Archive for February, 2019

René’s Picks

1995 was the year I got to see a lot of Northern Europe’s capitals. I went to Oslo for the very first time and what I remember the most is the delicious waffles and buying a Fred Flintstone backpack. I still had a girlfriend and I finally understood many things in life. I was told “you are going to pre-school” and I had no idea I had to go to school. I thought school was for stupid people, so I was a bit disappointed. I was honestly shocked. For some reason, I started making new friends at school and I remember my criterion for someone to be my friend was if they liked the movie Mio, My son. Anyways, adjusting to the idea that I was going to start school was frightening to me. Before starting school, I went on my first road trip with my parents. We were going to Moomin Land in Finland and we stepped by Sweden on the way. I have some great memories from that trip. One of the first stops on the trip was in the Swedish town of Karlstad and it was midsummer, which is a very notable occasion in Sweden and almost all the restaurants and stores were closed, and all the swedes went to the beach to barbecue or something. Me and my parents starving, and we found a kebab place and I ate a döner kebab for the first time in my life. It was great! Next stop was the island Åland and I remember losing one of my baby teeth. I think it was my second. I also got to see Stockholm and Helsinki, the capitals of Sweden and Finland.

The music we listened to on the car stereo was mostly my Dad’s CD’s that he had been copied onto cassettes. This was about the first time I learned what a CD was, and the concept perplexed me. I had no idea how that thing would have music come out of it. Another thing was that it started at track 1 every time you put the cd in, unlike cassettes that you could pause and it’d end up at the same place on another deck. I remember when I saw the movie Pocahontas, I wanted the soundtrack afterwards and they didn’t sell it on cassette, so I had to get the cd. So, this was my first cd, it didn’t make it onto my picks though! 1995 was a really good year for punk music and all my favorite albums from this year have all been analyzed thoroughly in my pop punk picks column. But I think these picks are great as well:

Green day-Insomniac


I turned six years old this year. As a present from my class, I got a collage of pictures my classmates had drawn of cats. I also think we had cake at school. The same day (October 10), overseas, Green Day followed their major label debut Dookie with Insomniac. I was of course oblivious to this as I sat and ate cake and looked at weird kid-drawings of cats. The album, like Dookie, was released on Reprise Records. The backing of a major label and the millions of dollars raked in from the Dookie success gave us an album which to me is a perfectly produced album. I don’t think another punk album sounds this good. It’s both well-sounding and gritty at the same time. The poppy and classic rock feeling of Dookie is all gone on Insomniac. The album is a lot crunchier, angstier and darker. From the opening drums on “Armitage Shanks”, to the last chorus of “Walking Contradiction”, Tre Cool delivers his best performance on the kit. The songs about burning out, smoking pot and unrequited love are replaced with songs about meth (“Geek Stink Breath”), rich spoiled kids who wish for their parents’s deaths (“Brat”), giving up on society’s norms (“No Pride”) and hostile breakups (“Stuart and the Ave”), the latter being one of Green Day¨s greatest tunes. Mike Dirnt’s bass lines are fantastic on the entire album, but maybe especially on “Stuart…”. Billie Joe’s vocals are fantastic too and you can feel the spite in his voice, which is interesting as he just got married when the album came out. The song describes a breakup that took places years prior to the album. Amanda, a woman which almost appears more in Billie Joe’s songs than his actual wife, broke his heart and it turned into so many great tunes.

I remember buying the album in late 2003, the same day as I asked the local guitar shop if I could work there during work training week. I remember a few months after buying the album, I was in Liverpool for the first time. I walked around the station trying to find the bathroom. When I got there and did my thing, I washed my hands in the Armitage Shanks sink and thought “this I where they got the song from”. It got even weirder from there. I saw the number 86 on the wall and there was a sign that said “Westbound” and I felt like I was living in the Insomniac album and wondered if this is where Billie Joe got the idea. This was also the album that has the, in my opinion, worst GD song “Brain Stew”, its only silver lining is being followed by “Jaded”. The fun music videos of Dookie were also replaced with darker music videos for the album. The dentist office close-up of mouth video of “Geek Stink Breath” is just plain disturbing. The exception is of course “Walking Contradiction”, which is hilarious and possibly the funniest music video of all time. It’s also the most lighthearted song on the album, starting a series of songs where Billie Joe tries to be Elvis Costello. The album cover is just as cartoonish, but it’s also a lot more disturbing and less iconic than Dookie. This was the year that punk rock really turned mainstream, 1994 was when mainstream turned punk.

