Archive for November, 2018

I am a big fan of last year’s Distance, Heavy Heart’s debut LP, but the Nantes punks’ follow-up is even better. It’s a bit of a grower, compared to the immediacy and sing-a-long nature of Distance and I do miss some of the drive and speed of the debut, but Love Against Capture is one of the best underground punk records of the last few years. There is distinct growth by Heavy Heart since the last record (only a year ago, crazily), with clear sonic and songwriting progression on display. Things feel more mature, considered and fully formed now. It is, in short, a proper fucking album.

Musically, Heavy Heart retain many of the things that made Distance so damn good: mid-tempo punk melodies, vocals from the gut and gang-vocal sing-a-long choruses. At the same time, the tempo has slowed a little and the songwriting more generally feels better constructed and more mature. There remains evidence of Iron Chic, Timeshares and the like, but Heavy Heart’s musical evolution and more considered songwriting structures lends itself, at times, to an indie-punk-emo hybrid. A little like more recent Spraynard or a shoutier, punkier The Hotelier. At times, they don’t sound unlike a poppier version of Hot Water Music, albeit less gruff. The vocals lend themselves well to the mid-tempo melodic punk and sound a little ‘emo’ without being whiny.

Lyrics-wise, I think Heavy Heart have improved ten-fold on Love Against Capture- and that’s considering that I was pretty into the poetic style on the previous record. Heavy Heart write Banner Pilot-esque heart-on-sleeve stuff about finding hope in dark and hopeless places. The slow-burning opener “New Light” sets the tone for what is to come: “we are breaking, we are breaking walls that separate us/Our love will grow until we all come to dust”. The record paints a picture of a world divided at the seams, destined to fall apart and becoming ever more atomised, with the protagonists’ solution being to hold those dear to him closer.

Love Against Capture is certainly not a typical, wallowing emo record, as “No Bounds”, probably my favourite track on the record, sounding like a cross between Fest-punk and Superchunk, makes explicit: “I’m done with glorifying loneliness”. There is a ‘posi’ vibe on the record: a striving for life, love and for breaking out of chains, whether they be personal or systemic. These lines from “Fragments” nicely sum this up: “Their world has always crushed you/ You tend to feel lost in their “whole”/ Weapons are all around you/Get up my friend you spent too much time on the ground”. It reminds me somewhat of the hand offered to the downtrodden by Rivethead with that classic line on “48 Doublestack”: “I know it’s not much but try to not let the world make you the sucker all the time”.

The whole record is basically great, although, except “Geography” (“No foundation, no model, no hierarchy/ Like the grass, not the tree/It begins to grow only from the middle /This is where things pick up speed”), my preference is more heavily weighted towards the first half of Love Against Capture. From “New Light” straight through to “Out of Place”, it is pretty much pure gold.  “Magic Life” and “Fragments” very much capture the best of Heavy Heart, while “Winter Years” is super interesting, sounding a little like Cloud Nothings, with the steady, drawling vocals and the quiet-loud dynamics. The production on the record finds the perfect balance between clarity and grit. All in all, a fantastic LP, and I must say Heavy Heart are one of the best punk bands to emerge in Europe in the last few years.

Check it out here: https://heavyheartnantes.bandcamp.com/album/love-against-capture

DB

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yr rochelles

Following a number of EPs and singles, the Young Rochelles released their first full-length at the tail end of last year. If you don’t know, the Young Rochelles are a pop-punk outfit from Long Beach, New York, which are not to be confused with the New Rochelles with which this band shares members. The Young Rochelles play Ramones-y, fast-paced, Mutant Pop-esque pop-punk with sugary sweet vocals and buzzsaw guitars. The album flies by in less than 25 minutes. It is super melodic stuff that recalls bands like Teenage Bottlerocket, The Guts or Teen Idols. The strength of the vocal melodies and the harmony-led choruses definitely bring to the mind latter. At times, the harmonies also remind me of Project 27, which is perhaps unsurprising since the primary songwriter (Joey) from P27 also plays in the Young Rochelles. With the emphasis on hooks, I also get the sense of a ‘punkier’ or sped-up version of Kung Fu Monkeys or the Beatnik Termites.

