Archive for September, 2018

A little like Goodbye Blue Monday whose EP I also recently reviewed, Uniforms are a Scottish punk band that straddle the line between anthemic street-punk and gruff, Fest-esque pop-punk. Uniforms have that raw, heart-on-sleeve charm that is reminiscent of say Dear Landlord or Leatherface. The gang vocals and the anthemic quality of the choruses recall a ton of other quality underground punkers, like Iron Chic, Heavy Heart and The Manix. I also like the varying dynamics and tempos on the ‘Reasons to Breathe’ EP, with Uniforms veering from fast-paced and intense chant-y punk to more considered and spacious mid-tempo melodic punk.

“Get Me Out of Here” is a great opener to the EP and is definitely the most street-punk-y track. It has a certain Rancid feeling to it, while RVIVR’s melodic licks come to mind as well. The repeated, earworm-y lines in the chorus, “I’m getting out (get me out of here)” have a familiar feeling and hook to them, but I love when lead singer Derrick’s vocals are let loose at the end of the song. “My Wise Friend” is more of a straight-forward gritty, pop-punk track that is decent, but not distinct. “Searchlights” is probably my favourite from the EP, though, in terms of songwriting craft. It starts with some high-octane guitar leads, before stripping back to Derrick’s vocals: “Remember when we were kids, put those records on/Lie there on your bed, hold hands and sing along”. It is here where Derrick’s gritty and raw vocals come to the fore and, amid mid-tempo melodic punk, it feels not unlike a Leatherface track in the verses. After a whole track at a restrained, mid-tempo level, Derrick’s vocals fully explode at the end of the track: “Searchlights out at seaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”. It is fucking great. Catharsis at its best. “Searchlights” goes down as one of my favourite songs of 2018- and the whole EP really distinguishes itself in the contemporary punk landscape.

Check it out here: https://uniforms.bandcamp.com/album/reasons-to-breathe-ep-2

DB

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Review: Fair Do’s- Leopards (Lockjaw)

Posted: September 27, 2018 in Reviews

It is worth prefacing this review by saying that The Fair Dos are not really my thing and, while I appreciate elements of this record, it is kind of out of my comfort zone (where are the downstrokes?!) Fair Do’s are a Manchester-based melodic hardcore/skate-punk band, fitting closely alongside Strung Out and Propagandhi, and bands like The Human Project in the UK. The Propagandhi influence is almost too obvious to point out, but it is absolutely evident throughout latest LP Leopards: encompassing the fierce call-to-arms, the political polemic, passionate vocals and techy guitar leads. Essentially, Fair Do’s represent latter-day Propagandhi with a Manchester accent.

I am not against Leopards by any means and for those into melodic hardcore, you will probably be more than happy with the record. There are a bunch of things done well on the record. The production is just right for what the Fair Do’s are going for- not too raw, not too sleek- and the vocals really bring out the indignation and anger of the politically-charged lyrics and align well with the intensity of the guitars. The lyrics are very much in the vein of Propagandhi or Capdown, a capitalist critique and call-to-arms (“I’m aware that I’m enslaved, just a name and number” as one example from the first track) that go more or less where you would expect them to.

More broadly, this is a record that does not rip up any trees and for a punk record in 2018, maybe it shouldn’t be expected to. However, as somebody not invested in this sub-genre, Leopards, while a decent record, hasn’t done anything to entice me over to the ‘dark side’. Many of the tracks mould together and stick to somewhat formulaic structure and patterns. It is an intense, passionate and fast-paced record, which is a given in this sub-genre, but I think the Fair Dos could have done with mixing it up on occasions.

Check it out here: https://lockjawrecords.bandcamp.com/album/leopards

DB

This Japanese-inspired band from San Diego is, according to Facebook, a reincarnation of the studio project ErichFuckingPeacox!!!!. I wasn’t familiar with this band upon reviewing them, neither as Watashi WA Dance Party or ErichFuckingPeacox!!!!, but their animé (excuse me if I get that term wrong) album covers are a part intriguing and part disturbing. The cartoons are sugar sweet, but portray disturbing and violent images.