The Queers- Move Back Home

queers moveback

I remember getting the Asian Man reissue of this album in Stockholm, Sweden in October 2007 (the second time I was there), something I might get into more in 2007. What I didn’t know back then was that the vocals were very different in that reissue than in the 1995 version. In fact, the great line “I was so excited, but she was undecided” is gone from “I Didn’t Get Invited to the Prom”. Songs like “She¨s a Cretin” and “High School Psychopath Pt.2” sounded less snotty. In many ways, I got to admit that I still prefer the 2007 version in some ways, although that might be sacrilege. Another thing I loved in the 2007 version was getting to read Larry Livermore’s liner notes.

The first song that caught me (when listening to the album) was “From Your Boy”, which Larry also complimented a lot in his liner notes. I think, the album is what it is, a kind of silly pop punk album with a somewhat older gentleman singing songs about being a teenager, and often the second verse being “same as the first” in true Ramones fashion, but “From Your Boy” really stands out in the middle of the album. A midtempo tune that builds up, starting only with Joe Queer on vocals and guitar and then bass and drums slowly get added as the song builds up and let’s not forget the great solo, that is sort of in the same style as the Riverdale’s “Back to You”. The title is, of course, a response to The Muffs’ “From Your Girl”. Larry produced the album and also offered one of his band the Potatomen’s songs “That Girl” to Joe and the gang to cover on the album. I’d say the original is definitely better, but I think they do a great job covering it. The original appeared on the album Now, that was also from 95 and could easily also have been a pick for this year. The song is written from the point of view of a man who strays from the traditional objectifying and possessive male voices in many love songs. The girl in the song isn’t seen as some object the guy wants to own and he seems to see women as equal and states it, without it sounding forced like an “I’m a feminist look at me” song. Other guys are warning him about this girl, but he understands she wants to be her own person and has no plans to make her settle down. The second verse starts “I’m not saying that she’s my girl, she’s her own woman that’s one thing sure”, something that ties it to the next song on the album; “Peppermint Girl” where Joe sings “She’s not my girl, but I’m a fool”. “Peppermint Girl”, however, seems like the polar opposite. It’s obsessive, possessive and sometimes even kinda creepy “She wants out, but I want in”, but I definitely think it’s one of Joe’s better lyrics, both with its obsessive unrequited love, but also the peppermint metaphor. The girl is hot and cool, and sweet and neat just like peppermint. It’s a really poppy song with lots of noise elements in it, it was one of the first Queers songs I heard and fell in love with and it’s still one of my favorite Queers tunes.

There’s something Jesus and Mary Chain about it, and I would say there’s something even more Jesus and Mary Chain-esque about “Cut It Dude”, one of many anti hippie songs that dates the album on there (we’re told “It’s 95” quite few times on the album). It was also the first album where Joe, B-Face and Hugh all got songwriting credit for most of the songs. This was also the first album they did a Beach Boys cover, and “Hawaii” is probably their best one. “Everything’s Going My Way” has also always been a favorite of mine. And there’s of course a parody song title in “If You Only Had a Brain” (parodying “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz), and it’s probably their funniest parody title. I honestly think the album holds up well. The Lookout version was first released May 10.