Generally, the songwriting on this LP is of a high standard. The Young Rochelles often slow it down for the verses before bursting into a sweet, catchy-as-fuck chorus which I appreciate. The vocals (from Ricky Rochelle) are cool, but perhaps overly sweet for some. They are certainly not hidden in this album production which is very clean and tight sounding. Perhaps overly so at times. For me, the vocals could be a less ‘tuned’ for the Ramones-y pop-punk that they are going for. The band actually used a more exaggerated form of autotuned previously on previous songs with the rest of the production being rawer than what we find here.

There are a bunch of earworm-y tracks on this record: notably “Monster in My Hallway”, which is more of a slowed-down, mid-tempo pop-punk track about falling for a drama queen, and “You’re Tops”, a heartwarming track (about, yep, telling somebody that they are ‘tops’) with a hell of a chorus. The latter is placed brilliantly before “My Stomach Hates My Guts”, probably the grittiest and ‘punkiest’ track on the LP with much raspier vocals. It is a great one-two punch of two different ‘kinds’ of pop-punk while still retaining the Young Rochelles’ charm. There are a few fun, silly tracks on the album, like “Return of the Skunk Ape” and “Coffee in the Dog Dish”, that could be throwaway in lesser hands, but work well here. Following “My Stomach…”, I feel that the quality of the songs tail off a little, but there are no bad songs on this album by any stretch. Overall, then: a sweet and highly-melodic pop-punk blast from Long Beach.

Check it out: https://theyoungrochelles.bandcamp.com/album/the-young-rochelles

DB

 

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Let’s go back to the 70s again. Let’s face it- both punk and pop punk music were the best back then. This time, we are going to Scotland. We are going to a classic album that combined the aggression of punk rock, the innovation of new wave and the poppiness of 60s pop groups. The band is of course the Rezillos. Inspired by 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll, cartoons and science fiction movies Joe Callis and Alan Forbes started the band in 1976 in the ashes of the cover band Knutsford Dominators that they started in college. Along with the Misfits, The Cramps and B-52s in the US the Rezillos were part of starting a tradition that linked B-movies with punk and new wave music. Connecting punk rock to the novelty music of the 50s and 60s and the Rocky Horror Show.

In an interview (http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=3519), Callis said the following about the band name “There was an early 70’s DC comic called ‘The Shadow’ . The Shadow was a real pulp fiction character. The very first issue of that comic has in one of its pictures the Shadow standing there with his two guns and his mask. There is a street scene in the background and what was meant to be either a club or a bar. It was actually called “Revilos” with one “L” and we took that and changed the letter to a “Z”. I think we probably had the name before we had the band.” Forbes changed his name to Eugene Reynolds and sang the male vocals in the band. Fay Fife did the female vocals. The two lead singers sang about half in half and often did vocal trade offs and callbacks. In 1977, they signed to the same label as the Ramones (Sire Records). Journalist Ian Cranmer, who hated the band at first, decided to help them out by contacting his pen pal in Sire Records to aid the band in releasing their major label debut “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”. They signed to Sire as an eight piece, and ended up a five piece because many of the members didn’t want to quit their day jobs and didn’t see a future in working with music. I always found their record fascinating and decided to buy the LP in early 2012. I was told it was quite a rare pressing. The Rezillos changed their name to Revillos (with two L’s) and made some records without Callis, but they re-united and made the album Zero in 2015.

Can’t Stand the Rezillos was released on July 21 1978 on Sire Records and was recorded in the Power Station in New York. Quite fitting to the album, the album cover looks like a comic book. It was produced by Bob Clearmountain, Tony Bongiovi, Lance Quinn and the Rezillos. It peaked at #16 in the UK album chart. As well as Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds on vocals and Jo Callis on guitar; Mysterious (AKA Alastair Donaldson) played bass (and sax at the bonus live recording) and Angel Paterson played drums. The album peaked at #16 on the UK album chart.
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1. “Flying Saucer Attack”: The album opens with a sci-fi themed song. A catchy song about the dangers of an alien invasion. The earth’s citizens in this song fear the horrors of Venus and Mars. Nothing can protect earth from this invasion. The verses are sung by Fay and the choruses are sung by Eugene. The protagonist in the choruses is planning to leave earth and not come back until the attack is over. The melody kind of has this American folk vibe going for it and the bass line is classic Rezillos. The guitar also has a nice rock ‘n’ roll touch to it. They also rhyme “horizon” with “flies on”. The same theme is found on the non-album single “Destination Venus”.

