FUNGALPUNK - CD REVIEWS Page 61
SKA MADNESS - COMPILATION
The sub-title here is 'Another 20 reggae classics which inspired a generation' and so leaves you wondering if this will be a Ska CD at all. It does in fact lean towards the more traditional end of two tone and is nothing more than an 'influences' compilation and why the hell shouldn't it be? Some delicious classics on here have me jumping back many years and re-adjusting my lugs to something very relevant from yesteryear. The chilled out theme is prevalent throughout, the Jamaican switched off joy omnipresent too and the general inklings at a blossoming ska attack obvious. It is great to review something from a pool so different from the norm and so when requested I jumped at the chance. Some famous names here and here's hoping they do the business and my textual twaddlings can do them justice.
We commence with the classic drift of Desmond Dekker's 'Israelites' and from the opening heart warming vocals that do indeed 'Get up in the morning' this scrummy ditty pleases by the bucket load with the light and sunshine blessed hiccuppy vocals carrying the main can and during the briefest of chorus sections is joined by a bass heavy assistant who contrasts oh so well. This effort was initially released in 1968 where it topped the UK charts and hit the top ten in the US making Mr Dekker the first Jamaican to have a US hit - and with what better song could this feat be achieved? Dave and Ansell Collins follow with the sugar sweet lemon drop entitled 'Monkey Spanner'. The main assets of the song are the traditional vocals, the superb old-style ebony and ivories and the gently upstroked strings. Drums are sparse as are the lyrics and with a dripping tap effect this one is far from water torture but more like a welcome cool down moment. Fail to jig to this calypsotic, hypnotic tranquiliser and you must be mentally dead. Sheer class!
'Toots and the Maytals' next with a 'Pressure Drop' that tickles the senses into a glee ridden state via creamy yum yum repeat mode that has no pretensions, no crafty clever boy switching and certainly no hard driven persuasiveness. The skillage in the village comes from being in the zone and tapping into an inner melody many just can't locate. The Pressure has indeed Dropped but only in the stress levels dude! There isn't much change with the chirpiness involved within the 'Elizabethan Reggae' offered forth by Boris Gardiner. This singing bird in the verdant bush is a basic melody and continues the uncluttered theme of the entire CD with a happy go lucky approach. When life is heavy lighten up the load with this joyous bit of sonica and pay some respect to a tunemaster who has done his bit on the road during the 60's and beyond and has served his time as a solo artist and session musician, thus proving his own credentials.
Eric Donaldson comes next with the constipated flow of 'Cherry Oh Baby'. A real stuttering piece this that I can personally take or leave but recognise the fact that the winning aspects are the charming child-like yells for joy, the spacious laboured approach and the smiling solarised simplicity - each to their own I suppose and although not a preferred Fungalpunk snip this is still highly listenable. The Paragons pursue with a wibbling, wobbling intro that straightens out and proceeds into the serene tranquillity of 'The Tide Is High', Perhaps this song is best known as the cover by Blondie but it is always nice to remember where the roots lay and to taste a feel of yesteryear from where the original was borne. Yet another crew from Jamaica who performed most of their stuff in the heady sixties and this time with secure vocal harmonies and gentle upstroked rhythm. A quaint song indeed and having been originally released on Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label this one could well be enjoyed in such a remote Utopian location.
Guess what? Another Jamaican outfit this time its the turn of The Melodians, another band who had several hits on the aforementioned Dukes record label. This time more reggaefied gentleness is the key with a squelchy, comfortable feel one will doze along to. Again nothing technical but just a matter of placing each note in the right place and getting into the groove. The Jamaicans next (guess where they are from then) with the Gospelised intro of 'Ba Ba Boom Time'. A fresh number this with a serpentine feel that will entwine around your soul and have ye hypnotised in no time at all. A real cool customer of a song and one I am sure for the loved up couples who want one last slide across the much used dance floor. Sleazy!
The Paragons jump back up with a ramshackle B-movie sound entitled 'Wear You To The Ball'. Another slow coach of a number that promises to dress up that girl and take her to the said Ball. Saturated in innocence and old style radio flavours this one encourages memories of dusty roads, with the radiant orb beaming down and the fields laden with workers all yearning for the nights entertainment - romantic - why not! More upbeat next with the snake charming hop along 'Ali Baba' by the well versed and highly experienced John Holt. This dude played for The Paragons, released his first single at the age of sixteen and by the early 70's became one of reggaes biggest stars. Where he now resides is anyone's guess! The song here is semi-whispered and semi-sung against a typically careful instrumental approach that squeaks by rather than storms through. A lovely little piece this and one to niggle the frame of mind into a more optimistic outlook.
'Return Of Django' is a shuffle ghetto piece ideal for a conga-like jig with smiling faces all in a line just enjoying a glorious musical moment. I am quite happy to proclaim that The Upsetters fail miserably to live up to their name here and produce a choice chunk of instrumentalisation that stutters, screeches and sleekily struts - a veritable peacock! 'Skinhead Girl' walks in next with Symarip waddling along with more crooning calypsoid matter aching with vintage vibrations borne from innocence and unadulterated, unaffected acoustic arenas that seem somehow lost forever. The lack of glossy production finish is necessary and only creates a more tasteful tone to partake of. The same can be said of the next one by Tony Tribe who takes us away from the most famous cover version, that idled away like a pregnant cow unable to pass a runt of rhythm, back to this original that skips away and keeps the musical birthing process smooth. 'Red, Red Wine' is a classic and one really should check out this offering and make comparisons with the re-make and really assess which is better - the raw and unready or the produced and overly polished.
