FUNGALPUNK - CD REVIEWS Page 19
DAMMIT - DEMO
After viewing Dammit at a recent gig I was marginally impressed so as they left the stage congratulations were given and a CD received for review. Several spins of this 4 track disc have proved difficult to assess due to conflicting levels of production, construction and talent. The band can play but the final feeling is that song arrangement could be better as could the production.
Track 1 'Sever The Ties' is a demonised blast of hardcore madness that toys with the brink of oblivion but somehow manages to maintain a foothold with some nice touches as well as more cliched hardcore riffs. All in all a sturdy, high volume track ideal for a skull busting blitz. The major blip in track ones assessment is the song drifts on for too long and I maintain that hardcore is best delivered in one, short, sharp almighty blow rather than a series of less explosive assaults.
'Cut Out And Keep' rectifies this criticism and is more rhythmic in approach but still grinding enough to make an impact. At 1 minute 36 seconds it is perfectly timed and a concrete example of Dammit at their best.
'Quit While You're Ahead' follows on nicely and has a great chorus that is kept adequately in check thus stopping a submission to a wild, incoherent mess. Really a grime and grit effort that gets away with the almost 3 minute running time.
'Peacock' is the final track and commences in crusty rap mode that then breaks up into a series of disjointed metalised shards that oppose the main driving force a trifle too much. The whole song dissolves into inconsistent mayhem and I feel is a frantic faux pas that rounds off a decent demo in poor style. I personally don't like this finale one bit and for me, tracks 2 and 3 are where the true potential of this band lies.
The conclusion is of a capable band still finding their recording feet and in a state of 'What works, what doesn't' flux. The winning recipe will come, I am sure, in the way of short intense bursts of high octane aggression briefly glimpsed here. A definite recommended live band and one that with more attention to minor detail should produce a whole lot better on future recordings.
WEST OF SCOTLAND PUNX - COMPILATION VOL 1
With scabby rage and murky guitars this CD kicks off in fine style. The Scabs claim with vehement disgust that 'Blades Beat Fists' and frontman Geeza raves with unhinged disillusionment about another social issue. They don't come more unaffected than this lot and this is one of the boys best offerings.
Standard set and as though the opening track isn't 'Punk as Fuck' enough then the wonderful 2 Sick Monkeys immediately follow and reinforce the true punk rock ethos with the fine 'Too Many Secrets'. Another great track from a hard grafting band who are in it for nothing more than the pleasure of rattling out some quality sounds.
2 cracking songs down and the hat-trick is attained with possibly the CD's zenith by the band known as Hateful and their tunefully delicious 'Backwards'. Gravelly vocals and a great melody are perfect ingedients for a darn fine song and that's just what we have here.
The CD continues in this fine vein of quality and the standard is incredibly impressive and obviously compiled by someone 'In The Know' and of a discerning ear. There are a couple of duff tracks and the DIY production is applaudable but the odd dip in sound levels is markedly frustrating. Overall though this is a choice bag of assorted flavours and has many notable peaks. The Restless Natives with 'Black Widow' is an alternative choice with darker tones and shades of indie. The Alpacinos have some very exciting moments with 'Filthy Show, Filthy Town' and exude an overflow of promise and potential.
'Glaikit' by The Fanny Pads goes without saying is a 100% punk rock crackerjack fuelled of disgruntlement and angst. Koncept throw in another piece of bulldozing brilliance with 'Riet Dich Neet Op', The Filthy Lookers take us back to basics with the sniping 'Disco Freaks', The Bullet Kings dish out their own brand of riffology with 'Riot' and The Red Eyes add a classy edge with the porno tale of 'Norah Louise Kuzma'.
Loads of good stuff on show with various tastes catered for and the random few chosen aren't all that's good about this CD.
A flag flying triumph for DIY and a prize piece for seekers of new bands. More please!
COST OF LIVING - DEMO
The slight lack of melody is more than compensated for here with 4 DIY tracks of more than adequate production and a consistency maintained from first to last.
