Saturday, 24 September 2011

Review: Time To Stop by Breadchasers

Nottingham based Breadchasers are far more experimental than many of their ska punk contemporaries, proving that there’s life and direction in the genre yet with this impressive and refreshing debut full length. Acoustic guitar, charged with delivering upstrokes, joins steady bass and expert drumming to complete the Breadchasers’ unshakeable rhythm section. This core strength liberates the other instruments in the band, freeing an electric guitar, a sax and a keyboard, letting them run riot. The sax player rarely sticks to the tried and tested hook-laden format of standard ska, opting instead to solo soulfully and liven up the offbeat. The keys add great depth to the Breadchaders’ sound, charging around the tracks and using a good variety of effects. Despite the lashings of raw angry vocals, the combination of sax, keys and acoustic guitar gives Time to Stop a remarkably mellow quality, with many tracks, such as ‘Self Raised’ and ‘No One Believes’ leaning towards Reggae and Dub. The album features two instrumentals (which, for once, aren’t dull) and the brilliant ‘Things Will Be Better’ which will get you hooked instantly.

This review was published in the TNSfanzine Issue 12 and is a fantastic read.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Artist Profile: Night Gaunts

Any band name that references H.P. Lovecraft gets instant Kudos from me. So when they’re not chasing Randolph Carter, guarding Ngranek, or being used as steeds by ghouls, Night Gaunts are making an incredibly infectious concoction of hip-hop, punk and ska. Hailing from Auckland in New Zealand, the band is the project of Paul and Hayden, guitarist and bassist of Dead End Job, whose scorching crack rock steady may be familiar to those of you who downloaded the Global Unity Musik compilation from Riot Ska Records.

Since forming in 2010, the Night Gaunts have released a free demo (Full Body Tourettes [Pt I]) and a free full length album (Full Body Tourettes [Pt II]) that features re-recorded versions of both songs on the demo. It’s a brave and admirable step for any band to release their music for free so if you feel like showing your support and digging into those pockets, they do accept donations on their bandcamp page. Both releases are spiritual successors to the crack rock steady established by Dead End Job and introduce a greater array of sounds using synthesizers alongside the hectic upstrokes and angry distortion. Perhaps the biggest difference however is the strong influence hip-hop has had on the Night Gaunts music, seeing the duo deliver quick fire rhymes and cram each song to the brim with lyrical content. I have admired this fusion of ska and rap in a previous post dedicated to The Mad Conductor, but it is worth stating again that this band are an absolute must for fans of T-Alan, Mouthwash, The King Blues and Sonic Boom Six. The vocals themselves are, at times, the choked, half retching scream so characteristic of Stza Crack and his contemporaries, though more often than not they remain clean and clear; albeit with a slight Johnstones twang (minus the arrogance and conceit). ‘Vicious Viles’ is an exciting and furious introduction to Full Body Tourettes [Pt II] while ‘Lo Fi, One Mic’ and the brassy ‘Top Hat Killers’ quickly establish the Night Gaunts’ original sound; with infectious rhythms hoisted high on the keyboards and lyrics flying thick and fast.

While these songs are early highlights, the final 3 tracks are undoubtedly the most impressive on the album. Indeed, if they give any hint of what to expect from the Night Gaunts in the future, the duo are certainly worth keeping a very close eye on. Roughly halfway through, and out of nowhere, ‘Ninja-Like-Bandanas’ becomes epic, with potent guitar and keyboard harmonies, empowering choruses of “Don’t give up, open your eyes; you’ve only got one chance to live this life” and a delightful melodica solo which carries the rest of the song aloft into its concluding crescendo. ‘Space To Vacuum’ slows to a reflective pace, questioning our true capacity to “break the rules that man has made” whilst smooth organ chords flutter on the offbeat, before flowing seamlessly into the paranoid ‘They'll Kill Us All...’. This final track is a welcome and triumphant return to the more hardcore sound the Night Gaunts gave us at the beginning of the album in ‘Vicious Viles’, and is executed perfectly.

