Album Review: Mean Caesar – Self Titled

Mean Caesar’s 6 track, self-titled EP is a sharp collection of brash yet melodic punk rock, FFO: Hot Water Music, Leatherface and Samiam.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

The Caesars, the emperors of Rome, were by and large a pretty horrible lot. Venerated as gods they frequently abused their power to indulge their sexual and sadistic whims. So it begs a question, if a Caesar is mean, how much of an utter bastard must he really be?

Fortunately South London’s Mean Caesar are not a scary proposition. Fearsome, yes, but certainly something to be embraced in the punk scene. Mean Caesar have been an active gigging band since early 2018 but prior to that they spent two years holed up in the rehearsal space, honing their song writing and sound before hitting the ground running as a fully formed and functional outfit. This time spent and attention to their craft and presentation has clearly paid off in the first recorded fruits of their labours.

This 6 track, self-titled EP is a sharp collection of brash yet melodic punk rock that draws influence from Hot Water Music and the much beloved Leatherface. Each track is packed with more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box and more drive than an episode of Top Gear, all capped off by vocalist Danny Lester’s impassioned, gruff bark. Vocally Lester will definitely draw comparisons to Chuck Ragan and Frankie Stubbs as he combines a rough gargle with a keen sense of melody. Continue reading “Album Review: Mean Caesar – Self Titled”

Album Review: Consumed – Decade of No

The new Consumed EP is every bit as vital and vibrant as their late 90’s releases.

Article by Ollie Stygall.

What compels a band to reunite? Well, for some, like Guns And Roses, the lure of the mighty dollar and recent diminishing return in terms of popularity and quality are certainly a factor… But what of those bands who achieved small to medium success then fell apart amidst relationship issues/money issues/lack of greater success, etc.? Surely there can only be one reason: because they want to. Time is a great healer in terms of relationships, people have moved on to have careers outside of music and aren’t struggling so much financially, and gradually that desire to rock out again hits so bands reform… not because they need to, but because they want to. That’s the best reason to be in a band.

But can it ever be as good as it was before? Has age tempered the youthful rage? Well, from personal experience, having a career, having a family, being a homeowner and becoming more aware of the world actually increases the rage, so I would argue that bands that are reaching or have reached middle age are probably more effective at playing punk rock than they were 20 years ago.

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Consumed existed from 1994 to 2003 and achieved a level of success that a lot of bands would dream of, signing to Fat Wreck Chords, BYO and Golf in their career, all legendary punk rock labels, and touring the world. Now they’re back… because they want to be. Continue reading “Album Review: Consumed – Decade of No”

Album Review: Rash Decision – Karoshi

“A pissed off, vicious slab of breakneck hardcore thrash.” FFO: Agnostic Front, Cro Mags, The Crumbsuckers, DRI.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

Have you ever been to Cornwall? I live pretty close to the border between Devon and Cornwall and go there pretty often because… Well… It’s like going to a foreign country without actually having to go to a foreign country! The middle bit of the county has been filled with nothingness with all activity taking place round the spectacular coastline. Maybe it’s the sea air, maybe it’s the surf culture that’s grown up around the county or maybe it’s the Cornish insistence that they are a nation in their own right that’s led them to adopt a different pace of life to the rest of Britain. Cornwall moves slower than anywhere else in the country… more relaxed and laissez faire. Almost like a county of stoners weaned on cider, pasties and putting jam and cream on scones the wrong way round. All this makes this new release from Rash Decision seem all the more incongruous as they deliver a pissed off, vicious slab of breakneck hardcore thrash that sits at odds with their surroundings.

Karoshi amounts to 14 tracks of kinetic, angry metal/punk crossover that, to my jaded ears, harks back to the New York hardcore of 80’s bands such as Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Leeway, The Crumbsuckers… etc. The guitars are violent scythes of noisy crunch, drums rattle along with plenty of double kick action and the vocals are throaty, larynx stripping rants. All bar three songs come in under two minutes and say as much as most songs far longer, being rammed to the rafters with riff after riff and breakdowns aplenty.

The angry intensity spills over fully into the lyrics. Lyrically, if these songs were to paint a picture of life in Cornwall then the county’s tourist industry would be fucked in an instant. This is definitely not a child friendly album as the band spit out profanity after profanity and cover pretty much every taboo word going… and I’m the kind of cunt that fucking loves shit like that! In all seriousness though, like many punk bands before them, Rash Decision cover much of the usual punk rock subject matter… Being slaves to the system on Salary Man and just generally getting fucked over by life. The thing is, these subjects never go away and will provide abundant subject matter for punk bands for eternity.

Continue reading “Album Review: Rash Decision – Karoshi”

Album Review: Youth Avoiders – Relentless

Like a perfect hit of potent espresso, Parisian hardcore act Youth Avoiders are the big name being whispered around the UK scene right now. FFO: Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, having your mind blown.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

France may not be at the top of everyone’s list of punk rock nations. In fact, France probably doesn’t register on anyone this side of the channel’s lists as a music nation full stop. Aside from Joe Le Taxi by Vanessa Paradis… which was 30 odd years ago… I defy you to think of any internationally successful French musicians. It’s a tough task. Aside from some dodgy stoner rock bands and some actually pretty decent hip hop acts, it’s slim pickings on the music front for French bands in the UK. It’s good, therefore to see a Parisian punk band breaking down that barrier and crossing the water.

One of the first things you may think of when it comes to punk rock, apart from a relentless barrage of speed, is a wall of fuzzy guitars. This is where Youth Avoiders stand out from the word go. For the most part these guys keep the guitars almost completely clean, giving the songs a jangly, almost surfy edge which is extremely refreshing. Especially when coupled with their breakneck take on DC-style hardcore. Imagine the Dead Kennedys jamming with Minor Threat and you’re in the right ball park. Youth Avoiders trade an abrasive sound for something far punchier and it pays off in spades.

Musically this 11 track album sets out their agenda to get in, get the job done quickly and then fuck off again. They pretty much have one tempo: fast as fuck. Most tracks barely make it past the two minute mark, making it a brief but thrilling ride. Continue reading “Album Review: Youth Avoiders – Relentless”

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!

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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)”