'Big Chip' tees off with a sturdy resonance reinforced by strong feminine vocals that the rest of the band seem to work around quite nicely thank you. For an account opener its a fair deposit of talent and does the job in keeping the listener keen for more. The rather stated verses and the way they blend into the confidently undulating choruses is very appealing and works well whether planned or coincidental.
'Heartfelt Repeater' for me falls down in the fact that the vocals are slightly over-run by the dominant guitar and that the song never really breaks up into a formulated regime. Best described as a paragraph without punctuation the whole offering slips by almost un-noticed and the inclusion of a lyric sheet is only part salvation.
'The Lobster Myth' gets by on its short duration and for me, seems a song unfinished which can be classed as a careless failing or an anarchic plus. It isn't bad but just seems to ache for a sudden burst of guitar laden chaos.
And finally, 'The Cost Of Living'. Now then this is more like it. Working against a backdrop of pounding bass, the solid sound structure simply steers its way through a veritable forest of imposing riffs. All components finally come together and what a difference it makes. A really enjoyable finish to a CD that is far from poor but as with most initial outpourings there is room for improvement. If the structure and formula of track 4 is embraced and garbed with choice melodic adornments then the next release will be something to truly relish.
COT DEATH - THE DIGITAL CACOPHONY OF GLOBAL DECAY
A superbly assembled 4 track techno explosion here that is quite beautifully orchestrated, blending elements of crusty punk, silky skank, ambient drum and bass as well as an abundance of digitised arrangements. Approximately 25 minutes in total, the running time may seem a trifle overwhelming but for fiery soundscapes as this the lengthy time span is a most vital component.
'Your God Is Dead' melts in with syntho sonics that build to a manic seizure before rabidly foaming into an hysterical raging rant about the wrongs of religious war and government endorsed violence. A solid piece swaying on the precipice of lunatic discordance but clinging on by bloodied fingertips to save the day.
'Another Sunny Day In Guantanamo Bay' segues in and is a choice cut. With an acid head slant and several pinging ska segments the jabbering vocals and almost impromptu changes in rhythmic stance keep the listener on his aural toes and the connecting synthesizer dance blast works an absolute treat. It is a combustible mix and the electrodynamic energy and hypnotic atmosphere plus keyboard cacophony add to the omnipresent danger.
'The Digital Cacophony Of Global Decay' adopts a more military tempo festooned with scything lasers of sound and sobering vocals. Before you know it the excellent metallic mish-mash is winding down with an eerie air-raid siren ominously warning of a further attack. As the air fills with omens of flashing apocalypse 'Oil Is Thicker Than Blood' is upon us and the incessant barrage of techno bomb-blasts leaves the listener dumbfounded amidst a tumbling mass of holistic noise.
This truly is a take it or leave it CD but definitely gets my vote of confidence due to its obscure mix and challenging compilation. Faultless throughout except for the hidden track which can be ignored or regarded as a very deep wound indeed. I prefer to ignore as the 4 tracks here are a small snippet of brilliance that over several albums may turn sour and bore the listener but over this striking period of time the verdict is one of admiration.
CITIZEN KEYNE - UNGREAT BRITAIN
Proper scrapyard punk here with a street urchin feel that is ideal for 'erberts who like their fix dosed with sobering reality and down to earth opinions. All subjects are easily related to if you are in a state of disgust with this Septic Isle and are truly pissed off with the shithole it is becoming.
'Lies' kicks off and has odours of embryonic skinbo music but with a bit more clout in all areas. Great simplistic guitar, deliberate drum cracks and sturdy bass all provide the perfect partners for the disgruntled vocals that rave unrest against the Fleet Street shower that continually shovel shit our way. 'Chaos' chases up the opener in disillusioned style and continues the 'fucked off' theme. Good song and 'Chavs' hits the back of the net for the 3rd time in a row with its brilliant put down of those manky wanky shithawks that anyone of a decent stance considers societies dross. It's a real basic song but it is more than apparent that this is a real crowd pleaser. And why not indeed? A true example of why poncy intricacies are not always needed when composing a ditty.
Dusting down the 'Docs' and donning the 'Harri' its up and at it with 'Boot Sales Tales' which cracks in with some real old Oi guitar riffs as the song moonstomps along jibing at the garbage people flock to buy at your Sunday morning car boot farces.
