Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The greater Toronto area, including Hamilton, has produced many good bands in recent years. The Flatliners and The Dirty Nil immediately spring to mind. Good Grief is new to me, but that makes sense since they only formed in the waning months of 2018 and this is their recording debut. The music on this four-song EP is chaotic and manic, loud and hard. The vocals sound vaguely inebriated, with a faux English accent, but the crunchy instrumentals are tight. The deep bass growls and the guitars snarl with metallic licks. Gang vocal shouts are mob-like. The opening track, “Good Grief (The Song),” is a perfect introduction, with a great old mid-tempo punk sound. The call and response between lead and backing vocals in places is cool, and there’s a feeling of a chant of encouragement in places. The chord progression is angular and unsettling. “Pave The Way” opens with a very punk-like “call to action,” then the instrumentals jump in with that same angry angular attack, the noise almost overwhelming the vocals. “Off License” almost has a rawer NOMEANSNO feel to it, harder and punker, with less funk. The guitars bouncing around in the speakers are cool. And the closer, “Blood In Britain,” is perhaps the most manic of all, with a frenetic feel. Yes, Hamilton has produced soon good bands in recent years. Add Good Grief to those ranks.

Check it out here: https://goodgriefgang.bandcamp.com/releases

PS

Advertisements

teenage-bottlerocket-2017-th813

To celebrate the release of Teenage Bottlerocket’s new album Stay Rad!, I decided to write up a top-ten list of the band’s songs that includes zero material from that record. Heh. It’s actually a decent record, but doesn’t contain anything top-ten worthy. You can see where my preference lies, with the vast majority of the songs on this list coming from the band’s first three releases. The positioning of these can be probably re-ordered, but I’m pretty sure these are my top ten…

  1. “TV Set” (Tales from Wyoming)

I think this song is the most recently released of the ten picks, which shows how highly I rate the last three TBR records. The new one is probably the higher quality and more consistent of the three, but none can come close to breaking the top ten. “TV Set” is on Tales from Wyoming, but it was released first on the Red Scare 10 year anniversary compilation. It stands out on TFW as a short, sweet and straightforward, harmony-driven pop-punk hit that is a throwback to the band’s earlier material. The underlying anti-technology suspicion on the track is very Lillingtons-esque, too.

  1. “Warning Device” (Warning Device)

Warning Device is for sure TBR’s most coherent and thematically-driven record and that is exemplified by the title track which serves as a one-two punch alongside the number one on this list. The album is essentially about coming through a break-up and regretting that you ever got together with the person, wishing that a ‘warning device’ of some kind could have warned you away all those years ago. Not a ‘new’ pop-punk theme in any way, but delivered in a refreshing and coherent way. The track has a fast-paced urgency and for one of the first times, TBR shift away from a standard Ramones-y verse-chorus-verse set-up. The pop-punk guitar solo is super fucking cool, too.

  1. “So Far Away” (Total)

The love-sick closer on Total. Making this list, I realise that TBR really knew how to close a record on the first three albums. “So Far Away” serves as a great epilogue on Total, releasing the pop-punk love-sickness that has been building on the rest of the record. It works well as this semi-melodramatic, (relatively) slowed-down mid-tempo tune, following on from faster-paced tracks like “Repeat Offender” and “Bloodbath at Burger King”. It is a super simple love song about dealing with long-distance, but I love the line, “how can I tell my heart that we’re a million miles apart?”. The repeated ‘so far away’ line at the crescendo of the song is so good.

  1. “Without You” (They Came From the Shadows)

There is an abundance of melody on “Without You”, one of my favourites from They Came From the Shadows. It has a wonderful sense of urgency and a heart-on-sleeve, melodramatic chorus; in many ways, I consider this to be a perfectly crafted pop song. “Without You” is a love sick pop-punker, but from a somewhat different perspective to that on “So Far Away”. On this one, the protagonist is longing for a significant other that has departed and is struggling to cope without them. Everything around them reminds them of the person. While Warning Device represented an anger at having fallen for that person, this track represents a simple sadness at the separation. The alternative version of “Without You” by Ray Rocket is also worth a listen!

