Archive for January, 2018

taco hell sfl

A gig review, we haven’t done one of those in a while! This was a bloody good one as well, albeit bittersweet: Taco Hell’s penultimate show as a band. The indie sad-punx were on their final tour after just releasing their debut LP, the brilliant, gritty and earworm-y Bad at Being Average. This gig was taking place at one of my favourite venues in the UK: the Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham, a basement that was made for shows like these. Ok, so let’s rewind to the beginning of the night…

So, first up was Exeter’s Phaedra’s Love, the project of Jordan White, formerly of Splitsville. I believe that Phaedra’s Love only really started last year, with a debut EP (‘Let Me Think This Way’ on Circle House records) released at the tail end of 2017. This was my first time listening to them. Jordan’s recorded stuff is solo, but he played here with a full band and it gave a very different feeling to the much more intimate and raw material on the EP. I wasn’t mind-blown by the set (and admittedly missed half of it), but I was certainly intrigued to go and listen to more after the gig (which I actually did- yay, go me!). Jordan plays heartfelt and raw, indie, emo-tinged punk, I guess; I often ask two things about a band I listen to: (1) does it make me tap my feet? and (2) does it come from the heart? Phaedra’s Love certainly ticks both of these boxes. Worth checking out.

Coffee Breath was up next, a local, Birmingham-based indie-emo band, who, according to their band profile, have “a mutual love of coffee”. Their set was certainly energetic, I’ll give them that. I knew them already from their ‘Lose Interest in This’ EP. While enjoyable, I feel that it’s live where Coffee Breath really shine. They played a kind of twinkly and math-y American Football-esque indie-emo that is at once intense and spacious. They have that quiet-loud thing going on that so many bands did in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. As well as this, the guitars kind of swirl around, developing a kind of daydream state among the gig-goers. I think you either ‘get’ this sound or you feel it is contrived and silly; I am definitely in the former camp.

Next up on the bill was Leicester’s Kermes. Another band I wasn’t familiar with at all prior to the gig, but they are a great ball of fun. I’m not too sure how to describe them: indie punk, screampop? There is certainly an abundance of melodies going on, as well as an aggressive punk attitude, but it’s not really pop-punk either. They have the bombast, fierce spirit and groove of bands like Pixies, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Julie Ruin. Whatever it is, it’s pretty cool: Kermes are theatrical and wouldn’t look out of place in an arena, but at the same time, are grounded in everyday gender politics.

So, up last, Nottingham’s Taco Hell with their second-to-last ever show. Argh! It’s the first time I had seen them live and, boy, do I regret that now. They were alright. No, wait, they were fucking great! With intensity and a gritty DIY punk feel throughout, but with a ton of melodies and boy-girl dual vocals thrown in, I was pretty captivated. Taco Hell played their latest record Bad at Being Average from front-to-back at break-neck speed, with album highlights “Same City” and “Twin Peaks References & Depression” sing-a-long, crunchy and hook-filled. A few oldies come in at the end, notably ending on the self-deprecating, fan favourite “Hold the Door”. Bittersweet? Ended too soon? Yep and yep, but at least it was sweet and at least it began.

DB

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Opening with the 2 minute-long, dreamy, somewhat ethereal “Untitled”, with the only lyrics being “I know it’s wrong, but I’ve thought about it”, Taco Hell suggest a more laid-back and experimental emo album. However, over the rest of the album, things are more akin to what was found on their ‘Retainer’ EP: anthemic, gritty, yet earworm-y ‘sad’ punk. That’s not to say that Bad at Being Average is not experimental or dynamic though; far from it. Building on their early releases, Taco Hell really pushed the boundaries on this, their first and final LP. Yep, that’s right, if you didn’t know, Taco Hell have called it a day after three years as a band, with a couple of members leaving the country, but they bow out with a hell of an album.

So, back to the sound: ‘sad-punk’ does pretty accurately describe Taco Hell’s sound, on the boundary between modern ‘revival’ emo and Fest-esque ‘gruff’ punk, recalling the likes of Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor and Tiger’s Jaw. I mean, the latter comparison is perhaps the most apt, with harmonious male-female dual vocals present throughout Bad at Being Average. But their songwriting also fairly neatly fits into the UK’s indie-punk scene, alongside bands such as Caves, Doe and (the dearly departed) Bangers. Basically, Taco Hell combine a lot of shit I like and craft something that is totally their own sound. I was pretty into the ‘Retainer’ EP, particularly the catchy-as-fuck “Baby Teeth”, but for me, Bad at Being Average is where they really found their own sound.