Unfortunately, according to H.P. Lovecraft, Night Gaunts dislike flying over bodies of water, but I really do hope that one way or another Paul and Hayden manage to stretch a tour or two beyond New Zealand.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Gig Review: 9 July 2011 - Mash Attack, Eat Defeat, Screen Violence and My Third Leg at The Birds Nest in Deptford

So just over a week after I shredded my ankle skanking to Anti Vigilante, the Skints, the JB Conspiracy, the King Blues and Broken Nose at the Underworld, I’m back out to see if I can make my foot turn blue again. Tonight I return to the ever dependable Birds Nest in Deptford to catch the first show of the Ska Mutiny Superstars Summer Tour. Something in the fridge behind the bar catches my eye this evening; a bottle of Skinner’s Betty Stoggs, a distinctly hoppy Cornish bitter which I consume copious pints of throughout the night.

My Third Leg are up first and break the ice terrifically. The last time I saw this band they were supporting the Hostiles and Stand Out Riot in March at the Nest, and they have improved immensely. Without wanting to belittle their performance, My Third Leg’s sound is very slightly reminiscent of early [spunge] which I consider to be a compliment, being so fond of the Pedigree Chump era. That said, there is nothing tired or dated about this band. They play energetic stomping ska punk, and while I usually prefer my ska bands to have a fairly meaty horn section, My Third Leg more than compensate with intricate guitar solos, shout along choruses and upstrokes that make parts of you want to skank that you never knew could. Despite a wardrobe malfunction resulting in two Clay Pigeon t-shirts being worn (double homage), they are on exceptional form, playing a good mix of old and new songs. According to the band, they are currently recording their first full length album and are looking forward to playing a hell of a lot more gigs off the back of it. I cannot wish more for this band, all the ingredients are right for them to achieve substantial success and once the wider community hear more of what they have to offer, they’ll be gigging up and down the country in no time.

The next band up are Screen Violence, a melodic hardcore band from Highbury. As good as Screen Violence are, their technical ability being second to none, they are somewhat out of place in the ska punk line up this evening. This doesn’t stop them ploughing every ounce of effort into their set however, bashing out tunes at an incredible rate and attracting a great deal of attention and applause. While I doubt I will be following this three piece with my usual fanaticism, I look forward to seeing them crop up in the future and wish them the very best of luck.

Eat Defeat from Leeds are on next and please the crowd by bashing out up tempo skate punk with some tempting ska riffs thrown in for good measure. For a band I hadn’t heard much from before this gig, as the group itself is relatively new, they were tight and impressive and left me wanting just a little bit more. Summers, the guitarist and singer, used to play in Kickback UK who I had the pleasure of seeing support Stand Out Riot and Tyrannosaurus Alan at the Birds Nest towards the end of last year, which was an incredible night. Together with bassist Katie (fastest fingers of the night), Summers runs Ska Mutiny Records. Ska Mutiny is a fantastic label, with a strong and supportive forum, born partly out of the dying embers of the old Ska Community forum when bands like Freefall Felix, Robolint and Dr 8Ball were still on the go. Understandably, Summers spends a good amount of time promoting the label and its latest release, a 22 track compilation album featuring the very best of the thriving UK ska punk scene. Had I not pre-ordered the record a fortnight before I knew this gig was happening, I would have gladly bought a copy then and there.

Mash Attack are a fantastic band and I regret not having seen them perform before. As a Southampton band, five years ago, they would have been a staple of my local scene; now, living in London, they are somewhat exotic. I grew up in Salisbury with Spankboy (AKA Solabeat Alliance), Whitmore and Uncle Brian, who all made their way onto Moonska Records, back in the day when Moonska actually gave a shit rather than channelling all their efforts into the Dub City Rockers who, lets face it, have never, and will never, perform live or release anything ever again and arrived four years later than promised to a scene that were past caring. Salisbury is very close to Southampton, which has always had a thriving ska punk scene, possibly because the university has an extensive music department and brass students need non-classical and non-jazz related outlets to vent their vibrations. I have extremely fond memories of seeing Schoolboy Error, Speaking of Losers, Zero Consent and Harpoon Larsen all perform at the legendary Joiners in St Mary’s. Harpoon Larsen even supported Streetlight Manifesto at the Nexus and Zero Consent gave the world trombonist and singer Ryan Stannikk who played in Fandangle and Kids Can’t Fly before quitting earlier this year, probably to flame and spam music forums full time. Funnily enough lead singer and guitarist of Mash Attack, James Tetley, also played in Zero Consent and as a result, the band are thoroughly steeped in the extensive, convoluted and highly competitive music scene that revolves around Southampton.