  1. “Done With Love” (Freak Out)

By far, the standout on Freak Out. A Kody-penned tune, “Done With Love” is mid-tempo and super anthemic, with a hell of a chorus. The slower tempo really allows the vocals and lyrics the room to breathe. It’s great how much the ‘love’ in the chorus is elongated. For me, this track demonstrates TBR at the top of their songwriting game, in terms of melodies, song construction and lyrics. It sounds like it would fit in well on Warning Device, though the lyrical sentiments on “Done With Love” are in a slightly different place as that record. This is a very bitter song, with the protagonist having had enough of the game of love. They have ‘got shit to do’ and ‘no time to waste’ on any of that ‘bullshit’. As an ‘I’m out’, it’s very well delivered. Interestingly, I’m not sure if it was intentional, but the ‘no time to waste’ line makes me think of “Wasting Time” (read below); whereas previously, the protagonist couldn’t do anything but waste time on thinking about their significant other, now they have grown hardened and don’t waste time on it.

  1. “Social Life” (Warning Device)

A straight-up, fast-paced pop-punk ripper, clocking in at under 2 minutes. This was one of those on Warning Device that I loved straight away, whereas a bunch of the other tracks took a while to grow on me. As all the best pop-punk songs are, it’s simple (in hooks and lyrics), but really fucking effective. It’s about a guy not wanting to go out and see people and instead staying at home and listening to music. It’s really as simple as that! I love the last section of the song, when the chorus is repeated and the background ‘woah-ohs’ come in. It makes you want to pogo all around your living room, this one (on your own, of course). “Social Life” could have been as easily on Total, but I like how it fits in with the broader theme of ‘wasting time’ on Warning Device.

  1. “So Cool” (Total)

Another Kody song. I am super nostalgic about this track. I mean, all of Total, really, but particularly this one. It reminds me of doing stupid shit during the summer as a teenager and hanging out with a friend. It was also one of the first songs I got into from the mid-‘00s underground pop-punk scene and so kind of opened a floodgate for me. A fast-paced, intense and hook-filled punk track dedicated to the sheer joy of hanging out with a cool person. You get the sense that this is about the start of a relationship and everything blossoming, with the protagonist worried that the other person may leave eventually and pleading with not to (“cause if you do, I’m coming after you”). If you don’t like the back-up vocals towards the end of the song (“baby, baby, you’re so cool”), I dunno what to say.

  1. “Todayo” (They Came From the Shadows)

Like a classic Descendents or MTX track, this is an ode to everything going just right for once and pinching yourself: “Waking up next to me/ I hope you’ll always be”. There is an unbridled optimism and joy on “Todayo” that feels fragile and precarious. The themes of this track are not dissimilar to “So Cool”, I guess, although they are delivered in a somewhat different way. More than anything else TBR have done, it reminds me of mainstream pop-punk of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, at least in parts. It’s a really energetic, urgent and anthemic punk track that tops anything else on They Came From the Shadows. I wish TBR had evolved more in the direction of “Todayo” or “Done With Love”, which stuck to the band’s roots but evidence a shift away from a simple pop-punk formula, instead of going down the ‘rawk’ route.

  1. “Bloodbath at Burger King” (Total)

Oh my, those opening guitar leads still get me every time. It’s essentially a straightforward pop-punk track about hating your job, but that guitar lead elevates it to a few notches above. I love the outro “blood on the register, the grill, and on the floor”, with the back-up vocals “bloodbath at burger king” coming in. I know there have been a ton of pop-punk songs written about hating one’s job, but this one is so visceral and really captures the intense feelings about working in the service industry and the blood that it makes you want to shed. At the time when I first heard this track, I was working in a fast-food joint (in a bowling alley) and I don’t think I have ever related to a song so much in my life! I remember walking around doing tasks at work, singing under my breath, “…blood on the fryer and the walk-in cooler door…”. Good times!