The first thing I notice about this band is the 2003 pop punk vocals. The first song “Daylight” is sort of cloying, but catchy. My favorite thing in the song is the keyboards. “Mio” sort of reminds me of “2nd Foundation” by the Ergs. Lots of minor chords in that song! Anyways, it tells us that it’s ok to be afraid of the dark. In a way, it’s sort of like Screeching Weasel’s “Don’t Turn out the Lights” thematically and it seems narrated by a young child, but it also relates to adults. The title gives me associations to the Swedish book Mio My Son, but I doubt that’s what the song is referencing. “Really Over” is more of a power pop song, but it’s an unusual and a kind of weird one. I assume there’s also a Blink reference in “so sorry it’s over”. “Halle” I would label as the illustrious genre of progressive power pop, if that wasn’t a genre before, it is now! It has strange math rock elements and some ska elements. It’s catchy shit! The melody is really good! The ska continues in “Ruminating”, which reminds me a bit of Bomb the Music Industry. The EP ends with “My Lava Lamp”, an early 90s alternative rock jam. A lot of cool elements in it. Great harmonies. It has some cool yelling in it too.

There’s something quite cute about this EP, but the lyrics are often a bit dark and depressing. This makes the ambivalent covers quite appropriate. As a whole, I don’t think this band is my thing, but they’re definitely talented and the music is really interesting. I feel like it gets a bit weird for me at times, but it could also grow on me. I will continue listening!

Check it out here: https://watashiwadanceparty.bandcamp.com/album/skate-pop-suicide-2

RH

Rene’s Picks

1994 was not only my year, but it was also the year American punk rock reached the mainstream. I remember a lot from this year. I feel like kid-René peaked this year. I was still totally into the Moomin trolls. There was a football world cup this year in the U.S and all I remember that the logo with the dog was on the coke bottles. Norway also hosted the Olympics for the second time. Again I only remember the logo. I don’t think I even knew what sports were. I did have a girlfriend at the time and was pretty stoked on that. Again, me and my parents went to Mallorca for sunshine in our dreary, rainy Norwegian lives. My fondest memory from the trip was going to a supermercado and buying a toy that was a surfer (thinking back I think it might have been a jetskier, but I thought it was a surfer) and a box of Cadbury’s Roses. At this time I had decided that I wanted to become a drummer and started drumming on the Cadbury’s Roses box after I ate the chocolate in it. I still have the box, all smashed up. I was, however, not very interested in music at all outside of that. And Green Day, The Offspring and Rancid were not in my radar at all. I didn’t pick any of the most famous punk records from the year, Smash by the Offspring, Dookie by Green Day and Punk in Drublic by NOFX, but I probably would have picked Punk in Drublic if I hadn’t written about it in the Pop Punk Picks column. The picks I’ve chosen from this year are Self-titled (The Blue Album) by Weezer, Let’s Go by Rancid.
Weezer-The Blue Album

weezer blue album

It’s something incredible to think about how great an album can be. From start to finish, Weezer’s Blue album is perfect, to me. Even the songs I like the least like “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Say It Ain’t So” are classics. The album starts with the folky fingerpicking of “My Name Is Jonas” and goes into one of the greatest power pop verses ever. The album ends with the beautiful “Only in Dreams”, with its weird intro and long-as-fuck outro. In between, we find the Neil Young-esque harmonica driven “In the Garage” and “The World Has Changed and Left Me Here”. “In the Garage” also has my favorite guitar solo of all time. The entire record seems like an emotional journey inside Rivers Cuomo’s mind, a preview to what we’d expect on Pinkerton. Many fans of both Weezer and rock music prefer Pinkerton, but I definitely prefer Blue. If I try to think of a perfect album, it’s probably the closest I think of. I remember at 14 seeing the Happy Days themed video of “Buddy Holly” without knowing who either Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore or Fonzie were. Like “Hush” by Wax (mentioned in 1992), it was directed by Spike Jonze and it’s among his most famous music videos. A song that a lot of people seem to dislike is “Holiday”, but it’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album, but they all are basically.  Even the songs that didn’t make it to the album “Mykel & Carli”, “Suzanne” and “Jamie” are just as good as most of the songs on the actual album. Weezer tried to follow it up with a Green album in 2001, a Red album in 2008, a White album in 2016 and a Black album is coming up this year. None of these have been even close to touching Blue, we’ll see about the new one though.