Time to 'Tighten Up' next with the Untouchables dipping in and boogie banging a beat that will get those feet working hard and the hips waggling like buggery. A jittery bug this one with emphasis high on harmonies and a coolio crystal cut that remains unflustered and of a repeat style that will stick in yer noggin'. Pat Kelley swings in with 'If It Don't Work Out', a song nicely layered, wholesome and full of realism and carefully caressed keys. The vocals are almost pleading and delivered with spiritual sincerity with the heart exposed and the emotion apparent - not a bad un' at all.
'Wonderful World, Beautiful People' by the renowned Jimmy Cliff is the most celebratory song thus far with a strong message to avoid fighting and fussing and get down to some good old friendly behaviour and selfless loving. Perhaps the most complex composite but in no way out of sync with the trend set and adding a different type of spice to the dish. 'Young Gifted And Black' is a particular favourite of mine with Bob And Marcia tinkling in, stating and cruising along on a fluffy carefree ocean of fragile delicacy and undulating buoyancy. This understated gem reached Number 5 in the UK charts in 1970 and surely was deserved of a spot a little higher - hey ho such is the populaces palate.
'Love Of The Common People' is another song many will know but mainly down to the release by ex-Q-Tip Paul Young and not the original artist Nicky Thomas. Both versions are decent enough but there are more textures here, more local dialect in the delivery and some great backing vocals that hint at something Gosepel-esque - a real treat you need to play over and over again. Losing Mr Thomas at the age of 41 was nothing less than a tragedy for the scene and lovers of soul-filled music. 'Black Pearl' by Horace Faith is another snippet straight from the gut and you can just envision this dude thoroughly absorbed in his output. Again quality female harmonies compliment, a plush comfort creates instant friendly appeal and the lack of any rage, spite, unease is a blessing. Is there any style of music so sinless and untainted?
'Wear You To The Ball' is a song reviewed earlier by The Paragons but this one is an enhanced version by John Holt (again) and U Roy. The song is intrinsically the same but seems more off the cuff, more improvisational, more natural. The overlain rap-esque vocals are hollow and add an interesting facet and so give an already decent song a new lease of life. Millie Small hops up next and gives us the sing-along delight christened 'Enoch Power'. A political number which saw Millicent 'Dolly May' Small lose her 'girl next door' image and show that she wasn't just a throwaway cutie. Starting in something Dvorak-esque mode this is a fairly jolly jaunt and has a good catchy slant that will attract immediate attention and so get a fair vote. The vocals are distinctly clear and although the latter half travels the same route a little too long it is worthy of its place on this quality release. The closure is a strong effort with The Pioneers asking you to 'Let Your Yeah Be Yeah'. A really choice closure and although a Jimmy Cliff cover it shouldn't detract from what a good sensation the song creates. This one adds a real swish in the CD's tail and leaves us on a sincere high note.
So 22 tracks, released together for a proper affordable price - excuses please? A little slice of history and some darn good tunes to relax with - this is music and music done bloody well - get your daily dosage and don't miss out!
BLACK LIGHT MUTANTS - SELF TITLED
An apocalyptic nightmare here with the barren burnt out landscape trampled by an overpowering vibe of utter hardcore intensity that will once more create havoc. If hardcore isn't your thing then this is a real red alert number that will have you running for cover in utter terror of the harsh tones that this way come. With any specific sub-generic mode the main key is to tap in to certain traditions and procedures (however un-punk that may be) and meet certain levels of cacophonic criteria to please the numbers in the niche. You can however mix and match many styles (my preferred stance of awkwardness) but you will face a dissected audience and get pulled this way and that with perhaps little success - you know the score. Well, the BLM brigade seem to have picked their spot, so how well will they survive - let's look at the evidence shall we?
The billowing dust pile settles and out of the wilderness wander the band armed to their fuckin' rotten teeth with a seething number entitled 'I Wish'. The bass is automated, the overlord welcomes, the first riff is consuming and steady and the vocals are scorched and laden with youthful fury and dissatisfaction at the way things are turning out. An invitation to be there is given but no takers are had. The chorus stops, states and repeats, the 4 wired animal throbs on, guitars provide a caustic touch - the acoustic acid rains fall and my skin is singed eternal. A delight to feel heat of this magnitude and Black Light Mutants I bid thee welcome to Hell. The final explosion is gratifying and as the feedback dies we are immediately propelled forward into the machined industry of 'Makeup'. Engines rattle along, pistons fire hard, voltage levels reach critical - what is seen in the melodic mirror is horror - haunted and in disarray but the BLM operators create order out of chaos and so smash us in the face with a most decent fist of polluted noise. The energy laden work put in pays dividends and the hardcore output is insatiable and overwhelming. The clatter comes and goes in the nervous flickering of an abused eye and without respite we are winding up into the ghastly terror crawl intro of 'Walls'. Soaked through with a defiant message of be yourself, disobey the rules and break up your society this one aches with dragging self-hate and cancerous confusion and so gives a portrait of a soul caught up in something of a nihilistic nightmare. A shuddering shocker.
Acid computer moment - the skies crack...
'Love Yourself' clatters along with a Crassite sentiment and determined drive. An unstoppable force that yells its way to swift victory that is more dramatic due to the position of following the preceding laboured slog. Both tracks work and with a whisper from the crypt and trembling guitar we travel into the nasty incandescence of 'Fairy Lights' Something Insane is hinted at as elsewhere on this CD and that combination of old, new, diseased and shot through is what makes this riot of rhythm and disorder so fuckin' appealing. The band are trying to tear up the volume levels and the sonic limits and with moments as shown here they may well just do it. I feel impressed, I feel we have another band creating a solid dangerous debut and then...
The glorious aural crushing that is 'Complimanix'. A big fuck gargantuan outburst this with the band having monster-sized multiple orgasms and spraying the blood filled spunk into each and every sonic arsehole. You will bleed when you hear this, you will beg to be penetrated even deeper and you will walk away wounded and genuinely bowled over by the awesome might of the racket. Hardcore lovers will accept they have a massive, massive moment to consider and this will undoubtedly be one of the best tracks I hear this year. From the dissecting riff, the initial scorching winds, the flesh torn vocals and the abdomen thumping bass lines this has everything and it makes its impact in dominating style. A true classic piece from the Underdog arena.
