Album Review: American Fall by Anti-Flag

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)rating 9

One year ago, the sun rose on a brand new America. Of course, this was not reminiscent of the hope that Barack Obama inspired 8 years previous, more the four-year clusterfuck that Donald Trump’s election had fired the starting gun on.

All throughout this period, slack-jawed yokels cared not that millions were about to be uninsured or deported, but that “Woo, at least this’ll be a good time for punk!”. A blase and ridiculous comment to make, but a correct one as American punk heroes Anti-Flag are back with their first album since 2015’s American Spring, the aptly titled American Fall.

Surprisingly enough, this album has one theme flowing throughout it; negativity decrying the fall of the American nation: whodathunkit? Nature enthusiasts will also tell you that this album’s lineage has skipped summer, flying straight into the murky nothingness that fall (or autumn for us Brits, God save the Queen her taxes!), “fall” isn’t the season, it’s the complete collapse of the system.

The opening track, American Attraction starts with an ethereal and eerie guitar solo, but soon gets thrown out the way for some good old-fashioned punky drum beats & huge riffs. American Attraction could be a metaphor for the attractiveness of er… America with the lyrics referencing guns, bombs, blood & drugs, with the line “There’s no escaping the American Attraction” feeling pretty poignant. America can seem like a pretty attractive place looking from the outside, but on the inside, it’s just guns & blood all the time. And the fucking Kardashians.

It’s clearly surprising that a punk band have a lot to say about society, but Anti-Flag has burst straight out the gate with this one, pulling no punches as they give a play-by-play commentary on the state of the crooked nation.

Angst & delusion at the American Dream course through the veins of this album, whilst offering a no-bullshit approach to music. It’s classic fast-paced punk rock, with The Criminals a textbook example of an angsty punk track, decrying the modern civilian lifestyle in the US of A, tackling topics such as healthcare & guns, two hot-button subjects in a shattered state. Whilst this feels like a textbook punk album, nothing feels generic or factory fresh, allowing you to be battered by sauntering riffs and smashing drums, keeping you hooked whilst they give their sermon on the mount.

However, it wouldn’t be classic punk without a bit of anarchy and Armageddon – so When the Wall Falls (gee, no points for guessing what THAT’s about) sounds like modern jazz. On a punk record! Jazz! The anarchy! However, they could create a gospel fusion record and still get their message across in a clear & concise way, whilst still retaining a sense of urgency in their call to arms.

The only criticism you could level at this album is that it’s not clear on what inspired this album. You know, a song called When the Wall Falls? Racists? Who is this album about?! What’s caused this album to happen? The mind boggles. However, the biggest praise is that this album, much like their counterparts who’ve trod the same ground of protest music before them, is that not only do they hold the microphone to their lips, they hold it to the lips of millions of marginalised, downtrodden & forgotten people; they are the voice of the voiceless.

There isn’t a song on this album that doesn’t pack a punch or carry a strong message. Every song is a call to arms to stand up and be counted. There’s no ambiguity in Anti-Flag’s message. You’re taken on a political rollercoaster, and anyone who’s never been on that wacky ride will come out as a fan of rollercoasters… or politics. You pick the metaphor here. Whilst this album decries the American Fall, there also feels like there’s a message of hope in every word of every song. Things WILL get better, but only if we all squad up and work together.

With that being said, the album also ends on a positive note, with Casualty giving a voice to the oppressed masses who’ve felt ashamed to be who they are.

 

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Track Review: Babe Punch – Stanford

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

CW: Rape

Punk has always been the counter-culture genre, standing up for the little man as the privileged establishment rule from their ivory tower. However, it’s only been recently that we’ve seen a real rise in the number of female fronted bands in the scene, wielding their guitars, drums and mics, ready to throw a punch or two while sounding fucking sick in the process.

