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.

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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]”

EP Review: Bear Trap – Sugarcoated

Check out the new EP from Manchester pop-punkers, Bear Trap. FFO: The Starting Line, No Use For A Name, The Ataris.

Review by Mark Bartlett.

Manchester’s Bear Trap have got some pretty great stuff going on within the three tracks of their debut EP Sugarcoated (courtesy of Horn & Hoof Records), but the fresh 4-piece still have plenty of scope to grow into the best version of the noughties revivalist pop-punk unit they’re trying to be.

They’ve a really decent grasp of song structure and what makes for a good, uplifting chord progression, as well as a strong sense for a catchy lyrical hook. The opening bars of Goodbye really do an excellent job of cementing the Drive-Thru era sound and reeling in the listener. Bear Trap have claimed a Blink/Green Day/Yellowcard influence, but personally, I can mostly hear The Starting Line (which is no bad thing!). Lyrics like ‘I’ll wave you goodbye as the last train leaves, just say it’s not forever’ are pretty authentically classic emo. Bear Trap also score major points for sticking to their real accents and not falsely Americanising their sound; it really helps them carve out their own identity in a very crowded genre. Continue reading “EP Review: Bear Trap – Sugarcoated”

EP Review: The Burnt Tapes – Alterations

The new EP from London’s favourite ‘regret punks’ is a moody, melodic masterstroke. FFO: Iron Chic, Leagues Apart and Red City Radio.

Review by Mark Bartlett.

When I first saw The Burnt Tapes on a poster (a year or so ago) I’d already decided that they were awesome before ever hearing a note of music, such is the power of an excellent band name. But a band needs to be more than just a really really cool name. On Alterations the London-via-Athens band deliver six tracks that stand toe to toe with their peers and cement their position at the top of the pile of London’s best punk bands. Tone Apostolopoulos (vocals & bass), Phil Georgoulopoulos (lead vocals & guitar), Panos Tessaromatis (vocals & guitar) and Jordan Hall (Drums), have delivered one of 2017’s standout melodic punk releases.

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Short opener Alterations sets the tone and pace nicely. Sonically, it all begins in a fairly sunny fashion, with triumphant progressions and some flowery harmonies that are effectively betrayed by vocals that take the granite chewing grit of Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan, viewed through a modern Iron Chic-esque lens. “‘Cause at twenty-eight, what the fuck can you change?”

Lead track Oh Marie was the first song I was exposed to. I immediately got vibes that took me back to circa 2001 post-hardcore/emo classic bands. Musically, the chord changes are a bit Good Mourning-era Alkaline Trio. The opening progression is menacing and bubble-wrapped in glass half-empty pessimism. Lyrically, we’re in a dark place here: “I’ve looked better, you’ve looked worse. Crawling on the ground for your last cigarette.”

It’s followed by one of the two strongest tracks on the record. The excellently punny Wayne Regretzky opens with a huge, sparkly pop riff that leads into the most dynamically interesting verse-to-chorus changes on the EP. Lyrically, it’s poignant and personally affecting with the refrain, “All good things pass, real fast,” delivering the record’s best lyrical moment. Continue reading “EP Review: The Burnt Tapes – Alterations”

The Crash Mats: Pies, Panpipes and the Dizzy Heights of Rockstardom [Interview]

“We’re like a Tunnock’s tea-cake. We’re dead soft and squidgy on the top and round the middle, but we’re hardcore underneath.”

The Crash Mats are hands-down one of the most entertaining live acts I have ever seen. They’re a damn good band that blend elements of punk, ska and hardcore, but their real talent lies in 24-carat comedy.

They’ve recently put out their second album 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics on Manchester DIY label Horn & Hoof. It’s a rollicking ride through 21 classic tunes, including: Don’t Tell Mum That The Babysitter’s Dead, I Don’t Want To Go To Grandma’s House Tonight and My Girlfriend Only Has 24 Hours To Live. It’s a genuine feel-good album, reflecting the gargantuan level of fun you are guaranteed at their live shows.

Interrogating three such distinguished gentlemen as these is a rare opportunity, so I jumped at the chance to interview Oldham’s finest shortly after their set at Wotsit Called Fest.

It turns out that Danny Barrett a.k.a. Evil Bazz (vocals + bass), Dan Royales a.k.a. Seniòr Royales (guitar) and Chris ‘da beat’ Webb (drums) are even more hilarious in person than they are on stage. Huddled in a corner of the dingy backroom of The Palace in Hastings, surrounded by punks loading in instruments and beer floating in buckets of half-melted ice, we had a deeply poignant and meaningful discussion.

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You’ve just come off stage at Wotsit Called Fest. You’re rock stars. How do you feel?

