FUNGALPUNK - CD REVIEWS Page 32
RUNNIN' RIOT - BOOTS AND BALLADS
A band here that have done their time, paid attention to detail and reaped the benefits massively here with what is a classic album full of well organised songs that reflect an outfit who pack a punch and know how to create a rabble rousing rhythm that is liable to be up there with the best. This is genuine working class Oi that has all the backstreet grime, cobblestone realism and boots and braces passion that so many bands have lost in the midst of their self-inflated egos. For me a true indication of a big-hearted working class outfit.
'Lost Generation' wastes no time in setting a lofty standard with a saturated sound that retains rhythm, breaks sweat and punches hard. Without delay the intention is bared for all to see and the mean-driven song that we have under scrutiny is a fine example of what makes this whole gathering so darn effective. We tunefully enter into the fray before a quick screwdriving screech of taut strings throws us entirely forward and leaves us helpless against a sinewy shout and clout free for all that seems a celebration of all that is good in the world of Oi. The guitar breaks into semi-siren mode on several occasions and almost gives warning of a band that is making a noise not to be trifled with. Full heed is taken and the all-absorbing upheaval pleases no end.
'That's When The Boots Fly In' fires a 4 cymbal alert and then we are bang at it with traditional beefy assertiveness that persuades the noggin to get bobbin' and the boot to set to tapping. Guitars flash and sway with consistent riffage and the drums roll, splash and thud maintaining time and giving strong foundation. It's more of the same for 'The Estate' with gritty deliveries all around and the same steady production. No complaints at all and the chorus here is pure crowd pleasing stuff that accentuates the whole composition no end. All is forthright and has a subtle undercurrent of being perturbed of the way things are with the ingrained anger being restrained but effective enough to be noticeable and have impact.
After 3 attention-grabbing efforts the tempo and quality raises even higher with the consummate brilliance of 'Double The Pain'. The output bounces along on booted soles of melody before climaxing in a crescendo of splashing perfection that is the chorus. A definitive 'in the pit' moment where the head can just simply 'go' and be given over to the whole fuckin' vibe. Smashing stuff in everyway you can imagine and the entire embodiment of a band who know their 'Oi'nions - and it will make ya fuckin' eyes water too!
'Ode To The Working Man' comes in and promises a ballad. That's what we get - with dirtied hands the saga of the closure of mills and docks are told with how the effects ran deep into the heart of an everyday family and brought about a total despondence. You want spirit - well here we have it shovelled our way with perspiration and utter belief. Get that!
The next three songs are absolutely fuckin' stunners and if ya don't kick your front door off its hinges, go down the local punk rock gig, get plastered and pogo until yer hearts content then I really don't know what will inspire you. A brutality of output, a deep-seated honesty and a vibe of inner violence make these songs shakes arse and create a feeling of such well-being that the punk soul is motivated to move. 'Frank' slams in with ultra-Oi urgency and just builds in momentum as the song progresses. It is a full-contact riot that is brief, makes a lasting impression and moves on into the fray with the helping hand coming in the form of the following 'Bold As Brass'. The song title rings true here with a holistic feel of an all-consuming defiance that relates a tale about a Belfast Punk Rocker, that in truth, could have been written for any one of us with a bit of that spikey old spirit. A chest thumping belief transcends the limiting boundaries of the stereo and we have one of those moments that hits the mark and brings us all together in unifying glory of this dirty, dingy scene in which we dwell. Total fuckin' class and 'King Of The Swig' completes the 3 card trick with a supping serenade to swill yer ale to and one which has you head-banging in entranced appreciation. The musical void is filled with pacey melody and rockin' rhythm that doesn't let up at all. Hard grafted ditties to be played in the boozer - nothing more, nothing less and I love it for this facet only - nowt else needed.
'Tribute' brings the emotive force of the band into play and although much slower in pace wins the day with its heartfelt intent and obvious honest passion. The defiance that death shall not part or defeat is ingrained into the entirety of the track and again full applause to the band for being able to change tack with comfortable ease and still retain the general atmosphere created so far. 'Ballad Of A Gluesniffer' is a fuckin' gem that starts off like some metalised hybrid but soon turns into a chugging monster that will devour up all your resistance with its totally sing-a-long infection and down to earth, relatable lyrics. Anyone who has had a dabble on the old Evo should get well into this and flashback to times when we really didn't give a toss. Those carefree days of buzzing heads is well captured here and no doubt a few of these 'erberts have had a sniff-ter or two in their time.
'On The Dole' finishes in fine style with all components of band and song just adding their own weighty touch and bringing about a purely perfect finale to a CD to relish. Everything good about this whole offering is regurgitated in this final blast and the end result is completed with an emboldened exclamation mark of utter brilliance. There is a secret track 'Oi Oi Angel' to follow and yes it does the business yet this time has a real grooving undercurrent that gives hints at a more rock 'n' roll edge which is coated nicely with Runnin' Riots' glossy touch. I can't fault it and the feminine vocals I hope offer an insight into something extra for the next offer from this frightfully overlooked band who deserve to be one of the real forces in this murky scene.
I hope Runnin' Riot get the accolades they deserve and on the back of this album anyone who plays with these guys better be on form - and I mean anyone! This CD is crack quality and bleeds quality and commitment to the cause. All skinbo’s should get this in their collection immediately and I suggest every other fucker in the scene does so as well - it is an absolute blast.
PRAIRIE DUGZ - NO EXCUSES
I have reviewed quite a few of these tracks before albeit in a different format so when the punk rock fanatic and Dugz frontman Ram asked me to appraise this little album I thought it would be a doddle. Not so as with Ram at the helm and mouthing out the tunes we have a whole new sound that needs evaluating on its own individual merit. The punk edge is still there and the Dugz come out shining but it would be rude, careless and totally unpunk not to give this a few good listens.
