Ever since 2016 and The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, which I consider to be one of the finest pop-punk records of the modern era, I have been eagerly awaiting a new release from The Murderburgers. Finally, that moment has arrived, with the ‘Shitty People and Toothache’ EP. Sonically, it largely picks up where the 12 Habits off, with one or two wrinkles. I feel like the band’s melodies become more infectious and sophisticated with each release, now pretty fucking far removed from their Ramonescore origins. The opener “Turning 29 was a Mistake” is definitely classic Murderburgers: driving, mid-tempo, ear-worm-y miserabilia pop-punk, complete with ace backing vocals and memorable lines.

Meanwhile, “Feeling Strangely Fucked” is akin to the more intense and fast-paced Murderburgers tunes, like “8am Headlights” or “Lung Capacity” off the previous record. It’s a darker and more aggressive form of pop-punk that recalls bands like The Dopamines, Dear Landlord or Rational Anthem. There is a certain slickness to it as well (and on “There’s a Special Place in Hell for Both of You”) compared to the Burgers’ previous stuff that brings to mind late-era Fat Wreck pop-punk. “7 Months” is a different beast though and the stand-out track on the EP for me. It is a mid-tempo, hook-filled beauty; it is like a slowed-down typical Burgers track, yet one which retains the standard energy and passion. It works wonderfully. The melodies are great throughout, but particularly on the slowed-down part towards the end of the song when Fraser sings “I keep drifting off and dreaming about/4 years ago when I had this sussed or at least thought I did…”, before the rest of the band kicks in.

As I have highlighted in previous reviews, with the last couple of LPs, the ‘Burgers have really carved out their own sound in the UK punk scene. Largely, this is driven by Fraser’s songwriting ability which just seems to get better and better with each release. Here, the lyrics are tighter and more gripping than ever. This EP tells the story of Fraser being unjustly kicked out of his house in Edinburgh in 2016, as he described in an interview with us earlier this year: “(it) is all about when I lived with a couple of maniacs in Edinburgh that ripped me off, lied about me to the police and got me arrested in 2016. I ended up homeless and jobless because of it, and got dragged through court as well.”

So, the EP is narrative-driven, with each song recalling different stages of the story, from Fraser’s realisation that he is living with maniacs to the police dragging him out of his bed in the middle of the night and spending a night in a call to the relief of the court case conclusion on the final track. These songwriting structures are the biggest change-up on this EP compared to the Murderburgers’ previous stuff. It largely works, with only one or two occasions existing in which the narrative drive becomes a little overbearing. What makes it work well is that the narrative is placed in the context of Fraser’s wider mental health struggles. This really brings out the meaning and broader impact of Fraser’s recollections. For instance, on “Turning 29 Was a Mistake”:

“The severe lack of sleep is making it hard for me not to notice
That I’m essentially rotting out
Maybe right enough I just deserve to die here
Even though the front door is right there the way out is unclear
What the fuck happened to this year?”

Lines like these wonderfully tie the specifics of the narrative together with a broader sense of despair and dejection. Fraser wants to go back to the good old days where his “face would bleed for no reason” and misses “passing notes with Brandon and drinking flavoured vodka with Kyle”. There is a sense that Fraser is both nostalgic for the past while simultaneously scolding of it, acknowledging that this is just the latest in a series of things going wrong, i.e. “now that I’m fucked again”. With the first three tracks vividly demonstrating Fraser’s anguish and mental torture, it is great to hear the relief on the final track “There’s a Special Place in Hell for Both of You”. It has a much different tone to standard ‘Burgers tunes, focusing on external rather than internal targets. Moving away from scorning himself, Fraser uses his pen as sword towards the psychos who put him in this mess: “Maybe you wouldn’t be such a struggling artist/If for once you produced a piece of art/ And maybe you wouldn’t find that all your friends keep disappearing/If you tried treating them like human beings for a start”.

The ‘Burgers keep producing the goods; for me, consistently the best pop-punk band in the UK right now. This EP only adds further weight to that claim. Looking forward to the split with City Mouse that comes out later this month!

