Archive for June, 2017

I must admit that I have slept on this Leeds-based alt-punk duo (vocalist/guitarist Lucinda Livingstone and drummer Conor Dawson) for way too long. I heard their debut EP ‘Sad’ a couple of times, but couldn’t really get into it. None of the songs on it were more than say a 6/10, but I need to revisit, as every song on their first full-length Seafoam is absolutely knocked out of the park. Kamikaze Girls play heart-on-sleeve, fuzzy-but-poppy, grunge-y, brooding, punk rock.

Their dreamy atmospherics at times remind me of a punk-y Depeche Mode. There is a definite ‘80s synth-y influence on Seafoam, with reverb in tow and a space-y feeling throughout. “Teenage Feelings”, meanwhile, has a hell of a catchy, twee indie-pop chorus. At the same time, however, Kamikaze Girls also bleed Bikini Kill. Reflective and shoe-gaze-y in parts (“Good for Nothing”); pissed off with crunchy guitars and scream-y vocals in others (“KG Goes to the Pub”). It is this dichotomy that makes Seafoam work so well, where the straight-up, in-your-face punk-y ‘fuck-yous’ hit so much harder when it’s surrounded by dreamy contemplation. That is not to say there is anything ‘dreamy’ about the songwriting on Seafoam. Kamikaze Girls have produced a lean, mean feminist machine with something meaningful to say throughout; every word seems to count. Indeed, the aforementioned “KG Goes to the Pub” is the best example of this, with its pounding, raging noise coming off like early Nirvana material, injected with Riot grrrl politics, in which Lucinda tells a “fuck boy, sleaze bag” who keeps putting his hands on her waist that she is going to knock his “fucking lights out”.

The record is very much introspective, but that doesn’t stop Kamikaze Girls having their say on issues on social justice and cohesion, which couldn’t be more pertinent in this day and age (as they do fantastically on “I Don’t Want to be Sad Forever”). Nevertheless, the lyrics are very much heart-on-sleeve, self-deprecating and earnest, with Lucinda gives intimate insights into her everyday anxieties as “one of those nervous millenials” (“Deathcap”). The album is very visceral, dealing with Lucinda’s raw emotions, straight from the off- whether it’s “I think I’m having a heart attack” on “Berlin” or “This morning, I felt sick/ I threw up in the sink” on “Deathcap”. Meanwhile, the two songs which bookend the record (ok, well one of them is technically a bonus track, but whatever) are tied by the depiction of a real-life robbery at gun-point which deeply affected Lucinda’s mental state. Seafoam opens with these gut-punching lyrics:

“One young man put a gun to my head, held me down and took my possessions/ and ever since, what a state I’ve been/ Spent a year of my life doing nothing” (“One Young Man”)

The anxieties afflicting Lucinda are nakedly depicted throughout the album, allowing the listener to get a real sense of her emotional state. There is a particularly vulnerable moment at the end of “Anxiety” (that aforementioned bonus track), where Lucinda’s vocals cry out in pain: “Can’t deal with a man with a gun/ No, I cannot go back there”. This ties everything together thematically and highlights the continuing effects that this incident is having on Lucinda’s ability to function. A raw, deeply emotive album that everyone can resonate with; it also sounds fucking amazing. Very much recommended.

https://kamikazegirls.bandcamp.com/

DB

So, on their third full-length Always Why, is this more of the same from Caves? Well, yes, and no. On the one hand, the sound on the record is still by and large in the band’s classic fuzzy, catchy, poppy punk style. Vocalist/guitarist (also drummer on this one) Lou and Bassist Jonathan are still doing their thing. The vocals remain passionate and heart-on-sleeve, with lyrics as intimate as ever. On the other hand, Caves have given the songs more room to breathe on Always Why. There is still a frantic nature to Caves’ sound at times, but they now seem to be in less of a rush to blitz their way through the album as they were on 2013’s Betterment. The more spacious style lends itself more to indie-punk than straight-up pop-punk, and allows Caves’ melodies to emerge to a greater extent. I mean, they have always been catchy, but on Always Why, the hooks are more reminiscent of Weezer or Superchunk than pop-punk per se (there is a noticeable reduction in ‘woah-ohs’ on this one!).

I mean, the band that Caves still remind me the most of is RVIVR, I guess. The at-times swirling lead guitars (check out, “Wild Dad” or “America”), the ‘boy-girl’ dual/alternating vocals, the bombastic choruses and the gritty production all call to mind the DIY Long-Island-ers. Caves totally have their own thing going on though and the hooks on Always Why can match anyone in the current punk scene. I really think they have gone beyond on this one with the quality of the choruses. Stand-outs for me are the stop-start, slow-loud “Wait”, reminiscent of Weezer or mid-era Green Day; the intensely personal tale of queer love “16” or the classic Caves sound of “America”. There is a sense that Caves are the ‘reliable one’ in the UK’s punk scene (no bad thing in itself), but actually, delve back into their back catalogue and you realise their gradual evolution; on Always Why, a sense of change shouldn’t be a huge shock considering that the two band members now live an ocean apart (one in the UK, one in the US) and this record was written remotely via GarageBand. Despite all that, Caves remain one of the most impressive and consistent punk/pop-punk bands in the UK, with Always Why probably their best full-length thus far.

Check it out: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/always-why

DB

A new-ish melodic-punk band straight out of Nantes, France (some town in Northern France!). Following 2015’s ‘New Discoveries’ 12”, Distance is their debut full-length. Heavy Heart play a straight-up gritty brand of pop-punk that would fit in well at Fest. If we are record-labelling, their sound is a cross between late-era Fat Wreck and that classic No Idea sound. Banner Pilot, The Sainte Catherines and Iron Chic all spring to mind, with Heavy Heart’s crunchy guitars, complemented by gang vocals and hook-laden choruses.

More than any of these, though, the gritty, driving melodies on Distance remind me the most of under-appreciated Minneapolis punks The Manix. It’s smart, thoughtful and intense, in the same way. Lyrically, Heavy Heart engage in some good ol’ existential crises! The idea of ‘distance’ looms over the whole record, highlighting one’s perceived disconnection from the outside world. The stand-out track on the album “Worrier” says this best for me: “This life is scaring the shit out of me”. The group vocal chorus of “Take me, take me home” on this one reminds me of the best of Iron Chic. Other highlights? “Caged” and “Poison” are just pure, undiluted melodic punk goodness, but it is “Faces”, when Heavy Heart slow things down a little, that things get most interesting. It’s the album’s ‘ballad’, recalling perhaps early Jimmy Eat World at points or The Promise Ring. I love the lyrics on this one:

“Have we become so different? Or have we always been? I find it hard to say, because thinks they’ve stayed the same”

So, yeah, Distance is a pretty great debut punk rock album. As soon as the ear-worm-y lead guitars come in on opener “Unravel”, I was pretty much hooked. I mean, Heavy Heart are not re-writing the book, but when the songwriting is this good and the hooks are this big, who gives a shit?

Check it out here: https://heavyheartnantes.bandcamp.com/album/distance

DB