We have lift off with a track called 'No Survivors' - a burst of metallic bass, some quick slam-dunks of all instruments and away we go. Baton down the hatches and get fuckin' punked up - this is pure spiky topped music and if you want more than that then go fuck right off. The Dugz have no pretensions and are under no illusions about what they play. This is straightforward punk that is played well, with a full on passion and of such a relatable rhythm that only the new-school misdirected minions will fail to appreciate. The reality of the sound, the basic approach and the rusted end noise make this what it is and it is of such a style that I can't fail to admire. So far everything from this lot has hit the mark with me and my only criticisms here would be that maybe Ram's gob has been produced a little too low. Compared to the CD's masterpiece (Lockdown) this may be food for thought but others may disagree. A fuckin' good start and one that is immediately reinforced with the better 'Final Youth'. A bit more cultured this one and one that shows are few more subtleties within the Dugz repertoire and thus proves we ain't dealing with no mugs here. From the initial vinylised fuzz to the emotive initial vocals that are escorted with cutting guitar riffs the song wins big and the chorus is simply an added bonus that will have punters joining along with especially in the 'live' arena.
Charging on we come to the first major warning of the CD with some ominous notes hit before the complete tumult that is 'Invasion' slams right into the aural guts with the now apparent punk gusto. Typical and straightforward with some good musical execution the song seems to relish the punk filth the Dugz impregnate into the whole darn mess and overall it is a compliment to the band and where their heart and foundations lie. 'No Excuses' cracks the whip immediately and wastes no time - thundering in then breaking up in a whirlpool of rolling drums before a quick pause and then the strong arm of the song poleaxes with gritty intensity. A rabid insistence that foams punkology tears into out very being before the final injection of putrid poison is given via a primitively effective chorus. Again some granite musicianship is had and the genre is blessed with another band who are under-rated and overlooked by oh too many fuckers. Nonetheless I suspect the Dugz will soldier on and keep producing the goods. Talking of which...
'Lockdown' is a master stroke and indicates everything good about this band and the substance they are consistently ejaculating into the gaping maw of the bewildered punters. The whole effort is accurate and to the point with subtle classiness that makes this the pinnacle of the bands latest expulsions. It is vomited out with swollen passion and all areas combine and rebound off one another to reinforce the final bomb blast.
'Burn, Burn America' courts controversy and after a recent lambasting via an e-mail from a popular US punk site the Dugz still go ahead with the release and show everyone punk is about freedom of speech amongst many other things. A good song too and everyone in this British scene who is pig sick of the yank wank influence and ways of war will undoubtedly like this one.
'Get Outta My Way' is staccato in feel and after opening with deeply grooved bass the track humps and pumps with consistent precision and is a nice switch of style and much welcome at such a late stage in the CD. Good song that is easily caught on to and leading smartly into the harsher and more intense 'Surveillance'. Rock solid Dugz dirt as per usual and capping off another steady output from the spirited Scots who give it their all and so far never fail.
As if this ain't enough you lucky fuckers get 3 extra track 2 of which are covers to please your nostalgic nuts with - The Clashes' 'What's My Name', Shams 'Borstal Breakout' and the Dugz' very own 'Chaos' all done with decent attention to detail and with The Clash number being my personal fave. Why I thought the latter was a vcover is beyond me but such is the way when distractions is my life (no complaints though).
So in summing up - The Prairie Dugz are a bread and butter punk band who just seem to keep on coming up with effective, realistic punk rock that is straight out of the shitehouse into yer glued up heads. I'd like to criticise it but this is my kind of degenerate noise and if the Dugz keep coming up with this sort of stuff I'll have no gripes whatsoever.
BORN TO DESTRUCT - WE BRING THE NOISE
This is Born To Destructs second release to date and after the initial foundations were laid down by a very fair opening account (First Steps To Destruction) I was expecting a little more this time around with the main target being to stretch the young vocal lass and to experiment with a few different styles within the band. Attention to detail was more than apparent with a nicely packaged product and a well planned inner fold-out. It is always important to present your merchandise effectively and BTD do that most excellently here so alls well at this point.
Right to the songs in question - 14 tracks and 1 bonus with a bit more of the same, some new territory covered and a few songs that just miss the mark yet offer oodles of promise.
We commence with 'Ego' a song that seems as though it is a carry-on from the proceeding album and although with a better production the start can only be classed as steady rather than stunning. I am a great believer in initial impact and opening gambits need gumption. This gets on with the job without grabbing balls and exhibiting any roaring flamboyance and for me that is a minor blip that is worth noting for album 3. The track is built on grinding guitars as heard on previous bursts and the drums ache to roll but just give a stable rhythm rather than take risks and force the other player’s hands. Not a bad start but there is better in the boiler. '2nd Fallen Angel' does indeed follow on from a song on the previous album amazingly entitled 'Fallen Angel'. This one moves through the gears and outdoes its opponent and adds a few classy touches that breed further interest. Vocal vixen Kat still doesn't push as hard as she should but the notch is moved up. 'Leech' gains further height and the key here is that this youthful crooner is given a bit more volume and thus has to reach to vocal pastures new. The song has a more solid feel than what has gone before and is the best so far and is more of what I was expecting. A comfortable riff is played out and the male/female duel is an area that BTD are destined to succeed with. The pace here seems to be slightly more progressive and you can feel the band benefit. The drums finally exploding is relief indeed and the constipated build up seems flushed forever.
'Take' punks in and dee dahs to the verse where similarity is maintained but is overshadowed by a two word statement/times four chorus that operates nicely amid a cute backdrop of noise. This song drags us to the precipice and leaves us on the brink of an all out watershed of unaffected confidence but just won't take the plunge. Go on BTD - jump ya buggers. Despite these frustrations I like what I am hearing so far and am unprepared for the duff duck that is 'Spineless'. Sorry everyone but I don't like this at all as the whole song fails to find an identity, the pace is too blatantly similar and the chorus lacks any real zest. I bet the many will disagree (What Fungal in the minority - never ha, ha) but these are my honest feelings and the song slips by unnoticed and is devoid of any saving feature. It is nicely played but nah - not for me.