As a bonus you get an extra track, a narration spaceoid, futuristic, preach that goes on and on and on. Armageddon time and nothing more than an afterthought. Worth one listen and with relevant semi-cryptic messages the composite is well put together but...how many will listen over and over? The anarchic traits remind me of Negativeland - an underground outfit who had a classic outburst called 'Car Bomb' if I remember rightly. What these last ravings do exhibit though is a strong potential that anything is possible and anything can be expected...especially the unexpected!
So ignoring the latter bonus this is one hum-dinging release and one you should absolutely lap up. This band have many miles in their legs - can they take up the gauntlet and cover the foreseen distance - we can only wait and see.
CRIMINAL BRAINSTORM - LOS ANOS
A fuckin' very entertaining band this who seem to get drastically overlooked by the many who think they know best! These cunts from Kent capture an old school flavour and mix it up with fun, tidy spite and some decent song construction and, just to add for your interest, deliver with an unpretentious attitude that is both a joy and a sheer pleasure. Not everyone can like everything but I do scratch my head why these dudes are not doing more and gaining more notice. This CD has really reinforced my belief in the band and has several delicious retro rockets to shoot up the arses of today’s listeners that will hopefully get a positive reaction. Simplistic and yet with subtle underlay that attracts - 8 songs and here are my thoughts.
'Aggrovator' grumbles and then fuzzes up with the snarled gob trying his hardest to unsettle you. Full of punk rock attitude the first verse is brief and slips with ease into the channelled spiked and spiteful chorus. The intrinsic simplicity borne of yesteryear is captured, the noise is propelled forward into the modern day and for me, something nostalgic is created but without all the sickly sourness many bring to the 'look back' table. Picture the punk walking down the street, full of studded spirit knowing he pisses off the 3-piece suit wearing wankers and dear old mums. Whilst challenging the norm this song could be an anthem to strut to - where did those times go? The production here is fine and dandy and the only worry I have in this fractured scene is that some (nay many) will just not get it!
'Wake Up' comes from the wastelands and is played with an opening threat and warning that isn't lost with guitars providing a deep weave to sink ones dancing feet into. The strings in fact break forth into wonderful smashed glass moments where each fragment reflects a tone that echoes off its counterpart and creates electronic orgasmic acoustica to just become absorbed with. At full stretch this one needs a good whack out from the speakers so has to pick up on the many textured sonic surfaces – yes, a beauty.
'London' plods along in its own well timed style. The repetitive chorus is laboured but necessary to set the scene. A skip comes in via bass and drums with nagging guitar corrosion added to fill any spare space. The vocals here are frosted and 'as a matter of fact' and so we get something I can only describe as a tuneful documentary style song. On face value this effort seems to have little about it but why the hell does it get stuck in ones cranial pubes and no matter what, it just won't shake loose. Better than one first deems I suggest! 'Captain Scarlet' is a tribute song to that puppeted superhero we fondly remember from times of yore. A jingle and nothing more with an easily ‘involved with’ rhythm that isn’t breaking any political boundaries that's for sure. Bands like The Dickies and The Toy Dolls have similar piss about offerings so why can't an underdog outfit. It's one you can take or leave but it does the job it sets out to do.
'Skin' is much more like it with a crawling malevolence and bitter spiteful edge that thrives more and more as the sinister threatening edge grows. The bass holds main control before the title is shouted forth and an icy cold assassin style of gob work is given. The temperature rises into a swashbuckling guitar break that does little, but does just enough, and we travel again with the frost building before the simple chorus hits us with a nasty infection taking over and gets us on our knees in admiration of a fuckin' minor cracker. 'Puppet On A Chain' next and a climbing poison ivy intro that reaches out, grasps, ascends and sets out its rhythmic roots so as not to be shaken free. A 4 count halts the growth only temporarily and with new fervour the frisky foliage bursts and spreads in many directions. Again a good rock and roll vibration is created to get off to and the song chops along on home made DIY waves and takes us into the luscious, unforgettable riff of that rubber spunk bucket called 'Lurex Lucy'. The wrap-around legs of this ditty cannot be escaped and when the vocal vagina finally draw you in you gotta hang on in there boy or risk prematurely bailing out and missing out on one great rhythmic ride. The subject matter is of course titillating nonsense but the musical melody is just fine!
The closure comes with a piece called 'Terrorists', a provocative cut filled with a more raucous feel and highlighting the band can play it cute or give it to ya nice and rough. The greatest intensity of the whole CD is found within this gristle and grime effort and one wonders how the band would fare releasing a 4 or 5 track EP of this nastier stuff. It doesn't matter to be honest because what they have done thus far on this 8 tracker is more than good enough but I would like to hear some new stuff for sure. This final 4 minute 20 second burst is a delight and you really don't need me to tell ya when it’s done to press the 'replay' button.
I like Criminal Brainstorm and would love to do more with them but alas the punters lack of curiosity and willingness to listen to new noise always makes things difficult. There are many ways to skin a manky cat and so a different approach to get the word out there will be taken - we have to try or we'll all end up as brain-dead cunts - not a good idea!
OPPOSITION RISING - AFTERMATHEMATICS
Big ramming riffage here from a unit based in Boston and formed in 2010 and hell-bent on making ears bleed, eyeballs rupture and din-loving souls erupt. A snippet from their website reads as thus:- 'The album was recorded by Richard Marr at Galaxy Park Studios and mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering! The production sounds great' and after first impressions I have to totally agree. More rotations, the verdict changed - or did it? You gotta read on you pigs of sound to find out - it ain't the hardest thing you have done I am sure but perhaps this may be one of the hardest sounds you may uncover!