Check it out here: https://themurderburgers.bandcamp.com/album/shitty-people-toothache-ep

DB

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Goodbye Blue Monday are a new-ish gruff punk band from Scotland, with “Misery Punk Ruined My Life” their third release. It’s fucking great! ‘Gruff-punk’ or ‘Fest-punk’, or ‘beard-core’ or whatever you want to call it kind of got old for me pretty fast, but every now and then, a release comes out that manages to avoid the trappings of the sub-genre or at least accentuate the more interesting elements of it. Goodbye Blue Monday is one of those. They are clearly influenced by bands like Off With Their Heads or Iron Chic, with lead singer Graham’s vocals as growly as those of Ryan from OWTH, but Goodbye Blue Monday play a poppier, more energetic and more ‘fun’ form of punk than these.
In many ways, they recall Brooklyn’s (long-gone) Ringers or Minneapolis’s The Slow Death, both of which have some Goddamn hits in their discography.

The title track is one of the best gruff-punk songs I’ve heard in ages: infectious melodies, an anthemic chorus and witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It kicks off with a guitar riff from an early-00s mall-punk song that I can’t quite put my finger on, before immediately bursting into action. I love the pace and energy on this one and the way that the lyrics roll off lead singer Graham’s tongue, in stream-of-consciousness style. Of the three tracks on this EP, “Misery Punk…” is the one that is least typical gruff-punk; the hooks and energy suggest an edgy pop-punk track or a hyper Rancid track, especially the fast-paced, street-punk chorus. The lyrical wit and songwriting structures also recall the best of RVIVR. Here, Goodbye Blue Monday are singing about the fact that no matter how hard the try, they cannot find it in themselves to write a positive/happy song; they are stuck in the rut of writing ‘misery punk’, evident in these great rhyming couplets:

“I tried to write a love song
But my heart turned black and it came out wrong
Instead of all the ways that I care about you
I can only sing about the hell I put you through”

It is a wonderfully self-aware and tongue-in-cheek track that straddles the line between poking fun at oneself and seriously interrogating mental health issues. I hope that the band name Goodbye Blue Monday is taken from the title of Vonnegut’s classic Breakfast of Champions, because there is a bit of fourth-wall breaking from the songwriter here in the same way that there is in that novel. This is a roundabout way of saying that I love this track! And the other two are at least 7/10s, too. What to do after a semi tongue-in-cheek tune about the psychological constraints of not being able to write anything other than ‘misery punk’? Write some misery punk of course! “Worst in the Mornings” is classic, mid-tempo gruff-punk that definitely recalls The Slow Death, while “Love is a Noose for Two” veers closer to pop-punk in a RVIVR-ish way, particularly with that opening guitar lead. The latter track is more interesting conceptually and lyrically for me, digging the boot into societal expectations surrounding romantic relationships, marriage and the other ‘milestones’ of life, with an anthemic, woah-oh choral chant of: “Get a job, get married/Get a house, reminisce/Have kids, get buried”. I know that it’s a theme that has been touched upon for years in punk, but “Love is a Noose for Two” quite succinctly and beautifully puts across its argument: that love and couple-dom is ultimately doomed to fail and lead to misery. Check out this wonderfully depressing verse:

“Insecurities build up with time
Ticking bomb of mutual loathing
And every step you take is like a fucking landmine
Here’s to your simmering betrothing”

An infectious and intriguing EP, I am definitely on board with the next band off the Scottish punk scene’s seemingly never-ending conveyer belt of goodness. Goodbye Blue Monday have significantly built on their previous release ‘The Sickness and the Shame’ and created one of the most outstanding gruff-punk tracks I have heard in ages. Lovely stuff.

Check it out here: https://goodbye-blue-monday-1.bandcamp.com/album/misery-punk-ruined-my-life

DB

Following up from their last EP, “Time and Tide,” Yorkshire’s Eat Defeat are back with a full-length LP. Some of the things I wrote in my review of that previous record still apply: the music is melodic pop punk mixed with bits of skate punk on some of the tracks. Harmonized vocals are used frequently. And once again, the musicianship is at a high level. And, as I said before, this is a common sound these days, so it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd, and Eat Defeat do that. Standouts on this ten-track album include “Smile,” a song with a really strong melody that reaches beyond pop punk toward the realm of indie pop. It reminds me a little bit of a harder edge version of something another northern England band called Martha would do. It’s got a really sunny feel. The lyrics seem to be a memory of a relationship or friendship that has been interrupted by a long-distance move. They’re happy memories, and the song certainly will make listeners smile. “Running In Place” is another one I really like. It’s not a particularly flashy song, but it’s got a solid melody. The intro to “Scorched Earth” promises something a little edgier, but it turns into another (well-played) melodic track. The album closes with “Not Today, Old Friend.” It’s got some pretty speedy skate punk sections, and some more mod-tempo parts that focus more on the melody, with an open, striding sound. As good as “Time and Tide” was, I like this LP better, because it does seem to be a bit more mature, focusing more on the songs than on technique.