CUB- Come out, Come Out


I wrote about the twee pop/cuddlecore masterpiece that is Betti Cola in the 1993 article. Come out, Come out followed it up perfectly. Lisa Marr delivered some of her greatest tunes. The production was a lot more slick than its predecessor, but the songs were nearly if not as great. The song is stacked with poppier tracks such as “Ticket to Spain” and “Your Bed”, snottier songs like “Voracious” and “Life of Crime” and ballads like “So Far Apart”. The album definitely is a bit more professional than Betti Cola, I honestly prefer BC, but they are close. There are far less covers on this album. They do a lovely version of the Go-Go’s “Vacation” and a possibly even better cover of Yoko Ono’s (and John Lennon’s) “I’m Your Angel”, from their Double Fantasy, which to me is a surprisingly good album. Other bands have also covered songs from the album. They Might Be Giants did a cover of the sugariest tune on the album “New York City”. A song about falling in love in NYC and being far away from the person you had your big city fling with. Another song about being far away from someone “So Far Apart” was also performed by Neko Case of New Pornographers fame at a CUB show, she drummed for the band for a while. Singing “So Far Apart” was her first vocal performance on stage ever, there are, as I can find, no recordings of her singing the song though. My favorite song on the album is “Tomorrow Go Away” and it might be my favorite CUB song; a song about a relationship gone sour. Two people that clearly hate each other that stay together, wishing another day won’t come and the song just gives a gloomy look at a failing relationship of metaphors like cards laid for solitaire, and passive aggressive lunches with parents and sex on the floor as they have no room for a bed. Every line in the verses rhyme with “bed”. They have given up on love and hope and their lives pass by. Beautiful melody, brilliant lyrics. To connect this album to the Queers one, CUB also did a split with the Potatomen this year. Come out, Come out was released January 15 1995 on Mint Records.

Dave’s Picks

Jawbreaker- Dear You

jawbreaker dear u

Of course, it is different listening to Dear You over a decade and a half after the fact, as I did when I discovered the album in around 2010. Having not lived through the experience of Jawbreaker transitioning from underground punk darlings to a slicker and emo-tinged indie-punk band and signing to a major label (Geffen) for what would be their last release. For many fans, Jawbreaker had, yep, sold out, and effectively done a deal with the devil. The backlash after such a well-loved record in 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was significant and it sounds like it invoked perhaps even more antithapy and anger among punks than Dookie did the previous year. I mean, it effectively ended the band, with Jawbreaker breaking up only a year or so after the release. Bandmates fought and, famously, on the US tour following the release of Dear You, many fans sat, arms folded, turned away from the stage when the band played tunes from the album.

But the idea of ‘selling out’ means something different in 2019; the ‘90s was a different landscape and the punk scene was more purist, as Blake had satirically drawn out on 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. So, I didn’t have to deal with these conflicts when I listened to Dear You;  I could just listen to it for its own sake and appreciate the music for what it is. The music is undeniably different: it’s mellower, more introspective and cleaner. Regarding the latter, it is the slicker production values of Dear You that the fans had the most issues with, with the band recording with Rob Cavallo who had only the previous year produced Dookie with Green Day. I can imagine the advert now: would you like your punk band to be labelled a sellout? On a mission to alienate your fanbase? Then I, Rob Cavallo, am your man!

While cleaner sounding and more closely embedded with the alternative rock sound of the era, Dear You still sounds like classic Jawbreaker in many ways. For me, it retains Jawbreaker’s original appeal and builds upon the sound that they had developed so well on 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. It is still basically pop-punk in many ways, albeit a gloomier and more emo-tinged version of it. The vocals are also distinctly cleaner on Dear You, following Blake’s vocal surgery.

More than anything though, the record represented a stark shift in tone, coming across as a darker and more downbeat sound. The soft-loud dynamics on tracks like Accident Prone, Jet Black or Million are bound up with a stark self-deprecation and glum attitude that makes it sound like Blake has just given up. This record is essentially a huge bummer and, for that reason, I consider it to be my go-to winter rotation album. I remember listening to Jet Black on the radio as a teenager, years before I would properly delve into the band and being almost shocked by the sheer bleakness and hopelessness of the song that was way beyond anything I had previously heard: Your floor is my ceiling/Lights out, you can’t come in. Tonally, Dear You is not far off the Smiths, albeit backed by a straightforward punk ethic and grit. You do have to be in the mood to really appreciate Dear You; if not, the self-pitying and wallowing can be overwhelming.