  1. “Wasting Time” (Warning Device)

It is often hard to say what is your favourite song from a band, but this is as close as I will get to a favourite TBR song, I think. “Wasting Time” is a mid-tempo, emotive and hook-filled pop-punk banger that forms part of an effective one-two combo with “Warning Device”. It makes for a great ending to the record. I can think of few pop-punk records that end on such a high note. I love the way the melody subtly shifts for the chorus: “And now the murdering of minutes is my only crime”. It’s a song that fits in neatly with “Warning Device” and the rest of the record: about fixating on a significant other that has left and not being to think of anything else. I think these are among TBR’s best lyrics!

Check out the latest record here: https://teenagebottlerocket.bandcamp.com/

DB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Sleep are a three-piece out of Olympia, Washington who play short, sweet and straightforward garage-y pop-punk. Their debut self-titled full-length, following a couple of EPs, is full of fuzzy powerpop melodies and catchy, understated choruses, akin to what regularly comes out on Dirtnap records. Bad Sleep’s sound is not dissimilar to the likes of Marked Men, Sonic Avenues or Something Fierce, or maybe a sped-up Tacocat. The songs pass by in 2 minute bursts, in staple fashion.

The best thing about Bad Sleep is their keen sense of melodies, and there are hooks-a-plenty on their S/T. The band are not Ramones-y per se, but are clearly influenced by their ear for a good melody. The vocals are pretty infectious; notably, on the album highlight “Don’t Have To”, the lovely ‘ooh-oohs’ from singer Lily combine wonderfully with the spikey riffs. Elsewhere, “Science Fiction” and “Future Trip” stand out on the record for their next-level garage-pop ear-worminess. The band invoke the attitude and spikiness of The Muffs or Big Eyes which helps to differentiate their Dirtnap-esque fuzzy garage punk from the masses. The song “Electric Blues” really stands out on the record as a slower-tempo track that allows the vocals to breathe and suggests a greater range and depth than the others do. The opening of the track reminds me somewhat of mid-west punks The Gateway District. This is a really, really solid LP that, while not particularly dynamic, is one of the better straight-up garage-punk albums I’ve heard in a good while and a hell of a debut!

Check it out here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/bad-sleep

DB

cock_sparrer-shock_troops1-300x300

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 Songmeanings.com, 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.

 

 

 

KTOTT Best Songs of 2018

Posted: December 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

Myself and Read Hard compiled a list of 20 songs we enjoyed the most in 2018. Check it out below:

What do you get when you bring together members of some of the best bands in the West and Northwest of the United States, people from bands like Success, Coyote Bred, and The Shell Corporation? You get The Drowns, and after having seen them perform a couple of times in the past year, having this album drop unexpectedly was a real treat. The music is super melodic, more rock than punk. Think the punkness of Success mixed with the rock of Coyote Bred and a dose of Red City Radio, and you’ll have an idea of the sound. The ten songs on offer are all pretty much mid-tempo to up-tempo tracks with an easy lope to them, but with a high level of energy permeating each song. The opening track, “Eternal Debate,” opens with a piano chord, a few keys plinked, and then a big classic rock guitar chord announcing the album’s intent. Rev Peters’ big gruff vocals are a perfect pairing with the big sound from the band. But when Andy Wylie takes his turn at lead vocals on a couple of the tracks, the results are equally awesome. I really love “Time Slips,” with his vocals that are almost crooning, in a Smoking Popes or Odd Robot way. The title track is a great one, too, with elements of power pop and Americana mixed in with the high-energy punk’n’roll. And, while Americana sort of music is usually something I can take or leave, the overtly countrified “OverExposure” rages, and the harmonized vocals on the chorus are just perfect. This is a strong debut that you should get on.