'Rumble' could head the same way as its predecessor but has guitar twists and a chorus that brings in a male influence and so pulls itself together. The blip comes in the general delivery that although instantly makes the band recognisable could become a distraction and more worryingly an annoyance further along the BTD line. 'Be careful' is the warning here as the intolerance of the scene can be costly and has halted many bands from making further progress by bringing about an untimely demise. Testing the water with a cymbal inspection 'Be Afraid' seems hesitant and the welcome relief of the prominent guitar is much welcome. The whole aspect changes here and again is well-timed. We drift now to a number that chugs and grinds with a stubborn edge that needs attention. There are inklings here of another more successful route for the band and these options must be heeded if full potential is to be captured. A good attempt to vary the ingredients is made and 'Killing Me' does exactly the same with a fairground funk-along break that fragments the whole mix into several segments yet brings the song into a form of unity. Again the melodic mania that is included here teases rather than wanks fully off and I have got to say all these sneaky elements have the flavours to contribute to an album of epic proportions. This isn't the album but the build up will be appreciated more when the golden gates are fully opened.
So far all is fairly well and although the wordage at this point could be construed as being on the negative side I challenge this wholeheartedly and claim with honesty and belief in this outfit that all I say is with the betterment of the band in mind. With things so far I am equally satisfied and dissatisfied insomuch as that the band has indeed progressed and experimented but also that the floodgates are only slightly ajar and to be honest I will do all I can to kick em' off their hinges and get Kat and the crew bursting their guts out.
Pedalling on and we come to 'Some Things Never Change'. This is gonna go down well with many a punter but for me a flaw is had and the brave attempt that introduces two components from different spheres comes slightly unstuck here. The intro gives promise and the verse builds nicely as does the chorus until the sudden dead end stop that mixes a strum/vocal/strum etc. exchange that has frontlady Kat experimenting once more with a kind of slurred delivery just doesn’t do her justice. Nail it me dear and nail it true - the voice is there - thrash them cords and aim at all times for distinct clarity. 'Neckbeard' rolls in and is the albums instrumental piece that I think is a lovely success. Bubbling bass notes add depth and the switches and twists retain interest and again give a peek at a future winning aspect the band may want to tap into a tad more often
'I Slit Your Throat (To Say I Love You)' works primarily because the innocent angelic vocals are a total contradiction to the lyrical matter and sinister sonic backdrop which is both intriguing and magical. A decent song done in by now true BTD mode that has all the trimmings of a readily identifiable outfit. Fortunately or unfortunately this song and everything else on the CD is eclipsed by an utter masterstroke that came about as a last ditch inclusion rather than lose what was a 'bolt from the blue' moment. 'Sick Scum And Apathy' is a ssweep of inspired genius and is everything this band should be doing and is the ultimate zenith that they should be reaching for. Without being conceited in anyway I feel all my earlier criticisms are now totally justified as this blindingly effective effort embraces everything I am trying to provoke this band into producing. Kat the vocal vixen at long last expands those lungs, breaks away from those experimental restrictions and just goes for it using nothing more than self-belief and natural ability. Go girl go! The band thrive here with a tune that is just an episode of simplistic solidity and tattoos into the cerebral gunk a moment to savour over and over again. A real two fingered 'fuck right off' to any doubters and detractors and for someone who is both fan and objective reviewer a punk rock blessing that has me smiling from lug to lug. Well done all round.
From this pinnacle the CD will never recover and that in itself is a fact but not one to be upset about. Don't forget this is the bands 2nd serving and if the previous track gives a peephole pervert view of disk 3 then all is very well within the BTD camp. We have another instrumental next with a summer dream taken straight out of a Cadburys Flake advert and placed on a punk album. The babbling brook, the charm of youthful laughter and the trill of the lark bring us to an unexpected musical oasis which I once again utterly admire. A real chancers album this is turning out to be and why not? I would have liked to have seen this one open the album and leave a few jaws on the floor but hey that's Mr Pernickety at it again so please ignore. The serenity is scythed away and 'We Bring The Noise' segues in and is a song I initially hated, then debated and came up with the opinion that it ain't half bad and should do well in the 'live' arena. It is a good one to finish on but the Destruction buggers add a bonus track and so keep this Fungal fuckers digits tapping and the RSI thriving - aaagghhh!
'World Peace' commences in grandiose style before kazooing along with gusto. The ethos is a totally lovely sentiment and I am sure if guitarist Woodstock had any hair the daft old sod would have a flower in it. Very hippy dippy but not bad at all and so the CD closes.
Well as you may gather the Fungal one wants more but in truth is far from displeased with this. Most worthy of a purchase and a sneaky step forward for a band destined to outshine this one by a million miles. The BTD progress will be slow and steady but hey - what's the rush. If a band curves upwards then that is all I ask and this lot do just that. If you liked the first outpouring this is a must, if you like bands who are willing to take a chance then again a veritable essential item is this and finally if you want to support a decent band who are trying to do things in their own unique style and be as positive and darn decent along the way then you have no choice but to buy this. Go on be a punk for once!
THE STEADY BOYS - ROOTS
With emphasis on style, an old-skool sound with added class and upbeat melodies The Steady Boys have an entire arsenal of musical firepower to call upon and for me this 12 track debut album is just the first of many top notch assaults that you can expect from a highly impressive band that are on a sharp upward curve and I reckon are destined for a bright and successful future. Then again with the amount of idle headed wankers in this scene who knows - all one can do is wish em' well and push their cause. Right here's my take on the album.