A brief whine, the dog is kicked into touch, the cacophonic kennel is cleared and these noisy beasts take the lead and create a forceful rising snarl that warns 'Watch Your Step'. The bass is deep, the initial guitar shuffle energy inducing, the drums steady. When off the leash the sonic bite that follows is hard and venomous with 'Rising' doing just that and towering above as we fall defeated. The mauling is what is needed at the opening juncture and the wounds left are deep. True to the cause of the genre this is a tasty morsel and so short and swift - you know what I like!
'The Rich Are Killing The Poor' is a delicious drive with those throat muscles worked out and left to ache and bleed without regret. The initial skip and rant is superb and drags one kicking and screaming (with joy) into the wracking tumult where all systems open up, bare arms and let you fuckin' have it. With lyrics supplied, this is another great sing and smash it up surge that insists you don't fuckin' stop until everything is reduced to rubble. Top class hardcore and how long can it last? Only something special can pull off an entire album of this kind of rage - we shall see! 'F. T. W.' pow pows and then rips up any idea of order with a furious volcanic eruption that spews red hot acoustic ash over the general populace as way of thanks for their greedy, selfish, power-mad, destructive ways - have it fuckers. The quadro-cabled weapon is ground out with brutal effect, its 6 strung escort is more cutting and abrasive, the terrorised skins are splatted and twatted with rushed rhythm and the gob growls with vehement hate and disgust. A class piece and just as you thought the CD was going a routine way we have a whizzed up sub-skank H/C output that throws one of balance and adds a new edge. 'Pink Slip Suicide' still bellows big, still pounds away like a mad un' but the upstroked inclusion and incessant speed make this an intriguing effort. What this song does is highlight the talent involved and assist one in examining each component and pondering the ability found therein. I have no complaints at 4 tracks in and so shouldn't you - strong stuff all round!
'Total Annihilation' is just that - unrelenting, weighted all out attack that leaves no one alive. The thunderous opening chorus continues the set trend with the pursuing chorus easy enough in construction but carrying so much power one can't help but be impressed. This and the chasing 'Tell Em' Nothing' are bruising moments with the latter song having a more deliberate approach that picks its shots over a longer stretch and so prolongs the beautiful agony. 2 bully beef efforts - wow! 'Brick By Brick' completes the inner trio and is the triumphant one with yet more semi-skankoid shiftiness and scatter bomb effect. Rising along on encouraged and motivated chords the slip from initial wind up to bouncing verse to stress relieving chorus to the completing spiral down is fuckin' choice and I remain keen for more. The best of the lot follows with 'Debt Sentence' opening with detective suspense suggestion before once more stroking strings upwards but this time to greater effect due to the much more sentient and emotive feel. The pace is moderate, the temperament more controlled and the reached for contrast is genuinely achieved. I keep selecting my favourite song with each play and it does change but this has gotta be my overall fave. The shadowed strokes, the backstreet essence, the pertinent lyrics of banking bastards feeding hard on the ones less well off all make for essential listening matter. 'Everybody's Lying To You' follows a similar style and seems in agreement with my Fungalised self that a winning formula has been found. After a bit of elusive bassism the same two-tonia tangent is taken with a sound vibe had. The mouth borders on the rappoid but the anger levels project from that flatulent arena and keep this highly convincing material with a good moralistic theme. When the beat kicks up more dirt greater success levels are had and the finishing touch is found.
Into the last and as another nail is hammered home we prepare for some more quality via a song called 'Destination Apocalypse'. Doom mongers are given a seeing to as the prediction for the end of the world is questioned and Opposition Rising throw in an unexpected slant. The music is well orchestrated, given extra flamboyance via sharded guitars that shimmer oh so brightly. When the band take the foot off the gas I feel they achieve an easier style to digest which I am sure will earn them wider acclaim but also insist that they keep the regular power blasts at a premium to offer diversity - just an opinion.
So what a fuckin' scorcher - 10 tracks, all high energy, all of superb production standards and all of a style very much to keep things alive and kicking. A newish band with plenty to offer - it isn't only the Opposition that is Rising but the interest levels too - watch out folks this ones gonna get ya!
THE BLISSETTS - WE'RE THE BLISSETTS, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU
Discounting the 'live' section of this CD I feel the best way to describe the sound of The Blissetts is nothing less than 'honest'. Very under-produced, very natural and with a salting of yesteryear, a peppering of today and a sauce of their own doing this is highly likeable stuff with a stubborn streak of sonic sausage meat to keep you chewing on what has been strummed and said. Much purity comes this way, much ranting and raving but what else would one want - we are supposed to be punkers after all. I have played this CD many times over several weeks and so have digested what the band have to offer and this, my hungry friend, is my critique.
'The Death Of Freedom' starts with morning fresh crisp guitars that cut through the silence with exact intent. A good rhythm intro follows with drums adding that essential skip for the strings to work along side and thus giving great promise of a really melodic opener. The gob work is heavy with dialect and comes forth with lucid tones that are straight out of the unprofessional pit and thus reflecting a song of very much the same ilk. Intrinsically this song is a simple structure but has that all important primitive punk appeal and has me in a state of almost certainty as to this song not being out of place on a 77 compilation. There is something heart warming when a modern band produces something so retro with new energy and undying belief. The Blissetts showcase here an almost instantaneous likeable and somewhat identifiable sound and that goes someway to getting my favour. Big Brother may be watching, 1984 may be slowly happening but punk carries on in the face of the fuck up controllers and bands like the Blissetts are the ones to help us resist.