Check it out here: https://eatdefeat.bandcamp.com/

PS

Freddy Fudd Pucker, aka Bill Young, has been releasing music since 2009. In addition to a handful of EPs and a single, this is his sixth full-length album. Hailing from New Zealand, Young now lives and records in Berlin, and his music varies from folk-punk to indie rock, and points in-between. Some tracks work better than others, but every one of then range from listenable to great. The album opens with a foot-stomping rager called “Habitual Illusions of a New Day,” and what a scathing indictment of society and self it is. I starts out be decrying a wasted youth: “I slept through my youth and woke up screaming / Dead friends and failures swimming in my coffee.” The feeling of not having any control over ones own life and swallowing lies is reflected in the next lines, “I am a fly on the windowsill of my own world / Swimming through wormholes, habitual illusions.” Help that’s offered from the outside is always a sham: “Waiting on a wasted, bleeding Jesus / A war criminal Mother Teresa / A Peter Pan pied piper, an interloper liar.” This is a great, real, depressing song. “You Self” is a soulful track, with a simple arrangement of guitar, drums, organ, and vocals. The song seems to decry conformity and societal expectations, and how that takes away our ability to become who we will. I really like “Good Times,” a loping song that uses banjo as its primary instrument. Like many of the songs, it’s a lament to the out-of-control spiral of our modern world. “Chem-trails, inside jobs and Sasquatches / Don’t sound crazy when you’re witnessing what we are.” The chorus: “Sooner or later / You’re gonna have to make an escape, man / Those good times are gone for good / So stay afloat, stay warm, make sure you’re understood.” The simpler life is gone, the new one is more complicated, and people don’t care to listen to and understand each other. The title track is unlike most of the rest of the tracks, devoid of folk or country or soul content, and it’s a straightforward indie track, with a bit of synth dreaminess added in. Don’t lose opportunity the chorus seems to say. “Open doors, move your feet before / They’re open doors no more.” “Salt” is another stomper, with the organ coming back. I love the forward feeling of the track, and the distorted guitar in the back half of the song is amazing. Salt is what comes from the earth and the sea, and it’s what we cry in our tears. It’s what we use to season our food, and it what gives us heart disease. And, in self-inflicted pain, we rub it in our wounds. The more times I listen to this album, the more I like it.

Check it out here: https://freddyfuddpucker.bandcamp.com/album/open-doors

PS

Five songs of simple big-chord punk rock, with huge gang vocals. The lyrics are sung, but there’s not a whole lot in the way of melody to these songs – just a series of chords strung together. The mix is kind of muddy, too, so the result is a wall of sound hitting you from the speakers. The songs are all mid-tempo, with little variation, so they tend to blend together. The band claim Jawbreaker, Pegboy, and Dillinger 4 as their influences, and I can sort of see that, especially in the angular chord changes they use, like that favored by Pegboy. But, where those bands were creating a wholly original sound, Rich Widows seems content to mimic others rather than explore new territory. Their bio also speaks of an image of empty whiskey glasses strewn about at 3am on a cold rainy night, leading to a rude awakening on the bathroom floor. This is an all too common image in pop punk, and the gruff gang vocal sound is too common too. If you’re a huge fan of this sound, I guess you may enjoy this, but even though I do like many bands o this genre, I was left cold by this record.