Blink(-182)-Cheshire Cat

blink cheshire cat

It seems like the news in Ohio is saying that Blink-182 are being discussed as inductees to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/06/is_blink-182_rock_roll_hall_of.html). A big question is when they are eligible to be inducted. Their debut album Cheshire Cat was officially released in early 1995. Meaning they wouldn’t be eligible before 2020. The reason they might be eligible anyway is that it was recorded as early as 1994 and advanced copies were out in 1994. This was the time that the band was only called Blink. They had to change their name becomes of that Irish techno band, or alternative rock band, which they actually played. So, despite being released in 1995 on Grilled Cheese and Cargo Records, and re-released by Universal in 1998, the copyright said 1994 because that was when it was recorded and meant to be released, it’s usually regarded a 1994 album, which is why I take the liberty to include it here.

Since this column is called “The Years of Our Lives”, I can’t save too much up for the 2002 column, since I could probably write a book about that year and me discovering new Blink records. So I’ll share this memory here: I remember ordering the live album The Mark, Tom and Travis Show from the local chain record store, when I came back the next week when they said they’d have it, they said it hadn’t arrived. They had tons of other Blink records though, so I figured, why not buy another one? So I bought Cheshire Cat instead. The store never got in MTTS, and I could probably step by every Saturday and buy a new record, I called their bluff early and didn’t fall for the trick though. The purchase of CC was one I don’t regret, however. I loved it instantly. I remembered their performance on MTV Europe Music Award and I just thought they sounded awful and I find something quite charming about that. I think glossiness of music and every song sounding perfect was something that bored me with music so listening to these guys mess up their songs big time was great to me. On Cheshire Cat, I got the same feeling: that this wasn’t a mass produced rock album, this was the real shit. The fast drums and the somewhat low-fi production made me go wild. I also really loved the more slow-paced songs like “Cacophony” and I think it showed that the band had a talent for ballads really early on. I still think it’s one of their finest works. And not really cacophonous at all, like one might say about the following track “T.V”.

Another song that really struck me early on was “Romeo and Rebecca”. I was really impressed by the intro and Tom’s kind of terrible singing made it seem even more sincere to me. I guess I’ve always seen it as the perfect anti-love song. Referencing Shakespeare and creating a dissonance between his most famous play Romeo and Juliet and replacing the girl in the tragic love affair with another girl’s name. Maybe I’ve been overthinking it. Of course, other songs on the album are of course the singles “M+M’s” and “Wasting Time” and the live staple about loneliness “Carousel”. I also have a soft spot for “Does My Breath Smell?”. The joke tracks at the end are also great, except “Just About Done” (I don‘t think I’ll ever like that one). “Ben Wah Balls”, is a tale about family reunions (as most Blink fans know, their idea of family reunions are kinda weird), incest and sex toys. It goes from cheery, funny to sad and downright disturbing.

Rancid-Let’s Go

rancid lets go
Not to be super punk or anything, but Let’s Go is the ultimate Rancid album. Not only does it have that punk edge that we love, but it’s also super melodic. The songs are catchy as hell and shows quite a musicianship without being too wanky. Let’s Go was released on Epitaph June 21, 1994. Unlike later records, we don’t get many songs with lead vocals sung by Lars Frederiksen on Let’s Go, but “St. Mary” is sung primarily by Lars and it’s one of the best songs on the album. That being said, his back-up vocals are fantastic on most of the album. The song “St. Mary” is one of the darker songs on the album, it’s, I think, about a woman revenging the death of her murdered husband. One of my favorites is definitely “Side Kick”, a song about being Wolverine’s side kick and fighting crime as a vigilante and shooting cops in the head. I think “Radio” is the most well-known song from the album, co-written with Billie Joe from Green Day, and about the power of music. I think this is the album with the best Matt Freeman songs. Songs like “Gunshot”, “Black and Blue”, “Motorcycle Ride” and, of course, “Tenderloin” are catchy, but seem a lot more “punk” than Tim’s songs. That being said, the verses and bridge to “Gunshot” and the chorus of “Black and Blue” would be the perfect punk song together. The album starts with “Nihilism” and ends with “7 Years Down”, both dealing with substance abuse problems. Also, for some reason I sing the song “You Gave It Away” after the chorus to “Last Christmas” by Wham. I’ve always wanted to make a mash up of those two songs. A mash up of “Burn, “The Roof Is on Fire” by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three and “Fire Water Burn” by the Bloodhound Gang (and a lot of other songs) as they all contain the line “We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn”. The album peaked at #97 on the Billboard top 200. It also has the sort of Billy Bragg sounding track “Harry Bridges” about the American union leader with the same name.