Mash Attack themselves are on incredible form this evening, playing to impress with their arm pumping, leg thrashing brand of furious ska punk. The five piece have an incredibly brassy sound courtesy of trumpet and sax, together with some of the spikiest, meanest upstrokes I’ve heard since early Howards Alias. The only song I knew well was “Man Down” as it had featured on Ska Mutiny records first release, Buried Treasure (available to download for free) and I was able to shout out words and gesticulate meaningfully. Despite this, the rest of the set was catchy enough and lively enough to get everyone moving. Although the crowd are slightly sluggish to begin with, towards the end of the set everyone is jumping, skanking, pushing and shuffling to the energetic Mash Attack sound. The set finishes all too soon and the crowd are hungry for more. Luckily they won’t have to wait long for their next ska punk injection. Next weekend marks Stand Out Riot’s return to the Nest (and the UK after gigging across Europe with Beat The Red Light) playing with none other than Kunt and the Gang. I pick up a copy of Mash Attack’s 5 track EP, Learn and Evolve, and wish the members well on the rest of their tour. I can’t wait to see them, My Third Leg and Eat Defeat again.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Review: Disposable Pleasures, and Meaningful Pursuits by Drewvis

Acoustic ska. Back in the day when everything was Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, bold shapes and bright colours, I didn’t much care for acoustic ska. I had a track called “Cooper Station Blues” by a Venice Shoreline Chris right at the end of on an old (now legendary) Moon Ska NYC sampler disc, and I wasn’t too impressed. It was raw, muffled, dull and repetitive. Where was the brass? Where were the ten band members struggling to fit on stage?

Then, I started to see them live; Liam O’Kane of Jimmy the Squirrel; King Prawn’s Babar Luck; Itch from The King Blues armed only with his ukulele and Johnny One Lung of Suicide Bid and the Filaments singing a stripped down version of “When Morning Comes” supporting Mischief Brew. I was beginning to understand. Then finally I saw Chris Murray (AKA Venice Shoreline Chris) support Mustard Plug in Camden, playing to a sold out Underworld of fans singing along and shouting requests. Acoustic ska can’t hide behind distorted chords or brass (unless you’re the Coffee Project), everything is laid bare, and the gauntlet is thrown down to keep things interesting. Regrettably I am yet to see Drewvis live, but his latest album, Disposable Pleasures, and Meaningful Pursuits, released on legendary UK ska label Do The Dog Music, more than rises to this challenge.

Clean acoustic upstrokes form the absolute core of this record and are the unshakeable foundations on which everything else is built. The smooth playful bass of Paul Mason rides effortlessly throughout each track, showing off considerably on “One Moment” and “Purple”, while Sebastian Laverde’s vibrant percussion adds a wonderful rhythmic dynamic to the sound, particularly noticeable on “Liberate, Never Hate”. Drewvis’ vocals are highly distinctive throughout the album, singing in a range most male vocalists would shy away from. Far from being an uncomfortable falsetto however, his voice is lilting and mellow, washing lazily over the offbeat in catchy sing along melodies. The album also features female vocals, courtesy of Amanda Bes on “Estoy Esperando”, whose tones are sweet yet sultry, providing delightfully soft harmonies against the reggae beat. Drewvis clearly writes from the heart, with lyrics discussing life, friends and loves. The generous helping of love songs never once turn sickly and are, in fact, a welcome breath of fresh air when most of the music on my iPod is angry and political. Even punks need a little bit of down time.

It is worth mentioning that Drewvis has played in two other notable bands from the south east; in Out of Luck between 2001 and 2005, and alongside bassist Paul in Second Time Lucky from 2003 to 2009. His experiences have no doubt influenced him a great deal, cultivating gentle experiments with synthesisers in “Drunken Words N' Dub” and subtle flourishes of piano in “Compass”, “Purple” and “Fortune Cookie”. Ultimately, Drewvis keeps the acoustic ska fresh, interesting and honest, without overloading it with unnecessary noise.

