FUNGALPUNK - CD REVIEWS Page 49
MEDICINE BOW - SONGS FROM THE FLOOR
Grabbing the bullock by the horns and shafting the shitter with sonic armaments is the way the Bow approach the sonic circle and make merry hell. This is a dish best served occasionally and one best kept away from lugs that are tainted with safety and insularity tape that forbids any trespassing into cow fields new. What the Bow do is their own thing and if, as a self promoted punk, you cannot get that addled head around that then please shut down now - and forever.
The first cloud of dust is kicked up from the 4 spinning spurs via a group of wonderfully solid croons entitled 'Western Shirt And Weston's Reserve Side'. 'Scar On The Horizon', 'This Side Of Town', ‘Beyond My Control' and ‘Wine Drinker’ wake up and buzz forth. Buckaroo, Fuckayou the first sun kissed cowpat is baked in hazy guitars and ho-down inflection. Medicine Stu at the front lazes and drawls in equal measure before the harmonica adds a freight train screech. A charming cowgirl jumps off board and adds a sweet backdrop of noise to complete the journey home and if this is the benchmark to judge the entire CD then the crew are destined to gallop with a triumphant flag held high. Despite the hesitancy at the start the flow what unwinds here is glorious and perhaps the first instalment is my most favourite. A camp up for the night and a restless sleep with the nightmare of a sub-jam tattoo pen hell-bent in creating a wayward scrawl on the flesh of the acoustic artiste. The Illustrated man that awakens from the slumber staggers around in confusion but somehow remnants of rhythm are upheld and the inked up appearance makes sense. Swift, bordering on a mess, blued and hued this is an attempt at clutching reality from the claws of insanity. Somehow the Bow make order and come out of the next segment with a song - remarkable. The body is etched but the mind is melodic - am I making sense here or have I indeed been 'superseded' by my own idiot enthusiasm.
We chug on with Casey Jones lunacy after bass grinds and the Medicine Man squeals. Very sleazed during the verseage with she-gothika added via a desert banshee borne of dust not sea. There is a harsh reality beneath this grime and many a tortured moment where life is questioned. Musically the song has a zest, a spirit and a cryptic soul where many unanswered questions lie forever doomed. I like it and the texture given is opposing to its two predecessors and that has got to be a bonus. The loss of mind is an afterthought - I'll whizz on at this point but it is quiet a sweet surge nonetheless.
The bumpkins bare their interbred buttocks next as several misshapen bastards crawl forth to make their presence felt and I wonder if I am dealing with a warped cover or an incestuous snip of artistry. It is country throwback blues of the highest order and after one or two shots of rich bourbon the song can only become more and more persuasive. The finger jug is held (or the jug fingered) as the Jews Harp twangs itself into orgasm and the other players follow suit. Several turns are taken (funny ones at that) but this ain't a bad listen and is more of a saga than a song. In truth I do have to be in the mood for this final snip from the first five but when I am then clear the dance floor and position the straw bales - this boy wanna jig!
I feel as though I am confused at this point and the track listing seems out of sync - what the fuck! Meanwhile...
FACT ATTACK:- The Medicine Bow Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains that extend for 100-miles (160 km) from northern Colorado into southern Wyoming.
Back to normality folks!
'Song From The Floor' is sweet and the soulful melancholic skin is gently caressed with lonely desolate wails that awaken hidden emotions. A sombrero is tilted at the start before good old porn cowboy Clit Eastwood rides into town on happy hooves. A lovely song and leading into the idiotic confounding clue that is the 'Insolvency & Consumption Side'. A veritable piss about and nothing more - it doesn't do fuck all for me and I knew the Bow would throw a few my way that I find uneasy but there ya go. 'The Walkin' Talkin Splutterin' Rotgut Blues' is swift, punked and reckless. Very typical Bowian outlandishness that will offend and impress in the same ejaculation. If your orifice is ruptured already then close thy limbs but if you are indeed still sonically fuckable then have some more. You get the drift I am sure.
FACT ATTACK:- Camp Medicine Bow is a Scout Reservation on Rhode Island.
'Downtown/Downtime' is groovy stuff with a slippery bass line and an inflection where britches are lowered and one can indulge in a bit of 'Oooh la la'. Guitars are hung loose, the whole song reeks of stoned out ease and for me is in keeping with the Bow sound and yet smartly operates in a slightly different mode. 'The Curse Of The Bow' is an alcho-fuelled cracker that is sub-jam, sub-sane and beautifully sub-standard. One to twirl and whirl too provided the levels of inebriation are way beyond excessive levels. If one song captures the MB attitude and sonic sensation then this is it. Fuckless and frayed - there are a whole host of fingers pointing but not many who really get it. Fuck em'! I like this one for its disarray and self-destructive edge which somehow persuades me to partake in a bender!
'Waltz Of Disregard' is one I could easily disregard but have given it time and yet still come out on the side lacking favour. Sorry dudes but really not my bag but I suspect if I am sozzled enough and am feeling a little bit sorry for myself and all the worlds’ ills then maybe. A slow amble as the title suggests and so not erecting the hairs on the old nape. 'The Earth I Walk' is shuffled grot and usual puke from these players and so assists me in hopping over the boundary into pastures of favour. Not a totally convincing piece but has enough to intrigue and make me reconsider. An 'end of set' piece I reckon and no bad way to bow out. The final turd to drop from this acoustic anus is 'Scar (Reprise)'. A short piece of almost Gospelian cum and then into a bonus track that cruises along and is an easy way to close the CD. Ooops - the fuckers are grooving it up a bit - aah the beauty of the unexpected!