'Don't Tell Me' thumps out a defiant beat, 'Murder In The City' remains angry with today's violent society, and 'Bollox' is a real star striker with each line of each verse full stopped by a raging vocal blast of the songs title. The chorus is as solid as a 12 hole steel capped boot and really kicks some arse.
The next track is the title track, namely 'Ungreat Britain' and what a fuckin' winner it is. Fully focused and the streaming verses blast into the fundamental but totally effective chorus of 'Ungreat Britain - Pile Of Shit'. I fuckin' love this paradoxical moment that is delivered with patriotic pride but boldly states the current mode of affairs. You can feel the nausea throughout the CD but nowhere is it more apparent than in this topnotch number.
The album closes with 4 more corking tracks (and one average offering) ideal for realistic streetpunks with no time to beat around the bush and dilly dally with dippy dickheads. 'Pinstripe Pigs' hints at nihilism, 'Stabbing, Shootings', simply says what it says on the tin then asks why?
'Shut The Door' is the weak willy in an army of hard-ons, 'Lager' is the pisspots party piece and 'Floyds Arse' is the token gesture comedic piece.
A Great British CD unashamedly honest and to the point and if the crowds react as they did to Herefords Ronnie Radford and his 1972 thirty yard screamer against Newcastle United then I suspect they will be quite pleased.
PHOBIA - STOP THE KILLING YOU SUPPORT
80's outfit Phobia are back and one of the CD's you can get your hands on at the moment is this 6 track demolishment of sound that is a right good listen and is a totally valid piece of passsionate punk rock.
With heavy atmosphere and themes as relevant today as they were back in the Cold War days this rampaging tirade against the system, war, politics and the filth operating therein is a must for lovers of anarcho hardcore that is reminiscent of Discharge and the like.
'Prime Sinister' has a dark decadence enhanced by a deep bass pulse and a basic guitar riff that compliment each as well as the dual vocal onslaught. A cast iron opener that is followed by the cliched but effective 'Nuclear Attack'. A song typical of its time but as good as anything of this ilk. The same can be said of 'Excruciating Pain' a pacey track that thrives on energetic anger and urgency and seems hellbent on bursting the eardrums.
'Another Nightmare' is a stated piece that has the typical 1 line chorus with no allusion to fuckin' about and no time for fancy frills. Effective but the most orthodox hardcore offering of the 6 tracks.
Back to the nuclear theme with 'Anti Nuclear Device' that starts with a smart bass line escorted by a nice whining guitar. A good intro which sets the scene for an ominous 6 string riff that finally erupts into an Exploited-style assault worthy of a place alongside any of Wattie's ravings.
To finish we have another oppressive burst of sable rage. 'Your Cover Is Blown' looms large and with scything guitar strokes, heavy yelling blasts and a machine-like backdrop of apocalyptic darkness the song is complete.
A deliberate UK hardcore hammering here and one that works well despite the retro lyrics. A great live band too and hopefully there are some new recordings in the pipeline - the punk scene I am sure would be most grateful if there are!
THE JOHN PLAYER SPECIALS - IDENTIFICATION EP
Amidst the scattered tables of Cafe Ska I contemplate the aroma of the next chosen brew pushed my way, carefully assessing the flavour and composure. Will it be a bitter blend of unpalatable tune, void of any depth? I think not! For the five track CD by The John Player Specials, wonderfully served by the inebriated waiter known as Miller, is a beautiful mix of skanking herbs and creamy rhythm. A truly refreshing beverage that flows smooth down a throat scorched by years of punk malevolence.
'Knocking On Wood' wonderfully opens and in truth is a massive moment of ska genius. Clean, fluffy and relaxed, the song is as infectious as they come and the subtle use of trombone works quite deliciously alongside the meandering bass rhythms, emotive vocals and uplifting percussive beat.
'Future Of Tomorrow' majestically begins before flowing along in an idling, pensive haze that is both inspired and serene. An effective montage of pastel shades that alone may be considered unconvincing but when magically merged with this level of ingenius expertise creates a potent force that leaves the onlooker cum listener dumbfounded with admiration.