Check it out here: https://richwidows.bandcamp.com/

PS

This is about as close to a party on record as you’re likely to get. Hell, the opening track is called “Have a Party.” Well, it’s called that, but the sentiment is a little different, a little ironic. The lyrics begin, “Saturday and Sunday all blend into one / Cause who needs a light when the TV is on / But Monday to Thursday I’m a nobody / So nine on a Friday I get to be me.” The song is a sad one about not wanting to be alone, joining in with other people, but still, really, being alone. The “party” is filled with emptiness. Whoa! The song is dirge-like in tempo, the vocals intense. “We’re gonna have a party / We’re gonna have a party / We’re gonna have a happy time / Happy happy dead inside,” the chorus cries out. “I don’t wanna be alone!” we hear shouted in the background. “Digital Girl” has a fantastic punk crossed with glam rock feel, with a glorious synth solo. The chorus on “Trudy” reminds me a bit of classic New Pornographers, and “Unemployable” is a noisy, grungy pop tune with lyrics about being broke. “Football Song” is a hilariously fun track, otherwise known as “I Don’t Like Football.” The closer, “Grow Up,” is a slap in the face to kids, telling them they’re not part of the world until they grow up. Well, it’s true, isn’t it? This EP is loaded with sarcasm, depression, hilarity, and irony. The music is fun, the lyrics dark, and the result gets full marks from me.

Check it out here: https://tvcomamusic.bandcamp.com/releases

PS

husker du new day rising

I think I’ve finally drifted away from what could in any way be considered pop punk, I wanted to go with 1985’s Flip Your Wig, because it’s more pop, and that did seem like a good idea or Candy Apple Grey, because it’s even more pop, but maybe lacking a bit of the punk. So when talking about Hüsker Dü as a pop punk band I definitely think Flip Your Wig would be the ultimate choice, but thinking about it, I prefer New Day Rising and regardless of ‘pop-punkness’, I feel like I’ll have more to write about. My history with this band, goes quite a while back. I remember being in a record store in Manchester in October 2002, around my 13th birthday. At the time I mostly looked around for rare blink-182 records and even a Bowling For Soup single seemed underground to me. That’s when I discovered the magazine section at this punk record store. I don’t think I was even familiar with Nirvana at the time, so the name Big Cheese was to me a very strange name for a magazine, but I think they did an interview with New Found Glory and for some reason I read a lot of NFG interviews at the time. Big Cheese also did a story in this issue on Hüsker Dü and I thought they were Norwegian because of their name, which in most Scandinavian languages means “Do you remember(?)”. Husker du was also the name of a Norwegian radio show that played evergreens back in the day, before evergreens were ever green even. The ¨’s above the “u”’s are strange because they are usually used in German for the /y/ vowel sound that never occurs in English, and English speaking people usually pronounce ü as a /u/ rather than an /y/ or /ü/ (I’m not sure if these two phonemes are identical, but they pretty much sound the same). We can hear this in the Dead Kennedys’ “California über Alles”, so when English readers are reading the name Hüsker Dü it makes more sense to pronounce it like Scandinavians would pronounce “husker du”.  For some reason, I didn’t even listen to Hüsker Dü until 2007. I think I wrote about this in my Ergs article like four years ago, time flies. I bought the album Everything Falls Apart(and More) because I thought it was the greatest title of all time and it corresponded with my life at the time, realising it was actually just titled Everything Falls Apart and the ‘more’ part was just the bonus tracks bummed me out a lot. I didn’t like the album much either, I did, however think that it was cool they did have a song called “Do You Remember?”.

For some reason, I always associate Hüsker Dü with days that seemed dramatic for some reason. After hearing “Makes No Sense At All” on Weasel Radio I decided to get more into Hüsker Dü and I remember going to the record store on March 17 2008 and listened to three albums. Zen Arcade and New Day Rising by HD and Float by Flogging Molly- it was St. Patrick’s Day after all. I remember it as a day of hopelessness and fear that something bad would happen.  Zen Arcade, was like Everything Falls Apart, a bit too noisy for my gentle ears. I guess I thought the same about New Day Rising at the time, but I’ll get back to that. The Flogging Molly album disappointed me as well. After that I culturally appropriated Guinness beer. A few Sundays after that I went and bought Flip Your Wig as it had “Makes No Sense At All” on it and because the title reminded me of the Screeching Weasel song “Six AM” and a Beatles documentary I had just seen where they would sell Moptop wigs and say “Flip your wig”. After that I gave myself the nickname “Wig flipper”.