Compared to his earlier release in 2008, For The Win (also on Do The Dog Music) this latest album arguably has a more mature quality; more relaxed and less hectic. That said, I won’t be giving up my copy of For The Win any time soon; “Nearly Departed” and “Resolution” both remain firm favourites and practically every track has been stuck in my head at one time or another. Both records, along with a more experimental album called Long Way To Go, are available to download from his bandcamp page which also includes a free 6 track collection of B sides titled For The Bin.

Drewvis is currently planning on playing a few international dates in 2012 but to keep up with all his latest news, you can follow him on twitter @Drewvis_UK.

If you ask nicely, he might even show you his personal collection of grilled egg photos.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Artist Profile: The Mad Conductor

The Mad Conductor are a phenomenal psychedelic hip-hop band from New Orleans, hell-bent on making a difference to music. Wait, hip-hop? Surely I can’t be aurally qualified to listen to this? Well, I’ll have you know that I accidentally saw Tinchy Stryder support The King Blues back in 2008; but I’d be lying if I claimed this had inspired a love of all things hop and hip, even if the young Master Stryder was quite impressive. So how did I come across The Mad Conductor?

In 2009 I unearthed the sounds of The Stupid Stupid Henchmen (formerly No IQ), a crack rock steady band from Carmel, New York, formed in 1999, who have released a staggering quantity of their music for free here. Chet Mike and TC, are fiercely DIY and while earlier releases are a little rough and ready, they capture the raw hectic energy of the band perfectly. Their album Charmingly Demonic, released between 2006-08, is an exceptional specimen of crack rock steady, with such exemplary tracks as “I Controlled the Lego Village” and “The Majority of People are Decoys”. The album also includes the song “It Really Makes Me Wonder (ft. MC Devlin)” in which MC Devlin takes the Henchmen on a hip-hop stroll through his worldly concerns, crammed full with welcome geeky references to labels, sublime tracks, and Star Wars characters. The band are still active and have tentatively hinted that a new 13 track LP titled Nothing Matters will be released at some point in the future.

I was intrigued by the inclusion of MC Devlin and discovered that, in his formative years, he was known as Big C and played in the legendary Pennsylvanian crack rock steady outfit No-Ca$h, formed in 1999. In 2003, after gaining considerable attention from the NYC punk scene, the band released Run Your Pockets, their one and only full length. The album is yet another perfect example of the genre, and tends more towards the hardcore side. Contrasting mellow bridges and touching instrumentals pepper the songs, only to be consumed time and again by triumphant guitar riffs, pounding drums and gullet rending vocals. “Home Life is a Drag” deals with issues of isolation and identity in suburban America and comes complete with an incongruous yet perfectly beautiful piano solo. Interestingly, the poignant samples from The Goonies featured on “A Better Tomorrow” and the rapping in “Gasoline” offer clues as to the future sublimation of Big C to MC Devlin.

Shortly after recording their split album “Summertime in the City” with Team Spider, No-Ca$h disbanded in 2005 due to ‘differences within the band’ However by this time, MC Devlin had been introduced to Dan McKinney, who worked to produce the split album, and in the spring of that year, the duo formed The Mad Conductor. To date the band have four releases. Mechanical Claw, unleashed in 2005 is an overwhelmingly experimental and ambitious record, that saw The Mad Conductor escape the inertia of the hardcore scene, and posit themselves in a steady observant orbit around it. The words ‘Oh, my friend you have been grossly misinformed’ from the cautionary “Troubles in the Sewer” seem to speak directly to MC Devlin’s former audience, warning them that this will no longer be standard hardcore fare. “Nairobi”, on the other hand, is a jaunty number, bordering on cheesiness, but is, in fact, crammed full of audible treats which keep the listener enthralled every time it is played.

Both individuals are highly talented musicians, and clearly have a deep respect for each other; in “Venom” MC Devlin introduces MC Kinney as ‘a wonderful man with magnificent capabilities’. MC Kinney is a ridiculously inventive keyboard player, with certain songs such as “Marisafa Lupina” and “Members Only” showcasing his mastery of the instrument.