Lyrically, Blake was arguably at his peak on Dear You, evidencing brilliant, cutting wordplay throughout. Lines like I dot my T’s and cross my I’s (Oyster) or If you hear the dreams I’ve had, my dear/They would give you nightmares for a week (Fireman) immediately come to mind. The lyrics on the album retain Blake’s trademark bitterness, though this is directed less towards the punk scene and more towards failed romances: check out Fireman or I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both for example. Tracks like Save Your Generation, Jet Black, Oyster or Sluttering (4th) are up there with the best punk tracks of the ‘90s and provided the bedrock for a bunch of emo and punk bands through to today.

Green Day- Insomniac


Coming back off the back of Dookie, one of the ‘90s most iconic pop-punk records, Green Day’s follow-up release was also going to be a challenging and interesting one. As the years pass, the more I appreciate Insomniac. When I first heard the record (at the age of about 17), I didn’t really get it, I guess, but it really is a great album that represented a distinct shift in sound for Green Day. Insomniac is full of aggression, angst and bile; it feels uncompromising in many senses. Tre’s drumming is incredible, perfectly bound up with the aggressive sounds on the album, and Billie-Joe’s vocals are iconic here: sneering and full of bile. The angst imbued in Billie-Joe’s vocals feels genuine and organic, in marked contrast to anything Green Day write these days.

The pop-punk on Insomniac is darker, crunchier and angrier, dropping many of the ‘60s pop influences from their earlier material. It is nevertheless chock-a-block full of melodic goodness, as can be heard on classic tracks such as ’86 and Westbound Sign, both full of heart and stop-start hooks. In tone, Insomniac comes off as more teenage than Dookie in some ways, with tracks about break-ups, rejecting society and killing one’s parents. The sound may have been more ‘mature’ (whatever that means), but the content of the songs wasn’t. Green Day touched on disillusionment, drug abuse and mental health issues on Insomniac. All of these, of course, were present on Dookie, but this time, things felt more serious and darker in tone. For me, Insomniac is a great example (alongside Dear You, actually) of how bands can do the whole ‘self-analytical angst’ thing, without it feeling pretentious or overly-forced.

The album sounds amazing, too: crunchy, yet clean; clearly, Green Day made the most of an expensive recording studio, while avoiding the trappings of over-production. Some of the songs work better (Stuart and the Ave, Westbound Sign, No Pride) than others (Tight Wad Hill, Brain Stew), but, on the whole, Insomniac feels like as coherent and well-rounded an album as Green Day have done. Despite sound great songs being released after this, this was Green Day’s last properly great album and the last you will be hearing about them in this series!

Rancid- And out come the wolves…

rancid wolves

It makes you realise how many great punk albums were being released in the early to mid ‘90s that And out come the Wolves… almost didn’t make my best of 1995 list despite my conviction that it embodies some of the best parts of the punk genre. Rancid’s third full-length was their ‘breakthrough’, I guess, despite never receiving the same recognition as Green Day or The Offspring. I mean, how could they with looking and singing like that? The mainstream semi-acceptance of Rancid represented the punk image (leather jackets, studs) being transported back to the public consciousness, albeit for a brief moment. In many ways, Wolves is an homage to ‘70s British punk (specifically The Clash) and ‘80s ska, but I feel that does it a huge disservice; it feels vibrant and contemporary and as much a product of the ‘90s East Bay punk scene as of those.

Wolves is more slowed-down and melodic than its predecessor Let’s Go, or at least the hooks are given more room to breathe. It also feels less like a barrage of punk growl, and more like a proper, full-bodied and thought-out record. I still often think of this album as being a bit too long or having too many tracks at 19, but I have to correct myself: there isn’t really any filler on Wolves. I love Olympia, WA, in particular: it is one of the first Rancid tracks I heard and it probably remains my favourite of theirs. Its anthemic sound is iconic and never devolves into Pennywise territory; it embodies a wonderful explosion of melodies and storytelling that feels unmatched when you are listening to it. Elsewhere, I always come back to tracks like Roots Radicals, Ruby Soho, Journey to the End of Easy Bay or Avenues and Alleyways; I am even partial to Junkie Man. The dual hit of Tim and Lars vocals works so well; it is a wonderful combination that feels peerless in this kind of punk rock.