Hüsker Dü was founded by and always employed by Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton. Three boys that apparently should be beware of the thing that only eats hippies. They started in 1979 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The name was, regardless of the Norwegian radio show, named after board game with a Scandinavian name from the US. Everything Falls Apart was released on their own and Terry Katzman’s label Reflex, but from Zen Arcade up to Candy Apple Grey they were on the Black Flag label SST. Minutemen’s New Alliance also released the live album Land Speed Record, and Dead Kennedys also had their alternative tentacles around it. Candy Apple Grey was their major label debut on Warner Bros. It was also their first album to chart on the Billboard album chart. HD’s last album was Warehouse: Songs and Stories, also on WB. After that Bob Mould formed Sugar, who made one of my favorite songs in “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”.

New Day Rising was released January 1985 on SST, but recorded in the summer of 1984 in Nicollet studios in Minneapolis. It was produced by Hüsker Du and Spot and engineered by Steve Fjeldstad. I don’t know who did the artwork, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful album covers ever. I mean, look at it! I have a t-shirt with the logo on it and it’s one of my favorite t-shirts just because of its beauty. The album didn’t actually dominate the charts, but it reached #10 on the UK Indie Chart

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1. “New Day Rising”: For some reason, I thought of Green Day the first time I heard this song. There are basically just three words in the entire song, which is the title. It, in a way, manages to become somewhat of a classic, but at the same time be kind of a pointless song. I see it as an into to the rest of the album: a two minute repetition of the album title and the distorted guitars and the transition to a more melodic singing style from Zen Arcade. It shows us what’s ahead, and what’s ahead is great, so I guess this song is great too. Not only does it sound like something great beginning, but it also sounds like a new day rising.

2. “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”: This track reminds me a bit of Hank Williams’ “Mansion on the Hill” thematically, but also quite the opposite. The male voice of Williams’ song laments the loss of his former love and watches her from his cabin. He uses wealth as a metaphor for loneliness and almost romanticises poverty. The woman in the song lives in a mansion with riches, but without love, an ongoing theme in Williams’ songs. In the Hüsker Dü song, the narrator visits a girl who lives in a cabin. She lives a life of poverty with worn-out clothes, a worn-out doormat and even a worn-out smile. The seemingly infatuated narrator paints her as a messy girl with a messy cabin who waits for him to come visit her with a bottle of booze. He would trade mountains and rooms of gold to be with her, but we don’t know from the lyrics if he possesses any gold, I’m sure he doesn’t have any mountains. So in that aspect, it fits the Williams song quite well. “Mansion on the Hill” says that diamonds and gold can’t live up to romantic love, but a common theme in his songs are also that diamonds and gold can’t live up to salvation from God. There’s also a religious aspect of “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”. Heaven Hill could be a metaphor for Heaven or paradise, it’s in the name. To the narrator, gold would definitely be tradable for the paradise that is the girl’s love. I don’t know if there’s a place that’s actually called Heaven Hill, but there’s a whiskey brand with that name. It could possibly be the bottle she keeps up on her mantelpiece. In that case, the title has a double meaning. Musically, the song is quite more melodic than anything on Zen Arcade and other earlier Hüsker Dü albums. It’s also written by Grant Hart, drummer of the band. He also penned some of my favorite Hüsker Dü tunes like “Every Everything”, “Green Eyes” and their probably biggest hit “I Don’t Wanna Know If You’re Lonely”. Hart died in September of 2017.

3. “I Apologize”: Another Hart track from Candy Apple Grey is “Sorry Somehow”, a song about apologies and a forgiveness that will seemingly never come. Bob Mould explored this theme before Hart in “I Apologize”, a great pop punk track and one of Mould’s best in my opinion. The protagonist in the song says accusations from another person about them is floating around and even if they apologize they don’t only expect forgiveness, but an apology in return. Troy Taylor in a blog series about Rolling Stone’s top albums,( https://vinylthriftchaser.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/487-husker-du-new-day-rising-1985/ ) says that it’s what they’d imagine “An R.E.M hardcore track would sound like”. The album was #495 on Rollin Stone’s top 500 albums of all time, hence inclusion in Taylor’s blog.

4. “Folk Lore”: The more ‘hardcore’ tune “Folk Lore” satirizes and criticises longing for the past and lists negative features of bygone years including gender roles and inequality and low incomes. It is also a criticism of the times (1984 sucked, just ask George Orwell who didn’t even live then). While women want equal rights, men still cheat on their wives and privileged kids would rather play video games than go to school and learn to hate the world. The song doesn’t glamorize or romanticize any era, says that some things change and some don’t, but either way the world sucks. Which is true!