2. “No”: While “Flying Saucer Attack” was pretty much pop punk, “No” is more of a straight up punk song. The song is the anthem for the angry young punks who are denied their teenage requests. The first two verses this little guy is asking his parents if he’s allowed to go out and have fun, but as the title of the song is “No”, you can guess their answer. In the third verse, he is trying to get his “baby” to go out and have fun with him, but guess what, she says “No” too. There’s almost something Freudian or Lacanian about the song, the mother’s “No” being the child’s first disappointment and all. In one of the biggest comedy shows in Norway “Åpen Post”, the music part of the first episode was the Norwegian rock band Dum Dum Boys playing a version of “No”.

3. “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Heads Kicked in Tonight”: This is another quite punk number, maybe even punker. For some reason, when I think of “punk”, this is what I think of. The original isn’t necessarily that punk. It appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s “Man of the World” single as the B-side. It was credited to Earl Vice and the Valiants, even if Fleetwood Mac played it. It was sung and composed by Jeremy Spencer. The Rezillos cover became more of a classic.

4. “Top of the Pops”: And now for the band’s biggest hit by far. “Top of the Pops” is a satirical view on the music industry. Bands get fame and then they’re out. And the Wall Street of the music industry (in Britain at the time) was Top of the Pops. A music show where the artists on the charts would come and lip-sync the shit out of their hits. We’ve also seen bands like Stiff Little Fingers, Green Day and Nirvana make fun of the show by showing that they did not actually sing themselves. Bands would pre-record their hit before lip-syncing it on the show, but most bands would just lip-sync their single. The Ramones performed “Baby I Love You” (their biggest UK hit) on the show and it was just Joey lip-syncing and the band pretending to play and an orchestra pretending to play. Much ado about lip-syncing. Blink-182 sounded like Blink-182 though, so either pre-recorded their song live or they actually played live and the show has started to allow actual live-performances. It sure as fuck wasn’t the singles. But yeah, back to the Rezillos, the song really makes fun of the show and how it makes music into a money game, or maybe the show just symbolizes the consumerist aspect of the music industry in general. It’s really where the trade-offs of Eugene’s weird vocals and Fay’s Scottish accent really stand out. It reminds me a lot of The Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star” and predates it by a year. As mentioned earlier, “Top of the Pops” became their biggest hit and charted at #17 and they “performed” it on the actual show twice. I remember reading somewhere that the song was played frequently on the show because of the title. I can’t find the source however, so don’t take my word for it. Looking, however, I found a fun fact on Fay’s name. The word “fae” is used for “from” in the Scottish county Fife, so her name is a pun on “from Fife”, where she actually is from.

5. “2000 A.D: Another science fiction themed song. It is most likely a reference to the comic book series that was first published the year before in 1977. Kind of like Orwell’s 1984 and Blade Runner, it’s strange to think of works that were futuristic at the time, but now are far in the past. The comic book was where the comic book hero Judge Dredd was first introduced. He appeared in the Specials song “Stupid Marriage” a couple of years later. And synthpop band the Human League had a song called “I am the Law” about Judge Dredd in 1981. After the Rezillos John Callis would join the Human League and be part of writing some of their biggest hits like “Don’t You Want Me” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, but not “I am the Law”, ironically. “2000 A.D”, in many ways, comments on the unrealities of the comic book.

6. “It Gets Me”: The only song on the album that is solely written by Mysterious. The lead vocals are all done by Fay in this one. It’s another tune where her accent really stands out. I also think all the back up vocals are female in this one as well and it shares the nr 1 spot for me as “best song on the album”. Even if it is a quite a poppy tune, the ending is kind of depressing. It describes how seasons change and uncertainties of the future: “I don’t know if I’ll be here by the turning of the year”. It also uses the word “uncool”, something that continues in the next track. I really love the way she sings “it gets me”. Pretty much a perfect song!