'Liars, Cheats, Thieves And Politicians' starts with a similar thread but breaks down into a careful plod that only raises mild perspiration via the somewhat disjointed chorus eruptions. The sonic sea is left sparse and again the vocal work is left to sail in clear conditions and so remain filled with clarity and much wind blown venom. The waters are cut through with a raving ship where all on board row together albeit with a pedestrian style, but the question is - would this unit stay afloat with a swifter application of the acoustic oars? I think not and what they produce here suits the band precisely. It may not be for everyone but again I find some likeable edge and am more than keen to view these dudes in the flesh. 'Dumped On The Scrapheap' has a steady rhythm, the singer initially only just stays on line but when the chorus hits home the easy simplicity is applauded. This one sounds like an early 80's doleite anthem we unemployed punkers used to enjoy whilst waking up around dinner time and wondering what the empty day of freedom would bring. They weren't bad times when you were young and couldn't give a fuck but for the ones who had responsibilities they were fuckin' crushing. I like what the band do here however bog brush basic it may be and the general gist of the song is effective, however once again sparse of that 'ooomph' factor.
'Nothing To Lose But Our Chains' begins with more spunk in the tank and once more raves away against the injustice of it all. The verseage is as per but the all join in chorus is good to hear and adds the much needed contrast effect. The song seems to be coming to a standstill at just over midway but goes into a nice 'Fuck this and that' rave that begins with spite and ends with plenty in reserve - not bad at all. 'The God Delusion' is the sweetest track of the lot and the most sniping. Anti-religion through and through with an easy as you go verse and a great get up and join in chorus that gets better with every listen. The opening guitars remind me of something but I just can't grasp the memory, the laid back instrumental and the breakdown at the end all conspire to win favour - nifty!
And so to the 'live' tracks!
Very mucky, very cloaked beneath a production that is pretty dire. There are 4 tracks to ponder but as I don't favour any of them due to the aforementioned murk I will pass on and just say they are an unnecessary inclusion. 'Stabbed In The Back' seems ideal for the pit as does 'Borstal Breakout' but the last two are covers of previous tracks so there is no point tapping the keys for the sake of it.
Overall (and discounting the latter tracks) this is an identifiable sound from a band I am keen to catch up with. Via web contact they strike me as having the right attitude and the wordage poured out here seems to highlight a good punk outlook. They are booked on a Fungal show next year and then I can give the full run down on all things 'live'. In the interim though check em' out guys and gals and see what ya think!
THIS ARE DO THE DOG SKA COMPILATION - VOLUME 1
The UK's best Ska label by far and perhaps the best music label full stop. For sheer levels of quality and sheer dedication to the cause then Do the Dog has it all and I thought it only decent to review this 10 track freebie (yes FREE you doubting swines) and hopefully push this very worthy cause. Volume Two will follow immediately after so gird yer loins and get ready for some sincere two-tone assessments.
The first of the 10 tracks is the gentle persuasiveness of 'You Will Know' by that fine laid back unit Rebelation. With selected bass notes, a six-string chug-a-chug and heavily cymbal-soaked stick work this one has a feather-lite feel before the vocals even join the soirée. The crystallised vocals add finishing gloss and the end result is of a very fragile song one just loves to pick up and carefully peruse. Brass is sparse but the vigour is still there even though this is a perspiration free number - cooling!
The engine kicks into life and is followed by an ebony and ivory tinkle before a 'Vauxhall Nova' is driven forth by that highly capable outfit Cartoon Violence. Taken from their successful album 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lad' (reviewed on this site) this is a jaunty jolly and filled with a certain cheekiness and bouncy rhythm. The chorus is subdued when compared to the out-breaking chorus moments but all parts blend and compliment and this is a real street-based ditty. The acoutsica comes next with Drewvis offering depression resisting sagacity via 'Head Up, Keep Smiling'. Positive vibes mix with a sub-fucked off vocal style and the mix, although paradoxical and opposing, works and Drewvis donate a snippet that is once more instantly recognisable and highly enjoyable. It adds that much needed change of style and so after 3 songs you have much to ponder, much to admire and...much to look forward to. I like the crispness of the strings in this last song too - all good stuff it is!
Serpentine, suspicious brassology weaves this way next as the efficient John Player Specials deliver the smooth and persuasive 'Identification'. A brilliant song this with an approach that is laden with stealth and gently creeping melody that just entwines around you the listener and squeezes out a full on positive response. Good band, good song - nothing new there then - such is the quality of the label - repetitive I know but why the hell not? The superb Smoke Like A Fish next, a band who are now deceased and no more but who have left a nice legacy with great song after great song. This one starts in ushered church-like tones before upping the ante and slipping into a joyous jitterbug segment that oozes with generic knowledge and sound musicianship as well as a high production factor that is more than obvious throughout each and every song on this mini-offering. The vocal duties here are taken and given out with aplomb and although with an underlying cold edge the emotion isn't abandoned and so success is quite simply grasped.
Robb Blake produces a solid piece next with the juicy 'It's Never Over'. One of Mr Blake’s most feisty numbers and really pounding along on clean struck strums, bending bassism and stabilising drum work. The vocals are exact and well measured with sub-growls carefully positioned for maximum effect. I can recall being quite critical of a few of Mr Blake’s tracks but when used amidst a compilation they do shine a whole lot brighter - this is a beauty. Trepidation seems to trickle forth next as The Bakesey's peep in before deciding to go for it with the pleasing gem 'Grass Is Greener'. The penultimate track of their self-titled album this is choice listening matter and reaches back further in the annals of the two-tone genre and so gives something hinting at the retro. The gob work is the main distinguishing factor - odd, precise and somewhat hollow - strange it seems but when coupled with the sugared melody it works.
The Honeyshop Screamers pounce next with the awkward cocky swagger of 'Run Robert Run'. Sub rappoid, sub chavoid - this is an intriguing song with a flavour destined to be the most acquired on the CD. Taking many turns, with enough spunk in the cylinder and of a style to please the modern muso this ain't half bad and keeps the momentum flowing. Jimmy The Squirrel sneak in with the tepid tones of 'Music We Throw'. A tenderised piece with calypsoid overtones and thoughtful melodic moves thus making this superb chill out music and one to play when the golden orb is blazing away. Everything appears to be brushed rather than bruised and the whole feel is absorbing - subtle.