Check it out here: https://thedrowns.bandcamp.com/album/view-from-the-bottom

PS

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

French punks Traverse have released their self-titled LP, a collaboration of some eleven record labels, too many to list here. There are moments on this record that thrill. “Firestarter” opens the album with an expansive pop punk edged indie sound. And I love the jazzy feel to opening of “Situations.” “Future Ghosts” is a pretty ballad, with a lovely meandering guitar line. And I also enjoy “Catch a Glimpse,” an epic sounding track in 12/8 time. At the bridge it suddenly gets quiet, and all we hear is a deep, grumbling bass and harmonized vocals, before the song explodes again toward the finish. But these are just moments. For the most part there’s little unique in the album; it sounds like any one of hundreds of other bands. It’s pretty much alternative rock mixed with pop punk and a touch of skate punk. It’s got the pop sensibilities of pop punk, and the emotional sound of commercial “punk” of the 2000s. Some songs are sung in English, others in French. Don’t get me wrong – the musicianship is great; the band does a fine job performing these songs, and the recording sounds just right. It just doesn’t move me.

PS

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

KTOTT: Best of 2017

Posted: December 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

So, it’s the end of another year, and you know what that means, MORE LISTS! Here’s what myself and Rene enjoyed in 2017….

Oh, and the 20 best songs of the year, as chosen by myself and Rene, here:

Peace, and love x

Dave’s List

  1. Katie Ellen- Cowgirl Blues (Lauren)

It’s been a strong year and I had a little trouble deciding how to order the rest of the top ten, but Cowgirl Blues was always going to be my number one. It’s just incredible, really. Raw, introspective and frank, Katie Ellen’s first post-Chumped full-length is a gut-punch.  Cowgirl Blues is stripped back pop-punk; it’s crunchy indie rock; it’s confessional folk. It’s all of these things. Every word, every note on this thing is meaningful and necessary; there would be no fat I could possibly cut off from Cowgirl Blues. I was a big fan of Chumped, too, but it appears that that only hinted as to singer Anika Pyle’s potential. Her songwriting prowess went up a few thousand notches on this one. Cowgirl Blues is poetic, confessional and, most of all, true, perfectly melding the ‘social’ and the ‘personal’. If you enjoyed Waxahatchee’s first couple of records, it is likely you’ll be into this.

Listen here: https://katiebandellen.bandcamp.com/

  1. The Dopamines- Tales of Interest (Rad Girlfriend/ Plasterer)

A great comeback record from probably my favourite modern punk band. Tales of Interest highlighted the Dopamines propensity to change things up on each subsequent LP; the evolution in their sound since their debut record ten years ago is quite something. They still play ‘pop-punk’ more broadly speaking, I guess, but it’s now a form of pop-punk that is closer to Dillinger Four than the Ramones. The Dopas are on fire here, blitzing their way through 14 fast-paced, intense-as-fuck melodic punk jams. They have upped the intensity and grittiness of their punk sound, for sure, but that it matched by an up-turn in melody and hooks, too, with a cover of the High Hats “Heartbroken by the Police” the pick of the bunch. Lead vocalist Jon Lewis recently said that “Tales of Interest” was the album he had always wanted to make with The Dopamines, and you can totally see why: it’s a complete, cohesive yet varied, one body of work that takes the best elements of their previous records and enhances them to full effect. The Dopamines have always been somewhat nihilistic, but Tales of Interest feels like a pop-punk soundtrack to the apocalypse.

Listen here: https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

  1. ONSIND- We Wilt, We Bloom (Specialist Subject)

ONSIND, Durham’s folk-punk sons, returned with a new full-length, following 2013’s Anaesthesiology, and somehow managed to top it. The headline here is that the duo has gone ‘full-band’ and ‘plugged-in’ on the majority of tracks on We Wilt, We Bloom. I was unsure how I felt about that initially, but it really, really works. ONSIND have manged to create a record that is dynamic and sonically expansive, yet while also retaining the core values and ideals that made them so compelling in the first place. Veering between raw folk-punk, melodic (Martha-esque) indie-rock and even hard rock, We Wilt, We Bloom is grounded by ONSIND’s bread-and-butter: their astute political and social commentary that I don’t think has even more on-point. There’s no wilting here, only blooming.

Listen here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/we-wilt-we-bloom

  1. Waxahatchee- Out in the Storm (Merge)

This is probably my least favourite Waxahatchee LP, but, even at her worst, Waxahatchee is better than most. Out in the Storm picked up where Ivy Tripp left off, cementing Waxahatchee further in the indie-rock camp, away from her folk-y roots. It’s a dynamic, melodic and varied record that again captures Waxahatchee’s songwriting prowess. As ever, the lyrics are confessional, soul-bearing and enlightening. The one-two of “Recite Remorse” and “Sparks Fly” is incredible, with the latter letting off some melodic steam after Katie held back on the introspective former. This is a record about going “out in the storm”; about meeting head-on your worst fears.