MC Devlin has a very particular vocal feel, one that remains both relaxed and apprehensive simultaneously, as if performing from an armchair, but with one eye permanently fixed over his right shoulder. The truths he has to offer are very real but not everyone is happy with him telling them. This personal, candid approach works perfectly with the issues discussed, ranging from the music scenes, to troubled neighbourhoods, to his own personal experiences and keeps MC Devlin on an absolute level with his audience while never once being patronising. Another example of his down-to-earthliness is his incessant references to food, particularly in “Porchmen” but which can be heard throughout most of the tracks. Indeed, although The Mad Conductor are obscenely progressive, with later tracks on Renegade Space Rock, released in 2007, reminiscent of Mr Bungle’s more experimental music in Disco Volante, the band never develop the pretence associated with more Avant-garde acts.

MC Devlin’s lyrics often invite the listener on a journey through a narrative expanse which rarely departs from being a deeply cerebral experience. Complete with anxiety, and nihilism all rapped over a steady relentless beat with playful melodic samples and ambient chords; the entirety of Central America (2010) captures this tone perfectly. The record remains largely an abstract stream of consciousness whilst moving further away from the reliable ska rhythms and into the uncertain realms of awkward time signatures which MC Devlin has no trouble bending his rhymes around to great effect.

Although their music is exceptionally well produced, this has not deterred The Mad Conductor from touring live. I was delighted to discover that in June 2007, the band toured the UK with 500 to a Cage as part of their Never Mind the Mystery Tour, visiting England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Perhaps the most exciting date I uncovered was a show in Dublin on Friday 15 June, where support came from Irish Quote Unquote legends, and Stza Crack favourites Chewing on Tinfoil.

Both MC Devlin and MC Kinney wield an unprecedented number of influences, including jazz, dancehall, ska, R&B and punk, and all are present without ever sounding nebulous or confused. The ska is particularly prevalent in “Starry Safari”, which features saxes, horns and a ripping bass line while the riffs of “Destapadores” hark back to the hardcore of No-Ca$h.

Ska flirtations with hip-hop are relatively common; bands such as Sonic Boom Six, The Johnstones, The Night Gaunts and the immense (though perpetually unlucky) Tyrannosaurus Alan are no strangers to mashing the two genres together with great success. Chipmunk even sampled “Ska-culation” by Roland Al And The Soul Brothers (or “Pipeline” by Bad Manners) in his single “Diamond Rings” in 2009, and was very well received. While describing themselves (at least partially) as hip-hop, The Mad Conductor frequently conduct a disparaging appraisal of commercial rap, particularly audible in “All Things Considered”. The following is taken from their Facebook page:

‘The real problem hip-hop music is facing today is not the unoriginal, lacklustre emcees you hear dominating the radio stations, as much as it is the simple-minded consumers whose ideals have become so mundane that the uninspired, commercial rap music they support is the perfect soundtrack to their equally uninspired lives. This is becoming a serious problem.’

The band is equally critical of punk. “Soulless Experience” of the Members Only EP, released in 2008, is perhaps the most important song The Mad Conductor have recorded to date. It offers a frank analysis and damning critique of the punk scene MC Devlin was part of as Big C of No-Ca$h. In fact, the song makes any subsequent listening to his former band very difficult indeed. However, despite posing a very real and legitimate challenge to the listener, in the closing minute, MC Devlin makes his intentions clear:

‘My goal’s not to crush this empire of evil,

It's to merge on this network and inspire the people,

There’s no more hypocrisy anywhere the there is in the punk scene,

My man Jesse told y’all back in 87, still peace is unseen.’

Far from rejecting the scene and punk ideology, MC Devlin and MC Kinney both demonstrate their support for solidarity and unity. Indeed, in April 2011, The Mad Conductor and The Stupid Stupid Henchmen joined forces to form The Infinite Alliance, and have, so far, released one song with more on the way. The Mad Conductor themselves are releasing their latest single “Lethal Protector” any day now and I doubt their second LP will be far behind, sparking perhaps another welcome excursion to the UK.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Gig Review: 25 May 2011 – Andrew Jackson Jihad and The Great Cynics at The Borderline

The last time Andrew Jackson Jihad played in London was at the legendary Gaff on Holloway Road (which is now a fucking Costa) and I was terribly drunk. So drunk in fact, that I signed up to play Dungeons and Dragons in a squat, rubbed the tummy of a man next to me during the song “Candle in the Wind”, and, for several subsequent weeks, I had hangover paranoia and thought Sean and Ben of AJJ hated me and would never come back to the UK.