5. “If I Told You”: Here we have something rare- a songwriting collaboration between Mould and Hart. The lyrics are quite simple and is about vulnerability. It’s also about crying and the person you love the most not being there for you when things are rough. The song is sung by Hart. The guitar work on this track is interesting. It’s simple and the guitar is quite distorted, but there are nice melodies hidden behind it. By the end Mould and Hart sing on top of each other. It’s a great ending to the song.

6. “Celebrated Summer”: Every time I hear this intro I get taken back to St.Patrick’s Day in 2008 when I first heard it, and every summer after that. I remember thinking the album was very loud and angry and while more melodic than Zen Arcade (which I also heard), it was a bit too noisy for my tastes. “Celebrated Summer”, however, really caught my ears. Everything from the beautiful electric guitar intro to the little break where only the bass plays to the beautiful vocal melody of the song and to the 12-string acoustic breakdown by the end. The opening line of this nostalgic summer number is “love and hate was in the air”, leaving the ambivalence of bygone years kick in for the listener, if they manage to hear what the hell Bob Mould is singing. Mould’s lyrics in the song are overall fantastic, with these lines taking the cake “Do you remember when/ The first snowfall fell?/ When summer barely had/ A snowball’s chance in hell?”. What the song asks the most is “was this/that your celebrated summer?”. The way I interpret it, the question is asked in relation to the idea that students and pupils spend most of the year in school and many in a cold environment and so when school is out and the sun is up, how do you spend it? How do you make the best out of such a situation? How do you spend your golden years? Do you waste it getting wasted? It’s an age-long question and maybe the question “was this your celebrated summer?” is an impossible question to answer, except maybe years later, reminiscing of when you were still in school and summer breaks meant something and you would have every day off and listen to your favorite songs, possibly “Celebrated Summer” by Hüsker Dü. The song captures something both extremely fun and liberating, but at the same time something quite sad and melancholic. The song was released as a promo single in December 1984. Anthrax made a cover of this song for some reason. There’s also a record store in Baltimore, Maryland called “Celebrated Summer”.

7. “Perfect Example”: The melodic music continues. “Perfect Example” is a bit more sombre and laid-back and is also driven by an acoustic guitar. An alternative rock number that would probably inspire lots of alternative rock band in the years to come. The song is about holding on to the past even when it hurts. It’s about losing your mind, but not your memory as Mould eloquently puts it. Here is more poetry from the man himself: “I never look back at it, but it’s always in front of me/ It’s always worth the hurt, but I know it’s hurting me/ I’ll never let go of it because it’s all that’s going for me/ I’ll put it in the past when the past is history”. It starts with Hart doing something cool with his sticks.

8. “Terms of Psychic Warfare”: Where we’ve been blessed with so many great guitar intros, this time we finally got a cool bass intro. The song itself isn’t that melodic, but there is so much melody in the actual music. Some weird and cool harmonies on this one. It’s also a quite short song. This is another Grant Hart track and it’s like I’ve implied, not as melodic as his other tunes. The lyrics show that Hart is also great with words. The song describes an ended relationship and one of the people involved seemed to be in a whole lot of trouble, and it seems like the other person, the “I” person isn’t handling it that well either. Where Hart’s character in “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” would trade gold to be with that girl, the character in this one claims no stolen silver can buy a piece of what he feels. He sees the way they treat each other as some sort of war, a psychic war.

9. “59 Times the Pain”: Seems to me more like a poem set to music. Even if the words are Mould’s, it’s quite similar, lyrically, to its predecessor. I feel like there’s an ongoing theme on the entire album about longing for the past, but also sort of looking back on it in sadness. Looking at pictures from the past don’t help, it only makes it worse. The only thing that’s left with living on your own is bitterness.

10. “Powerline”: The melody of the intro sounds pretty much like a pop punk song, while the actual sound of the guitar, to me, sounds like, wait for it….. a powerline. The chorus goes, “hear the power in the lines”. The song doesn’t continue being as melodic as the intro is, but it’s a great track and a strange topic to write a song about.