Listen here: https://waxahatchee.bandcamp.com/album/out-in-the-storm

  1. Worriers- Survival Pop (Side One Dummy)

Dunno why, but I never properly got into Worriers until this LP. I mean, having listened a lot more recently, Imaginary Life is clearly a fantastic album. I do think though that, both musically and lyrically, Survival Pop has taken the band to a new level. The band hit that sweet spot between indie rock and pop-punk, with the melodies absolutely soaring on this LP, particularly on album highlights “Future Me” and “What We’re Up Against”. Singer Lauren Denitzio’s lyrics feel poetic, yet grounded and urgent, getting to grips with the shitstorm that was 2017. In the same way as ONSIND, Worriers effectively make the social and political feel personal. Lauren’s clearly one of the best songwriters around today and it is that which elevates Worriers above their peers.

Listen here: https://worriers.bandcamp.com/album/survival-pop

  1. Great Cynics- POSI (Specialist Subject)

On POSI, Great Cynics cemented their status as one of the shining lights in the UK’s indie/pop-punk scene, demonstrating an inventiveness in songwriting and a superior sense of melody. While previous LP I Feel Weird was great and possibly includes some better individual songs, POSI acts as a better body of work, with musical and thematic glue linking each song together. It’s a record about trying to stay optimistic and hopeful while living in London and dealing with all the shit that that entails; what makes Great Cynics stand out is their grounded accounts of the everyday, probably done best on “Summer at Home” or “Butterfly Net”. Perhaps the highlight of the record, though, is the overtly political punk on “Don’t Buy the Sun”, to be listened to as part of a ‘one-two’ with Zatopeks “Daily Mail”.

Listen here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/posi

  1. Kamikaze Girls- Seafoam (Big Scary Monsters/Wiretap)

One of my favourite new bands/discoveries of 2017. Kamikaze Girls are a little difficult to categorise, but they broadly play a kind-of heart-on-sleeve, fuzzy-but-poppy, grunge-y, brooding, punk rock. There is a space-y dreaminess to much of Kamikaze Girls’ stuff that would make me describe them as a ‘Depeche Mode meets riot grrrl’. Seafoam is a dynamic, substantive debut LP that is intensely personal and empathetic, pertinent in a world that increasingly feels without a pulse. It is simultaneously melodic and crunchy; simultaneously intimate, but also broad in focus. One of my favourite songs of the year “I Don’t Want to be Sad Forever” probably best hits all these spots, as good of a call-to-arms that I’ve heard in ages. Ace stuff.

Listen here: https://kamikazegirls.bandcamp.com/

  1. Sløtface Try Not to Freak Out (Propeller)

Norway’s Sløtface are another one of those great discoveries of the year. Energetic, yet poppy; hook-filled tunes, but with something to say, Sløtface put out a properly great debut record. It’s broadly indie-rock, I guess, but with definite pop-punk elements on there. I love the dynamism and sheer variety on Try Not to Freak Out, ranging from the dreamy pop of “Galaxies” to the ‘90s-esque alt. rock of “Nancy Drew” to the feminist pop-punk of “Magazine”. More than this, however, there is a heart-and-soul on the record that feels organic and suggests even better things to come: listen to album highlight “Slumber” and you’ll know what I mean.

Listen here: https://slotface.bandcamp.com/album/try-not-to-freak-out

  1. Aerial Salad- Roach (Plasterer)

Manchester’s Aerial Salad follow the path set by Dead Boys, in making punk that is ‘young’, ‘loud’ and ‘snotty’. On their first full-length, the band combine the aggressiveness and nihilism of ’77 punk with the hooks and everyday anxieties of Lookout! era pop-punk. There is an energy on Roach that is insatiable and difficult not to get on board with. The intensity, fast-pace and dark lyrics on the album call to mind The Murderburgers. There is a level of despair on Roach, backed up by growly, urgent and desperate vocals, notably on “Alone Forever”. While evidently not re-inventing the three-chord punk wheel, Aerial Salad do give it a good ol’ shake up and down; Roach has a youthful vigour and determination that reminds me why I fell in love with punk in the first place.

