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 clich├ęd 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.