11. “Books about UFO’s”: Yet another song from Hart. Like “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”, this story about a female is written from the point of view of someone who seems or is romantically infatuated with her. “Books about UFOs” is about a woman who goes to the library to check out books about space and extraterrestrial life and buys some oranges to eat while reading them. While she observes the sky looking for life from another planet hoping she is being observed by grey alien, possibly without being aware that she is being watched by another earthling who wants to find a new planet just to name it after her. Along with “Celebrated Summer” it’s the song I remember the most from Paddy’s Day 2008 and I still love it. The melody is poppy and cheery and while there’s a cool piano here the other instruments are noisy as hell, but for some reason there’s also something that reminds me of Billy Joel there. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s his voice, or the melody or the back-up vocals. But yeah Billy Joel.

10. “I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About”: Back to the punk! This is pretty much a classic punk track. Mould is angry and the protagonist in the song yells that they don’t know what the other person is talking about. The other person seems smart and educated, but to the protagonist their words seem meaningless. It’s quite a rocking one indeed.

11. “How to Skin a Cat”: And now to the weirdest part of this entire album. The lyrics are basically a very weird poem about feeding rats to cats and vice versa. It starts up with what sounds like someone either lighting a match or blowing out a candle. It’s like the punk version of the Beatles’ “Revolution 9”. It either sounds like criticism of the animal skinning industry or a sort of sadistic math problem. Read the lyrics, they are really something!

12. “Whatcha Drinkin’”: Another hardcore punk track with very repetitive lyrics. This person really doesn’t care what the other person is drinking, or do they? Seems strange to go on this much about not caring about someone else’s choice of beverage. The music is really great though!

13. “Plans I Make”: Like “How to Skin a Cat”, the lyrics to this song are written by Mould and the music by the entire band. It starts off with something that could easily be a Led Zeppelin song, but luckily for us it’s not! The lyrics are like, “Whatcha Drinkin’” very repetitive and only consists of “I gotta make plans for the plans I make/ Gotta have friends for the friends I make”. A quite noisy finish to the album and in many ways a throwback to the earlier Hüsker Dü records. I would say half the song is just a whole lot of noisy sounds.
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So overall this isn’t really a pop punk record, but it’s definitely a classic! I hope it won’t be too long until the next article. The album up next is Can’t Stand the Rezillos by The Rezillos.

Dogeyed is made up of singer/guitarist Harriet Elder and Caves’ Jonathan Minto and Woahnows’ Tim Rowing-Parker and the ‘Throw the Bones’ EP is their first proper release. I was told in creative writing classes never to use the word ‘nice’….but this is nice. Dogeyed play lo-fi, fuzzy indie, not unlike shoegaze in parts, particularly in the opening track “Deep Dreaming” which sways and saunters along carefree. I guess the band have one foot in contemporary indie-punk like Caves, Camp Cope or Fresh and one foot in ‘90s indie like Pavement or My Bloody Valentine. There is the slow-paced dreaminess and floatiness of the latter and the poetic spirit and determined nature of the former. ‘Throw the Bones’ reminds me of the upper tier of recent folk and indie like Hop Along or Laura Stevenson that evidence excellent songwriting and raw emotions. On “OM”, the earnest and passionate Hop Along sound particularly comes to the fore. But I don’t know: I don’t particularly feel the same way that I do about ‘Throw the Bones’ as I do about all those artists that I can lump it in with; it is missing something that I can’t quite put my finger on, which is a shame as the lyrics are generally decent and Harriet’s voice is memorable. Personally, I prefer Dogeyed when they are more stripped back and rawer; I feel that suits Dogeyed’s vibe and Harriet’s songwriting better. “Bad Baby” is the obvious reference point here: the acoustic and most stripped back tune on the EP, where Harriet’s voice really comes to the fore. It is an honest and raw tune that sounds a little like an acoustic Shit Present or Caves song. I dig it: “Well, I’m happy that you’re happy/ That doesn’t mean that I don’t get fucking angry or real sad sometimes”. I’m certainly interested to hear more.