So, what do I like the most from the album? Well, “Same City” has to be up there as one of the album highlights, with its spaced-out verses, building up to a wonderfully catchy chorus. It is about considering re-connecting with someone you haven’t seen in ages: “do you still live in the same city that I do?”. I love its restraint and melodic poise, as well as its directness. For me, Taco Hell highlight that it’s 90% about good songwriting; sonically, these are generally fairly simple and direct tunes, but they work and, what’s more, they intrigue and invite further listens. For instance, the chorus in “Gang 2: Electric Boogaloo” is just great, with lead singer Joe’s cries of “We are the…same”, backed up by bassist/vocalist Eleanor’s back-up vocals of “you know, we are the same”. It is simple, but it really works. The other album standout is “Twin Peaks References & Depression”. It has a soft/loud dynamic thing going on, culminating in a chorus that manages to make “David Lynch!” stick in your head. It reminds me a fair bit of early Bangers and Apologies, I Have None: it’s gruff, deeply personal and from the heart. As are all the lyrics on Bad at Being Average, to be fair.

The lyrics on the record tend to be self-analytical and somewhat self-deprecating, but not in an overbearing way. I like to think that a lot of the album fairly accurately touches up on growing as a 20-something in the North of England, without a penny to rub together, but having a great time nonetheless: “This is arguably poverty, but I don’t hate it; No, I don’t hate it”. That line reminds me of a Copyrights lyric from their split with the Methadones (“Flooded Basements, Abandoned Beaches”) that I have always loved: “Were parents right when they said, with money comes freedom?/ As the bills pile up, I’m inclined to believe them/ But the beaches and basements are flooded in my mind/ Never been more care free than when I didn’t have a dime”. Being broke obviously fucking sucks, and let’s not romanticise it, but there is a level of freedom that comes with that way of living.

So, yeah, Taco Hell’s last ever released song is called “Goodbye” and they have just completed their last-ever tour as a band. It is a huge shame considering the potential they demonstrated during their time as a band, but let’s not focus on that and instead value what we’ve got: an inventive, catchy and dynamic album from one of the best bands I’ve heard from the UK punk scene in the last few years. If somebody from outside the UK is reading this and wants a good example of what is going on here, Bad at Being Average is not a bad place to start at all.

DB

Check the album out here: https://tacohellband.bandcamp.com/

Slumberland Records was founded in 1989 the Washington, DC area many years ago, and they were one of the top champions of indie pop through the heyday of the nineties, releasing records by bands like Velocity Girl, Whorl, The Ropers, Honeybunch, and more. The label eventually moved across the country to Oakland, California and I lost track of what they were doing, but it’s great to see they’re still active, putting out beautiful, jangly music. Gorgeous vocals duel over sweet melodies performed with just the right mix of noise and jangle in the guitars. Favorite tracks: “Less Than Perfect” is prettiest tracks on the record, with the best chorus, the jingliest guitars, and the most beautiful vocals. “Keep In Touch” is right up there, with dreamy guitars and vocals that wind around each other. I also love “Bad Year,” a sad sounding song with depressing lyrics. “I Only Dance When I Want To” has a pretty Stereolab-like chorus that makes me smile. And I’m listing lots of the songs as my favorites, so suffice it to say that every track is quite enjoyable.

PS

Check it out here: http://ilovealcopop.awesomedistro.com/products/605351-the-spook-school-could-it-be-different-lp-cd-be-different-shirt-preorder

Big sing-along pop punk that will have you punching your first upward while your other arm wraps around your mate’s neck, your hand clutching a pint of beer that’s sloshing all over as you shout out lyrics at the top of your lungs. The tracks are melodic, with the vocal lines gliding slowly over guitars that move at a more rapid pace. On some of the tracks, there’s even hints of jangle in those guitars. The overall sound reminds me of a blend of RVIVR and The Penske File. You get the explosive, emotive qualities of the Canadian band, with melodic lines that soar, ready for gang vocals, like Washington State’s finest. “Line ‘Em Up” is a favorite, for its moves back and forth between straight time and double time and its beautiful guitar embellishments. The gang vocals at the start of “More Colours” remind me a bit of one of the most underrated bands of all time, Gauge (the Chicago area early 90s band). “Hurting So Much It Laughs” is a simple song, but has a beautiful soaring melody, and the guitar embellishments in the bridge are, again, gorgeous. The album closes with “Sociopath’s Salute,” a perfect anthemic number to end on. This Bristol band has only done a short US tour, limited to the Southeastern states, leading up to 2017’s Fest, but I hope they make it to the West Coast of the USA, because this is a band that’s sure to be a lot of fun live.