This was my first gig at the Borderline and, despite its unmistakable mean fiddler corporate sheen, the venue is definitely a new favourite. Its walls are bedecked with flyers, the staff are friendly and it’s far easier to get home from than most places. Unfortunately the only ale on offer was Newcastle Brown, a last resort but an inevitably reliable one. Though luckily, I still had some Adnams bitter sloshing about inside me from a pub stop earlier.

At the bar, I start chatting to two friendly gents, Ed and Nathan, after hearing one mentions seeing the undeniable comic genius that is Stewart Lee. Determined not to discuss the merits of paladins, we talk bands and it transpires that the duo play as The Atomic Penguins, an anti-folk comedy band from Canterbury (not to be confused with Tactical Nuclear Penguin, BrewDog's 32% ABV imperial stout). We were devastated that tonight had clashed with two other incredible gigs; the Mountain Goats at Koko and the Skints at Nambucca, supported by Bedouin Soundclash and the Newtown Kings. Had they been on separate nights, I would have gone to all three, but none of us were going to miss Sean and Ben for the world.

Kepi Ghoulie, who I had the pleasure of seeing on AJJ’s last European tour, was billed to support. However, to my surprise, A4 sheets of paper declared, in Times New Roman, that The Great Cynics (formerly The Cynics, following threats of legal action from Pittsburgh based garage rock revival act of the same name) were playing instead. This was exciting as the band had very recently been signed to Household Name Records, the label responsible for numerous legendary ska punk bands of the last decade including Adequate Seven, Capdown, Howards Alias, The Filaments, Ye Wiles and of course Lightyear. Coincidently, Chas Palmer-Williams of the aforementioned Lightyear is also supporting AJJ on their Derby date. The Great Cynics appear on stage, and play their own brand of raw, electric indie punk with plenty of passion and energy. The choruses are catchy with intelligent lyrics and shifting rhythms, and they are very well received by the crowd.

After congratulating the band on their performance, and for breathing life into Household Name, I make my way to the front to wait for Andrew Jackson Jihad where I meet Bob, a student from Reading with a sprained wrist. AJJ don’t delay and make it on stage early, opening with “Rejoice”, “Brave as a Noun” and “Survival Song”, the first three songs from their incredible album People That Can Eat People are the Luckiest in the World. The crowd needs no encouragement to join in and sing along to every single song of the night. Sean’s lyrics are quite difficult at times and his vocal style is uniquely awkward, yet it is the most natural thing in the world to sing with him. The love displayed by the crowd is unmatched by any other audience I have been a part of. The honesty, sensitivity, vulnerability and humour that AJJ exude can only provoke this level of affection and respect, which manifests as hugs between people who have never met and adoring heckles which Sean and Ben sheepishly accept.

They play a good mix of old and new tunes; including a few covers I hadn’t heard before, choosing to focus less on the tracks from Operation Stackola and more on Only God Can Judge Me. To my delight they play “Jesus Saves (God Hates Us All)”, my first taste of AJJ back in 2009, which was notably absent from their set at the Gaff last year. The band have a wonderful chemistry; Sean plays his guitar hectically with nervous quivering vocals while next to him stands Ben, tall and mellow, bending serenely over the neck of his double bass. Occasionally they break away briefly to confer about which song to play next and the pause is punctuated by shouted requests for every tune in their repertoire. A request for “Ladykiller” is turned down by Sean for being a ‘horrible song’ but he is happy to submit to cries for “People” and “People II: The Reckoning”, two excellent songs played in quick succession. Towards the end of their set, which lasts about an hour and a half, time checks are met with pleading assurances that they could squeeze in everything again. Had the curfew been 5 AM, no one would have left until Sean's fingers were worn to the bone and every thread on Ben's bow had split in two.

When the inevitable end comes, the band finish with “Personal Space Invader” followed by “Olde(y) Time(y)” and no one can quite believe it’s over. I pick up their excellent split full length with Ghost Mice and a T-Shirt from their merch guy and loiter a few moments to speak to Sean and get that all important hug. Their next European tour can’t come sooner enough.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Gig Review: 07 May 2011 - The JUNK, Thee Infidels, Luvdump, The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Dicky Swaffles at The Bird’s Nest in Deptford

Round the corner from Deptford Bridge stands the legendary Birds Nest. This small unassuming pub, home to a gaggle of friendly locals and their dog, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on numerous occasions, is an absolute gem and cornerstone of the London punk scene. My tipple is the ever awkward real ale which, this evening, is bottled and various and I start off with a Bombardier. Tonight is courtesy of Pus Promos’ Andy Howells, and yet again he’s managed to put on an incredible line-up, all for free.