'Run To The Guns' does indeed sprint along and is the first ear-catching gem of many treasures to be found in this flashy box of tricks. We squeal in with chinking guitar before a well-timed drum beat organises the music with tidy efficiency and the whole effort thrives from the first verse. The blending of both verse into the initial chorus is smooth and controlled and helps the song maintain pace and impact. At 1 minute 29 seconds the instrumental slow down is remarkably inserted and helps prepare for the impending closure. All areas compliment one another and a solid opening is had. 'Coldstream Guards' makes the initial impression of being something easy to assess but in truth finds me wanting for appropriate wordage. An excellent upbeat song that captures an old skool naiveté which eludes the typing digits. The opening is positive and then the drums and vocals are deserted for the greater part of the verse before the strings slip back in. The scarcity of sound could cause a breakdown but the tidiness of the band is such that the technique is dealt with professionally and the lead into the basic yet enjoyable chorus is a hit.
I have already had the pleasure of reviewing 'Rewind The Mess' in a previous incarnation and this rehashed version is as good, if not better, than the remarkable original cut. It is all down to how your lugs are tuned in but I like both efforts as the basic rawness from the first works accordingly whereas the professionalism of the updated version has greater effect. The electrified strums that twang in create a comfort that never lets up and once the excellent vocals and extra melody are added the concoction is complete and we are left with a very delightful track indeed. The chorus is sublime and convinces all and sundry that we have a more than capable squadron reliant on chancing their arms with risky 60's sounding music that is ravaged by a modern day delivery. Very exciting fuckin' stuff and a real snippet of supreme excellence. 'Proper Education' is a loosely delivered number in as much as there is a real laid back approach that borders on the arrogant but is nothing other than another brilliant song played with a perspiration free sanguinity. Throughout its length the entire sonics cruise from the disk and win complete favour with drums, vocals, guitar and bass all in top notch form.
The backstreet garage noise that commences 'Don't You See' promises something different and the ballad-esque delivery is indeed just that and done with quiet proficiency. It is a nice switch and drops nicely between the preceding track and the pursuing upbeat business of 'Dead End Jobs'. From a dreamy float to a bit of white water urgency with all players seemingly holding back from a full-on capsize into an overly fussy song. The restraint is timely and the song ends up a piece of highly listenable tuneage.
'Footsoldier' follows and will no doubt be everyone's fave tune after the first few rotations. It has all the scars of a song to be instantly enjoyable and bounces along through the chorus with intermittent catchy 'all-together' shouts of 'It’s the rise, its the rise, of the footsoldier'. Simple and mightily ensnaring and another nod of appreciation. 'Your Life's On Me' is another melodic piece with a solid message and a more cultured sound. Rather than be easily transparent the sound has more depth than first given credit for so listen up ya bastards and listen up good now!
'Open Your Mouth' tranquilly strums forth chaperoned by those by now identifiable vocals and enthralling skanky riffs. This is a daydreaming gem and encapsulates what The Steady Boys do well and that is create a general ambience of feel good fervour with highly infectious tuneage. It feels simple but it isn't and anyone in a band trying to seize hold of elusive engaging rhythms will know only too well what I am getting at here. Marvellous and we march into war with the rolling drumming of 'Can't Hear The Alarm'. before being suddenly called to attention with a Stonesy guitar snippet that is totally unexpected. This song undulates quite delicately but has a breathlessness about it that shows effort is indeed being given. It is a relatively short effort but it doesn't really matter as it gets you to the albums zenith even sooner than expected. 'North By North' is the bands best cut to date and will entice fans from many genres with its intricate composition and resolute rhythmic output. The vocalist seems to have to put in a bit more clout here and so the rest of the crew get dragged along and all come out smelling of radiant roses.
We close (sadly) with 'What's The Point (In Fighting)' a song that would seem more relevant in the dingy nightclubs of yesteryear when every gig was plagued by punch-ups involving skins, punks, rastas, and general bovver boys. It would have gone down a pertinent storm then but will still do OK in these still tetchy times. More appropriate really to what goes on outside the scene I suppose (in a physical sense) but a totally justifiable effort. Again a Rolling Stones seasoning is hinted at with the opening guitar twangs leaving me in mind of one very famous song indeed. This is a brief moment and The Steady Boys move in with their own style very quickly and we are given a song that is quite quirky and somewhat of a reggae/skank oddity that as me at a loss as regards an overall evaluation. Good but a niggling puzzle!
So The SB's do the business with their opening album and I expected nothing else. This is a fine band whom I hope stay in touch with their 'roots' and play here, there and everywhere in pursuit of doing nothing more than pleasing an ever growing audience. I for one hope they do well for themselves but I suspect they are going to have to work damn hard despite having a plethora of quality numbers. Such is the scene!
DREWVIS - FOR THE WIN
A one man show CD here with 7 tracks that integrate an optimism, bitterness and sadness into one melodic mixing bowl and come up with a tuneful tart that I for one like the taste of. This isn't punk and it isn't ska - for me it is simplistic acoustica that has been mulled over for many a moment and captured with scrutinous attention in mind to the final clarity of sound. Normally I could be found guilty of overseeing an offering such as this but seeing as the CD was sent to me for review by that excellent Do The Dog label I thought it only fair to put in the ear work and listen in carefully. Yes I am impressed although I don't know why! Perhaps it is the aforementioned clearness or the remarkably effective simplicity that just holds ones attention with every 6-stringed strum. Either way it is a lovely little mini-album and a choice sneak preview into an artiste with an abundance of talent.
We open with the confident sways of 'Nearly Departed' before being briefly held up in our tracks and then scuttled forward. The vocals drift in with a carefree resonance but do the job with efficiency. The staccato guitar work seems opposed to the lyrical spillage but both merge well into one another throughout the verse and succeed further during the more hopeful chorus. The words seep out a feeling of being let down but the song certainly doesn't do that and the opening strokes are solid. We move up several rhythmic rungs with the inspired delicacies of 'Resolution'. The starting guitar is crystal clear, a theme that runs throughout these entire 7 offerings and this song in particular. The slightly mean intent slips into stop/start mode beneath some wonderful wordage that is silver-tongued service of the highest order and makes this the winning track of the entire disc. There is a dangerous element here that gives hint of tiptoeing on the precipice of the convoluted but the track remains firm and retains a certain minimalism that pleases no end.