While incorporating a diverse range of sounds and influences, from oi! to ska to ‘70s punk, Wolves has a coherent sense of itself and a consistent attitude, which is mainly ‘fuck you’ to be fair. I mean, the ‘wolves’ analogy from the album title is clear: the record has a sense of ‘us against the world’. The lyrical storytelling on the whole is outstanding on Wolves and is really what distinguishes Rancid from the pack. I read an article that compared Rancid’s lyrical stylings to that of hip-hop artists and I can see that; the songwriting on Wolves (and Rancid more generally, of course) is all about putting the listener in a specific place and time, so that you know what it is like to play a ‘lonely pinball machine in New York’, long for Olympia or to take the ’60 bus out of downtown campbell’ despite never having been there. It is an album full of characters that fill the protagonist’s life, from Ben Zanotto on the bus, to little Sammy, the punk rocker, to Jackyl, a struggling addict. In contrast to the self-pity of their peers (including the other two picks in this article!), there is a sense of pride, of breaking through the tough times, and simply storytelling imbued in Rancid’s work which feels refreshing. There are moments of semi-silliness, but that is almost part of its charm, as was the case with those early punk records in the ‘70s. I sometimes forget how great this record is; don’t fall into this trap ‘cos it’s a GODDAMN CLASSIC.

Dave also enjoyed:

The Queers- Move Back Home

Riverdales- S/T

The Muffs- Blonder and Blonder


I have made a promise that this pick was going to be controversial. In the five years of this column (fuck!), I’ve made some crazy claims about what could be considered pop punk, anything from the Replacements to the Barracudas to Propagandhi have been labelled pop punk, it seems like no one is safe. Today’s target is a group of people with short hair, Chelsea cuts, Fred Perry polos and Doc Martin boots. Skinheads, I’m afraid to tell you that your favorite oi! Band is pop punk. Cock Sparrer are tough guys who aren’t afraid to shed a tear or express emotions, their image is tough, but their melodies are poppier than the Beatles and Cliff Richard all together. I feel like I’m about to get in trouble now. Cock Sparrer was originally called Cock Sparrow, a cockney symbol of familiarity. In Merriam Webster’s dictionary, it’s defined as “a cocky little man”. The band was formed as early as 1972. In the early years, they were inspired by glam rock and British Invasion bands such as the Small Faces and the Rolling Stones. Members Colin McFaull, Mick Beaufoy, Steve “Burge” Burgess and Steve Bruce had known each other since the age of eleven. They liked drinking and football, long before the oi! Genre even existed. Like their heroes, the Stones and the Small Faces, they signed to Decca Records, the label that famously rejected the Beatles, and covered the Stones song “We Love You” and the Small Faces song “Watcha Gonna Do about It?”. Before signing to Decca, they had been in contact with Malcolm McLaren, but refused to cut their hair like McLaren required and he turned the Sex Pistols into rocks stars instead. In 1978, they were dropped from Decca before even releasing a full length. The Rolling Stones cover and their own composition “Running Riot” were both flopping singles. Their early recordings were released on a self-titled album in Spain and on various compilations later in their career. They already had some really great tracks. “Trouble on the Terraces” is a song in defense of football hooligans. The band advertised that they were football hooligans, not punks. The song’s guitar solo is very similar to the simple guitar leads we associate with the likes of Screeching Weasel and the Queers. The best song from the old days is, in my opinion, “What’s It Like to Be Old?”; it’s interesting to look at how young rebellious teenagers wonder what it’s like to be old. Something they ironically comment on when they play the song live as older gentlemen. In 1994, they also released a song called “Because You’re Young” that was the exact opposite, an older person’s reflections on youth and the nihilism of the young.

