Vocalist/guitarist Rob clearly enjoys introducing the songs with rockstar-style flair, although the rest of the band keep ribbing him to keep within their allotted set time. Their new song Paradox Maradox adds a bit of depth to their set with some more earnest singing. They finish off with a cracking song about zombie sharks and a shout along of ‘sword, sword, sword!’ from the small but enthusiastic audience.

Between bands, Rich Mayor (frontman of Captain Trips) plays a quick acoustic set in the lavishly decorated front bar, adding some lovely atmosphere to the smoking terrace. He plays Give Me A Shout from his solo album Decade, which gives his voice a chance to shine without the force of a full band behind him. He’s got a unique sound that’s warm but rough around the edges, and a talent for a catchy songwriting.

DSC_1118

The Bitter-Town Hounds bring a lot of hair and energy to the mix, introducing a welcome metal edge to the day. They make good use of on-stage space, playing off each other’s energy. Their drummer can’t run around but he looks like he wants to, hurling a lot of passion and energy into his kit. The vocalist has the perfect confident rock delivery and the bass really stands out, partly because of the great sound in The Talking Heads. The highlight of their set is an unexpected but deeply enjoyable cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ Cyco Vision. More of that, please. Continue reading “Gig Review: Punkle Fester [14/10/2017]”

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”

Gig Review: Lightyear’s 20 Year Anniversary Tour [21/10/2017]

Ska-punk legends Lightyear make their triumphant return to London stages in a whirlwind of friends, fun and nostalgia.

Review by Sarah. Photos by Piano Slug/Luke.

Tonight is an incredibly special night for many ska-punk fans across the South East. We’ve been talking about this gig for months. Ever since “mildly successful 90’s ska-punk band” Lightyear announced that they would be returning for good, the anticipation has been building for London’s 20 year anniversary reunion show.

As tradition dictates, I begin the evening in the Wetherspoons round the corner from The Garage. Within a minute I start bumping into far-flung mates who’ve all united for the excitement of a Lightyear revival. Everyone’s discussing which ‘last ever Lightyear gig’ they attended; most of us having seen two or three ‘final’ tours from the band. Some of us made it to 2015’s Slam Dunk sets, but almost all of us were at the 2012 gig at Islington Academy. Having formed in 1997, Lightyear released two albums before breaking up, playing their first ‘last ever show’ on 26th September 2003. Since then they’ve done at least four ‘last ever’ gigs/tours in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2015. It’s my firm belief that Lightyear will never really get sick of giving all of us a good time, and it’s heartening to see that they’re reforming ‘permanently’. My only concern is whether the gig will live up to our lofty expectations.

_DSC3444

Local boys, Eat The Evidence are a good wake-up band for the early doors crowd. They take all the worst elements of ska-punk and and somehow make them fun. In my mate’s words, just as they’re setting up on stage, “He’s about to rap, isn’t he? Oh god.” The sighting of an accordion in a ska band is also an immediate red flag, but it turns out to be jumpy, bouncy fun, with things looking up later in the set when the accordion gets switched out for a guitar and a ukelele.

Eat The Evidence apparently approached Lightyear after one of their ‘last ever gigs’ and made them promise to book them as support if they ever reformed. When the new tour was announced they made sure to call that favour in. Never before have I seen a band so excited to be playing a show – their singer is literally buzzing, decked out in an old Call of the Weasel Clan-era t-shirt and blabbering about how they’d even all bought tickets for the gig before they were booked. It’s endearing. Continue reading “Gig Review: Lightyear’s 20 Year Anniversary Tour [21/10/2017]”

Gig Review: Grand Collapse, Spoilers and Casual Nausea [19/10/2017]

The masters of UK thrashcore keep a midweek crowd on their toes at The Smokehouse in Ipswich.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Richard Talbot.

It’s a grey, overcast Thursday in October. You’ve been chained to desk for eight hours, battered with spreadsheets, deadlines and inane office chatter. Your eyes sting from the air conditioning, strip lighting and screen glare. The phone rings incessantly and you’re hoping your boss hasn’t noticed you muttering ‘wanker’ every time you hang up on someone.

At the end of days like these, The Smokehouse in Ipswich is the light at the end of the tunnel. The endorphin rush you achieve at these shows is worth every second of your mid-week wage-slave drudgery. Tonight is especially exciting: Grand Collapse have travelled all the way from South Wales to jolt us back into reality with an insanely fast barrage of thrash mastery. Joining them are Spoilers, undoubtedly one of the most consistently great punk bands in the UK, plus local shouty legends Casual Nausea. Uncomfortable Beach Party Promotions have pulled another banger out of the bag.

Casual Nausea Smokehouse 3

This is Casual Nausea’s first Ipswich show this year, plus their first local jaunt with new bass player Matt Kemp. As Spoilers put it later on, Casual Nausea are both, “The hardest sounding band and the loveliest bunch of people.” There is a palpable warmth and love in the room, with many of the local punks getting down early to catch the whole set. I have to fight my way to the front and through to the bar, it’s packed already.

The Smokehouse hasn’t got a stage to speak of, just an area behind the PA where the drumkit and the musicians typically reside. Throughout the evening the acts disregard the little barricade of monitors, with singer/shouter Simon being the first to get out into the crowd, trailing a long mic-lead. His antics get the rowdy dancing started down the front, setting the scene for a chaotic evening of elbows and shout-alongs. Continue reading “Gig Review: Grand Collapse, Spoilers and Casual Nausea [19/10/2017]”