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”

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: 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.

Burnt Tapes 1.jpg

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”

Album Review: The Crash Mats – 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics

The Oldham trio have just released 28 minutes of irreverent ska/punk ‘n’ roll nonsense that captures all the energy and hilarity of their live shows. FFO: Snuff, Teenage Bottlerocket and having a good time.

This weekend super-fun ska punks The Crash Mats released their second album 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics. It’s 28 minutes of solid comedy gold, out on Horn & Hoof records now. Spoiler alert: there’s not a panpipe in sight.

The trio from Oldham have been around since 2008, and yet ‘maturity’ is the last word you’d use to describe this record. Their songs are short, snappy punk ditties and that can’t fail to plaster a grin on your face, covering such thought-provoking topics as The North, getting high and how your parents may react to finding a dead babysitter. If you’ve had the joy of catching The Crash Mats live before, you’ll know they’re unbelievably fast and fun. Before I saw them I’d never had the opportuntity to skank along to the Chucklevision theme tune and I am eternally grateful to them for that. 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics take all of that energy and delivers it staight to your living room.

The Crash Mats 69 Peruvian Pan Pipe Classics

The album opens with an invitation to join them on a Hot Air Balloon Ride (“Would you like a ride in my hot air balloon?”), rolling through to Drive Me to Drink (“You drive me to drink, you drive me to drink.”) and heavier Oldham’s National Anthem (“Meat pie, chips and gravy!”). The Crash Mats are by no means lyrical genuises, but they sure do get their point across. It’s fun on record, but the drunken-singalong potential live is second-to-none. Continue reading “Album Review: The Crash Mats – 69 Peruvian Panpipe Classics”

EP Review: Sombulance – Lifer

The new release from South Coast skate-punks Sombulance is a lesson in creativity and precision. FFO: A Wilhelm Scream, Darko and Propagandhi.

Sombulance have that exciting new-favourite-band quality that traps your heart in your throat when you first stumble across it. Based in Southsea, this quintet are yet more proof that the finest melodic hardcore in the UK originates from the South Coast. They’ve been together since 2005 and released a full album back in 2010, so they’re hardly a ‘new’ band, but they’ve recently reassembled and refreshed their line-up so it feels like a new start. Since catching their explosive set at Manchester Punk Festival in 2016, I’ve been eager to hear more from them, and I was lucky enough to catch them slaying the Beach Stage at Punk Rock Holiday – one of my highlights of the week.

Lifer was released at the beginning of August, just in time for PRH and live shows with Pears and Darko. Sombulance play especially melodic skate-punk, underpinned by themes of regret and redemption. Expect 18 minutes of intricate, thoughtful composition, technical guitar and memorable song-writing. Sharing their new drummer, Marc Morey, with progressive thrash virtuosos, Almeida, the EP is also blessed with fast-paced, creative percussion. Lifer is an big advancement on their 2010 album A Cynic’s Response, particularly in terms of production quality.

The EP opens with The Articulation of Afterthoughts, a bittersweet and reflective love song with some of the most heart-wrenching lyrics on the record, “When she comes around the world seems a little brighter, and when she takes control my shoulders become lighter… When explanations fail to make you see what’s true, I am alone, I’m here with you.” In terms of composition, this is one of the most accomplished tracks on the album, coaxing the listener through a dynamic story that adeptly blends lyrics and melody. The elaborate layers of guitar sound like a waterfall rushing by, blending in delicate, brighter tones in the middle. Ant Harrison and Will Pearce’s dual guitars flow with force and beauty through all 6 tracks, giving Sombulance their unique edge.

The coda slides nicely into Lessons Lost, which is a heavier but punctuated by livelier, brighter drum lines. Throughout the all 6 songs, there’s not a single bar without layers of imaginative nuances that really hold your attention. The attention to detail in their composition is impressive, each listen piquing a new interest. Continue reading “EP Review: Sombulance – Lifer”

Album Review: Matilda’s Scoundrels – As The Tide Turns

The first full-length release from this Hastings’ sextet is a masterstroke in modern aggro-folk. FFO: Roughneck Riot, Levellers and Dropkick Murphys.

A few weeks ago, TNS Records posted a teaser for the debut Matilda’s Scoundrels album. I squealed, spilled coffee on my keyboard and got laughed at by my colleagues, before immediately hitting BUY on their pre-order.

Matilda’s Scoundrels formed in 2014 and have since honed their act through hard-graft, rum and good-natured dispositions, touring restlessly around the UK and Europe. They have earned a reputation as a can’t-miss band on the UK DIY circuit for their rambunctious performances. It’s hard to compete with songs like Pisshead’s Anthem, from their EP Crowley’s Curse, for a better boozy crowd-pleaser. One of my favourite memories is their opening set at 2016’s Manchester Punk Festival: despite the early hour, they instantly transformed Sound Control into a boozy brawl, complete with crowd-surfing in an inflatable dinghy.

With raucous drinking bands like Matilda’s there’s always a risk that their recorded material will not stand up to their live show, and I’d argue that their previous release Crowley’s Curse and their split with The Barracks didn’t do justice to their outstanding performances. Fortunately, they’ve exceeded themselves with As The Tide Turns: every songs sounds as good recorded as it does live, if not better.

Matilda's Scoundrels As The Tide Turns.jpg

The 10-track album uses a familiar formula: protest songs played fast on traditional instruments, accompanied by angry vocals, overdriven guitars and a tendency towards inebriation. It’s designed for drinking, dancing and disorder.

However, As The Tide Turns is much more than a rowdy folk album. The top recording quality allows the variety of layered instrumentation to shine in a way that you cannot appreciate in a live setting, adding a real depth and authenticity to their sound. Listen to the album through a decent stereo, and marvel at the amount of thought and skill that’s gone into these compositions.   Continue reading “Album Review: Matilda’s Scoundrels – As The Tide Turns”