I remember the first time I heard them was I 2005 or 2006 and I heard “Riot Squad” and thought it was a lovely song, but also was a bit baffled and wondered “is this oi!?”, it sounded like a rock song to me. For some reason I never really listened to them again until I early 2009 when I found Shock Troops in the local record shop for metal and punk music called Mefisto, a place that I sometimes miss. It completely blew me away right away and it quickly became a favorite of mine. A year later I got found the Cock Sparrer DVD in the legendary punk record shop Coretex in Kreuzberg, Berlin. That was around the same time I got to see other East end oi! Band Cockney Rejects, Stiff Little Fingers and the Cock Sparrer cover band Melanie and the Secret Army at the punk ‘n’ disorderly fest. I actually got to see Cock Sparrer themselves in Bergen in 2015. I remember it as a silver lining in a weekend full of distress and existential worry, I was reading Franz Kafka and wondered “who am I?” and I never really got the answer. I was also witness to some heavy drug use. I remember going out the following night after watching the first episode of Mr. Robot and being bummed out about all the terrible heavy metal music and being super stoked when the Ramones or the Jam came on, so when after that weekend I asked myself “who am I?”, my best answer was “some dude who likes Cock Sparrer, the Ramones and the Jam”.

Shock Troops was released in 1983 on Razor Records. The band was back after not playing for a while. The album cover shows a very military style image and it resonates with the album title and many of the song on the album. It was later re-released on Capitain Oi! With bonus tracks. The album art was made by Hudson McCleeve. The album was produced by the bandmembers themselves and engineered by Simon Bohannon.

1. “Where Are They Now?”: The band had been gone for a while when they returned, and they were not the only ones. In 1977, punk was a promising genre and subculture with its icons turning riot mainstream and turning rebellion into money. After a few years, punk was “dead” and post punk had become the new shit. To say punk was dead in the early 80s would be wrong, it had, however, gone underground and bands like the Exploited were exploiting the shit out of the punk image to the level of parody and across the globe, the music got faster and louder. The icons of the early punk days seemed to have moved on to something else and Cock Sparrer wondered where they had gone with the opening track “Where Are They Now?” The song references Julie Burchill, a militant feminist writer for the NME and her husband, Tony Parsons who also wrote for the NME, Joe Strummer who brought class struggle to punk, Jim Pursey of Sham 69 who told the kids to be united, the Roxy and Johnny Rotten swearing on television. The bridge also makes a reference to rock bands like the Who and Led Zeppelin. The song questions if the punk movement was ever worth it if it wasn’t going to follow up. The music is quite melodic compared to most of the punk music at the time. I think Colin McFaull sounds more like Fergal Sharkey than an oi! singer. Matt Kelly of Dropkick Murphys described Cock Sparrer as songwriters that could write pop songs on the back of the What You See Is What You Get DVD. On the same DVD, someone also compared CS to ABBA.

2. “Riot Squad”: Following the proud tradition of punk bands playing the melody of a police siren as an intro like the Clash did in “White Riot” and the Exploited did in “Cop Car”, “Riot Squad” tells an interesting story about an outsider and juvenile delinquent who decides to join the police force after not staying on his own and dreaming of being a criminal. He continues his violent ways as a cop and he gets blamed when something goes wrong and he is then back to being a criminal with the people he had harassed as a copper. The song stands out with its “whoah ah”’s and strong melody.

3. “Working”: The third song on the album, “Working”, is less poppy than its predecessors and is a serious song that shows the band’s working-class roots and, like many bands before and after the song, is about working. There is an indication that the person in the song is doing something illegal, like working under the table, not paying taxes and still getting benefit checks.

4. “Take ‘em All”: Always seemed like the story of the band so far and their deal with Decca. The imagery of the song is rather violent. In many ways, it’s another class statement. It’s talking about taking rich rock stars, bigshots in the business and other West End bourgeoise bigwigs and shooting them. Along with “Riot Squad”, it’s one of the band’s most characteristic songs. The second verse is, the way I interpret it, sung from Decca’s perspective, giving reasons why they ditched them and telling them to go back to the factory. From comments on, it seems like there is more to the story and it is actually about EMI who tried to sign them but ended up signing the Sex Pistols instead. The beat in the song sounds like it’s straight out of a football match, which of course fits the band perfectly.