Welcome to the stage Babe Punch, a Nottingham/Derby punk outfit who, to put it lightly, are fucking sick of their fellow women being abused, undermined and generally being mistreated. A recent case that fuels their rage drenched single Stanford is the Brock Turner rape case, an example of not only victim blaming due to the woman in question being intoxicated but a chilling reminder of how being a white man with power can get you away with just about anything.

Golden boy/ Daddy’s golden boy” is just one line of many that will be familiar to those who have paid a hint of attention to social media with most mainstream publications tending to side with the perpetrator: even Brock’s own father vomited out a “20 minutes of action” quote, further enforcing the rape culture that surrounds us. The menacing guitars do a great job of putting the listener into a similar state as a victim: slowly alluring the listener into a falsely secure environment before pouncing, brandishing a vexed set of screaming.

Tracks that touch upon social issues can easily be brushed off as just repeating a narrative or trying to enforce a viewpoint but Babe Punch complete the difficult task of not only discussing relevant and important issues but making them sound fucking great in the process.

9/10

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EP Review: Soggy – S/T

BY LIAM MENZIES (@BLINKCLYRO)

There’s a certain therapeutic advantage that comes from writing music. While you may expect to hear this from an amateur musician (looking at you Jez) or a stoner (looking at you Jez), there’s actual evidence to support this notion: research puts it down to it being a sort of cathartic action that allows an artist to come to terms with emotions, expanding the toolbox of the person in question.

It’s no real surprise, then, to hear bands such as Soggy champion the curative benefits of music with emotion being the core factor of what they do, using the deepest, darkest parts of their depression to create their art. The day to day struggles that the Texas rockers explore here may not be groundbreaking but the way in which they execute them certainly allow the band to shine as another example in emo rock’s rejuvenation.

This is clear from, quite literally, the get go as introductory track Small Town gets things underway with a mighty, punky kick: already, it’s clear to see that Soggy wear both their idols and emotions on their sleeves with a clear Joyce Manor influence radiating from every orifice of this track’s angsty little body. In addition to this, there’s no way of shaking the similarities to Remo Drive, another new act who are championing in a new age of angsty punk with a dashing of emo. There’s the classic trait of worrying about being stuck in, you guess it, a small town but the extra layers crafted by the protagonist’s existentialism and constant fear save it from being just another rehash of a pop punk trope that has got very tedious.

As it continues, Soggy start to get more comfortable with the listener, albeit not for very long. Succeeding track Radicus Finch is evidence enough of this, showing a very varied form of instrumentals: one minute, the band become very laid back and chill before breaking into this hectic cataclysm and it all gives way for some unexpected, one-off stylings (just try to shake off those very sweet blips of percussion that hark back to The Front Bottoms‘ debut). While it may seem like the sound is what drives this track but it’s really the performance of all the members is what makes it a stand out on the EP. A notable highlight has to be, once again, lead vocalist Alexi’s vocals, wonderfully carrying a messy breakdown about inadequacy and change though Scott on guitar does manage to steal the show at the tail end of the song, showing the band is more the sum of their parts than a one man show.

This isn’t to imply that Soggy iron out all the flaw on this release: one notable complaint has to be the length of certain tracks though unlike their counterparts, the band tends to drag songs on too long rather than cut them short. While they’re pleasant to listen to, sometimes tracks tend to be border on filler which no bombastic breakdown can help fix. Thankfully, instances like this are very few and far between and 90% of the time, Soggy hit the mark with their own rendition of emo-punk goodness. Full of identity and progress, Soggy manage to mature via their use of their music as an outlet to let out all angst and rage. With their debut EP cementing the potential the band hold,  they aren’t set to outstay their welcome anytime soon.