In no time at all, Dicky Swaffles is on stage, armed only with his guitar. The self proclaimed “northerner” strums out a series of punk covers, ranging from Aqua’s Barbie Girl and Wannabe by the Spice Girls to NOFX’s Bob and other skate punk favourites. He is warmly received by us “southerners”, even taking a few requests, and does a great job of warming everyone up.

Next up are the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. This lively four-piece from Camberley play good solid hardcore punk, with a hint ska thrown in for good measure, and are right at home in this line-up. Their anarchic energy, style and commitment to the DIY punk ethos has rightfully earned them support slots for legendary bands such as Sham 69 and the UK Subs and their performance tonight is good frenzied fun. The band also brought with them an inexhaustible supply of Buckfast (it gets you fuckedfast), which made the rounds on stage with the bands throughout the rest of the night.

I leave to get some fresh, albeit muggy air. Picnic benches are strewn outside, all overlooking the decaying carcass of a dilapidated Routemaster; the number 30 to “nowhere”, and I sit and chat punk over another pint while Luvdump are setting up. This blistering crack-rock-steady outfit from Bury St Edmunds are no strangers to Deptford and play a raucous chaotic mix of hardcore punk and fiendishly fast ska. The singer joins in with the people dancing at the front and at one point the crowd decide to mob the bass player and hoist him into the air. Gigs at the Nest are always intimate affairs; I fondly recall getting stabbed in the shoulder by the slide of the Hostiles trombone on a particularly long glist. This is what gigs should be like.

I manage to sink one last ale, chatting to new friends and congratulating band members, before Thee Infidels make their way to the stage. The aggressive crack-rock-steady four piece from Frankfurt are in the UK on an intrepid whirlwind four day tour, ending at the Nest. They play a fantastic set of resilient, triumphant tunes with socially conscious lyrics and shout along choruses, reminiscent of the Infested and early Choking Victim. Despite a cancellation in Bolton the previous night, forcing an unscheduled detour via a gig in Derby, the band are in high spirits, and it’s more than just the Buckfast. They receive a warm and enthusiastic reception and are definitely a high point of the evening, leaving everyone watching wanting more. I doubt this will be their last visit to Deptford and I can’t wait to see them again soon.

I must admit, by now I’m getting tired and I sheepishly order a water from the bar in preparation for the final voluntary assault on every single muscle in my body. Fresh from a two week UK tour with staggering genrefucks Beat the Red Light, somehow the JUNK still have it in them to drive all the way from Brighton and headline the Nest. They dish out mean angry skacore, together with horn driven punk without any of the clichés, and are on exceptionally tight form starting with a new track “Left For Dead”. Their energy is infectious and spreads through the audience like wildfire, turning the pit into a maelstrom of flinging limbs, punching fists and the odd stray shoe. Despite being down a sax and a trumpet player, the band hardly fit on the 6 inch high stage; the brass tonight is all courtesy of Laura on trombone. Halfway through the set the bass drum calls it quits, but lead vocalist Jake averts a lull, grabbing a guitar and performing a stripped down solo number while the repairs are made. After the ad hoc but impressive interlude, the JUNK don’t hold back, furiously rattling through most of the tracks from their latest release on Bad Mood Records and Twelve Step Plan. After 45 minutes of relentless skanking, shouting, occasional pit brawling and slipping up in beer, the JUNK end their set on a high with sing along favourite “Far From Here”.

