EP Review: Tragical History Tour – Old Words

Gritty Scottish Americana that irresistibly combines confession, sadness and hope. FFO: Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan and growling, gruff vocals.

Review by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Gordon MacKenzie.

Tragical History Tour’s new EP Old Words is four tracks of great, gritty, emotive songwriting. This is the mostly-solo project from Make That A Take Records’ Derrick Johnston, the latest EP in a long and colourful history of similarly spirited projects.

Johnston’s a seriously accomplished songwriter, and Old Words continues to demonstrate the richness of his talent. A lot of sadness, sorrow and thought has gone into these songs, which allows them instantly to tap into your emotions. It’s feels like a slice of perfect Americana or alt-country, but with a Scottish backbone that’s both unusual and fucking delightful.

Title track Old Words is a hefty foot-tapper of an opener. The tones of the acoustic guitar remind me of Love Is Hell-era Ryan Adams, while Johnston’s vocal recalls Chuck Ragan if he’d spent the last five years smoking Marlboros and gargling glass shards. Towards the end the song lifts with an unexpected little electric guitar line that weaves into the rest of the tune seamlessly, contrasting beautifully with the pessimistic lyrics.

The lighter, finger-picked opening to Gratitude is a nice change to Old Words, and it feels like a good natural progression between songs. This mournful track starts to incorporate some more earnest storytelling, demonstrating how well Johnston’s mastered his craft. His Scottish accent still gives his chewing-on-grit vocal a unique sandpaper edge that works well in these gentler songs. Lyrics like, “I refuse to give into choices I didn’t choose,” match the bitterness and optimism that’s conveyed in the combination of the gruff vocal and heartwarming, bright acoustic guitar. Continue reading “EP Review: Tragical History Tour – Old Words”

EP Review: Arms & Hearts – Fortitude

Arms & Hearts’ second release is a short, passionate EP full of heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting. FFO: The Gaslight Anthem, Chuck Ragan and Ducking Punches.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Arms & Hearts has just released Fortitude, their second EP, via Real Ghost Records. The short release sounds like a glimmer of lonely hope, with heartfelt lyrics and a big-room production feel.

First track, Fortitude is a bright, foot-tapping acoustic song. It’s our first taste of Arms & Hearts wistful, romantic and comfortingly cliched songwriting. “Home is wherever you happen to be that night,” is such a pure turn of phrase that it sends an arrow straight through your heart. The warm tones tells you their live show is going to be at its best in quirky, intimate venues; ideal for a candlelit date-night with your tattooed sweetheart.

The introduction to second track, Dagger Eyes has a reverberating big-room feel, not unlike The Gaslight Anthem’s slower pieces. The chorus has a gritty vocal refrain that would sound right coming from Brian Fallon, although there’s a clear Chuck Ragan influence also. The instrumentation across both tracks speaks similarly of Gaslight, but also of some of the more resonant pieces by City and Colour. The lyrics call up ‘broken glass’, ‘bleeding hearts’ and ‘blood on your hands’, further adding to the restorative Americana-type feel that’s present in both songs. That being said, there’s a British twang in the vocal that reminds me a lot of the solo Ducking Punches sound.

Arms & Hearts are touring with Chicago’s Andrew Paley, who’s known for similar heart-on-your-sleeve folk stylings. Make a date for one of the following:

  • 1st December: Manchester, Gullivers
  • 2nd December: Leeds, Singleshot
  • 3rd December: Nottingham, The Angel
  • 5th December: Peterborough, The Ostrich inn
  • 6th December: Brighton, The Pipeline

Fortitude was released on November 20th on Real Ghost Records, and it’s available for pay-what-you-want download from their Bandcamp. Make sure you check out Arms & Hearts on Facebook too.

Review by Sarah Williams.

EP Review: Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men – Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke

Tim Loud and Revenge of The Psychotronic Man translate a drunken idea into a beautiful reality.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men’s little EP Some of These People Have Come From Stoke is one of those marvellous bits of nonsense that make the DIY punk scene the best place to be.

The EP is a three-song collaboration between Revenge of The Psychotronic Man (famous for delivering ridiculously fast, fun noise) and Tim Loud (famous for fronting long-dead aggro-folks Bootscraper, and for his own antifolk solo material). Whilst on tour in April they drunkenly decided that a joint recording would be a great idea; the result is three quite different tracks, reflecting their individual tastes rather than their normal musical output. It’s a rollicking ride through punk rock mayhem, and it’ll be a great gem to look back on in years to come.

The EP opens with an Alan Partridge quote that explains the title, although it’s also a nod to Tim Loud and (drummer) Big Hands’ Stoke heritage. The first track The Queen is Dead, Long Live The King Singers is pretty classic, catchy anti-establishment punk, talking about knocking people off their pedestals. 

The second track Oh Yeah, Motorcycle is all hair metal, with a huge doom-laden build-up that’s every bit Motorhead. The song descends into some shreddery before returning to the heavy introductory riff, closing on a decrescendo of feedback and distortion. It’s masses of fun to sing-along to the lyrically profound chorus, “Ooooooohh yeeaaah, motorcycle!” although the song’s actually about what wankers motorcyclists can be. This is premium pit-fodder, and I really hope Revenge start playing this one live. 

The third and final track Sensible Party is a return to a fuzzier punk rock format, although it’s still got plenty of rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks. The clear highlights of this song are the brilliant tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “If you’re still here then grab a coffee son, the party has only just begun,” or, “If it’s too busy we’ll find a fucking book and hide.” One almost gets the impression that these guys may not be inclinded to have a ‘sensible’ party as they’re so virtuously proclaiming. This is my new favourite party anthem, and it’s been firmly lodged in my head for over a week. Continue reading “EP Review: Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men – Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke”

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”

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”

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”

EP Review: Our Lives in Cinema – S/T

The recent self-titled release from London’s Our Lives In Cinema is a tense blast of angsty pop-punk. FFO: Alkaline Trio, Polar Bear Club, Rival Schools.

South London post-hardcore/pop-punk crew Our Lives in Cinema have recently released a self-titled EP. Taking influence from early noughties emo, there are underlying flavours of Alkaline Trio and My Chemical Romance, infused with a more modern pop-punk twist. The EP is short and sweet with only three songs, but there’s a lot packed into it.

First track Cut and Run* is energetic and tense, with angsty multi-tracked vocal delivery. The tight guitar lines standout in the mix and overall it leaves me thinking of Rival Schools. The song descends into an interesting melodic multi-vocal section that reminds me a bit of Brand New’s execution on Deja Entendu.

You can definitely hear the influence of Jeff Rosenstock in the vocal on second track I’m Drunk! And None of This is Real. The song has the all-too-familiar feel of booze-fuelled memory loss, bad sleep and haunted dreams. Continue reading “EP Review: Our Lives in Cinema – S/T”