8/10


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Album Review: Daddy Issues – Deep Dream

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

What Daddy Issues do isn’t necessarily too ambitious, but it is done with such style that you won’t honestly mind. Their sound could be described as a spin on grunge while stealing melodic cues from indie pop.  Both of which their first LP Deep Dream shows an exceptional love for. The whole album is obviously a complete passion project for the Nashville punks. Each song sounds like a celebration of internalised regrets escaping in the most primal way. In an interview with BITCH Magazine, the band stated they were trying to prove “Girls aren’t all sugar and spice and everything nice” which they’ve definitely achieved here.

Deep Dream is not an insidious record by any means however, it’s just a very honest one. Lyrics focus more on introspection and regret rather than explosive bouts of anger. Lyrically the LP is actually very reminiscent of early 2000’s bands such as Brand New and Manchester Orchestra at their prime. Take for example one of the stand out tracks Boring Girls, with its vitriolic rhythm section backing a tale of desperation, regret, and self assessment. Lead singer/guitarist Jenna Moynihan‘s rhymes come off as incredibly amusing and distressing in equal measure here. With the titular “Boring Girl” transforming from her lover’s partner who finds them, to herself as she questions her self-worth, before finally settling upon the guy knowingly stringing two people along. It’s a captivating account of misdirected rage, short in length and high energy, catching the setting perfectly. Before culminating perfectly with “Boring boy, don’t hurt yourself, I don’t think they have guitars in hell”, it’s a satisfying conclusion to one of the most enjoyable songs on the record, but Daddy Issues have larger issues to tackle on Deep Dream.

Take for example I’m Not, written by drummer Emily Maxwell, which tackles the far more disturbing topic of sexual abuse. It’s a very personal song which challenges Maxwell‘s lack of self-worth and how she felt “naked and dumb” after her experience. Yet it’s not a tearjerker, and you feel that was never the type of reaction Daddy Issues wanted to evoke either. Instead, Moynihan‘s harsh vocals are a manifestation of the rage that enveloped Maxwell‘s life after. At no point is her experience being exploited either. Instead, it’s a plea to be open with the traumas haunting you, before they take over entirely. I’m Not shows an incredible maturity in songwriting that a lot of bands would kill to achieve which is especially impressive on a debut album.

It’s a shame then that the next song on the track list is possibly the only weak offering here: a cover of Don Henley‘s 1984 cheese fest Boys of Summer. It’s not necessarily a bad cover, with a punkier edge that’s stylistically in keeping with the rest of the album. There’s also a nice attempt to bring out the angst within the verses, but it just sounds so oppressively twee in the chorus, and no amount of fuzz on the guitar parts will change that. It’s a real misstep and one that prevents Deep Dream from reaching perfection.

Thankfully this only a short escapade, however, with final track Dandelion sounding like a Bossanova-era Pixies single. Based on a toxic ex of Moynihan‘s, it’s viciously amusing and makes for a nice ending to the album, drawing themes of regret and retribution together in a short outburst that you’ll wish was just one minute longer. That’s one thing that is exceptionally refreshing about Deep Dream, the short song lengths make for an album just over half an hour: it’s a perfect length for the music they’re trying to create. No song feels bloated, each one is a calculated and fast paced story.

Overall, Deep Dream is a very pleasant surprise, a mature record with elements of grunge and pop coinciding effortlessly. With a half an hour run time, there really is no excuse to not listen to it.

8/10


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Album Review: Girlpool – Powerplant

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

Remember 2014? Remember when it was somehow the “in thing” to be in a band comprising of only two members? Feels like an age ago now: Drenge found a bassist somewhere, Royal Blood went dark for quite sometime and Slaves made the same album twice in a row. But, here to show the amateurs how to do it comes folk punk duo Girlpool with their second LP Powerplant. Which despite the band’s bizarre stance on using the space bar, is rather incredible.