Shattered, I pick up a copy of The JUNK’s latest album Problem. Reaction. Solution. along with LUVDUMP’s Information is Power, thank Andy for the night and stumble onto the night bus home. Gig well done.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Artist Profile: Chris Burrows

I first discovered Chris Burrows in the summer of 2009, along with the Plan-It-X Records band roster and Andrew Jackson Jihad. Chris lives in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania and writes and plays incredible acoustic punk. His first band was Asking For It and featured Chris on acoustic guitar, Josh on drums, Thom on trumpet and melodica, Hannah on violin and Nick on tambourine. Asking For It’s debut release, in November 2006, was Learn The Rules and is a good solid folk punk record, although the releases of the following year, Live and Let D.I.Y. and Live at Irish Murphy’s, really capture the emergence of the band’s own “unique sound”. Such a phrase is clichéd and overused, receiving just under six million hits on Google (yes, that’s with quotes), and so I do not use it lightly. Chris’s strangulated crack rock steady vocals mingle harmoniously with melodies played on melodica, trumpet and violin, while his guitar provides incessant rhythm over which catchy beach campfire gang vocals are sung. This sound is reinforced wholeheartedly by Asking For It’s final release, Happy Birthday Hitler, in 2008; and while the quality is more kitchen than studio, their DIY ethic, energy and raw passion add more to the record than any fancy post-production ever could. The songs themselves are largely rebellious affairs, not just against the police, but also drugs, lost loves and the bleak hopelessness of youth proclaiming “this will never save the world”. It’s angry, uplifting, miserable and inspiring; what true punk should be.

I am frequently cursed with discovering excellent new music, only after the band has parted ways. Luckily, although Asking For It had recently disbanded, Chris’s latest project, The Anorexic Olsen Twin, was just beginning. Their Self Titled EP, released early in 2009, is a positively captivating 3 song collection. In it Chris reveals himself to be an exceptionally gifted pianist and plays alongside a host of strings, including violins, a cello and a double bass. All work together to produce a disturbingly dark take on anarchic cabaret, rawer and more personal than any World Inferno Friendship Society or Dresden Dolls. The pace is a little slower too, though lends itself perfectly to the emotional exploration of nihilism Chris engages in throughout. Later that year The Anorexic Olsen Twin sprung their debut full length, also Self Titled, which continues seamlessly from where their EP left off. “I Guess That’s What Brains Look Like” is quite possibly the most poignant zombie apocalypse love song that will ever be written.

The Anorexic Olsen Twin marks an exciting new chapter in Chris’s musical career to date and I have no doubt he will continue to make hauntingly thought provoking and original punk for years to come.

All of the releases by Asking For It and The Anorexic Olsen Twin are available to buy, or download for free, from their respective websites. But if you do decide to pinch with permission, why not write to Chris and say thanks.

Chris runs a distro called All We Need Is Hugs which reveals his many influences and idols, including Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Mischief Brew, Defiance Ohio and Ghost Mice. It also demonstrates his commitment to the local DIY scene, providing a means for young, up and coming songwriters to circulate their material.

“Methlabs and Bookstores” has been covered by Ohio Ska Punk Band Atomic Potato and is currently on their Myspace.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Review: We Showed Them, Didn’t We by Chas Palmer-Williams

Chas Palmer-Williams, lead singer from noughties ska-punk legends Lightyear, is back with an exceptional 5 song EP, released in November 2010. While Chas is no stranger to Rebellion, playing old classics to swarms of fans alongside his latest material, I must admit this release on Ashes Records went under my radar until recently. The record is largely acoustic, with cheeky synth and piano parts (which don’t get in the way), and shout-along choruses sung by friends and family. His lyrics are full of the sharp witty observation, tinged with schoolboy humour that we know and love from its previous incarnations. Chas reveals his geeky side singing about old-school video games in ‘Haggar for Mayor’ and even Warhammer in ‘I Feel Like a Million Zimbabwean Dollars’. ‘The Good Charlatans’ critiques the commodification of punk rock as Iggy Pop and Johnny Rotten grace our TV screens to flaunt insurance and butter respectively, while Chas reminisces and champions the DIY ethic at the heart of the scene. And ‘Now you’ve got the Midlands Maddest Man’ is a touching social commentary on the effects of the recession on Chas’s old stomping grounds in Derby. Above all, Chas is sincere and offers an earnest collection of songs on issues which matter most to him, delivered with brutal punk honesty. The latest news is that Chas is writing new material as well as gathering members for his new band. I can’t wait.

We Showed Them, Didn’t We is available to download on Chas’s Bandcamp page for £3 (all proceeds go the national dyslexia association) and you can follow him on Twitter @Chaswad for all his latest news.