Another cracking song to gush over is 'Fear And Self Loathing'. Again the guitar has a similar approach as to what has gone before but the mix of astringent lyrics and nonchalant delivery in theory contradict one another but inconsistently go against the grain and actually work together in obscure harmony. Whether or not this is a deliberate methodology is neither here nor there - the evidence is that it pays big time and maintains the high class start to this impressive output.
The anti-ego and no-compromise stance that comes across via the warblings of 'Ten Pin Bowling' remains ambiguous and the start is a nice nervous stuttering that just can't seem to make up its mind as to whether the song is worth continuing with. Well it turns out that the decision to go ahead is fully justified with another honest, spacious track that has a jerky rhythm that takes a little acquiring to. I like it and I am reviewing it so that will do for me and I am sure a few others may agree - best get a copy then hadn't you - push, push. I like the following song basically because it makes sense and is about picking up the spirits and re-arranging the thinking mode into a state of genuine positivity. We all slip into the doldrums now and again and 'You're Gonna Get There' is a refreshing tonic to drink deeply from. The acoustic persuasiveness is charming and has a light, unflustered approach that oozes innocence and abandoned suggestiveness. The cleanliness of the sound is what makes these tracks work and rather than drape the outpourings in melancholic cowls of sombre weariness one can quite easily pick up on the fact that there is a real attempt to look for that silver lining and I reckon it should be bloody well appreciated.
'Happy Medium' just goes with the flow and is an average track that is a one way effort that has no highs or lows. An odd little thing that seems to be totally flatlined with chorus and verse hardly discernible from each other. Not a bad do but a little spark here and there would have been nice. The final track comes too soon and my newly acquired failing of Drewvismania is far from appeased. 'Head Up, Keep Smiling' ends on a plus factor tone and with a musical ambience that reminds me of a mouse on whizz (think about it) the rose-tinted outlook is much welcome and gives a final coat of vibrant varnish to an already twinkling track.
I rate this seven tracker for many reasons but primarily for its sharp execution, unaffected approach and a somewhat childlike charm. The innocence wins through and this is an outstanding example of it is not how much you cram into each release but how well the contents are composed. Worth a try by all and sundry on the inside or the outside of any scene. Praise I thinks indeed.
CARTOON VIOLENCE - WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LAD
With a name such as Cartoon Violence the imagery the mind conjures up appears by the bucket load with many a pesky cat and mouse getting bloodied and battered with all types of wicked instruments. You could be forgiven for having preconceptions of a band who don't take themselves seriously and produce amateurish knockabout slapstick sonics just for the sheer hell of it. Do not be misled! This is high quality tuneage from a pop/skank outfit that ejaculate class in every direction available. The songs are cultured, quirky and given a final glossy production that helps the cause no end. 9 songs of comfortable Class-A structure and delivery with the Fungal one very keen to hear a shed load more. I reckon that git at Do The Dog Records (yes Kevin Flowerdew - YOU) has a fuckin' laboratory somewhere and is cloning talented musicians - come on you bastard come clean now! Anyway it is another concrete release from the label and just highlights again the wealth a super skillage out there. Ska sirens blare loud and clear - take cover and head to a gig now - do not miss out on this stuff - it is a real upsurge in strength and the ska scene surely is destined to erupt once more to the fore of the music world.
The first track here goes by the name of 'Vauxhall Nova' and deals with a love affair that has the victim so absorbed in his female adulation that he lets himself be run down by the aforementioned vehicle which is driven by the target of his passions. Almost 'Crash'-like in a roundabout way and a nice individuality to the lyric is always welcome as an escape from the drinking, fighting and political tirades I hear so very, very often. Ignition on, keys out and tinkled accordingly and the drive of the first verse is upon us. Sanguine and well-paced the gear shift into the wonderful chorus is ideal and we slip back into more ebony and ivory jangles before we are re-versed and taken back down to chorus lane and briefly park up in instrumental/vocal grove to bask in some splendid sonic sunshine. Pedal down and journeys end is soon achieved with an initial trip to tantalise the travelling taste buds of tuneology.
The tale of heartbreak and reclusive thoughtfulness that comes next is a fuckin' gem and the lyrical brilliance and opposing joyous tune work for and against each other at the same time resulting in a very exciting musical moment. The negativity of the words are constantly questioned until a final plunge confirms everything that was feared is made reality as the love in question rebukes big time. The defeat could be overlooked if judgement was based on the music alone as all comes across as well and good. The music however is played with such excellent ability definite careful scrutiny is needed to fully appreciate what is going on here. The church-like 4-line segment towards the end is delivered in ushered tones and is a stroke of genius. The final disappointment is dealt with tidily and the closure is well-timed before we are soon thrown into the opening brilliance of 'Teresa'. I love the first verse and the whole compliment of skanking vibes and superb singing are a pinnacle to be admired. Play it over and over and the sonic scenery just becomes more and more impressive. The song shuffles along with a vibe that has more drive than is initially apparent and the consistent pace retains toe-tapping interest from first to last and is a beautiful lead into the pursuing seriousness of 'Cartoon Violence'. A sudden about turn is given and catches the listener unawares. A darkness of tone and a more serious edge make this track punctuate the whole album and rouses this reviewer into renewed life. Very effective and perfectly positioned and a total emboldening edge to it's counterparts on both sides of the sonic burst.