5. “We’re Coming Back”: This is really a beautiful ballad in oi! form. I’ve heard this described as a song for West Ham F.C, a song about Jesus and simply about the band themselves. I guess it’s just about having someone for you when you’re down or someone having your back when you’re in trouble whether it’d be your group of friends, your religion, your sports team or your favorite band. It’s one of the songs that really separates Cock Sparrer from other oi! bands. Many bands sing about unity and sticking up for each other, but few take it to such an emotional level as this.

6. “Watch Your Back”: The first songs on side B are maybe the most controversial ones, but also two of the best tunes. In a time of the National Front and the far-right recruiting skinheads and working-class white kids and the left still being revolutionary and Thatcher sending soldiers to the Falklands, Cock Sparrer writes two apolitical songs. “Watch Your Back” is dedicated to the left, talking about revolution and smashing the state and compares their political methods to the holocaust. The song criticizes both the left and the right and accuses people with political interests of exploiting the working-class and doesn’t separate between the radical left and the far right. In a Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll interview from 2015 they were asked what they thought of the right using their music for racist purposes and answered Steve Bruce: “Get a life.” Mickey Beaufoy: “The same way that I feel about left-wing extremists doing the same thing—both extremes are as bad as the other. I prefer the sentiments of “Right Wing, Left Wing full of hate—we don’t want to fight”.” Daryl Smith: “The same way as I’d feel if anyone tried to use our songs for any form of extremism, left or right—you just don’t get it.” The song has resulted in the band being accused of being fence-sitters. In many ways, this song is still relevant today.

7. “I Got Your Number”: The apolitical extravaganza continues. What exactly this song refers to is unclear to me, but I think it has to do with political press that feeds propaganda, but the Cock Sparrer guys won’t fall for it. They see the political ideologies of the people they’re singing about as outdated and, like “Watch Your Back”, they are possibly talking about both sides. The chorus ends “I got your number, I ain’t ever gonna toe that particular party line”, here we see someone who refuses to pick a side between what they see as two extremes. I find these lyrics to be clever as there is an ambiguity. “I got your number” means seeing someone’s true colors and seeing through their agenda, but I also get telephone associations. “I ain’t ever gonna toe that particular party line” means not conforming to a specific political ideology, but a party line was also a local loop telephone circuit, making another telephone association. I don’t know if I’m looking too much into it, but I like this connection. The melody is also pop music at its finest. I would like to hear Billie Joe Armstrong sing this for some reason. Definitely the best Cock Sparrer song to me.

8. “Secret Army”: When the song starts with a bomb, we know we’re about to enter some real shit. “Secret Army” is about terrorism and most likely about the IRA. Except “Take ‘em all”, Cock Sparrer often represent themselves as a pacifist band. The song describes the horrors, hopelessness and disillusionment that terrorism inflicts on ordinary people. People in organizations meant to harm families and innocent people to make political points and idealists sacrificing their lives to fight for their cause and kill other people at the same time. Some of the most heartbreaking lyrics here: “When a bomb goes off in a city street/ When a man gets killed for his beliefs/ When a mother cries for the son she had/ That’s when the world’s gone mad”. I’m not sure if there’s a connection between the song and the tv series from a few years before with the same name.

9. “Droogs Don’t Run”: The penultimate song on the original album is probably the least great tune on the album. The word “droog” is from the novel Clockwork Orange and means friend, in that way it’s a punkier version of “We’re Coming Back”. It’s not bad, and it definitely gets you prepared for the actual ballad of the album.

10. “Out on an Island”: The last song sounds way more like David Bowie than it sounds like oi! or pop punk. It continues in the pacifist tone we’ve heard earlier in the album. I would say it’s also the closest to an actual political song we get on the record. It’s about someone deserting from the army. It shows that being part of the army or being recruited to a war takes away someone’s sense of individualism and the line “Every number’s a hero and every hero’s a son/ But every son’s just a number when the battles begun” echoes the line quoted in “Secret Army”. Sometimes it seems like people ignore that war affects real people and even more people that it is the individual that gets killed. The pacifist message of the song is so strong and it’s rather contradictory to the album title, album cover and the overall imagery of the band. A fantastic way to end an album.