Where the album truly excels is when the marriage of its two genres plays off effortlessly. Mixing elements of post punk – a very notable influence here is Sonic Youth – with melodies that wouldn’t feel out of place on an early Belle & Sebastian record (Tigermilk era). If this still sounds all a bit puzzling and too contradictory to work, check out the incendiary Cornerstore: an enticingly swift introduction to the band’s musical inspirations and capabilities. Here for just under two minutes band members, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Trindad serenade you before exposing you to their grunge styles with no warning. But, for some reason it doesn’t feel alien. At no point within their tales of love, loss and desperation does it feel unnecessary to have injected the songs with that visceral energy.

This may be down to a couple of points, the very short length of the album (28 minutes) ensures no song outstays its welcome. So no part of it feels bloated or misjudged, even upon repeat listens.  Also, this rush of primeval anger feels natural within the story-lines of the songs. The original sadness is drowned beneath a layer of enveloping rage. Directionless but not misplaced, evoking memories of 2000’s indie rock such as Manchester Orchestra or Brand New. Although, where these bands offered some form of exploration on their records, some people may feel Girlpool don’t push their boundaries enough. It doesn’t notably detract from the experience however, as the whole thing flows beautifully into a stream of consciousness. Ready to drag listeners under the surface into the murky waters the songs occupy.

In short, the up and coming duo have provided one of the surprise albums of this year. A truly energetic recounting of love and loss that lives by the mythos of less is more, and does so with an undeniable style.

8/10


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ALBUM REVIEW: OUTSIDERS BY GNARWOLVES

By Will Sexton (@willshesleeps)

There has been a lot of speculation recently about whether punk is dead. Even people like Frank Carter, best known for his punk discography in the bands Gallows and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes has said that “grime is the new punk” and that punk is a dying art. However, this doesn’t feel like the full picture: bands like the UK’s very own Gnarwolves bring this punch and DIY sound that is very much needed in the scene, making for a totally refreshing listen every time.

Outsiders, easily Gnarwolves’ darkest record to date, seems the most grown up. There is this aura about the album that feels cathartic with the songs coming across as if they were written as an escape. The lead single Wires shows this from the get-go as although they sound different and changed, it wasn’t due to a sense of “boys we really need to switch up our sound“, merely it is just more mature. The album is still their classic DIY punk but also has features, like song structure for example, that is reminiscent of bands like Basement.

Gnarwolves prove themselves on Outsiders that they aren’t a one-trick pony with only songs about getting drunk and high with their mates. Thom Weeks shows a deeper more personal side. Highlighted by the almost slow-burner (in comparison to a lot of their other songs, even on this album) Talking To Your Ghost, talking about “seeing people fall apart” and seems like an anthem for people to relate to. It would be stupid not to mention how much of a belter Shut Up is at the end of the album, an incredible piece of work and one that’ll be getting screamed back in their faces live soon! They prove that being ‘outsiders’ is a thing people will go through and that life goes on.

Outsiders makes you wanna be the kid who is stage-diving off the stage, crowd surfing and moshing but also makes you feel nostalgic: it leads you to think about your life and all the friends you miss, making you want to invite them back for a house party. It’s a massive mixture of happy, sad and gorgeous. Some of the chord choices resonate well, the slower attack on some of the songs and again, the personal feel with the lyrics.

If you like punk, if you want to transition into punk, if you’re having a good day, if you want something to cry too or if you want something to drive around late at night and think about life, this is the album for you. A near faultless venture from the Gnarwolves boys.

9/10


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LOOKING BACK AT…THE CLASH by THE CLASH

By Brogan McKeown 

Punk legends The Clash released their iconic self-titled debut album 40 years ago on the 8th of April, 1977. Many fans of The Clash will agree, it’s hard to believe that this album was released 40 years ago, especially as we are still talking about it today.

Iconic is the right word for their self-titled debut album as it has done so much for music since it’s release, and is ranked as one of the greatest punk albums of all time for this very reason. 40 years on, people are still being influenced by this album. The famous indie band The Libertines have spoken of their admiration for The Clash and how influential they have been for their career. Therefore, the impact The Clash’s self-titled album has had is huge.