PS

Check it out here: https://therunupuk.bandcamp.com/album/the-run-up

Review: Hightower- Club Dragon (Krod)

Posted: January 16, 2018 in Reviews

Hailing from Paris, France, Hightower is yet another band keeping the flames of 90’s melodic punk alive. The sound on these twelve tracks is consistently huge, with wide-open vocals and a massive wall of guitar. And that may be my biggest problem with the album. It’s too much, and much of it has the same sound. Those guitars are overwhelming to the extent that they become distracting. I think if the tone was cleaned up a bit or moved a little bit lower in the mix it would go a long way to making this less fatiguing to listen to. That’s not to say that the record is without redeeming value. The opening track, “Numero Uno,” moves effortlessly from a light acoustic intro to double-time skate punk, to slower melodic punk and back again. The loping feel to “The Party” is a nice change of pace from the more intense tracks. And the waltz-time “Hedonic Treadmill” generates its intensity less from speed and volume and more from a slower pace and allowing the vocals to shine through. As for the rest of the tracks, well, I just couldn’t get into them; It’s not that 90s melodic punk isn’t my favorite sound – it’s not, but there are bands that play the style that I really like a lot. The mix was just too noisy, and the band really doesn’t bring anything new to the genre.

PS

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

Interview: Max, Taco Hell

Posted: January 3, 2018 in Small Talk

t. hell

Taco Hell are (about to be ‘were’) an awesome emo/punk band from Nottingham, ffo Tiger’s Jaw and Joyce Manor. I spoke to drummer Max (Qayyum) on the week that the band play their final shows and after just having released their first and only full-length ‘Bad at Being Average’ (check out a review of this in the coming days; spoiler: it’s fucking awesome):

Dave: Hey, Taco Hell! Could you introduce the band to readers?

Max: We’re a sad punk band from Nottingham right about to split up!

D: So, you have just released your first and final full-length? What is behind the decision to call it a day and how do you think the record has turned out?

M: One of our members is moving halfway across the world, so the decision was basically out of our hands because we didn’t want it to be anything other than just the four of us. We’re really proud of how the album turned out, it was kinda weird doing it knowing that we were about to split up but that also took a ton of pressure off!

D: What’s behind the album cover? Where was it taken?

M: Connor took this near his house in Liverpool, it’s a nice shot and we liked how kinda bleak it was.

D: What was the recording process like?

M: It was really, really nice and laid back. I think we thought it would be harder because we had to do it on weekends (due to none of us apart from Joe still living in Nottingham, and jobs, etc). We did it with Joni from Autumn Diet Plans and he was just really easy to work with, never stressed us out about anything. It was really fun and we got to do everything we wanted, and mess around with a bunch of new things.

D: There is a great song on the album called “Twin Peaks References and Depression”. Is the whole band fans of the show?

M: Twin Peaks is one of my favourite shows, spent all year obsessing over the new season. Me and Eleanor are dead into it, I think that Connor has watched a bit. We wanted Joe to write about it but he’d never seen it. The lyrics just make me laugh cos he sounds like he’s a superfan.

D: You began Taco Hell in 2016. How did the band come together? Had you been in bands previously?

M: Me and Joe had been friends about 3 years before, we met Connor at a pub quiz and I met Eleanor at an Anti-Flag show. It all just kinda came together easily. Joe and Connor had been in other bands but it was mine and Eleanor’s first.

D: What were the band’s main influences and how do you think the band’s sound has evolved over the 3 years?

M: When we first started we played I Saw Water by Tigers Jaw and the Obituaries by the Menzingers which kinda set the tone for the band. I think we definitely had a lot of room to develop our sound over the years. Joe started shouting more, and Eleanor started singing a hell of a lot more. I think that we all got better as musicians and writing Bad at Being Average came together really fast. But since we were splitting up there was no real pressure to have it sound any particular way, which I think led us to experiment a bit more.

D: The ‘Tacos, not Tories’ t-shirts are cool! How did that start?

M: I think I just said it once, and then drew up the thing to post as a little joke on Facebook. When the election rolled around they seemed perfect!

D: What’s been the coolest experience of being part of Taco Hell since you formed?

M: Getting to support bands like Dowsing, Ratboys, Pity Sex, and play in cities across the country. Washed Out in Brighton was amazing. I think the coolest though was the Retainer release show at JT Soar. It sold out and everybody was singing along to every word, it was pretty amazing to us.

D: Any special plans for that final gig in Nottingham in January?

M: Play as many songs as we physically can!

D: Finally, what’s next for Taco Hell band members?

M: Joe has been doing some solo stuff as Quesadilla and starting some new bands, we also play in a band together called L’Escargot. Connor is starting up some new projects and works with Hail Hail Records in Liverpool. Eleanor is co-running Circle House Records. I put shows on as Seeing Your Scene and hopefully starting some new bands!

Check out Taco Hell’s new album here: https://tacohellband.bandcamp.com/