Check it out here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/throw-the-bones

DB

Review: Wonk Unit- Terror (Plasterer)

Posted: August 12, 2018 in Reviews

Fancy some cheeky, chirpy Cockney punk that sounds like it has come straight from ’77? Come this way- underground legends Wonk Unit can sort you out. London-based melodic punks Wonk Unit have been going a while now and have built up a reputation in the UK punk scene as excellent songwriters and innovative musicians. There is certainly significant variety across latest full-length Terror: Wonk Unit skip from reggae and ska to pop-punk to indie and back again, on the way performing a twinkly-piano faux Christmas tune and adding in some intense electronic beats. As ever, with this level of variety, bands risk creating a disjointed album, but, I must say, that Wonk Unit largely avoid these trappings. I think the distinctive vocals of Alex and the stand-out songwriting largely sticks things together.

In their punkier tracks, like “As the Rest of the World Sleeps” or “Judas Betrayers”, Wonk Unit do not sound unlike Snuff or Generation X. There is a little bit of the ‘Pistols in them as well: a snottiness, a playfulness and a cheekiness that definitely recalls the ’77 era. Arguably, their best tracks on Terror are those that go beyond the typical: the ska-influenced or poppier tracks. Some work more than others. “Thank You” kicks out some Specials-esque melodies, but is largely made up of some ultra-cheesy lyrics in thanking those who the protagonist has taken for granted, including “for making our cities feel beautiful” (I’m not sure who that is exactly). It’s not a patch on the Descendents “Thank You”. “Hope” (again a Descendents song name) is much more interesting: a slowed-down, contemplative indie-ish tune about wanting to settle down and have children and move away from addictive lifestyles.

Elsewhere “Day Job Wanker” and “My New Safe Place” stand out. The former is some biting, snotty pop-punk driven by the phrase “don’t give up your day job, although I’m not clear on exactly swhat point is being made. The latter is a chirpy, super poppy track that is a romantic ode to singer Alex’s other half; you get the impression that the up-beat nature of this track would normally be offset with sarcastic lyrics, but, nope, this one is played totally straight. It’s somewhat beautiful, although a little on the corny side again. By far the most interesting song on Terror, though is “Christmas in a Crack House”: a twisted, kitchen-sink faux-festive track about, yes, spending Christmas in a crack house. It’s a super poppy, upbeat, indie-ish song, complete with twinkling pianos and the ringing of Christmas bells at the beginning. It has a repetitive beat and recurring lyrics throughout (“Funny that, was just in the shower and completely out the blue it came back to me that I once spent Christmas in a crack house) that hits hard and lodges itself in your mind. I go back and forth between thinking that this is a genius song and one that works on multiple levels (autobiographical songwriting about having a bleak flashback; a satirical take-down of cheesy Christmas ‘hits’) and feeling that it is annoying as fuck. I guess that I prefer the aggressive punk rock ‘reprise’ of the song that closes the record (“Me & Curtis”), but “Christmas in a Crack House” is definitely one of the most fascinating tracks that I’ve heard in a while. The video is also ‘something else’. One thing that you can’t say about Wonk Unit is that they are dull.

Check it out here: https://wonk-unit.bandcamp.com/album/terror

DB

Astpai, hailing from Wiener Neustadt, Austria, has been a band for over a decade. But this, their sixth full-length LP, is their first album since 2014’s “Burden Calls.” It’s also their first release of any kind in two years, since the “Run From Home” 7” EP. The band blends a variety of sounds together, including melodic punk, pop punk, and hardcore. And, though they’re from Austria, lyrics are sung in English. The album opens with “Rotten Bait,” which has an intro that sounds sort of like prog rock, and builds in intensity. When the song really gets going, though, it becomes a melodic hardcore song, reminding me of what Pears sound like, except slowed down just a bit. It rocks with a more moderate tempo, but has hard-edged instrumentals and loud raspy vocals. “Lottery” follows, with a more loping pop punk feel, with a sound from the last decade. Harmonized vocals, a strong drumbeat, and guitars that keep time just as much as the drums and bass are keys here. I like “No Hero,” which has a very modern, emotional pop punk sound, with a strong backbeat. Vocals are mostly solo, with a great gruff feel. The band doesn’t use gang vocals, but this is the kind of song where the crowd will be singing along quite loudly. The track that’s the most different from all the rest, and may be my favorite, is the title track. “True Capacity” is a hard, pounding post-hardcore track with rumbling bass and roaring vocals. The anger is palpable, the melodic line repetitive and unyielding. I wish there were a couple more tracks like this, but that’s really not who Astpai are – the melodic pop punk sound is strong with them.

Check it out here: https://shieldrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/astpai-true-capacity

PS