Listen here: https://aerialsalad.bandcamp.com/album/roach

  1. Heavy Heart- Distance (Brassneck)

Heavy Heart are a new-ish punk band from Nantes, France; they play a kind of gritty, yet melodic punk that calls to mind Iron Chic or The Manix. Their debut album Distance would fit right in at Fest, with its fist-pumping big choruses, self-deprecating lyrics and crunchy guitars. It’s got a heart-and-soul, as well as smart, inventive lyrics that I feel many bands playing this kind of melodic punk often lack in. As soon as the ear-worm-y lead guitars come in on opener “Unravel”, I was pretty much hooked. I mean, Heavy Heart are not re-writing the book, but when the songwriting is this good and the hooks are this big, who gives a shit?

Almost, but not quite:

Robot Bachelor- The Third House Boat Album (Don Giovanni)

The Lillingtons- Stella Sapiente (Fat Wreck)

The Menzingers- After the Party (Epitaph)

Caves- Always Why (Specialist Subject)

Diet Cig- Swear I’m Good at This (Frenchkiss)

Non-album stuff I liked:

Yr Poetry- One Night Alive EP (Self-released)

AJJ- Back in the Jazz Coffin EP (Self-released)

Austeros- I’ve Got This EP (Specialist Subject)

Taco Hell- Retainer EP (Circle House)

FUCK! (It’s Pronounced Shit!)- It’s Still Pronounced SHIT! EP (Self-released)

 

Rene’s List

  1. The Lillingtons- Stella Sepiente (Fat Wreck)

After years of not releasing music, the Lillingtons put out two releases this year. When all these years Kody had put out somewhat boring Teenage Bottlerocket albums and the last Lillingtons album The Too Late Show also sounded like a boring Teenage Bottlerocket album, it was interesting to see what direction the Lillingtons would go in. The two releases were quite different, one EP that sounded just like the Lillingtons are expected to, and one LP that was pretty unexpected. Stella Sepiente sounds like an 80s record, but it still manages to sound like the Lillingtons. I think it has really divided the fans. I think the album is strong overall and probably their best album after Death by Television.

Listen here: https://thelillingtons.bandcamp.com/

2. Hjerteslag- Vannman 86 (Eget Selskapp)

Image result for Hjerteslag- Vannmann86 (Eget Selskap)

I always put lots of Norwegian records on my lists, maybe it’s a ridiculous semi-patriotic thing or maybe there is a lot of good stuff coming out of Norway these days. Vannmann86 (aquarius86) is a really good record! And I think it’s very close to Stella Sepiente, maybe it’s my fear of being too patriotic that put it second.  Hjerteslag was one of the first bands I saw in Bergen in 2013 and I remember having a bad day, but the band was great. Their last album Møhlenpris Motell disappointed me a bit, but they really redeemed themselves on this one! The album’s tagline could be translated to “too pretty for punk, too ugly for pop” and it makes sense. The overall sound of the album is light synth-pop with dark undertones and honesty. My favorite song on the album is “Kong Oscars Gate”, maybe because it’s the street down from  where I live and I can relate to the song,  “En fiende krysser mine spor” (an enemy crosses my tracks)  is up there too. There are only 8 tracks on the album, but they are unusually long for this type of record, but it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging to me and you sort of get lost in the music somehow. “Hellig krig” (Holy War) is a somewhat controversial song about the lesser Jihad and waging a war for God.