  • Royales: Well, I always said to my Mum – “Just you watch.” After seeing Queen I said, “Mum, I’m gonna be a rock star.” It don’t surprise me at all.
  • Bazz: We’ve reached the dizzy heights of Freddy Mercury here, playing Wotsit Called Festival. Next we’re getting a plane to LA and playing twice in one day.
  • Shout Louder: You mean you don’t have a helicopter?
  • Royales: Not yet. The Crash Copter is out of action at the moment, it’s coming next week.

You’ve recently released a new album: 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics. What inspired your song writing?

  • Bazz: Cannabis, professional wrestling and my Grandma.
  • Royales: We watched a documentary about 14th century French art and that’s where we got our inspiration.
  • Bazz: It is pretty deep, if you scratch beneath the surface. Below the thin veneer of intelligence.

Have you considered learning the pan pipes?

  • Chris: We were going to do it for the album, but we’re just too modest. If Bazz started playing the pan pipes at a gig he’d just steal the show. He’s prevented himself from playing the pan pipes for the good of The Crash Mats, I think.

Continue reading “The Crash Mats: Pies, Panpipes and the Dizzy Heights of Rockstardom [Interview]”

EP Review: Cope – Tooth & Nail

This brutal release London’s Cope ups the ante of British hardcore. FFO: Comeback Kid, Madball and H2O.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

The lines between hardcore, punk and metal have never been more blurred than in 2017, and the latest EP from London based 5 piece Cope throws everything into the melting pot to produce nothing short of sheer brutality.

The Tooth & Nail EP is the follow up to their debut release Challenge Oppression // Pursue Equality and the band has upped the ante when it comes to stretching the expectations of British hardcore. The opening salvo Stray Bullets clocks in at just under two minutes and it grabs you by the throat the entire time. It also gives a good overview of the Cope ‘sound,’ giving indications of the band’s melodic undercurrent and straight ahead riff work. Next up is Tooth & Nail, another riff heavy but more groove based track akin to Pantera but with a healthy dose of Britishness infused in the vocal presentation.

CopeMy personal favourite ditty sits in the third slot of this release. Neo-Nasty starts with a vicious nasally bass sound (I’m a sucker for a delicious bass tone, sue me) and then goes into Capdown territory… that’s right, this track is what I’d imagine Capdown would sound like if they listened to more Megadeth and less Madness, again utterly brutal and one for the pits. Continue reading “EP Review: Cope – Tooth & Nail”

Gig Review: Might As Well Fest III (07/10/2017)

An exciting London charity all-dayer featuring Kamikaze Girls, Almedia, Eat Defeat, The Burnt Tapes, Sombulance and more.

Photo credit: Awesome pics courtesy of Roberto Gasparro @ LivePix.

Now in its third year, Might As Well Fest is socially-responsible all dayer split across two tiny London venues: The Macbeth in Hoxton and the infamous Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. If the cracking line-up isn’t enough to coax people down, the promoters are also using the forces of music for good, raising money for two worthy causes: CALM and SANDS.

When I hurriedly stumble into The Macbeth at 3.20pm, I’m concerned that I’m late but turns out that I needn’t have worried: they’ve had some troubles of their own. Don Blake and Sweet Little Machine have pulled out last minute, and You Know The Drill’s van has broken down outside Birmingham. As a result, they’ve had to shift timings, drum kits, amps and expectations. The change in the set times is actually a positive: the opening bands will now have a bigger crowd and the heel-draggers like me, who couldn’t make it earlier, won’t be missing out. Nonetheless, I’m reminded that we ought to be extremely thankful to anyone with the resilience to put on DIY shows!

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A handful of early-birds assemble to watch Thirteen, a Scottish group who’ve joined the bill at the last minute. They play old school punk with a rock ‘n’ roll flavour, which is good, but slightly out-of-sorts with the rest of the line-up, which is a combination of fast-punk and pop-punk. It’s good pub-punk and not a bad way to kick things off for the day.

As I reviewed their EP recently, I have been very excited to catch Our Lives In Cinema live. This is only their 8th gig and their freshness shows: they look a little awkward on stage at the beginning of the set, settling in after two songs.

They open with Cut and Run – an awesome throwback to a lot of energetic early noughties punk. You can hear a strong Jeff Rosenstock influence in Mark Bartlett’s frantic, emotional singing which is conveyed better live. Bartlett has a unique style of performance: he packs as many words into a bar as possible while shaking around the stage. Currently it looks a little awkward, but with more practice I expect it to become an integral part of their act. Otherwise, they’ve got a good, solid rhythm section, strong drumming and great backing vocals. They close on their most anthemic song, I Got This, leaving the audience happy. Once they’ve got a few more shows under their belt, I look forward to seeing a much more confident and comfortable band.