The closure is at the will of Rasta4Eyes who decide to offer us the highly realistic dole queue anthem 'Good Old Rock 'n' Roll'. The waters are choppy here but the crew sail through with a great outlook and keep the upstrokes clean cut, the bass undulating, the drums complimentary and the gob work with a well toned semi-spoken, semi-sung style. There is more to this effort than first suggested and the deep underlying delicacy isn't lost on my assessing self.
10 tracks, 10 triumphs and that is just what Do The Dog do. They select the best and give it to ya without fuss. Now and again you get treated a little too much and get the odd freebie such as this - think on, enjoy, then go chase that canine cacophony.
THIS ARE DO THE DOG SKA COMPILATION - VOLUME 2
The second in the Do The Dog series of compilation releases and again a fuckin' choice collection. 10 gems and all for sweet FA from your kind peddler Mr Kevin Flowerdew. You can't fault these efforts and here is my tribute to an amazing label doing things absolutely for the right reasons. This is my treat and without further fuckology...
We commence with an encouraging song that should have you chomping at the bit and raring to go - where is anyone’s guess but there ya go! The Splitters deliver 'Work Faster' with a brassed out intro and tickle me tease. The skip is adopted and the vocal lucidity and convincing mode is pure Jamaican tinted class. Couple this with the squelched guitars, the hopeless and carefree infection and you have a delightful ditty to enjoy. Ettin cruise into the second position with the urgent flourish entitled 'Let's Sit'. Opaque guitars begin, the followers join the fray and the lead lady opens, with a snake-like 'sax'ual slither pursuing each versed statement. The tones lighten and build into a semi-chorus where all components slightly rise in stature and bring heady pleasure. Another cut of delicacy but very much appreciated by the noise laden punk rock shitter.
A big intro punctuated by deliberate un-nerving strokes and then a screech and headlong we fall into the 'Fine Time' created by the effervescent band known as The Scrub. More usual skankiness, some smooth moving brass and some great sneered, angst driven vocals brimming with snot and tetchy edginess. The soundscape opens up and becomes bare in parts but we are soon into a chorus build up and then...some crazed rap trap comes this way and throws everything off balance ha, ha. Nicely executed though and nothing wrong with any band chancing their arm. A guitar segment soon gets us back into the usual mode and the finishing line is hit in fine and dandy style.
Skylar tear open the soul with a loved up ditty entitled 'Hey Dave'. A sub acoustic saga with emotion the main order of the day and dripping out of the speakers with every note, every utterance. Skylar are a fine tuned outfit and bring to the chequered table something natural and something heartfelt. The band are of an exemplary standard and the breathless approach here is a choice cut from the cacophonic carcass. Resolution 242 offer something for the man in the street and ask us to rise up and watch those 'Bullets In The Ground'. Anarchic, highly political and with a delicious tune - this call to arms is a one of the best songs on the CD and that speaks volumes as my opinion of this whole collection is extremely high. The band mix many aspects and come up with a rousing reggaefied rhythm to drool over. Starting in a westernised style, with a sonic sunrise bringing hope to all, this song cruises along up until the final stroke and insists that one and all flock together, fight together and enjoy!
Catch It Kebabs next and offering a supermarket jazzoid piece of idiocy as their intro to the fluffed up 'My Little White Friend'. An odd song and perhaps my least favourite due to its slight leanings towards that improvised genre that is utter shite to my lugs but this quirky little curio isn't that bad and so is worthy of attention. An odd piece I'd rather not over-analyse or my critical foot will end up in yet another mire (as though I care anyway). APB defy the promotional industry with the nicely christened 'Advertising Is Vandalism'. A song of paranoia perhaps, a song of fact is more to the point, a song with a chorus aching with mental disease but nevertheless a ditty to thoroughly get involved with. Wires are coming loose, the systematic push-push is getting heaved back and this jazzy little number twists away and grooves it up with a style that is highly recommended.
Combine tones of misery with a backdrop of madness and what you get is a pearl of a song from the superb Two-Toners Too Many Crooks. 'Happy Song' dips into 'La, La' land, maintains a deadpan delivery, borders on a breakdown, has many fine touches to bring delight and is, as stated, a real prize find. Perhaps my most favoured of the DTD stable and fully justified that feeling is. This is a quirky number played to its maximum potential - literal madness. Sadies Doll pursue with the flippy floppy higgledy piggledy busy bop entitled 'End Of Summer'. With more Jamaican influence, plenty of sensation and despite the aging mundane lyrics this isn't as moribund as first deemed. The closure comes next with Four 0 maintaining the seasonal theme via the slow dripping 'Come On Summer'. What could be regarded as a somewhat subdued finish is offered salvation via an intermittent bright shining guitar sparkle as well as the overall hygienic edge. A pleasant couple of finalising numbers but nothing outrageous…and then...we are done!
So yet another 10 tracks for nowt from this fab label - by heck you just never had it so good. All it takes is for you to check this out, chase up Volume 1 and then set about your own Do The Dog Collection - disappointment isn't even a consideration.
DUCKWORTH - FOR WHAT ITS WORTH
A Boltonian three piece here producing a new-skool sound but keeping things highly crisp and non too technical. Featuring members from bands such as The Emos, Tall Trees, Postcards from Wakanda, Baxter and Truro there is plenty of experience to draw upon but alas if the music is shite it doesn't really matter who the fuck these dudes have played for. I have my suspicions of what to expect here and so hitch up my knackers and prepare to type out the honesty!