So the flow of the Bow is unpredictable but predictable. The surge is individual but similar to things heard in the past. The players are awkward bastards yet nothing of the sort! Are you following this - no - now that's the way I meant it! Look Medicine Bow do what they do - like it, lump it, love it, loathe it - nothing will change it! Sail on merry fiddlers and keep stretching peripheries.
FACT ATTACK:- An anagram of Medicine Bow is I Become Wind - mmmm - fartistes no less!
PUNCHDRUNX - BRITAIN'S BLEEDING
Earlier this year I came across the Punchdrunx supporting the Real McKenzies at a gig near me. With a trifle too many cover songs I came away still impressed and looked forward to seeing these dudes again. So far I haven't - bah - but via a convoluted path have received this 3 track CD to assess. It is a short listen so gets an equally short review.
'No Place Like Home' is proud and loud and has many a tattered edge which gives you a more than obvious punked up appeal. The general construction is sound, the underlying framework of musical alertness firm and the general outpouring highly listenable. There is a sub-yank stroll incorporated within the weave of this one and so may attract outside interest as well as push away, oh so slightly, the more UK obsessed spiky top. For me it has all the promise of a band capable of a lot more but is still a fair listen. What follows is more traditional to the red, white and blue pogo artist and is a far more effective and grittier song. 'Ripped To Pieces' opens a raw nerve, pokes about with careless abandon and makes enough pain to appreciate. Very driven, well paced and readily raged. Perhaps the most orthodox racket but one that jumps into my favour and is one to spin over and over. Call me an old traditionalist but I can't help but like my punk honest and to the point.
'No Future' maintains the corroded angle and gets by on simplistic ability and intrinsically basic orchestration. The Punchdrunx know the noise game and play acoustic ball with total confidence. These tunes are unwashed and virulent and for the cunt who likes no pretensions then this is a more than adequate set of riffing beverages to sup.
3 decent tracks I reckon and as if you ain't had taster enough there is a bonus DIY vid of 'Ripped To Pieces' so as to put names to players and give you the chance to pick out these dudes in the crowd. Not a bad 'peephole' video of the recording going's on and well worth a peek.
So the Punchdrunx are up and running - this could be a good trip - watch this or that space you bastards.
KINGS OF THE DELMAR - PUNK ROCK IDIOT
The last release by the Kings Of The Delmar was, to say the least, a fuckin' stormer. The last gig I saw this band play was, to put it mildly, fuckin' magnificent. Imagine my joy at being asked to review the next CD outpouring by this ever-impressive band who are turning heads by the bucket load wherever they play. Sanguine to excess, talented in equal proportions and with an inner comfort to the band that is admirable and surely the envy of many other outfits the KOTD killing machine looks like nothing will stand in its path. Here we go again.
'Punk Rock Idiot' is a venomous piece that could be aimed at many spiky tops in this loon-filled arena. In fact it is directed at one certain person who arrogantly proclaimed to be more punk due to certain accessories I do believe. Surely Punk Rock Cunt would have been a more apt title ha, ha! A big strummed opening, a pause and some almost abandoned vocalisation and the surge of sure-fire sonica is upon us. Emphasis as always is on a melodic mush with swinging words, whoa hoas aplenty and an overall rhythm the order of the day. The cocky verse slips with ease into the open cunt of a chorus and once there humps and pumps with effect and shuffling satisfaction. The KOTD equipment is ejaculating on 'full drain' mode at the mo and one song after another is dripping with progressive professionalism. 'Empire' is an orthodox piece but has extra artistic touches that just gives it the edge over what other bands are doing at the moment. This is, in Fungal truth, not one of my favourite Delmar tracks and is one I can definitely take or leave. However, and this is where my conundrum is found, I really can't find a point to poke at or a faux pas to prod. Perhaps it isn't as flavoured as other more impacting efforts or perhaps it is a case of 'just one I don't particularly care for'. It happens, shit happens and sometimes this old reviewer is found wanting. A good song I don't like - paradox incarnate, confusion captured - you understand I'm sure.
The previous episode has me reeling and I am wondering if the band are going to hit a dud period in which all they touch turns to shit. Never fear old Fungal lad - 'A Day Late And A Dollar Short' go straight at it and although I am not thoroughly convinced by the inner instrumental piece the start and closure are true tuneage of concrete calibre. All pistons power drive, the familiar gusto is gushing and the attitude is a full blooded and snotted as ever. Fuck me you set of bastards you had me worried! A comfortable offering with all players on the ball and passing with passion - tidy work!
'Friends Like You' is a poisonous outpouring the band seem to relish in delivering. Straight up, sinewed and severing the throat of ambiguity this one tells it how it is and pulls no punches. From the opening twisted yells of 'It's Alright' to the furious rant that begins 'Keep quiet you can rest in peace..' to the finale that crashes down to earth 'again' this is a bold song and a good way to close so as to keep the band in high regard with the listener.