A cabaret cum musical approach next that seems a bastardised Manhattan Transfer cocktail clutterbucket that may be the odd sock in the basket but if assessed on nothing more than its individual identity does the job with aplomb. The theatrics run deep with 'Easy Tiger' and it is a most fitting track to transfer across to the DVD frontier and have all players turn their hands to a touch of amateur (or not ) dramatics. ‘Do Something About It’ is a delight with its 1970’s sitcom opening sequence that briefly ‘do dahs’ into a cosy chorus before a vocal red carpet is lain down to prepare us for a warming chorus that drips talent. By gum these guys know their onions and the lyrical spillage that deals with fickle screw around fuckers and a certain shallowness of character just wins in glorious style. The messages are indeed ambiguous and perhaps I have misread one or two but isn’t that the beauty of the poetical muso-script – make your own interpretations. We move on from one tootling gem to a creeping snippet of cultured perfection known as ‘Rattlesnake’. A hypnotic mood is set before a knee jerking rhythm is bobbed forth. The chorus is nothing short of par excellence and takes place without fluster or hesitancy. The rolling winning formula never lets up and is sanguinely carried through into the equally exciting 'Kite'. The song seems to hint at family break up and has a bit of defiantly frustrated anger in both vocal tone and musical atmosphere. The grooving screw of the guitar that opens instantly surprises and as quickly stops dead and turns into accustomed skank routine with keyed in company. Emotive, tetchy and the most vigorously active offering so far (especially towards the latter end) this again (without sounding repetitive) is a winner.
So we close and a beer is poured (in salute to a darn classy album) and the awe-inspiring tones of churchified sadness begin a final song that hints at a piss-take but comes across as a tragedy. A combination of morals and brewers droop make our hero/zero 'Johnny Come Lately' a figure to smile at and shed a tear for. The tune is just lovely and the 'that's life' approach to everyday niggles is done with pure craft. It is a great climax (ooops pardon the twisted pun Johnny) and closes the final page of a superb chapter in the career of Cartoon Violence.
A plethora of potential is located here and if CV attain the quality of these 7 tracks then they are going to earn some incredible praise and appreciation. One of the finds of the year for Mr Punky Pants here and it will be more than interesting as to what their next release will sound like and what in fact they are like as a 'live' band. The 'bands to see' list just gets bigger.
FORGOTTEN ROOTS – CROSSES AND CIRCLES
New (castle) noise here as a band unbeknownst to my fungaloid self dish out some seven tracks of youthful exuberance. I say seven but track one is just known as ‘Intro’ and is just that. A 19 second diddle that is a lightning flash that soon implodes and has us travelling at breakneck speed into the meat of ‘Cut It Out’. Very reminiscent of more renowned US bands with an equally effective execution and delivery. As expected we are in for a ride that veers off in various directions but still maintains the orthodox sound as previously mentioned. I thought I should (as per usual) check out the bands myspace page at this point and see what their influences actually are, I came up with ‘ A Wilhelm Scream, AFI, Alexisonfire, Alkaline Trio, Bayside, Face To Face, Funeral For A Friend, Green Day, Lawerence Arms, Millencolin, Pennywise, Rancid, Rise Against, Strike Anywhere, Mest, Strung Out, Madina Lake, Anti-Flag’. You get the gist. If you are of this fraternity you are gonna enjoy this but if you hate the yank influence please click ‘close window’ now.
So the opener is a decent do with a few roomier moments here and there to let the vocals shine. The melody is restrained I feel and a more prostituted sound towards the poppy end of the rhythmic rainbow wouldn’t have gone a miss here but the more quintessential rock undercurrent isn’t wasted and the end result is of a more than capable band who have just missed the chance of making a bolder entrance. A slight mishap but nothing to piss ones pants over.
‘Bats’ gushes forth and soon slips into a trooping routine with first verse priority on a march rather than a full on bayonet wielding charge. The song has a chance to blow skulls apart but plays it safe with a few rubber bullets up the arse. It ain’t bad but there is a whole lot more juice in the tomato of tuneage to be squeezed out here and as a reviewer if I can provoke a bit more ‘ooomph’ then the job is a good un’. The song does build in stature towards the end but I just wanted a little more earlier on. So all’s still well but Fungal is a greedy twat – ah well you gotta try. 'F03 - 405' drills in, slips into chug, chug verse and suddenly exudes a new found glory with a very effective chorus. The band nail every note and play with accomplished ease and this is by far the most complete track so far. Just after the midway point the song flirts with hesitancy but pulls through and finishes in adequate style. 'Too Much' begins with gentle persuasion. The eruption is expected and the ensuing urgency untypical but this is no way a dud track. The cut and thrust is on target and the subject matter will be related to by all and sundry in this booze ridden scene. I would have opted for a terser track and kept things at a minimum here and blasted heads with one fatal blow rather than go for a lengthy pummel (sounds almost sexual doesn't it - ooooh). A crescendo is eventually worked towards and the closure is fitting.
The guitar work at the start of 'Memories' operates efficiently and the tumble drum attack adds excitement. The incessancy is apparent and continues straight through the song even when the guitar cuts a dash and we are left with the four string rumble, the slamming one hit drums and the straining vocals. There is a belief here that only appears after several spins but the more care is taken the more it becomes apparent, and if the CD was a total bag of stinking shite this would win my favour anyway (come on now keep up - it is a punk reviewing this ya know). Good work lads and so to the finish and the bizarre entitled ditty of 'It's Not A Horse, It's A Zebra'. I am sure there is a real good profound message here but without lyrics I am missing it somehow. I just can't make out the full wordage so can only judge on muso moments alone. The messiest track so far insomuch as overall catchiness. It ain't badly played and the band obviously enjoy rattling it forth but it is the most awkward to aurally get to grips with. Maybe the general fussiness and the overly done switches make it unpalatable to the Fungal crust (which I highly suspect) but personally it is my least favourite. This should not detract from what as gone before and for me the band have a good honest CD on their hands that will cater for 'certain' punk sub-generic markets rather than be an all-encompassing hit with each individual scene.