'Debt' has me immediately on the back foot and is not of the sound I personally predicted. The overall sonica here is clean cut, sugared aplenty and with some very favourable vocal duties carried out with belief. The string work is bright and glistens with a good pop sheen with the drums avoiding needless flamboyance and playing things as required. No eruptions are had but none are needed as this very gratifying opener hits the appeal button and keeps it well and truly pushed inwards. Sweet! 'The Apostle' strides up next and walks on for way too long in my opinion and isn't a song that tickles my todger of tuneage. OK fair enough I hear you say but I have to add more - and this will be fair. The tune is a well thought out piece with once again each player being provided with a good production standard and making the most of it. This ditty is a mellow piece and is much removed from the spiked up shithole where my heart doth dwell. It is easily seen though that this is a well constructed number and even though lacking in any outbursts it will appeal to many. Shave 2 minutes off and a better song is had but alas its the bands call. Now that is fair!
'It's Only Love' has me initially floundering and wondering what is going to transpire after several listens. An inoffensive little number with a nicely strummed intro leading into a harmonised sensation with a careful level of power achieved. The vocals seems a little blurred, the intermittent guitar sequences sparkling but the chorus somewhat lifeless. I find this the worst of the lot and really don't like the general essence. A good old chorus section could have saved this no end instead we get a certain flat line moment which is a shame because the band are obviously capable of more. 'For What It’s Worth' is a deadened drone and fuck all else but 'Fire' slams then glistens and repeats. The new-skool headlong insistence is not bad but when the band switch off and rely on uncertain vocals and shuffling guitar I remain totally unconvinced. Just a complete lack of mouth-watering rhythm impedes and yet they are so close to something a whole heap better. At this stage the band may still be finding their feet but with the aforementioned levels of experience I find this hard to believe. Let us move on and seek more rewarding offerings.
And no sooner requested than a real smart pip is located entitled 'Nothing To Do With You'. Subdued at the start and then bursting into a real solid pop punk moment oozing success and utter fuckin' spirit. The whole concoction is enthralling and songs of this bubble-gummmed post relationship gripe-style are the way Duckworth will find deserved success. A tasty burst this and one to bop along to with a beaming smile on ya face despite the ache in the heart, the hard done by emotion in the gob - great stuff! 'Stop Motion' doesn't have the same effervescence as its predecessor, especially during the chorus, but saves its ass with a chorus that is again glinting with a well-polished steel and full of good time vibes. This song could have made a bigger impact had it not followed the preceding classic - poor blighter. So 2 good un's back to back and the next one is highly anticipated from my now salivating sonic jowls. Imagine my disgust when all I get is 22 seconds of delicately caressed guitar and a dull fuckin' drone - bah - the bastards.
We close with the feisty 'Kings And Queens', a number full of well tempered glory and controlled sanguinity. The crew bite a little harder and deeper here but remain cool and so don't lose the nectared essence that many will sip from. There is a good liquidity to this one with all parts of the songs structure fitting neatly into one another. The instrumental is slightly hesitaant but it works - not bad at all.
So Duckworth begin their crusade and despite not all offerings stoking Fungal's fire they have shown enough to encourage me to point people their way, offer a gig or two and hopefully shake em' up onto bigger and better things. When the band appeal to me though they do it in a lovely glowing way - go sniff em' out - may just be up thy sonic street!
INDIGO VERTEBRAE - DEBUT EP
Indigo Vertebrae are a new outfit on the block and offer a malevolent creeping sickness of sound that will at first assess, consider and then envelope. The grunged aspect is riddled with dangerous thick and consuming disease and ones who are prone to analyse their moods whilst in a state of fragile fever will take this, crawl into a blackened corner and ingest. This isn't music to pick up, play once, take the antidote, throw-away and pass a quick verdict. One must make oneself available to the virus and sacrifice every acoustic cell to the filth and let it have its way and duly run amok through the acoustic flesh. Only then may one seek sanctuary and come out of the nightmare and truly evaluate. I have put myself through the debilitating blender, survived and offer the following overview for you the somewhat healthier, hesitant reader.
The first soiled sludge to drip this way is the seedily uttered 'Burning'. The glistening commencement aches with subdued atmosphere, the first verse holds much threat and has a drugged up feel awash with hazy acoustic apparitions and nebulous rhythmic nomads who are seen and heard but just can't be placed. We drift forth until the band decide to stoke the flames of the mind and bring greater vision with a somewhat petulant and highly disturb pseudo-chorus that is of an ilk much sought and achieved. Towards the finale the band seem tortured and this adds to the overall drama of the song and I for one feel a firm opening gambit is achieved.
'Dirt Under My Nails' has a more regulated pulse but is still highly poisoned with a lethargy brought on by the self-inflicted grinding germs. There is a deep bass line here and the whole concoction is borne of a sickened brow where frustration, pent up emotion and taut nerves all squabble for the much needed release. Drums are banged with vigour while the rest of the players bleed forth their individual noise and contribute to an overall laboured throb. Again suited to the sub-generic style - outside of that - why the hell not? The closure pleads and on we go regardless!
Caution once more and yet still more potential threat as the spectre known as 'Disease' comes to the fore. The opening build up is perhaps the weakest part of this 4 tracker and just doesn't have enough bite, enough vitality and the switch from the initial cruise to the higher intensity is somewhat awkward and unnecessary. We drift on and the next time around when the flame burns harder we have a slightly better effect but it seems a little too late and the opening drag is a too recent memory - shame but it happens.
'Gutter World' has a nice wanting need and a slow swirling rhythm that greets with open lepered arms. The complaint would be is this one doesn't offer enough of a variation from what has gone before and already we have a feeling of 'heard this'. Again towards the latter end of the song the band turn things up a small notch and reveal greater persuasive powers. Potential missed perhaps!