The pace increases for 'Bad Town' but the main essence of tranquility remains and the opulent textures of sound are again an aural pleasure. The joyous juvenescence encountered so far is accomplished and an addictive opiate giving each track life, soul and reason. The passionate, velvet tones of 'Identification' make this a quartet of quality. A slightly heavier beat here with more intent but lightly sugared to result in another high calibre hit.
The sombre tones commencing 'Written In Stone' forewarn of the CD's nearing demise and are reminiscent of a Dickensian Hovis advertisement that is draped in melancholic weariness and sobering overtones. The main vibe is eventually borne and we are given a somewhat reggae/skank hybrid that works well and just briefly exposes a new facet of the JPS talent.
A really, really enjoyable CD that surely will be one of my year end favourites. I rate this band very highly and adore the pace of their songs as well as their live shows. Simplistic but mightily effective and one of the best ska CD's around. A debut effort that promises of some truly outstanding stuff to come. Truly excellent!
TNS - MUSIC BY PEOPLE WHO DRINK CIDER IN THE GUTTER
A momentous occasion for the Manchester scene as fanzine and gig pushers That's Not Skanking turn their hands to record making with this the debut 20 track compilation that features an abundance of favourites from the monthly TNS nights. As far as promotion goes this has been a mighty, admirable effort but would the CD live up to all the expectation and hype?
Well initial listenings didn't impress and if truth be known it is another CD in a market awash with compilations but...
The people who run this label are worthy of the utmost respect due to the unflinching, non-profit making attitude they adopt and their wholesome belief in the underdog. So, as is the norm, the CD was given time and patience and I hold my hands high above my head and admit, initial impressions were wrong. Like a solid sherry left to mature these tracks get better with time and careful attention to detail highlights what a great crop of bands TNS have built around them albeit oh so slightly similar and lacking the odd sprinkling of hardcore, retro punk and surf-o-rama. Nevertheless this is a quality product and at £4 you miserable bastards are being spoilt rotten.
A quality kick-off comes in the form of 'Midnight Scene' by The Dangerfields, a fast, blast that is continued by ROPM's 'Get Pissed, Talk Shit, Dance Like An Idiot'. Not the latters best song and this is definitely a live number where the energy can be seen rather than imagined. The Kirks sound tight enough with the cracking 'Rats' and the albums zenith is immediately attained with The 'Mighty' Shadowcops and the remarkable 'Putsch'. Just sheer class and the following track from Buzzkill, namely 'Broken Picture' does well to compete. A choice band though and Buzzkill are another shining moment.
For me the next major highpoint is the doubling up of two fine bands, Just Panic and Harijan. The formers effort 'Crime' is well crafted and very expertly delivered whilst the latters ditty 'Curriculum Vitae' has always been one of my faves and is a real delicious piece of smooth skank.
The Fractions next and a biased opinion free of charge. Great band, great song - there you go!
The final stretch has many fine moments with Speeding Bee making tasteful honey via 'Cat. Pie. Bake'. A great chorus and some joyous jig pulsations. Faintest Idea's contribution of 'See You In The Gutter' is a ripping fave of mine and a choice Skapunka moment combining the fluidity of ska and the raucous, rudimentary gruffness of punk. Nice!
The Hyperjax ooze professionalism with 'English Country Garden' with the ensuing 'Bourbon' by Medicine Bow a bluesy burst of moonshine scorched guitar and freshly smoked vocals. 'Binge Drinker' by Mr International and the Getaway Gang is indeed like certain alcoholic beverages as in the fact that it tastes better with every sample. Sounds of Swami rambunctiously rave, and in truth occasionally lose control but the power and gusto make 'Identity Crisis' worthy of praise. Death By Decibels deliver expected quality, this time with 'Song For The Union' and The Shuffle close in decent style with 'Rise Or Fall'.