Lay It On The Line are up next at The Macbeth. They’re the most hardcore band of the day. It’s a brutal and disordered performance, with frontman Mike spending much of show writhing, crouched or lying on the stage while screaming bloody murder. He gives the impression of a man on the edge of breakdown extremely well. It’s all held together with some warmer guitar backing, adding a more melodic edge to their otherwise extreme sound.

It’s unusual to see bands with two standalone singers (Casual Nausea’s the only one I can think of), but it really works. Mike and Alice and equally adept at screaming and conveying a lot of anger and emotion. It’s hard to make out the lyrics but their explanations of the songs are both surprising and entertaining – one song’s dedicated to fans of the Marquis de Sade (of which they assume there are none in the room), another is about a head teacher who was killed by a rent boy after he failed to pay up…  It’s fascinating to know what inspires people’s song writing sometimes. They pull out a fantastic cover of Rotting Out’s Positive Views and end the set in a wail of feedback.

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Recap are up next, and they are fantastic. That’s the least you can expect from Dave House and Mark Pavey’s latest project – a reincarnation of Pacer and follow-up to The Steal. They jokingly say it’s only their second show, but they’re anything but new to the game. Continue reading “Gig Review: Might As Well Fest III (07/10/2017)”

Gig Review: Wotsit Called Fest – Saturday (30/09/2017)

Part Two: The main day at Hastings’ premier DIY punk fest, featuring performances from The Restarts, Riggots, Pizzatramp, Millie Manders, The Fuckin’ Glorious, The Barracks, Natterers, The Crash Mats, The Dead Anyways and Cheap Dates.

Photo credit: Massive thanks to Sara-Louise Bowrey from Festival Flyer (Cheap Dates – Barracks) and Mark Richards (The Fuckin’ Glorious – The Restarts) for bringing this to life with their tremendous images.

Check out my review of Part One: Wotsit Called Fest – Friday for the full story!

After scoffing lunch on the beach I’m back at The Palace and ready to start another rollicking day of DIY fun.

Although Saturday’s gig doesn’t start until the respectable time of 3.30pm, bedraggled punks gradually stumble into the bar from 2pm onwards. The drink of choice this morning is the espresso martini: both the beginning and the end of the hangover.

It feels like The Palace has been designed specifically for Wotsit Called Fest. Toxic Wotsit’s logo, colour-scheme and matching cocktail (the Toxic Avenger – held responsible for many of Saturday’s haggard faces) are all a fierce nuclear-waste green, coincidentally the colour of The Palace’s tiny back-room. The sound is reasonably good, but otherwise the room is rough, ready and clearly not designed for bands; the walls are adorned with giant mirrors and oil painting of dignitaries riding horses. It all adds to the DIY punk feel.

Cheap Dates at Wotsite Called Fest 2017

Local skiffle-punks Cheap Dates are a fitting opening act: coaxing us gently back into the land of the living with some varied covers. They’re a quartet with a mandolin, washboard and an acoustic guitar, plus a bass constructed from a bit of rope tied to a plastic crate. They all sing, and occasional cameos from a kazoo and a melodica add to the fun. By far the highlight of their set is a version of All Saints’ Never Ever – now that’s what I call a cover.

The Dead Anyways at Wostsit Called Fest 2017

Up next is The Dead Anyways, who provide smiling, self-deprecating punk in a typically British style. They’re one of my favourite bands of the day; they may not be the liveliest or most hardcore act to take the stage, but they have an instant melodic appeal that aligns perfectly with my taste. Combining earnest songwriting, foot-tapping rhythms and a gritty vocal, they’ll appeal to fans of Southport, Spoilers and Bear Trade. They plod between songs with understated humour and an affable stage-presence, aided by the appearance of the guitarist’s two young daughters. The kids give us a giggle and a photo opportunity, both leaning head-in-hands at the side of the stage, evidently dissatisfied by the lack of Peppa Pig covers. They’re the only two disappointed customers in the room.

The Crash Mats at Wotsit Called fest 2017

Following The Dead Anyways is the band most likely to cover the Peppa Pig theme tune: The Crash Mats. They don’t, but instead they throw in a delightful version of the Chucklevision theme that makes me grin like a lunatic. The grizzly three-piece play cracking sausage rock ‘n’ roll straight out of Oldham, with short, snappy ska segments. Their songs cover a variety of profound topics, including wrestling, meat pies and Neighbours, mainly taken from their new album 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics. My favourite tune is Soppy Love Song, which works even better live than on the album: beginning with slow parody ballad before all hell breaks loose at the end. Continue reading “Gig Review: Wotsit Called Fest – Saturday (30/09/2017)”