The delivery is spot on, the production nice enough and the commitment apparent. Only the flavour is to be acquired but I reckon if this was coming over from the US then most would have a different opinion and be lapping up like arse-licking dogs. Stay neutral, shake off the shackles of sycophancy and appreciate a good band this side of the pond who do what they do well.
THE SKINTS – SELF TITLED
So another Do The Dog CD and this time we come from a shimmering angle of reggae calypso skank that refuses to rush the bush and jauntily swaggers along on nonchalant clouds of mellow melody. The final production is right on the mark and helps this obscure listening matter (only for myself personally of course) really magnetize interest and eventually appreciation.
Immediate gratitude is won with the entirely convincing breeze of ‘Murderer’ that couples a feminine/male rasta-head vocalisation within a lazy milieu of idling instrumentals. The lyrical matter seems to contradict the acoustic ambience but the opposition is a mere deception and the whole concoction works splendidly and sets a very solid touchstone that the band may just struggle to re-connect with in such a short space of time. Never one to underestimate obvious talent I move forward and am greeted with a song that deals with the depression of the system trying to dumb you down, condition your thoughts and tell you not to think for yourself. The song is a wicked whirlpool of busy music and it takes a little getting used to. The shuffling hustle of the start becomes almost breathless before flipping in a few different directions then beautifully floating to the sonic surface to regain air within the glorious solitude of melodica. Mean intent and defiance ensues and we are once again thrown another conundrum to crack. The plasticine modes of many genres are blended and the final mish mash is lurid yet appealing.
Paranoia runs deep through the next track but counterbalanced with a solid grain of damning reality that is both sober and dramatic. ‘Sociopath’ is gritty and gives rise to a world of distrust and selfishness – ring any bells does it? There is a piss-soaked bed-sit dreariness to this track that has a documentary style delivery that just oozes class and fine song construction. There is an initial defeatism that bares a conquered soul in a world of human shit and petty fucked up ideals which loom large against this litter strewn run down landscape. The Skints bear up well with this self-made apocalypse and somehow offer a salvation with a celebration of musical ability and downright defiance. The winding down swastika closure is sublime and a 100% winning moment that raises the CD to new, head-spinning heights. We come crashing back down with ‘Jungle Plane Wreck’ a song that I am not particularly a fan of and it is for no real reason whatsoever than just that – I don’t like it. It goes on too long, has no focus and never turns on my musically orientated cerebral nob and I guess it is just one of those. Like I say on many occasions ‘I can’t like every fuckin’ thing I hear’ and this is an example to back up that statement. The stops and starts, the busy crossroads were things pile up and the general misdirection leave me at a loss other than to say that if this song were carved up and made into 3 separate entities I bet two out of the trio would be fine. You get the gist – too much going on and the mix suffers as a consequence. Go on ya buggers disagree!
Now ‘Misunderstood’ gets appropriately back on track and is a tuneful treat that the overlooked and patronised should enjoy as should anyone feeling a bit downtrodden and hard done by. The moralistic side is nice too with emphasis on being a true ‘erbert and not wasting time on pretentious celebrity claptrap. The commencement is bold and strong and deceives with ease before a simple tinkle is upon us and throws us into a golden sanded wander that is utter joy. The final ‘under….stood’ signals a quick upsurge in pace with a happy saxy sound that soon becomes more embracing and has all players slipping into adrenalin boost mode before reverting back to sunshine slide etc. It works well and is soon over with and we are left abandoned on the doorstep of the final track.
We close with ‘Little Flag’. This one seems plucked from the dated vaults and in comparison to the other tracks seems a trifle immature and less skanky and more towards the rusted punk end of the spectrum. A bit of a surprise too and yet not an unwelcome one as I truly believe that bands should showcase as much diversity as they possibly can on any given CD provided there is enough of an acoustic acquaintance between each number. There is enough familiarity here to go on and I feel this is the ‘Think For Yourself’ track to call upon in the ‘live’ arena when the crowd is a bit more spiky than expected.
So a sextet of skanking reggae with a nice crusty finish to meet most ‘erberts needs. The Skints come across as an outfit worthy of checking out so having done the CD I will now get an eyeful of their gig list and see where I can catch up with this lot. I suggest, most persuasively that you do the same too.
DEMOB/CHURCHILL - SPLIT SINGLE
I like two track singles like this because they are quick and easy to review and it looks as though I am keeping extremely busy when I post on Myspace that I have done yet another CD review. Compare this to those draining 30+ track compilations and I get almost sexually aroused when they pop through the letterbox - pathetic I know but my willy has a mind of its own unlike a lot of punks these days. Anyway this is two different bands but both have the same frontman - top bloke Andy K. How does he fair here - darn bloody well to be honest.
We kick off with the squeaky phone tones of a young lassie who exclaims 'Once Punk Always Punk' before being banged out of the way with a slap of drums and a rumble of bass fire. The song builds in strength and the clear vocals cruise in alongside some nifty guitar work. A defiant theme runs throughout and this is a song that should bring together the different sub punk divisions and have all and sundry joining in with the chorus. A mean rumble cut takes us into a nice and simple solo before the song recaptures the formula and heads towards the finish where we are told, in no uncertain terms by that telephonic imp to 'Shut The Fuck Up'. Happy as Larry - yeah!
Churchill are a band I used to manage and who were rough, ready and sorely under-rated. Moronic rumours with no foundation made things difficult so the band took a break and I got on with other things. Now the band is back and imagine my surprise when I heard this new, polished output that barely had any resemblance to what I was happy to peddle. First impressions were of a wishy-washy lightweight noise that just didn't have enough clout. Determined not to be ruled by initial ideas I have listened on and I must admit I don't know what the fuck I was thinking. The revamp is remarkable and the song here 'This One's For The Skins' is a crackin' little track that easily holds it's own with Demob's offering and makes a new statement that I hope people will take heed of. Churchill have a heavy arsenal of quality tunes and with an album ready to be released I suspect the strides they make this time will be a lot bigger and further afield. Having Andy K at the helm will no doubt help as he does get about a bit this bugger and seems to have a nice contact list. The band should be judged on their musical outpouring though and here they come up with freshly pressed harry's and polished ox-bloods. The melody is sublime, the vocals again lucid and the noise effective. The skins will indeed love this and so will the rest (if they have any sense) and the new crisp sound will reap benefits for those on the cusp of the punk precipice.