7. “I Can’t Stand My Baby”: While “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures” was the band’s major label debut single, their first single ever was another song with “baby” in the title and also the song that titled the entire album, seemingly. I assumed the song was about someone who hates their significant other, but now I see that it also could be about a young parent that hates their child and would rather want to be a child themselves, while also realising that they have become old and boring and can’t stand the noise anymore and would rather be uncool and listen to classical music. Another song that Fay primarily sings lead vocals on.

8. “Glad All over”: Side two of the LP opens with a cover of Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All over”, which I think was inspired by the song of the same name by Carl Perkins. The song was written by Clark himself and bandmate Mike Smith. The Rezillos cover pretty much stays true to the original, despite the more punky vibe. Fay and Eugene share the vocals and sound great together. The song also gained some notoriety in Dr. Frank’s novel King Dork. Tom Henderson (AKA King Dork) loved the song and interpreted the lyrics as being about sex and having an orgasm. He also uses it as a euphemism for having an orgasm. Christian drummer, Todd, wanted to sing “He makes me feel glad all over” and make it be about Jesus, something King Dork wasn’t a fan of.

9. “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”: I think this song pretty much sticks out on the album. I think it’s a lot more new wave or rock ‘n’ roll than pop punk or punk. The song is about a lad who has a girlfriend who does sculptures and that is why he loves her. She doesn’t seem to care about one-night stands and naughty boys. Their relationship seems to be based on her artistic abilities and her shaping sculptures of him. The bass is also quite important for this song. This one is sung by Eugene. Along with “It Gets Me” this is my favorite song on the album. Self-important me, wanted you all to know that!

10. “I Like it”: A cover of Gerry and the Pacemakers’ classic. The first time I heard this (the original that is) was on the English television series Heartbeat, which I believe is bigger in Norway than it is in the UK. It’s still airing like every day! I’ve loved this tune since I was a kid. The song was written by Mitch Murray who wrote Gerry and the Pacemakers’ first single “How Do You Do It?”. It was actually written for the Beatles, but they didn’t want to release it as a single, but GatP did and had a #1 hit with it in the UK. Following up, I believe John Lennon wanted the other Liverpudlians to record his song “Hello Little Girl”. Instead they went with another Murray composition; “I Like It”, and it also went to #1. And their third single also went to nr 1, I think and became the official song of a sports team the band apparently didn’t support, but this isn’t ESPN, so let’s not focus on this. Like “Glad All Over” the Rezillos version is a punked up one that is pretty much true to the original. I like it!

11. “Getting Me Down”: With an intro that sounds a bit like the Surfaris’ “Wipeout”, “Getting Me Down” is probably the least memorable song on the album, but still quite an enjoyable tune. The lyrics have a really sad vibe to them. It’s about plans that went down the drain, not having money and just wanting to leave, because your town is getting you down. I can relate to it in many ways. I like the line “Living, not existing/ that’s the thing to me”. Just the idea that there is more to life than just existing and wanting to find that thing is probably something that never gets old.

12. “Cold Wars”: The surf-inspiration from “Getting Me Down” continues on “Cold Wars”. The solo is a fantastic little surf jangle and it adds a lot to an otherwise great tune. The song itself is a really good one. The intro is probably the most Ramones sounding intro they have. It also has the naïve and somewhat silly lyrics about serious topics like the Ramones did; “Cold wars are cooling me down”.

13. “Bad Guy Reaction”: Another rock ‘n’ roll song. Finishes the album on what I would call a glamrock-y note. To me it’s the combo of “Ballroom Blitz” and the Ramones’ “Ignorance is Bliss”. The lyrics sound like they could be an oi! Song. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose, but the chorus ends with “you only try to put me down”. The chorus in “Cold Wars” goes “Cold wars are cooling me down” and “Getting Me Down”, goes, well “getting me down”, but I see a pattern here! I think it finishes the album on an entirely different note than “Flying Saucer Attack” and shows the diversity of the album.

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In the next one, we are going to skip like three or four years forward and continue in the oi! genre. The ultimate album for tough guys in army clothing and skinned haircuts. The songs are more pop than ABBA though; the songs are definitely more ABBA than they are The Business. I’m of course talking about Shock Troops by Cock Sparrer. Skinheads are gonna hate me after this….