I’m also including two bonus tracks:

Bonus Track 1 “Argy Bargy”: This song is about radio DJ Terry Christian who later hosted the tv show The Devil’s Advocate. Again, this song reminds me more of the Undertones or the Buzzcocks than The Business or 4 Skins. Christian also was a friend of the Buzzcocks’s drummer John Maher. ‘Argy bargy’ is an expression that means to argue, new wave band Squeeze also had an album called Argybargy. It was the B-side to the “England Belongs to Me” single.

Bonus Track 2: “England Belongs to Me”: Another controversial song for the band. The single was released in 1982. I guess this is a song that is a little patriotic for my taste, but a great song nonetheless. It’s such a powerful song that people from across the world join in the Anglophilia. The song describes the dirty waters of England and the glory days of the British Empire. According to a review in buzz mag the song was introduced with ““It’s not about racism,” McFaull says, “it’s about belonging”;” I also think there’s a football element to the song. There was a FIFA world cup in 1982 and I feel like the lyrics could relate just as much to the football team England as the country. Another interesting aspect is that they sing about, the “red, white and blue” relates more to the Union Jack than the English flag. If “our boys” doesn’t mean the football players, it would mean soldiers fighting for England, something that again contradicts the more pacifist songs on the album.


So is this really a pop punk album? I definitely think so, if you can call any early punk album pop punk, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s a classic for sure. And if you thought we couldn’t move further from actual pop punk. The next album up is The Cure’s American album Boys Don’t Cry.

The Run Up, hailing from Bristol in the UK, are back with a new EP. They continue to sound like a band from the West Coast of the USA, with the songs on this EP sounding somewhat like San Diego’s Western Settings. The songs are huge, epic, sing-alongs, emotionally-based pop punk. This is the sort of stuff that’s great to listen to, packed into a small club, everyone singing at the top of their lungs, fists pumping in the air, and beer sloshing all over the place. The vocals glide over huge guitars, soaring with an air of intensity. The title track comes first, and I’ll be damned if this doesn’t sound like an early Western Settings song, with the vocal stylings even taking on the feel of WS front man Ricky Schmidt. The five songs on this EP are even stronger and more cohesive than their excellent self-titled LP. This band would be welcomed with open arms on the West Coast of the US.

Check it out here:


Upper Downer is a band out of LA, and that gave them the opportunity to work with the talented Davey Warsop , the same person who worked on Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s releases for Fat Wreck Chords. This gives the band a great sound for the mix of anarcho-punk and ska punk tracks. The rough, gravelly vocals complement the sound perfectly, too. My favorite tracks of the half dozen are “Disarm the Police,” “Alone,” and “Glue.” These are the harder edged punk tracks. In particular, “Disarm the Police” is a powerful, driving track, and the perfect choice to open the EP. And “Alone” is a speedy, energetic one. “Somebody Died,” “Dog Food, “and “Piss Jug” are the ska-punk tracks – and while the tracks are fine, it’s not my favorite genre. But fans of the genre will enjoy these well-done songs.

Check it out here:


Sounding very retro, yet thoroughly modern, Washington, D.C.’s Dot Dash have a timeless quality about them. The dozen tracks are loaded with jangly power pop and hints of psych, punk, indie pop, and various other bits. This makes for a great listen, hearing all the disparate influences meld together to form a coherent, cohesive whole. The songs end up sounding hauntingly familiar, yet fresh and new. The album opens with the brilliant “Unfair Weather,” a track that packs a punch yet jangles incessantly. The lyrics seem to poke fun at Americans who use English slang to appear cool. I really like “Gray Blue Green,” which has vocals that sound very much like Lou Reed, and jangly retro British invasion sounds from the guitar. “Dead Letter Rays” changes things up with a bit of a doo-wop feel. “TV/Radio,” “Green on Red,” and “Sun + Moon = Disguise” are favorites for their slightly raucous garage sound, and the lyrics of the first have a reference to Alan Vega! The feel of “Tamed a Wild Beast” is such that I’m sure I’ve heard the song before, but I know I haven’t. It’s dreamy, jangly, and gorgeous. Honestly, every track on the album is good.

Check it out here: