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)”

Album Review: Jake & The Jellyfish – Long In Winters

The new upbeat release from Leeds’ favourite DIY folk-punks is a witty, energetic stomper of a record. FFO: Ducking Punches, Matilda’s Scoundrels and Levellers.

Review by Sarah Williams.

I was very excited to hear that Jake & The Jellyfish were releasing a new album. Their last full-length, Dead Weight, was a splendid slice of upbeat folk punk; each song they deliver is foot-tapping, head-nodding, sing-along perfection. They’re also a band that guarantee a raucous live show, which they successfully replicate in the energy of their recorded material.

Their new record Long In Winters is due out on January 26th, with a shiny green vinyl version coming from Invisible Llama Music. At the base of all the songs is a solid unplugged guy-and-guitar ethos that is given a more expansive sound by the full band and the crystal-clear big-room production. Jake & The Jellyfish clearly take influence from traditional folk and riotous bands like the Levellers, but they modernise the sound with poppier ‘whoa-oh’ harmonies and a consistently fast, stomping tempo. The combination of electric guitar, fiddle, plaintive singing and relatable lyrics is irresistable.

Jake & The Jellyfish Long in Winters Album Review
Photo by David Peltan

The album kicks into action with bright electro-acoustic strumming on the opener Spokesdog. From the first bars we are introduced to Jake McAllister’s witty way with words and gritty, infectious vocal style. The song is uplifting with a sense of urgency behind it: performed solo-acoustic it could be a tearjerker, but instead it floods your stereo with emotive force, not dissimilar to the rousing feel Ducking Punches achieve with a full-band.

Second track, Reading List is more of a singalong opus, with an appealing little fiddle line woven into the mix. The words, “I need background noise so I can sleep, just turn on the radio and leave me be,” is an an ingeniously mundane statement. It’s aptly phrased insights like that which grant Jake & The Jellyfish such mass appeal. Similarly the opening lines to Graveyard (“We used to drink in the graveyard in town…”) encapsulate the experiences of every British teenager with enchanting simplicity. Graveyard is an uptempo stomper of a song, guaranteed to get you dancing whether it be in your bedroom, at your office desk or in sweaty basement venues around the country. Continue reading “Album Review: Jake & The Jellyfish – Long In Winters”

Album Review: This Is Not A Drill – Hysteria/Hypocrisy/Lies

Noisy hardcore / anarcho punk from Sheffield. FFO: Chewed Up, Discharge, Iron Reagan.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

When I was a lad growing up in the 80’s, and my mates and I were dipping our toes into the murky world of punk/hardcore/metal, it became a familiar cry of parents to denounce our listening as noise, often telling us it all sounded the same and that it was rubbish… Not my dad, I hasten to add; he introduced me to loads of great rock and roll and always took time to listen to and try to appreciate what I was listening to!

Now I’m a parent and how things have changed. I find myself listening to the stuff my kids like and thinking where is the fire? Where is the anger? Where is the noise? Thanks to the 90’s tide of boy/girl bands and programmes such as the X Factor, music has become now, more than ever, a commodity. Something to fill the space left by silence and thinking in the brain. It is heartwarming to see, in that case, that some of the values I’ve held true for 30 odd years still exist in the underground and that there are bands that reflect this.

This Is Not A Drill don’t give much info about themselves away in their online presence; no names, influences, etc. They appear, to all intents and purposes, to be a band that exists to play and put across their message… and I like that. There are three of them, they’re from Sheffield, and they have previously served in Chewed Up, Brain Freeze and Trioxin Cherry: this much I can tell you. Another thing I can tell you is that these guys don’t mess about. Their sound is a fiery, brutal metallic hardcore assault with no frills and maximum impact. Continue reading “Album Review: This Is Not A Drill – Hysteria/Hypocrisy/Lies”

Album Review: Jeff Rosenstock – Post-

Mark takes a listen to Jeff’s surprise new record, dropped unexpectedly in our laps on New Year’s Day. FFO: Early Weezer, The Smith Street Band and Joyce Manor.

Review by Mark Bartlett.

My level of fandom for punk savant Jeff Rosenstock currently resembles the awe I felt as a tween discovering rock music for the very first time. I know that Jeff would feel very uncomfortable being labelled as a genius or some kind of scene saviour, but this self-deprecating, humbled outlook is all part of a package that has made Jeff my favourite musician and a personal inspiration.

What it ultimately comes down to is generosity and good intentions; Jeff and his previous band Bomb The Music Industry have always been about channeling all of that exciting punk rock energy into being the best person you can be, inclusiveness and an ethical code that allows everybody to enjoy his music for free and to attend safe, cheap shows. It doesn’t hurt that Jeff and the band release fantastic albums on a very regular basis that seamlessly blend punk, pop, indie, hardcore and ska, as well as touring endlessly.

Jeff Rosenstock post Album release Facebook quote.pngI assumed that Jeff would need to recharge for a little bit following the long haul promoting 2016’s Worry, but on New Year’s Day Jeff generously decided to bestow a brand new studio album Post- on us for free via Bandcamp and Quote Unquote Records with no warning or fanfare. Initially, as was the case with Worry, Post- feels a little underwhelming in the wake of its immediate predecessor. As with all of Rosenstock’s albums it takes a few listens to fully absorb all of the great things about Jeff’s songwriting. However, 40 plays later I can happily confirm that Post- continues the streak of excellence that previous releases Worry and We Cool established, but in some unexpected ways.

PUP Jeff Rosenstock Quote

Opener USA is a mammoth 7 minutes and sets the blueprint for all that follows. Jeff’s voice is stronger; a little bit of vocal restraint being exercised in service of songwriting. Post- was written in the wake of Trump’s election and a lot of the subject matter is reflective of the collective anxiety we’re all living in; “I fought the law, but the law was cheating,” is one of the best lyrics on the record. The explosive, “We’re tired, we’re bored,” refrain at the end is another example of Jeff’s ability to put several main chorus-worthy hooks into a single song.

Yr Throat is a personal highlight. It kicks off with an almost Iron Maiden-ish gallop before exploding into a big earworm chorus that reminds me of Boys And Girls In America-era Hold Steady thanks to Dan Potthast’s lovely keys. There’s a bright, hopeful clap-along middle section that filled me with joy from the first time I heard it.

We then have my undisputed favourite All This Useless Energy, which has a Weezer Blue Album vibe with its mid-tempo chug and sombre opening riff. The verse is one of the best melodies that Jeff has ever sung. It concludes with my favourite closure to any Rosenstock song: “Oh please, you’re not fooling anyone when you say you tried your best. Because you can’t be your best anything when you can’t get any rest.”

Powerlessness is a jaunty, faster song more reminiscent of a track from We Cool than anything else here. It’s a great song but probably still my least favourite here.

TV Stars is a big dreamy, Beatlesy ballad, with big harmonies and lush full instrumentation. It’s really mature songwriting and in the hands of any big pop artist would be a hit single (I don’t mean that as a negative, though).

Melba is amazing and for most fans it’ll probably be the standout track, as it includes arguably the strongest chorus on the record. It seamless segues into the immediate, short and simple pop of Beating My Head Against A Wall which is insanely catchy.

Another highlight in an album full of highlights is the Laura Stevenson duet 9/10, which is another lovely keyboard-driven ballad. It feels like a musical departure of sorts, moreso than anything else on the album. John Dedomenici’s bass playing really stands out here.

Jeff likes to close out his albums pretty bombastically and, in typical fashion, Let Them Win is an 11 minute slow stomp of a protest song that finishes things perfectly.

Overall, I’d say even though Post- is relatively short, and doesn’t quite hit the heady highs of Worry, it is still consistently brilliant and a continuation of Jeff’s seemingly never-ending winning streak.

You have no reason not to check this out right now.

Review by Mark Bartlett.

Top 5 Album Releases of 2017

Shout Louder’s favourite picks from a year of brilliant new albums.

Article by Sarah Williams.

By sticking to the classic Top 5 format for our end-of-year round-up, I’ve really made a rod for my own back. It would be easier to write a Top 10 or a Top 40 with all the amazing releases this year.

As a result, there are some surprising absences from my Top 5. Propagandhi’s Victory Lap has received a lot of repeat play at Shout Louder HQ, but I’d still take any of these smaller bands over it. Bear Trade, Matilda’s Scoundrels and 88 Fingers Louie have all put out brilliant full-lengths. I’m a huge fan of The Smith Street Band, but for me More Scared of You Than You Are of Me just doesn’t have the sheer gut-wrenching emotive force of their earlier releases. I feel similarly about The MenzingersAfter The Party.

Shamefully, I’ve not given enough time to Iron Chic’s You Can’t Stay Here or Hard GirlsFloating Now to include them, although I know I’m going to become obsessed with both. I only recently heard Hateful Monday’s Unfrightened but that would definitely be on the Top 5 if I had got to it sooner! There are also plenty of less punk releases that I have enjoyed. If you’re into Canadian hardcore then You’re Not You Anymore by Counterparts will be a highlight. One of my other favourites has been Thundercat’s Drunk – it’s fabulously eclectic stoner/soul/nu-jazz stuff.

I have one final thing to mention before I get on with it: the new Only Strangers album. The release has been pushed back to 2018, but had it been released in December as planned there is no doubt that it would be in my Top 5. I’ve been rinsing a pre-release copy on repeat for weeks. If you like gruff melodic punk like The Burnt Tapes, Hot Water Music or Iron Chic, keep an eye out for the release in the next few weeks.

Finally, here are my Top 5 Albums of 2017:

#5: Aerial Salad – Roach

Aerial Salad Roach Cover

Aerial Salad are a refreshing suprise. There is something exciting about their debut album that I can’t explain; it has a modern-classic air to it. Songs like Habits and Problems are instantly memorable and relatable. The bassline on Check My Mind is as comforting as your pulse. The opening line to 97, ‘I just told my Mum I’m gonna kill myself, it’s so easy now,’ is so raw it burns. Roach is an album with guts.

It’s even more suprising that the album sounds refreshing, because in many way it’s copy-cat familiar: Aerial Salad’s sound is reminiscent of bands like Greenday, PUP, Gnarwolves, Jawbreaker and Nirvana. The is a raw quality to the production and rough delivery that makes the album sound fresh, unique and special. Discovering Roach is like finding £50 discarded and trampled in the street. Give it a listen and get ready to become obsessed.

Check out our 2-part interview with Jamie Munro here and here, plus our review of Roach here.

 

#4: Gnarwolves – Outsiders

Gnarwolves Outsiders.jpg

Gnarwolves are a somewhat marmite band within the scene, but for me Outsiders is merely further proof that they can do no wrong musically. From the warm, plaintive opening of Straightjacket I am completely and utterly hooked. ‘I found love at the bottoms of bottles, the edges of twilight where my Sunday slips into my Monday,’ is a fitting introduction to Thom Weeks’ evocative and memorable songwriting. The album then cascades through equally dark and uplifting tracks like Wires and Paint Me A Martyr, full of appealing melodies, hooks and infectious refrains. Continue reading “Top 5 Album Releases of 2017”