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Dave’s Picks

Weezer- Blue Album

weezer blue album

When I look back at ‘90s alternative rock, Weezer’s Blue Album is one of the few things that really holds up and possibly even gets better with age. The strange thing is that I look at the Blue Album as such a classic, teen album, with the angst-y awkwardness just imbued in the record, as if to soundtrack a thousand teenage failings. At the same time, though, the album has only got stronger as I have got older. Although I always enjoyed it, I felt Weezer as a whole were a bit cheesy in my ‘only punk will do’ teen years. Now, though, I basically agree with Rene that it is a perfect record. The nadir of ‘90s alt-rock? Probably. There certainly isn’t any filler in sight on the Blue Album.

It such a fun record, but one that has soul, depth and meaning that are all too often lacking on Weezer’s more vapid, recent efforts. How can you not want to dance around to “Buddy Holly” or “Surf Wax America”? Or get a warm, tingling feeling when you hear the opening chords to “My Name is a Jonas”? Or cringe when you hear the lyrics to “No One Else”? Weezer’s energy and charm feels effortless, too. I think another issue with their later stuff is that they tried way too hard to be ‘quirky’ or ‘nerdy’, but at this stage of their career, it was pretty natural.

I think one of the best things about the Blue Album is that Weezer managed to bridge the gap between the harmonies of pop-punk/power-pop and the angst of alt.rock/grunge. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo had got swept up in the ‘90s alt-rock craze, but had clearly been brought up on pop music. With those super big hooks and self-aware lyrics, they tapped into a form of indie rock that wasn’t pretentious or self-indulgent. Not that there isn’t self-reflection on this thing of course: “No One Else” and “Say It Ain’t So” will attest to that. Indeed, the stark autobiographical details on the latter paved the way somewhat for Pinkerton.

“Say It Ain’t So” is definitely up there as one of my favourites from the album. It’s very Pixies-esque in its quiet-loud dynamics. A classic slow-burner with a loud, crunchy and cathartic chorus that is probably the most standard ‘alt-rock’ song on the record. “Surf Wax America” is a whole silly ball of fun. I think it’s the first song from the record I heard. It is essentially a pop-punk track that packs considerable oomph and has its tongue firmly in its cheek. The lines “You take your car to work, I’ll take my board” are so memorable, simply driving home a message of individualism- ‘yeah, I’m different, so what, fuck you’. There is a dichotomy on the Blue Album that is neatly encapsulated by these two: the bouncy confidence of “Surf Wax America” next to the angst and vulnerability of “Say It Ain’t So”.

What else? “My Name is Jonas” is probably one of the best album openers of all time, a quirky Beach Boys meets Pixies sing-a-long. I love Rivers ‘yeah!’ towards the end of the song and the neat guitar solo that follows. “In the Garage” is just about perfect in showcasing indie rock angst in all of its pomp. Meanwhile, when Weezer toned it down with tracks like “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here”, the results were just as good, with Rivers’ vulnerabilities left bare.

Weezer would never, ever come close to the heights reached on the Blue Album, with not an ounce of filler or fat in sight. Pinkerton? Good, but lost some of the hooks, charm and ‘fun’ that made the Blue Album such a classic. You take your Pinkerton to work; I’ll take my Blue Album.

Jawbreaker- 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

jawbreaker 24 hr

I am not going to talk about Jawbreaker’s best record. I will save that for the 1995 discussion (that’s right, Dear You, motherfuckers), but their third record 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is a classic pop-punk record of the ‘90s and evidences the quintessential Jawbreaker sound: gruff, raspy vocals and punchy, (relatively) lo-fi and hook-filled pop-punk goodness. Bivouac was an altogether different beast to 24 Hour and Unfun, an experimental record that shifted the Jawbreaker sound towards a noisier and more chaotic avenue. It turns out that Bivouac is the only Jawbreaker full-length that is not going to feature in these Years of Our Lives articles. I was never into it, really, and, for me, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy got things back on track, expanding on and enhancing the stuff on Unfun. Recorded with Steve Albini, this was Jawbreaker’s ‘breakthrough’ record, riding the crest of alt-rock’s rise to the mainstream.

Tracks like “Boxacar”, “Do you still hate me?” and “Condition Oakland” demonstrate Jawbreaker’s strengths: a heart-on-sleeve brand of punk that is sincere and romantic in the classic sense of the word. Blake Schwarzenbach’s emotive and Kerouac-esque songwriting (although I would hesitate to label them an ‘emo’ band) is a tour-de-force and rarely matched in punk. Jawbreaker’s raspy pop-punk sonics and romanticism laid the foundations for a ton of bands that emerged in the punk scene in the ‘00s, from Banner Pilot to the Credentials.

