EP Review: Traits – Illuminate

The new ballsy, melodic punk rock EP from Leeds’ Traits will gnaw its way into your subconscious. FFO: No Use For A Name, Lagwagon, The Human Project.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

The Traits were a garage rock band formed in 1967 who had a hit with Nobody Loves The Hulk in 1969…this isn’t them! It’s amazing the blind alleys Google can lead you down when you’re researching a band for a review. Traits, minus the ‘the’ are a new four piece band from Leeds featuring members of Random Hand and The Human Project, and a guy called Jon who is apparently lovely, according to one of the write ups my Google search threw up. I’m sure they’re all splendid chaps equally. [Ed: Sarah W personally vouches for this!]

Traits (don’t go putting “the” in front of it!) are a straight ahead, melodic punk rock band. By that description alone you can probably start to build a mental image of how these guys sound and you’d probably fall pretty close to the mark. Now, being honest, there are a million bands doing this kind of stuff right now so the question is, how well do Traits fare against their peers? Fortunately they fare extremely well. For such a new band, albeit with plenty of individual experience, they have a fully-fledged and powerful sound with a keen grasp on song writing and an ear for a naggingly catchy melody. Each song here has at least one hook that will gnaw its way into your subconscious, whether it’s the insistent chorus of I’ve Made My Bed or the quirky riff that rears its head during Drop The Status Quo. If the band had a mission to grab your memory and hold on tight then they’ve ticked that box!

Traits Illuminate EP Cover.jpg

As you might expect, the energy remains high throughout, rarely dipping below an ADHD endorsed 100mph but, on the odd moments when the Ritalin kicks in and they slow it down, it provides a welcome breathing space and shows a strong grasp of song dynamics. The guitars of Jon Simmons are tight and edgy and stand front and centre in the mix whilst the rhythm section of Joe Tilston on bass and Dan Powell on drums lock together tighter than a pair of shagging dogs! Johnny Smith’s voice is an interesting one, and may be an acquired taste for some, although it’ll be a favourite for fans of The Human Project. He operates in the higher registers but still maintains some grit in his throat. In fact, and this may make him cringe, he would also make a pretty good metal singer, as evidenced on I’ve Made My Bed which flirts tantalisingly with thrash metal in places… fortunately staying just on the right side of the line though. He has a credible power and delivery to his singing though that should bring round anyone who might, at first, find his voice a little irritating. Continue reading “EP Review: Traits – Illuminate”

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: 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: 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”

EP Review: Kiss Me, Killer – Beware!

Ferocious metal-tinged riot grrl garage-punk from Bristol! Noisy! Angry! Catchy!

Review by Ollie Stygall.

There is so much more to Bristol than funny accents, Massive Attack, Skins, Banksy, Portishead, Tricky, Concord, a dubious history of slave trading and disgraced TV personality Justin Lee Collins. Bristol has a long relationship with punk rock going back nearly 40 years. In the early 80’s the Riot City label launched the careers of local bands Vice Squad and Chaos UK, who are both still going strong alongside other local outcasts Disorder. Later in the 80’s labels such as C.O.R and Manic Ears and fanzines such as Skate Muties From The Fifth Dimension and Bugs And Drugs kept the city at the forefront of the burgeoning hardcore scene. It’s good to see that bands such as Kiss Me, Killer are keeping the flag flying in the city.

Kiss Me Killer EP Review.jpg

Kiss Me, Killer are a five piece self-styled ‘ferocious, hooky, riot grrrl garage punk’ band and, I have to say, their description pretty much makes my review unnecessary as it does sum them up to a tee. Boasting influences from psychedelic originators The 13th Floor Elevators, to garage pioneers MC5 and The Stooges, to punk stalwarts such as The Mob and The Ruts, to old school metal and riot grrrls Bikini Kill, Kiss Me, Killer are very much a product of their diverse influences. On this EP they offer up four tracks of hard hitting, snarling yet melodic punk rock. Continue reading “EP Review: Kiss Me, Killer – Beware!”

EP Review: Alright – EP 3

Fresh, rough punk from Bolton, featuring 3/5ths of AVAS. FFO: The Steal, The Stupids and The Instigators.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

Frank Zappa once posed the question, “Does humour belong in music?” The answer is a resounding and unequivocal, “Yes!” Alright are a straight-down-the-line punk rock 3-piece from Bolton who claim to be ‘too fat and lazy to play live’, which is a shame as, if this EP is anything to go by they would be an absolute blast. Alright have a sense of humour; even their name is imbued with a self-deprecating wit… “Who are you?”, “We’re Alright.” The humour extends to the blurb that accompanied this release which was almost apologetic suggesting, “If you fancied wasting your time with a review of it then we’d enjoy that.” I suspect these guys, despite the self-effacing humour, know that they’re doing something pretty good.

This EP barely scrapes the 2 minute mark across the 2 songs here, which in many ways makes it almost perfect punk rock. To my ravaged ears these guys remind me of the first time I heard The Stupids, that is to say this is fast-as-fuck but there is an underlying sense of melody that gives it an almost, dare I say, sing along vibe. I suspect that may be an accident on the band’s part but it’s there nonetheless. Despite the brevity of their songs and the sheer tempo, Alright do manage to add plenty of dynamics in a short space of time, even down to some tasty NYHC-style metallic breakdowns. Although the 2 songs here are a breakneck 1 minute 23 and 53 seconds respectively, they are fully fledged and fully structured and far more than just a throwaway blast of noise.

Continue reading “EP Review: Alright – EP 3”