So two tracks due to be released on vinyl (clear methinks) and one for the avid collector to savour. One band comes to an end and the other hopes to make a fresh start - such is the changing scene and the way things go. I hope Demob go down in the punk rock halls of fame (or infamy) and get the credit they deserve and I equally hope Churchill make people sit up and admire a very solid band (in more ways than one)!
THE HOSTILES – ALWAYS LOOKING FORWARD
After a recent showing at a Manchester gig The Hostiles left a pleasant aftertaste with their articulate and efficient showcase. The band held their own with all other outfits present and had enough of an upbeat melody to inspire a certain amount of positively charged optimism. Being given the chance to review the album was pounced upon and the received disc was rammed into the player with much anticipation. The most immediate note that was made was that the sounds on disc were harder to digest than in the ‘live’ arena and so when setting about a review found myself having to take time and assess each track over a couple of days. As in the words of the band themselves – ‘here goes nothing’.
The title track ‘Always Looking Forward’ quietly itches its way into the subconscious before slightly building and electrocuting itself against a reflection of glorious sax and vitalising guitar. The dogged determination of the lyrics and overall glossy sound combine to make an upbeat number with a weighty effect. Production wise the band have done well and the clarity between each player is perfect in this instance. Potentially at this point I have reservations as regards the overall composition of further songs and hope that they don’t slip into a complicated mode of operation which is slightly hinted at being the case here. Anyway whatever will be will be but so far I am more than pleased with this opening effort.
'Where Are You' opens with wild abandoned before a plunge is taken and we hit the rapids with a white water pace that froths and foams before calming slightly into a smooth run that idles slightly with a snippet of switched off skank. It is a great mix that keeps one on the edge of the attentive seat and so soon we are witnessing the best of this confident and musically gambling band. The twists and turns are many but all intertwine to create a final rhythmic image of sonic splendour. These songs are a real bastard to review and have me flicking and clicking the stop/start/pause/replay buttons with consecutive regularity. No complaints with this song though and my personal favourite for sure. 'It's All Casual' starts with a manner of uncertainty and only when the initial brass gets a foothold does the track gain in assuredness. Going with the flow is frowned upon here and perhaps a little more decisiveness with the final noise would have been more apt. A very disjointed track that would have succeeded over a shorter distance but comes a little unstuck here. A terser sound is primarily a winning formula and this one fails to get that right. The break at the 2 minute mark hinders progress as well and despite the good level of musicianship I found this one a bit over ambitious for its own good.
'I Hope You Know' beats a steady intro with hard-braking guitar catching attention. The quirky skank verse is pleasing and the pursuing sub-chorus expulsion works. The very fact that The Hostiles fail to follow regulated procedure with their general song arrangements makes for some very exciting moments and in parts some very confusing segments but you gotta give the crew credit for taking risks and the overall experimental exhibitionism. Here it pays dividends but the word of caution is to remain more restrained and add a little more focus to each offering to give that user-friendliness so many bands miss out on. 'True Or False' reveals itself with a reggae ease before ominous bass welcomes an extravagance of guitar. As soon as the vocals join in with the fun the intensity heightens with succeeding sonics the order of the day. The song boldly grows in size and suddenly stops and cascades downwards into a disease-ridden fairground atrocity. Madness runs wild, the song is torn at the seams and a tale of the unexpected is had. I am glad when the track gets back on track and although the snippet works in retrospect it never seems to hit the mark during the moment. We ragga-skank to the closure and a well-crafted (although slightly fractured song is had). 'Ashley' bangs straight at you with an emboldened build up that is superbly brassed up and so triumphs with the initial blows. The scattered verse gets by and the 'one for all, all for one' style chorus brings all noises to a head and wins all the way with an all consuming bellow. The lyrics are of besotted love and although done a million times over every band is entitled to one mushy-slushy snippet.
'Examinable Torture' has a tough punked up opening thrash that cuts into typical skank, another lash then in we go head first into the now obvious mode of The Hostiles. They maintain interest by being forever on the edge of a sudden change and this can induce excitement but can also take away the feeling of being comfortably settled within the tune. This is another accurately dished out track with some finely executed moments and some really smart group vocals. Yeah not bad at all and the closure is tumbling and leads adequately into the noise of 'Conclusion'. More horniness soon penetrates the acoustic arse and pounds away with sanguine aplomb. The band need to step back and not over-complicate recipes that are already delicious. The multitude of crooning condiments confuses and yet when playing 'live' enhances - strange but true. The sun shines throughout this track and it is another high point of the whole 10 track collection. The consistency throughout improves the end result whereas 'Seen Not Heard' starts with old school brilliance, grows in overall stature and comes across as an almost anthemic ska piece but perhaps stays a little too orthodox.
'Bad Day For Shorts' is a poor closure and seems a messy affair that really can't decide which option to take. My least favourite track with a sense of timing that misses my personal pulse rate and which seems too fiddly to be true. There are one or two moments that offer huge promise but when mixed in this way don't reach the maximum potential.
This CD is a very hard one to assess but I reckon from the 10 tracks here we have a overall grade of about 6.5 to 7 that could have been oh so much better if the crew had kept things a little simpler and a little shorter. Don't forget this is a 3 decade punk fucker reviewing here and as I have emphasised on numerous occasions is only a one man opinion. 'Live' the band are bang on the mark but this one just wavers and misses the bull’s-eye. Several pure hotshots are well within this bands capabilities and if I can squeeze a few direct hits then my job is done. Let’s see what comes next.