The ‘punk poetry’ on Unfun reached a new level on 24 Hour, amid tales of moving from place to place, heartbreak and drinking on porches. I mean, they were the original ‘fest’ band. Blake’s songwriting style is clearly influenced by Kerouac’s sentimentality, notably on “Do You Still Hate Me?”, one of the best slower pop-punk songs of all time (and has been brilliantly covered by Upset) with a series of questions filling up the chorus: “Are you out there?/ Do you hear me?/ Can I call you?/ Do you still hate me?” There is a reading from Kerouac on one of the tracks and Blake even self-mockingly references his Kerouacian influence on the record (“You don’t know what I’m all about/ Like killing cops and reading Kerouac”).

Elsewhere, Jawbreaker’s most memorable tracks on the record drifted towards ‘scene critique’, getting all meta and poking fun at the uptight and insular underground punk scene that they had emerged from. In the midst of Green Day moving to a major (see below!), the punk scene seemed obsessed with who was or wasn’t ‘selling out’ and laying down judgements based on a set of strict ideals. Blake laid into these on “Boxcar” and “Indictment”. On the latter, he sang of writing ‘dumb songs’ and ‘singalongs’, after which “all our friends will clap and sing/our enemies will laugh and be pointing”. It was tongue-in-cheek, but also a prediction of what was to come just the following year with the release of Dear You, when the punk scene turned its back on what was one of its most beloved bands at the time.

The anthemic “Boxcar”, meanwhile set out Blake’s stall, hitting back at the righteousness of the punk scene: “You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone / Save your breath, I never was one.” On 24 Hour, Blake displayed a confidence in his band’s ability to do whatever the fuck they wanted, no matter the scene cred (“if you think we changed our tune, I hope we did”), but the fallout of Dear You would ultimately tear the band apart. In all honesty, though, while Dear You was more glossily produced and more angst-y, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was already supplying the sing-a-long pop-punk goodness (see “Boxcar” for one thing), albeit rawer and raspier than what Green Day were offering.

Green Day- Dookie

green day dookie

Another classic ‘teen’ album of the era to fit alongside The Blue Album. Dookie is, of course, very different in tone and substance to that one; it perfectly captures that sense of disaffection and boredom that all teens feel at some point. The opening lines of the album set the tone for what is to come: “I declare I don’t care no more/ I’m burning up and out and growing bored/ In my smoked out boring room” (as with “My Name is Jonas”, “Burnout” is an absolutely perfect opening track). It is pop-punk with a shrug. I prefer Kerplunk’s idealism and romanticism, but Dookie still catches Green Day in that era when they could almost do no wrong.

Tracks like “Basket Case”, “Burnout” and “Coming Clean” were sharp, bouncy, hook-filled pop-punkers that lodged themselves in your brain for hours after. For all its surface level slackerdom, these engaged with deeper issues, too: questioning one’s sexuality at seventeen and living with anxiety. “Longview” is clearly a fan favourite, with its memorable baseline and tales of boredom-induced masturbation that suggests a kind of mental prison that Billie Joe had built for himself.

Nevertheless, these tracks evidence a teenage, self-mocking engagement with these issues: “do you have the time to listen to me whine?” That is, of course, why Dookie (and the stuff that preceded it) retains its charm. Everyone can relate to some extent with Billie Joe’s tales of boredom, discovering one’s identity and disaffection. As Jawbreaker did the following year, Green Day faced struggles with their Gilman St. fanbase after having signed with a major label. Green Day faced the same call of ‘sellouts’, but grew and grew in the face of adversity, in contrast with Jawbreaker. Also, as with Jawbreaker, it was on the following record that Green Day would move away from their straightforward pop-punk sound towards a more mature, indie sound that involved more serious, ‘grown-up’ discussions of mental health and addictions. In many ways, Dookie marked the beginning of the end of what we knew as Green Day, with Billie Joe shifting away from lovelorn, teenage tales towards a multitude of other beasts (mid-90s alt-rock angst, ‘mid-00s ‘political’ punk and whatever the fuck they are now).

Other 1994 albums I enjoy:

NOFX- Punk in Drublic/ Screeching Weasel- How to Make Enemies and Irritate People/ Sunny Day Real Estate- Diary

 

 

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

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