The Clash contributed to the growing punk scene, or ‘American New Wave’ which was making its way over from America in the 70s to become a new British wave of the genre. The punk revolution was a crazy time and The Clash seemed to fit in well due to their noisy tracks and their rebellious attitude. Like other punk bands, The Clash spoke for a generation of people who were sick and tired of the way things were and wanted change. Punk was a way for people to come together and voice their opinions and also have a bloody great time doing it. The Clash also had other influences in their music such as ska and reggae which showed them as musicians who had a lot of potential to stay relevant. The Clash broke down the walls between the genres and presented another way for them to break the rules.

5 young boys, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon and Terry Chimes, created the majority of their first album in an 18-story block of flats. This album is inspirational, due to the massive influence this album has on young people who dream of being musicians. This album tells young people, or anyone wanting to make music, that you can do it no matter where you’re from. The Clash are an example of a band who came from nothing but managed to chase that dream- admirable.

Now, onto the songs! Let’s highlight the most important songs from this album that are still popular today. The whole album is so promising that many are not surprised The Clash ended up as popular as they were. They gave the public an album that they could sing along to, they gave people a platform to sing about what was wrong in the world and let out their frustrations through music. The songs on this album are very short- which is fine as it is effective. The Clash didn’t need to make their songs any longer to be able to get their point across. The album is one quick jumpy song to another which makes it a very interesting listen.

Let’s start with the opening song, Janie Jones, which is written about the owner of a brothel…

 

The song immediately goes into short, aggressive bursts of guitar that tell you, straight away, that this band has a big punk influence. Lead singer Joe Strummer hits out with the first lyric “he’s in love with rock’n’roll woah” which is an immediate crowd pleaser as the line is repeated throughout the song promising a chant for fans at their gigs. This song is what The Clash are all about. Short snappy lines complimented by powerful guitar strums to give off a jumpy rhythm.

The next song is White Riot.Counting us in with 1,2,3,4 then shoving crazy guitar at us is, again, great for a gig environment.In this song, you can hear the similarities between the aforementioned Libertines and The Clash and exactly where they would have got their influence from. This song is the classic punk and indie song that is due to make you want to jump up and down, going crazy, not caring who is watching. You can imagine many punks jumping around with their leather jackets on. However, this song would have had an indie influence- you can almost hear a ska influence there too.

 

Another song to mention is Career Opportunites. This song is a message to the young people who find themselves unemployed and going nowhere. The Clash were very in tune with the times they were living in throughout their whole career- a very punk thing to do. Songs such as I’m So Bored with the USA from this album also show how in tune and fed up they were with the world at this time. Career Opportunities would have been one for people to dance to and relate to giving people that platform to let out their frustrations.

Last but not least, there’s Police & Thieves which makes for a great listen due to its catchy guitar rhythm and many different stages of the song. The beginning immediately goes into a nice drum beat with short bursts of a guitar to start revving people up. Strummer’s singing compliments a very reggae sounding song and the repetitiveness of “oh yeah” makes it a catchy listen, making it easy to sing along to and get a feel for.

The song highlights all of the genres that I’ve mentioned above which influence The Clash. This song is so important as it fits so much into it. The Clash amaze fans due to their many different influences making them whole and able to appeal to many different people.Being the longest song, there was a lot of room for experimentation and the song is a success. Good on ’em.

That’s only some of the songs as well! This album is iconic as it paved the way for the band’s success and classic songs such as Rock the Casbah and London Calling. The music world is grateful that these young lads, with a dream, recorded their first album. Thank you for influencing even more musicians after you to create brilliant music.

There has been a lot of debate around whether the band can be called a ‘punk’ band due to their ska and reggae influences in a lot of their songs. The mainstream understanding of being punk is going against the system and doing whatever the hell you want. The Clash did just that with their different sounds and they weren’t going to stay tied down to just one. They didn’t care what anyone thought of that, they were going to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted- that is punk.


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