The final verdict is of a good CD aimed at a specific audience rather than embracing the many flavours punk has to offer. Production is consistently high and one or two moments are truly outstanding. Certain offerings fall short of the mark with the overall ambience being similar. TNS are a valid part of the punk scene and worthy of support but in future I would like to see their many arms open a little wider and reach a little further in search of many more flavours. Supporters of TNS will love it, the neutral will like it and the old school brigade will, in the majority, ignore it. I personally like it and would recommend anyone interested in punk to pay up.
FOOTNOTE: The hidden track by Matt Woods namely 'So Straight Edge I'm On Daytime TV' is the work of a mentally disabled maniac - in other words - fuckin' brilliant!
STUNTFACE - PAIN IS ONLY TEMPORARY, GLORY LASTS FOREVER
The 3rd release and the first as a 3-piece from Welsh outfit Stuntface and for me this more melodic and restrained offering is the best yet. The songs are distinctly less metalised than on previous releases and a more rhythmic and organised approach seems to have been adopted with a higher ratio of rockin' moments had.
'Every Dog (Has His Day)' ignites the CD into action and it is a mighty blast and one you are sure to remember from any live viewings. 'Empty Vessels' is a typical track from this improving band and has their own brand of punky, high energy stamped all over it. 'The Go To Hell Blues' is the albums most venomous and best track. Hard driven with foot pushed down on the accelerator, the whole composition is a veritable dragster oozing power.
'Black Walls' is an average number that survives on anger but 'TV Told You So' is a quality moment that buzzes with adrenaline and is obvious 'rat-tat-tat' punk. 'Drop The Bomb' is a Frederikson-esque piece, 'Do The Don'ts' seems self destructive and lyrically is a wild abandoned piece whilst 'You Deny' is the albums nadir and fails to find any spark .
The final 4 tracks (plus one hidden) get back on line and close the album in decent style with 'One Last Thing' the pick and a good parting shot to a dozen tracks that display the progress Stuntface are making.
Album 4 is going to be a real test for this band as I feel the sound they use has now been exhausted and it is at this juncture in their careers that new avenues need to be explored. Interesting times ahead and whether or not they succeed will depend on skill and the willingness to take a chance.
THE DESPONDENTS - FOUR SLICES OF BRITISH SPUNK
We have here 5 sterling tracks that surf along on the tidal wave of groovy punk and hip twisting guitar. The only complaint is the sub-standard production that mars what could have been one helluva CD but in some paradoxical way assists in giving a unique identity! However this is still jitterbugging good and a fresh whoelesome approach is felt as the short, fruity tunes pop at ya one after another.
Originally on vinyl format Side A offers 2 tracks by the names of 'Advice' and 'California'. 'Advice' is a rumbling melody that checks in at 1 minute 15 seconds and is a decent opening gambit that seems as though it would be at home in a 1950's sleazy diner that is awash with noxious smoke and shaking with the vibe of frenzied rockabillys dancing in crazed fashion beneath sweat and brylcream soaked quiffs manically a-quiver.
Track 2 is the CD's high note and going by the aforementioned name of 'California' is a remarkable Beach Boy/Punk effort initially filling ones mind with visions of that old TV classic Hawaii Five-O. One can almost see Jack Lord jigging away at a backstreet gig responding to his leuitenants request to stop because the punters are laughing with the immortal words of 'Fuck Em' Danno'. Stunning track and the Flying Lizards snippet is a nice inclusion.
Onto the flip-side or if you are on CD then track 3. 'Schizophrenia' opens with twisted metallic guitar before becoming more placated. The verse and chorus are bog brush standard but so what! Too many bands miss out on this simplistic yet effective mode of delivery in search of more intricate pieces that regularly fall short of the mark. Another good track and in keeping with the standard set 'Gotta Get Away' closes the quartet in equal glory although this time the overall ambience is more manic and disturbed.
The bonus track is a most welcome addition as this CD is over way too quickly. 'She's Got It Bad' commences with emboldened drums and gives way to an early punk 'n' roll effort sounding similar to many an embryonic US dingy dive classic.
Overall the corrosive sound sound and high beat melody combine to make a noise that is roughly refreshing and merrily fun. A good on-stage band and these tracks are ideal for the live arena.