3. Katie Ellen- Cowgirl Blues (Lauren)

A discovery I made from the great KTOTT conversations this fall was Katie Ellen’s album Cowgirl Blues. It’s an extremely sad and honest album and the song “Sad Girls Club” is quite a bummer and kind of a “fuck off” track at the same time (“sad girls don’t make good wives” is probably lyric of the year). “Proposal” is equally sad and bitter. The album is in a quite popular genre nowadays, but to me the album sounds very unique. I haven’t gotten to listen to it too much, but I still put it at nr. 3 and I hope I will get to listen to it more in the New Year. I actually haven’t listened to much new music at all this year, so making this list was tough.

Listen here: https://katiebandellen.bandcamp.com/

4. Bad Cop/Bad Cop- Warriors (Fat Wreck)

I think Warriors is a stronger album overall than Not Sorry, even if it had more stand-alone hits. I feel like Bad Cop Bad Cop is one of the bands that are around nowadays that keep up the good ol’ punk spirit, but don’t sound too dated or boring. Best song on the album is “Broken”!

Listen here: https://badcopbadcop.bandcamp.com/

5. Sløtface- Try Not to Freak out (Propeller)

I think I have had a Sløtface release, either a  single or an EP, on my list the last few years; now that they’ve released a full-length this year is no exception. In many ways, I still prefer “Empire Records”, but that doesn’t make Try Not to Freak Out a bad album.  It shows Sløtface from many sides and “Slumber” sounds very different from “Pitted” or “Magazine”. The album, like their earlier releases, does a great job at combining popular culture with feminist issues (see “Magazine”). I think “Pitted” is the best song on the album though.

Listen here: https://slotface.bandcamp.com/album/try-not-to-freak-out

6. Beachheads- S/T (Fysisk Format)

I usually have problems finding the 10th spot on my list and when I finally find it I always think “shit! That record should be far higher on the list” and this year this happened when I came to think of the self-titled album from the Beachheads. They were formed by two members of Kvelertak, but they sound nothing like Kvelertak. Where Kvelertak’s music fills your ears with anger and aggression, Beachheads play power pop that fills your heart with joy, and we need to let out both these emotions every once in a while. I ended up buying the CD after I finished making the list.

Listen here: https://beachheads.bandcamp.com/

7. Hvitmalt Gjerde- Våken (TIK)

The third Norwegian release in a row, from Hvitmalt Gjerde. I put their last album Ville Venner on my list in 2014. I think this is a step down from Ville Venner. I don’t think Våken (awake) has the same pop sensibilities. I still think it’s better than their self-titled debut album from 2013 and I like that album a lot. I think there’s a lot more of their original garage-y surf rock on Våken, even if I think they are at their best on the poppier “Lys” (light).

8. Worriers- Survival Pop (Side One Dummy)

For me, Survival Pop wins the prize for title of the year. The album is really good too. “Future Me” was also discussed in the KTOTT discussion and it’s a great track. I don’t think the album is as good as Imaginary Life, but still great!

Listen here: https://worriers.bandcamp.com/album/survival-pop

9. The Lillingtons- Project 313 EP (Red Scare)

Seems like both Lillingtons releases this year made it to my list. “Project 313” is not as interesting or good as Stella Sepiente, but after a few listens I think it’s a pretty good EP and I like that both releases highlight a duality of the band and their very different sounds, but the creepy conspiracy songs that holds the band together and shows “we are the Lilllingtons”. I think “Until the Sun Shines” is better than most TBR songs in recent years.

Listen here: https://thelillingtons.bandcamp.com/album/project-313

10. Screeching Weasel- “Christmas Eve”/ “New Year’s Eve” (Single)

Image result for screeching weasel christmas eve

Like I said, finding the 10th is always hard. There have been some more releases from interesting artists this year. Billy Bragg put out a pretty good EP and Less Than Jake released new music as well. I think Susanne Sundfør’s Music for People in Trouble is pretty good and so is Blood Command’s Cult Drugs. The Dopamines released a good album, too. So it might come as an insult to all these bands what I decided to put on nr. 10. Screeching Weasel put out a holiday single out of nowhere. It’s cheesy and a bit tacky too. Still I enjoy it more than a lot of shit that’s come out this year, so I said, fuck it, it will be on my fucking list this year. Weasel fanboy right there. PS “New Year’s Eve” is a better song than “Christmas Eve”.

image2image3