So 4 tracks and all well played and despite my lack of liking for one of them I really can't do anything other than recommend this fuckin' delightful band who are guaranteed to entertain over and over again. 2011 could be big for this trio provided Lady Luck gets off her fat arse and pushes a few reliable buttons. Never trust the scene and the bitch of fortune though - do it yourself and help these dudes onto bigger things!
ANIMAL TRAIN/THE PUKES - ANIMAL PUKE ON THE PUKE TRAIN
Bands ask my advice and I duly give it by the bucket load such is the way of the Fungalised northern bigot. My pointers come in many forms but one repetitive piece of wordage I do state to new bands who want to spread their fan base is to find another crew who wanna do a split single and get one fuckin’ sorted. This way the other band sell their lot of CD’s and spread your word and you sell your pile of CD’s and spread their word. The further apart the two bands are the better but primarily the point is that two bands working to help one another is better than an outfit doing it on their own. It isn’t fuckin’ rocket science but how many take heed? Crazy and God bless The Pukes and Animal Train for adopting this style without Fungal even saying anything. Ok rant over now to the review.
Animal Train are a band I am familiar with as I have already reviewed a previous CD from this fine DIY crew. What the band do is simple, unaffected, totally inspiring and saturated with that ‘we got off our arses and had a go why can’t you’ inflection punk rock should be so proud of creating. What we get here are 3 tracks that gently move on from the previous release and show that the AT mob are at work, slowly improving yet determined to hang on to the lovely garage cum retro style that still has a somewhat haunted edge. I find myself having a soft spot for this lot and I don’t know why! I review a shed load of stuff and sometimes get bogged down in murky waters filled with bands trying to ‘be something’ rather than relying on being ‘natural’ and so a CD refreshingly ‘off the cuff’ is a delight to receive. Cheers dudes (ooops and dudette)!
‘Meltdown’ comes from the rubbish strewn nuthouse and has a cold murderous edge that drips unsettling angst. The guitars buzz with automated insistence and drums clash like regulated blown fuses hell-bent in creating a mini pyro-techno show. Vocally we have something individual yet clinging to the underground unprofessionalism that just does it for me. This is like being on an archaeological dig and the many fascinating finds that are discarded in want of something more ridiculously valuable are picked up by my Fungal self and fuckin’ adored. Many go to the trendy shops to purchase their noise but this is definitely scavenged material straight off the shit heap – quality! The whole concoction is over in 1 minute 55 seconds and yet it seems much briefer – a standard of small success.
The Pennsylvania punkers continue with ‘Drunk Punk And Pissed Off’ which is a nasty piece of poisonous shit for sure. A twisted cut that relies on pestering persuasion and ‘on the edge’ temperament that hypnotises and wrestles one to the ground. No room to breathe, no time to dwell – this toxic track starts and finishes in the same mode and doesn’t alter one bit throughout. Chorus bleeds, verse pours a little bit more and one is left with a wound not likely to heal. A harsh assault but for me another sturdy segment I am happy to listen to and review. Keep at it!
Animals Trains final offering is entitled ‘Delusional Power’ which is, and I mean this most sincerely folks, the bands most progressive and rewarding offering to date. The mix triumphs, the pace wins the day and the overall attitude has more impact. The explosion leaves deeper scars and the confidence that is gradually blooming from the she-gob at the fore is not passing by unnoticed. Add to this the band are refusing to kiss corporate and conforming ass and you really should understand why this reviewer is quite excited by what the band are doing at this point. A crackin’ little number and hopefully a sign of things to come!
And so doth enter The Pukes…
A scream from the hideous cells of the berserk institute and ‘Babies Are Horrible’ is delivered our way. Piss, shit, vomit, inconvenience and just being a general annoyance – yes those bald vaginal expulsions have it all going for them and The Pukes waste no time in expressing their thoughts. The pink assed brigade are tanned hard here via a nasty output of grimy sonic hatred and rather than become a comedic mockery the song seethes with premeditated loathing. The pace is middling, the essence punk and the general favour flavour good. Worth a peek unless you are ‘tubbed up’ – then stay well clear ha, ha. ‘Eye In The Sky’ is a better song and has much more life, more thrust and more texture. Bordering on a tribal squaw dance with drugged assistance this is a meaty piece of noise and really makes an effect. The drums bang with deliberate attack mode truly switched on, guitar twists and screws and wails in equal measure and the vocals wear blinkers and aim to destroy. A nice sharp song that will not be resisted.
The finale to this mixed CD is by Mike Puke and is entitled ‘New Toys For The Blue Boys’. This is a regular repeat and throttle ditty that has a short listening life if hammered over and over. For me this is a compilation piece that is best stumbled on now and again rather played as a stand alone effort. It continues the underground thread created by the Animal Train and continued by The Pukes and so compliments highly. More raving than rhythmic but worthy of its place on this release.
So another solid insight into the more naturally obscure and I am liking what I hear. Bands like this excite me due to the fact that it is more than obvious that commercial success is nowhere on the horizon and yet the flow still continues. The answer why this happens is obvious and is why I hang on in there believing in the punk cause. There is no reason at all why all concerned here can’t continue banging out their own personal beat and adding a stark reality to a scene that is too often raped and let down. For all those reading this, on this side of the water especially, go jump on board and make yourself sick – tickets please!
ILL FATED RIOT - CYCLOPS REVENGE
Ill Fated Riot aim for a cultured construction rather than an 'off the cuff' composition of regulated riffage liable to bring about many a comparison. The several SAS shows this lot have played have highlighted not only an inner belief and a fuckin' bang on noise but the lack of insight and appreciation in this fuckin' scene of ours. How Ill Fated Riot are not playing their stuff to larger crowds on regular occasion is beyond me and one really has to ask questions of the punk populace. Are you really so insular? Anyway, I am happy with what they do and was looking forward to another 'review to do' for Fungal. Many spins later this is what I feel...
'Call The Shots' exudes the very essence of Ill Fated Riot and shows that the band are focused of giving something erudite, angry, but very listenable. This initial burst, like the rest, need to be contemplated via many spins rather than judged on one listen. Deep resonant guitars commence with tidy drums for company. The vocals are sung rather than swilled out and all makes for an accomplished sound to ponder. Temper is obvious but not vulgarly given so as to make the end ditty just another 'spouting off' session with no control. The effort refuses to follow predictable methods and ends up as something with many avenues to explore instead of just being a regular wander down an expected thoroughfare. All players come out of the first kerfuffle clean and in tact - as if I expected anything less.
'Fire The Guns' pummels along, is tattooed with refusal and has many more facets to browse. Yet more angst is held in check, a superb segment of cool skankology is achieved within the cauldron of noise and the surge to the finishing line is adequate. IFR keep you on yer toes that is for sure and once more a tune that drips with comfort is had. The only criticism (yeah you know me) is that I would like to see the crew pick a specific poison and just totally run with it. The aforementioned skank moment here teases rather than satisfies and I would like to see what the band could produce if this mode was hammered out over a 3 or 4 track cruise. You gotta poke tha knows and if it squeezes the best out of a band then poke I will. Prod, prod lads ha, ha! 'Shit On' sounds like we are in for a nasty session but this isn't the case. After the opening strum, drum staccato verse we slip into a chorus that gets the point across with almost despondent tones and it just goes to show that fury is not the only way to deliver things. A song that grows in stature with several positive aspects from which the band can build greater success upon.
'Taking Sides' starts metallic, shines itself up and pulses forth. More pace assists the band in making a greater impression sooner and unless I am very much mistaken this will be most people’s choice for snip of the sextet. The song builds in vitality and venom and comes across as an outpouring from a band who have opinions, nouse and clout to back them up and who know their acoustic onions. Guitars work overtime, drums busily bounce about with amphetamine exhilaration and the gob at the front stays coolly in control and without fluster - annoying isn't it. Certainly my fave frolic in the garden of the riot - what do you reckon?
'Big Man' is nasty, sniping and provocative. The band do indeed have an edge and a fuckin' sharp one at that. The frontman is on the cusp of an explosion and does well to keep it in check. The tension is almost tangible and is the main ingredient within this neat composition. There is something dark, uncertain and threatening and I am unsure of what to make of it. A flaw comes in the form of a sub-standard production as pertaining to this piece and I just can't help feeling it needed 'a little more'. Not shite but I know the bands potential - and I want it pushing through the roof.
'The Only Way' is a turn up in speed again and with a nerved up verse falling into a simplified chorus you have IFR at their best again. Every time the band push down on the accelerator we just get success after success - think on dudes. Strong, flowing and self assured - the only way to close.
So 6 tracks from a cracking band and the only way we should be getting more is if we get up, support, encourage and give respect to. This lot are deserved of all so come on - let’s not let another one slip through the net!
THE DESPONDENTS - SELF TITLED ALBUM
14 tracks, 14 delicious pieces of raucous garage filth to wallow in. It is a simple opening statement but the fact is that this is nothing less than 100% true. I love what The Despondents do and after several 'live' SAS shows and a CD review I have really yet to uncover any form of disappointment. This album has been a long time coming and became almost a form of stupefying frustration for myself as a fan. The wait however ended and after a few mix-ups an album was sent my way for review. The initial listen was memorable although the volume was set at middling. A few more listens with the decibels increased and man oh fuckin' man what an album! Straight to the sonic nerve sending reaction after reaction to my musical core I consider this to be nothing less than a classic and ensnaring every amazing aspect of the scene as a whole and as a garaged ghetto blast. Hollowed, DIY, corroded and abrasive with deep, deep riffs to unsettle the idle this is of epic standards and is leaving a lasting impression never to be forgotten. Let me not tease thee any longer my foaming friend - come forth and let me take you into the midst of something most memorable, you will not be disappointed.
Tinned guitar whipped up with whizzorino vitality 'Dressed In Black' may be in mourning but the acoustic inflection is refusing to lie down and fuckin' moan. The verses molest and thrash out a vibe that is irresistible whereas the chorus just grabs one by the hairy bollocks and doesn't let go until one is reeling with musical/painful ecstasy. The busy attention all players are giving pays huge dividends with an end noise that is exhausting, full of spirited spunk and compacted with cacophonous brilliance. At once the repeat button is hit (something you will be doing throughout this CD) so as to savour the song over and over again - wow! 'Stoned' is a choice follow on and relies more on snot rather than pot so giving an active ingredient that inflates rather than a doped seasoning that deflates. A very strong industrial sound that lacks space, lacks thought, lacks consideration and as a result - just gets on with it and fuckin' triumphs big time.
The wires in the speakers may send signals to play loud but that isn't good enough and at this juncture one should be re-working all the metallic threads and trying to squeeze more and more juice from those already trembling speakers. If the job is a good un' then 'California' will melt your mind with pulverising melody and all you gotta do is tilt your head sideway and let the resulting soup pour forth. The drums roll with a resonant warning before a taut twanging tune will slam into your system and remain there for life. The tone dips and the verse comes - Hawaii Five-0 Danno fucks a Flying Lizard and then adopts a whoring Beach Boy to make merry waves. A disturbing and simple idea but when put into practice the outcome is magnificent. Sun-kissed, escapist, lets get pissed - what a moment! Replay, replay, replay - sorry folks it just has to be done!
'Got Nothing To Lose' forbids respite and re-energises with supreme skill and sonic persuasion that leaves me in no doubt that this album is a giant. The chorus is stubbornly beating one down into submission and all denial of a gem is taken away. Marvellous and what wisps of refusal remain are blown away on a startling breeze created by a clashing, smashing, splashing chorus of stunning proportions. Do not think me a fool at this point and accuse my words of misguided exaggeration - the plain truth is that what I write is still not worthy of what this silver circle offers and if words of greater magnitude were at my disposal then I would take them and use and abuse them with abandoned glee. My punk history is long, proud and eclectic and that only aides me in admiring this creative work and its place in these coloured annals of noise! Taut strings go haywire before an about turn is made and 'Schizophrenia' takes an ominous wander into the psychiatric ward and make jovial hell. An ideal sing-a-long piece that takes macabre delight in its own discordant disease and thus reinforcing the point that The Despondents can play it fast or slow and still come away in flying colours. 'Stupid Girl' is the most rock 'n' roll sleaze offering of the lot and again plays it loud, harsh and direct with lashings of discomfort throughout. Riding high on the crest of a cacophonic wave the band are knocking out classic after classic and so far it is, without the slightest apprehension, a superb six to savour. The silly bitch is beckoned and can hardly resist a serenade such as this - humping time I reckon - disgusting ain't it!
'Gotta Get Away (England Sucks)' thunders along with glorious belief and bleeds frustration, excretes tight angst, perspires spirit. There is an underlying desperation and this shines through the musical outpouring and so creates an excitement for the players and listeners alike. 'Get Out (Of My Face)' swaggers along and gives off a somewhat haughty ambience that works and somehow creates more character to the crew. The sensation of reaching the threshold of patience is passed forth and an abrupt response, filled with cold, harsh words, is the only result. Once more add volume and get the most from the vibe man - or as in the words of the band themselves 'Get Outta My Face...BITCH'.
'If God Exists' keys itself in and moves and grooves with sweet melody in tact. Radioed vocals, yet more infected musicianship and with a slightly fuller sound this effort can slip by if one ain't truly absorbed. This one grows as the track progresses and reaches a critical stage at midway before once more swelling with emergency appeal. 'Out Of My Head' starts with subdued strings before merging into a chorus that adopts the same style. Muffled, unruffled the band seem on sober mode at this pont and I await the opening of the acoustic can of worms. It never really comes and although still a highly listenable track with a spacious segment where bass and vocals escort one another to the final wind down I did expect more. A minor blip/slip/trip but no permanent damage done. 'Talkin' Bout Love' harkens from smoked US joints where make-up, mayhem and masturbatory music was all the rage. A 'get down on yer knees and suck' style is blatant and from across the pond much favour must come for this retro-rockin' romper. The lead man greases it up and sounds very much at home - dirty bastard!
'So Hung Up On You' hip grinds forth with sonic spunk at the ready. A light disrobing and a refreshing breeze blows across the exposed melodic flesh. Saccharine and soured in one serving with a sub-Ramones cut following the opening verse. A few extras are added with grumbling drums, stretched strings and electrified mouth and the blitz is over. 'Advice' is a corking track that insists you listen and grabs you by the nuts. A clutter-bucket approach is broken by the repeat-four chorus vomiting simplicity. A whip up in intensity is gently done and before we know it the end of the CD is upon us. 'Grand Theft Auto' is well oiled, bouncing, and full of powerful petrol liable to ignite at anytime and burn yer fuckin' prunes off. A full circle-spin is achieved and the initial excitement is recaptured and the whole rotating circle is crowned with triumph. The pull in to the pit stop results in a collision and your head is thrown right through the window screen - it's the only way to go on this journey baby.
So in summing up - I love the band, I love the style and I truly rate this CD as one of the highs of 2010. This year I have reviewed, at this point in time, 114 CD's and this is most assuredly in the top ten - that's how good it is. Peeling, ugly punk played with zeal and bang on the fuckin' sub-generic mark - have some!
COLIN FARRELL - ARE NOT SERIOUS
Fast and thrifty Italian punk here that gets to the point with effect, technical craft and pleasing rhythmic efficiency. Terse, piercing noise is a particular favourite of mine as it can be most enthralling and maintains that swift approach punk was always renowned for. Colin Farrell aim high, achieve all desired goals with this 11 batch outburst and look to have a rosy future for the aged and youthful punks to enjoy. I like this immensely and was more than happy to squeeze out a review from my ever tapping fingers.
ROBB BLAKE/LIAM O'KANE - HEAVYWEIGHT SHOWDOWN
So Do The Dog combine the labels 2 acoustic sub-stars and have them going toe to toe in this 5 round fight featuring the equivalent number of tracks per combatant. If truth be known these two 6 string strummers are perhaps some of my least favourite artistes on the aforementioned label so rather than a slamming slugfest with knockdown after knockdown I was anticipating an average scuffle with a narrow points victory the end result. Who will win? Will I be proved wrong? Will Do The Dog once more surprise me with an episode of brilliance and thump me off my feet? Read on fellow fight fans and let the bell ring for round one!
Robb Blake moves to the centre of the ring with confident strums and a seemingly determined attempt to make an impression. 'Any Day Now' is a fair advancement and jabs away with variation of vocal and melodic mitt. Nothing major is thrown but some neat flurries within the general assault are offered and Blake is commanding respect. A consistent level is had and as a spectator one is pleased with the overall commitment given. Seconds are shooed away (in all ways) and the player is left to survive on his own. Clarity of action is obvious and the production team should be proud of the backroom labour as all components seem fully oiled. Take that O'Kane. The said opponent kicks back but with a more crafty style entitled 'Just Speak To Me'. Yet more lucidity and steady sonica with no bomb blasts to speak of. Both participants are doing their own thing and rather than follow exact suit O'Kane adopts a similar stance but adds his own signature moves. Slightly more laboured but in a comfort zone LO stays in the kerfuffle and so makes the opening coming together balanced.
Round two opens with Blake once more giving as good as he takes and also dancing a little more on lighter notes provided by the adequate 'Keep On Climbing'. Every corner is gradually covered with the only gripe that more weight to each strike is not given. The process is grinding and one wonders if an opening is sought to bombard with heavier artillery. This is a good workout and RB shows his capabilities without seriously stretching himself. Highly capable, full of belief and hard to knock - he's holding his own. O'Kane still persists with his own plodding mode and gives 'Breaking The Habit Of A Lunchtime' a fair crack of the whip. Sweat is hardly broken and not enough is being done for this reviewing referee to be impressed by. A wretched undercurrent doesn't help the cause and as we watch both dudes feel their way in against the ropes it is Robb Blake who walks away with first blood. A close 10-9 round but enough to take the initiative.
Into the 3rd we go and it's all to play for yet with no real urgency from either side. I told you this was going to be a close one and if the pace doesn't increase the judges will be called into action.
'From Spain To Endorse It' is RB's melodic move at this stage and is a self promoting piece that exudes a determination to do 'ones' stuff and keep it as approachable as possible. The edge is very likeable and there is a certain honesty and openness that does capture the favourable side. The slipping and sliding is steady and this makes it increasingly difficult for O'Kane to catch and so another round looks in the bag. The response is an uncertain tumble known as 'Leave The Grey'. Soulful, introspective and without anyone genuine snap this one has character and so survives but not enough 'ooomph' in the tank is had and so another 10-9 round is done with the latter artiste needing to step up a few gears.
'Time To Break' is double textured with lighter slices intercut with more resonant jabs that contrast well. Blake is digging deep and trying a few subtle moves that may not immediately catch the eye but are busily doing some good inside work and pummelling away at the abdomen of resistance and doubt. With musical muscles tense I remain not entirely convinced but the question is with O'Kane and how he responds at this slight opening. 'There Goes The Wagon' dips into the alcho-fuel temptation and has one too many. The pace is picked up and a consistent assault is given with a certain amount of passion well controlled and consistent but the question still remains - can this one hold off the tidy body shots of the previous track. The answer is 'no' and Blake has a 3 point lead.
Going into the final round and anyone can still win this but O-Kane has gotta produce big (and I mean BIG). The final flurry from Blake is harsh with 'Hit The Bottle' one of the artistes better numbers. An opening burst then a steady drive and the front foot is taken. There is a good rhythm to this one that wins the fans applause and it truly is a 'join in' moment. As a stand alone a good piece but if in the midst of a longer effort then somewhat lost. Luckily this is a 5 round scrap and it is enough to do the business against the opposing 'Coming Back For More'. This latter effort confirms for me that O'Kane is an acquired taste and will separate the judge’s right down the middle. This one has the signature sound and is well played out but just doesn't do it for me and stays within a defeatist zone that costs the player the round.
Ladies and gentlemen the hand is raised of Mr Blake and of that I have no doubt. This was a comfortable victory many may call closer but hey it is my review so that's the way things stand. What I have heard here is OK but would I subscribe for more? Well perhaps with the former player but not with the latter. No criticism as regards playing but it just isn't to my liking and so the verdict given was once more done in humble Fungal honesty. As far as acoustic noise goes - well I guess you'd be hard pushed to find a better produced CD and it is on the Do the Dog label and that indeed does add weight.
TOO MANY CROOKS - BOUNCE
I have a bad case of the DT's tha' knows. Well in truth it is correctly called a case of the DTD's and if you keep up with the site and the reviews I do then you will know what I mean. If you don't understand then fuck off - easy ain't it!
I have reviewed one CD from this crew before and was mightily impressed with the tuneage and this is nothing less than its equal. Loaded with crackin' tracks this skanky sound circle really is the business and should be sought out by every two-toned twat in the land.
We commence with 'Plague For Today' and what a beauty it is! A regular drum beat follows the bands touchdown before keys interject with grooved appeal. Several strums and the brass flows like liquid gold and this very precious album is well and truly underway. A short ‘state it’ verse highlights the clarity of all components with the front gob very cool and accomplished. Back-dropped with 'whoas' the chorus is simple but thriving and gently gothic highlighting the many depths Too Many Crooks have to their sound. Believe me when I tell you that this track and many more on this CD have been spun to utter buggery and enjoyed more and more along the way. The foot can't help but twitch, the body can't help but follow, the soul can't help but be hypnotised. This is a very adept band and once more they open an account with incredible quality. In need of time to recover and to contemplate I am given no choice but to be whipped along by the high rolling opening of 'Hey You'. Another crackerjack track that deals with the abandoned drunkard coming good. Sensations and experiences we can all familiarise with are delivered with stunning artistry and if you are looking how to construct a good approachable story within a top skanking ranking tune then look no further. The opening is bold and swinging and obvious comparisons within this tune will be made with a few more acclaimed bands of the 80's two tone boom. Don't you worry mate these guys are up there with the best on this form and given the right time, situation and amount of luck a whole lot more damage could have been done.
Skank strokes prompt order, brass caresses add a slight waywardness. 'Funky Loving' builds slowly and drifts along on a finely planed surface only the choicest bands can create. With a cool pace, a sexual inner rhythm and players who do not trespass on the fellow members you are given another smart piece of sonic nosh. Bastardised sub Brazilian/sub-80's party vibes begin 'And The Girl' and one wonders what will jig forth. The dancing jitterbug verse that follows is unexpected but rewarding with TMC pulling out the flavoured punches. The chorus opens after a smart pause with yet more clarity exposed and superb production showcased. The inner instrumental snakes along before we are coiled into the last stretch - can't fault it to be honest. 4 stonking songs so far but 'Crazy' takes up the levels of liveliness with a bouncing, trouncing piece to swill yer beer too and shake yer ass with. A celebration of boozing and letting yourself go this is totally ensnaring melodica with a non-stop pulse and thriving persuasive passion. A kind of self-therapy in many ways, you will be hard pushed to sit still when this one hits your selected airwaves.
'Hearts Cruel Lesson' funks up the bass before yet more brass enchants with creamy casualness. This has all the feel of something semi-new romantic mixed with maddening ska and flavoured with another sub-80's indulgence. I should despise and wonder whether or nor to just for the hell of it but after the curious verseage I find myself swept along by a genuinely spirit raising chorus that springs hope eternal and yet somehow submits. This tale of love gone wrong is a choice cut and even though it shouldn't be spun regularly by my foul punky self it does get its fair share of rotations. There goes my invite to the 'I'm More Punk Than You Christmas Dinner' (please add heavy sarcasm at your leisure). 'Baby Lotion' is nothing more than a lovey dovey bit of fun and is something you can snuggle up to and massage ones mind with. Very throwaway, very easy-come, easy go and trying to be nothing else - one shouldn't complain so one won't!
'Mafia' is an instrumental that shuffles its feet in desert sand and harks at something that has just gone noon half past monsoon - if ye get my drift. This is a wonderful jig-around effort though and deserves credit on its own merit. It is a solid midway break to not dwell on too much other than with the full intention of enjoying - and that is what many will do! 'Alphabet City' tells of a search, a loss, a success and a failure. The scaffolding beneath the upper layers of sound are sturdy indeed, the main inflection once more of exceptional clarity and the general end aroma very much appreciated by the Fungal overseer. I love the keys, the tubes of metal and the vocals with guitars win equal favour. Can Too Many Crooks do any wrong - well...
No to be honest and even though 'Say You Do' swings in from a different melodic tree the ability, agility, knowledge of a chosen noise is there for all to see and this slow meander of obsession and hopeless commitment is delivered in an exact style to suit. More smoked and hazy than the rest and soaked in melancholy but precisely donated to our acceptant lugholes. The signature band tune 'Too Many Crooks' has a ‘zany no brainy’ edge that will attract a big audience. A definite 'No One Is Innocent' moment filled with cheeky jollity and jumping bean gusto. The juice in the joints of this one is saturated with high energy vitamins and every hinged area is loose and fancy free thus creating a perfectly positive piece of skankitis. What an album!
'Seeing God' is a plod along song that has new acoustic areas to explore and if the truth may be told is one I struggle to fully get to grips with. Yet more obsessive wordage suggestive of a soul who needs a good wrist session this has miserable tones slightly sketched with an unsettled vibe that may need psychiatric help. The last hoorah is named 'Alley Cat' which knocks over many milk bottles before slinking along in what is now genuinely accepted as true TMC mode. The whole arena of sound is crammed with an identifiable air that one is happy to inhale. A bit more cluttered this one with a slight indecisive edge but still a fair knockabout. Hey it may be the weakest track but this isn't going to detract from one helluva CD. Oh and to add there is a hidden track too which is a dud for me so I am not counting it but have a peek yerselves anyway!
So Too Many Crooks impress yet again on this 2nd CD I have reviewed of theirs. Can it get better? Well I have another tucked away in the pipeline so we shall just have to wait and see. My advice though is do not wait and go and gobble up all TMC merch immediately!
AFS - TRASH VEGAS
I have followed AFS since their early days (I think I saw them play their 2nd gig) and in truth have fuckin' loved the journey thus far. They were SAS stalwarts and entertained along the way and although things of late have slowed down on the gigging front (due to the bands many personal commitments) I still always keep abreast of what they are up to (usually via the ginger megaphone man and top dude that is Carl 'Get It Done' Arnfield). This is the 8th silver circle I have had the pleasure of reviewing from this fine band as well as numerous 'live' appraisals. Fungal expects here and the bigger the fan the bigger the fall when a favoured crew produce a turkey. With pressure and apprehension set at maximum I spin the disc once more and review as follows.
'No Wonder' is a neat opener and a track I have reviewed before. Sub-skankoid, pure AFS in inflection and with extra production beef this is a strong yet questioning opening statement. The progression the band make is maintained and here we have the result. Spacious verse, full on saturation of chorus, 100% reliability of musicianship and a nice, brief instrumental this is a song built on an intrinsically basic framework but adorned with various sonic baubles so as to stand out. 'Lies' is fuelled harder and the main component I am aware of is hatred. There is genuine venom into the tone and from the initial slapped drums through to the intent of the riffage and the 'I give up on you' whoa hoa's this is intense stuff. Munki Boi delivers hard and states rather than sings which adds to the general impact. A fuckin' marvellous song that one can really get into and all you frauds out there had better worry because if AFS find out you'll have a song coming your way (as good old Umberto Gonzalez found out ha, ha). As though the song isn't emotive enough the inner break where instruments are bared is almost pitying and sorrowful which only emboldens the opposing rage - sweet touch be it lucky or meant!
'TV Minds' deals with the bonehead box many worship and run around for. It is a wicked contraption and those that claim that it has 'no effect' are the most truest of victims. Electrified, numbed and almost in essence of a robot at times this song marches forth and gives you a tale of idle sofa shits drenched in waves of media puke. The chorus is somewhat sarcastic and is almost celebratory with a slightly concealed hidden gesturing. The sonic landscape is easy to lie in and the whole song soaks through the permeable layers and into the inner core thus creating appreciation. Matured and punk - a good combo I reckon! '50 Shots' eases its way in with casual drums (what's new there then from this accomplished stick bastard), rumbling bassism and slightly encrusted guitar. A very typical Arthritic number that gains a foothold and finally breathes joyous life during a wrap-around chorus of the sweetest order. The song plods on regardless and is easily digested - the weakest so far but not half bad.
'Another Whiskey' follows and has a grand opening riff. But what's this - a different singer strutting his stuff? Hark, is that a baldy I hear a-crooning! Man yes - its none other than Carl Arnfield and what a fuckin' good effort it his. A nostalgic, look-back, drive-along ponder is nailed as good old Ming the Merciless (remember that one) finds his vocal balance and produces a stunner. Tinged with a drunkards regret and hopelessness this one hits the right areas (as I heard the said piss-pot did) and is an accomplished piece shining bright from a galaxy of attractive stars. AFS never fail to raise a few brows - they are still doing it folks! 'We Don't Care' is a typical title for a typical punk song but alas this is nothing run of the mill. What AFS do is blend melodic colours and make up their own minds as to how the end result will be. Rather than a dirty doodle AFS create a polished picture and instead of the expected Kandinsky-esque harshness come out with a meticulous kind of gentleness somewhat similar to Monet piece. The inner artistry shows care and be it a sweeping brushstroke or delicate intricacy the band display forethought and this is reflected in a very tidy song. 'Protest Song' screws it up the ones who claim to care and understand but really don't have a clue. The chorus is superb punk in the fact that it opposes, creates imbalance and questions - that's how it should be and if discomfort is felt then so much the better. The song has clarity, has structure, has melody but most importantly has...anger! One of my chosen chunks to add to the overflowing AFS bucket I so often dip into to.
'Radicals' is a beautiful campside croon absorbed with acoustica and scored with emotive despair. Think REM meets Mr Angry over a Greenham Common cup of herbal tea. It is a sweet soulful song and a new approach for the AFS crew to take and I am all for the 'chance yer arm' approach as ye should know! Mellow and with an inner strength - very applaudable. 'Freedom Ain't Free' is very regulated rhythmic fare from this band and although with a more progressive sound and of finer production value I find myself not really getting in to this one. Not enough stuffing has been rammed up the jacksie of this little bird and so I feel somewhat unsatisfied by what I am served. The level I suppose has moved along on this CD to such a stage where anything just falling short stands out like a gobbling goose in a Prime Poultry Awards Ceremony. This isn't so disastrous but just lacks that extra sonic sage and acoustic onion. Sorry dudes!
'Trash Vegas' is a tidy closure and just gets the task in hand done with very little fuss. It has light texture, holds no serious threat but is a song to pick up, simply not get too carried away by and then switch off and think 'well that ain't too bad'. Nowt to gush over, nowt to gripe about - just a steady Eddie of a ditty. The hidden track is a superior effort and has just that gilt-edged touch that gives it extra class. Tones of retrospective fondness, overlays of feeling and careful attention create a decent listen and so the farewell is stronger than at first suspected.
So another good un' from the Arthritic Foot Soldiers and it is worthwhile that this review is done by someone who has followed the band since the beginning. I am still taken and I reckon if you are a newcomer to the band you may be attracted a little more - don't know for sure but a dip in the AFS pool never did anyone any harm - well not that many!