So a quartet of curios with the first two getting a definite nod and arousing interest, the third leaving me feel cold and the fourth seemingly like a better opportunity missed. The main aspect the band need to grasp with their noise is to grab that 'contrast' factor and mix and match the slow unnerving style with episodes of wild abandon and full on madness. I feel this is where higher success will be found but as per - I may be wrong! All I can do is offer my ear, give good time and then try and squeeze something better from the band. Worth throwing on a full on punk gig though and I reckon the sound will shine quite brightly!
THE PLIMPTONS - ARE CYNICAL AND BLOATED
It may be said that The Plimptons are a trifle cracked. It may also be added that their sound is fairly unique in this saturated scene and very much an enjoyable jaunt. From a critical standpoint however justification may be had in saying the band gamble with their sound and sometimes just miss the mark (which I think is better than playing safe and hitting the bull over and over again with tedious monotony) which many will not tolerate - fools! Personally I like what the crew do and even if they do miss the Fungal inner eye I recommend they plod on and stick to their guns as this is the only way true progression can be achieved. Here we have their 4th album and one that glows with poppy likeability and sub-garage undertones with a warped outlook on life and the idiocy found therein. There is some real good shit on this one and some that makes me ponder over and over - so without an unnecessary digression on we plod.
The first snippet from the Glaswegian 6 is the title track coined 'Cynical And Bloated' which starts in Sci-Fi style with a creeping creature feature edge before breaking down and revealing the typical Plimptonian carousel of sound that is utterly delightful. Infectious to a high degree, fizzing with energy with the melody the main key and the great vocal inflection giving obvious character. Another brief dip into futuristic mode is had but overall the fun fair poppology runs the show and is what makes this first ditty a joy. 'Nobody Knows Anything At All' is hot on the openers heels and comes with a rusted opening sequence before the guitar drops away and only makes the odd cameo appearance via the first lines of mouth work. This song wanders slightly off the central rhythmic line and is a real intuitive number that goes with the way it feels at the moment. A funny effort that closes with extra vim but I still remain unsure whereas the chirped up swan along entitled 'A City Is Too Small' finds the band doing what they do best - producing a joyous tinkle with a little thought in the lyrics and with a great comforting melody throughout. Lucid, mid-paced, given character via the keys and full of the old familiar feeling with a somewhat dreamy snug snippet in the middle - hey good stuff. Don't get too comfy now though as 'Britpop Girl' has more kick in her heels and scatters herself about on a corrosive sound that has a fine bop along beat and encouraging impetus. The said impetus nearly falters but the crew regain footing and carry on to the final thrust in safe style and then we are into the beauty that is 'Pride Comes Before A Fall'. Ethically correct, oozing a zest for life and it is just an all round good punctuated number that we get. The band are up for addressing matters here and they do it with crackin' belief and upbeat inflection although even this little poppet pales against the more forceful and highly intent 'Never Going Back To Work'. The zenith of the CD is here and drives along with a message that is truly meant. A serious opening sequence - the first utterances are filled with a despising hate we have all had in our souls now and again when the routine, the raping of the self and the endless toil all seem without release. The guitar has a sub-skank edge in parts before grinding deeper whilst the bass bobs and weaves with command as the drums work with briskness and busy, busy feel - its all complimentary stuff.
'Be Expected' digitally cuts and splices its way into the serene sound scape and then continues as a wayward bastard of the sub-80's electro genre where whirring and whining synthoid inclusions where rife. A real freak number this and how the hell do you categorise this shit? I love the unique idiocy, the repetitive chants, the somewhat B-movie space age essence - odd but pleasurable - similar to bumming a rubber midget (if you know what I mean). 'I Learned To Dance' has a nasty edge and pours on the venom with choice delight. A very riled up song with a solid chug that carries one from spittled verse through to the tensed chorus where the song thrives. When The Plimptons slip into the tetchy mode I just love it - that accent real shines brightly and gets the point well and truly across.
'A Call Centre Job Over The Summer' opens with an eerie X-Files whistle before a gentle song comes forward and just rolls over you without much danger. It ain't needed and a delicate ditty is had whereas 'Laziness And Fear' is a punchy little number driven in the main on well-fingered bass and interspersed hepped up guitar fiddling. The odd touch of buzz saw is grating, the spaciousness natural, the coming together of the players expected - not sure about these two at all - many nice touches, many tests! 'What Am I Gonna Do Tonight' is more like it with the band getting back to their more friendly style and comforting approach. Still packed with the twists and turns factor this is a good perky do given bubbles by a band who believe. Still I find it difficult to make a comparison with The Plimptons and this is surely the reason why I am enjoying the cruise but struggling to rattle the review in one or two attempts. Throwing rock 'n' roll snippets into the mix doesn't help either but boy does it keep me on my toes.
'Living Beyond My Means' is a choice cut and refuses to perspire or get drawn into a melodic moment of madness. The strums are slight, the drift carefree, the instrumental inclusion brief and sub-calypsoid and the running time short thus making way for the lunatic thinking of 'I've Only Got One Head'. Pure poppoid zany brainy cracked pottedness that insists you drop yer drawers, put a turnip in yer arse, stuff several squirrels in ya pocket, cross yer eyes and jig - crazy man crazy. Frothed up and fucked but a real sweet listen nonetheless and alas we are at the final hurdle neatly named 'Last 2 On The Piss'. Starting in sobered style with a spoken word panging with sincerity this is one any drunkard and his mate can relate too with that 'just one more' feeling contributing to what can only be described as a shitter. The emotion is precise, the fact that the dude has lived the moment is obvious and the final celebratory rave up is plucked straight from the soul. And so we are done!
The Plimptons intrigue me, keep me interested and keep me on the back foot. They are indeed a slippery sonic fish to catch and no matter what words flow the band always seem to elude that finishing description. That is the winning cut of criteria and love it or loathe it the crew are doing it with their own style and having a fair level of success. Only advice - do not change!