If you suddenly have the desire to collect The Hip Priests 7 inchers, just forget it already! That’s tantamount to saying you are gonna start collecting Star Wars figures or Kiss merchandise…there’s just too damn many, they’re too expensive and you won’t find ‘em all! But lucky for you, those fuckin’ boys have saved you the trouble and gathered together the lost gems, the hard to find cuts and the curios for all The Hip Priest fanboys and fangals to salivate over.

Yes, if you are a fully-fledged member of the Spasm Gang or even just a casual fan, (ie you don’t wear black denim every fuckin’ day!) then you probably already own the comprehensive double album ‘A Decade Of Disdain’. An album that brought together the best of The Hip Priests singles released over 2 pretty coloured records. And if you don’t, then give yourself a slap and get it sorted before we have words!

Well, ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ is The Hip Priests strike back! 17 hard to find tracks from singles and EPs released between 2017-2019. That’s 6 cover versions bastardised by the band, sandwiched between 11 glorious original jams previously unavailable to mere mortals until now.

 

If quality, high octane garage rock is your thing, if you dig sonically seductive sounds delivered with more filth and fury than a Johnny Depp/Amber Heard weekend bender, then ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ is right up your street. The dirty, the clean and the truly obscene rub sweaty shoulders and bloody knuckles in a defiant “fuck you!” to society, with no hint of socially distancing going on.

The epic ‘No Time (Like Right Now)’ is present and correct. Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, it’s their punk rock masterpiece, channelling the power of the MC5 with the horns and suss of Rocket From The Crypt, while they rant a diatribe about political skulduggery and post Brexit fuckery. It’s a punk rock anthem for right now. The other 3 tracks from that EP are present and correct, but the punk and belligerent ‘All My Rowdy Friends Are Dead’ and album closer ‘I’m Too Good’ seems to pale in comparison to the overly cool ‘She’s A Queen’. It sounds like Ian Astbury jamming with The Hellacopters, with one finger piano stabs, overly fuzzy guitars and vocals delivered straight from the crotch. It could be my favourite Hip Priests song right now.

Covers-wise, the likes of Motorhead’s ‘The Hammer’ and Demons ‘ Hot Running Blood’ are perfect Hip Priests fodder and stay pretty true to the originals. The Stooges ‘Loose’ is suitably ramshackle, sped up and delivered with guts and glory. Saxon’s ‘Play It Loud’ follows the same path and sounds epic.  It’s only Adam & The Ants classic ‘Press Darlings’ that doesn’t really benefit from the Hip Priests rough n’ ready, punk rock treatment for me.

Just because this is a b sides compilation, it doesn’t mean the quality has to suffer. ‘Nihilist Twist’ is a brutal, chanting 2 minute assault on the senses. ‘Dead By Sunday’ literally out ‘copters The Hellacopters and ‘I’m In Exile’ is all killer no filler. Wah-wah infused guitars fight with power chords as newest recruit Gentle Ben fills the right speaker and Austin the left, or is it the other way round? Who knows! But what I do know is the twin guitar attack sounds mighty.

 

27 singles, 3 EPs and 4 albums since their inception in 2007. It’s true to say that ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ is more than just a stop-gap collection of odds and sods to keep their fanbase happy until album number 5 drops later this year. This is a quality collection of songs from shit island’s best-kept secret, and any self-respecting punk rock junkie should have it in their collection. The only trouble is do you choose green or blue vinyl?

Buy ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

There was always more to Chicago legends Enuff Z’Nuff than day-glo clothes, peace signs and drug problems. To a select few back in the day, singer Donnie Vie and bassist Chip Z’nuff were our generation’s Lennon & McCartney. And while they peaked commercially with their self-titled debut album, 1991’s follow-up ‘Strength’ was their masterpiece. Then along came Grunge and knocked them straight outta the ball park like many others. The following album ‘Animals With Human Intelligence’ sank without a trace, as did their career.

But unlike many of their contemporaries, the band battled through the subsequent line-up changes, legal issues and drug & alcohol addiction. Original guitarist Derek Frigo died of an overdose, long time drummer Ricky Parent succumbed to cancer. They changed labels more times than they changed drummers and guitar players, yet through all the tragedies, the one constant was that Chip & Donnie released quality music year after year. Even Donnie’s departure couldn’t stop the band. Now 15 albums into their career Enuff Z’nuff are back with a new album entitled ‘Brainwashed Generation’, the second to feature Chip as lead singer.

 

To be honest, I had little interest in hearing EZN’s last album ‘Golden Boy’. For me, EZN without Donnie is like Queen without Freddie, its peaches without the cream; it’s like a broken pencil…pointless! While their voices work well in harmony together, can Chip really compete with those golden Vie pipes, and does he even have the songwriting chops on his own? Well, I’m glad to report that ‘Brainwashed Generation’ goes a long way to prove me wrong.

Joining Chip on this latest excursion is long time guitarist Tory Stoffregen, drummer Daniel Hill and ex Life Sex & Death/AntiProduct legend Alex Kane (back in the band for the first time since 1987). Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx contributes drums for more than half of the album, along with Mike Portnoy and even estranged main man Donnie puts in a guest appearance.

With the basic tracks recorded back in November 2019, mixed and finished off by Chip at home during lockdown you could call ‘Brainwashed Generation one of the first ‘post lockdown’ releases?

 

Opener ‘Fatal Distraction’ sets the scene with hazy, lazy vocals and great power pop hooks to die for. Chip’s penchant for Cheap Trick is never far from his songbook, and the combination of loud, brash guitar work and a very hummable chorus takes this opener into classic EZN territory.

Ok, Chip you have my attention but any band can put their best tune as an opener, put your money where your mouth is and prove it! As if in reply, the punchy ‘I Got My Money Where My Mouth Is’ follows and puts to bed any doubts that the bassist needs Donnie Vie to carry his songs in 2020. This shows a band full of confidence, urgency and bravado. With continuing Cheap Trick vibes, trademark backing harmonies and a chorus that insists you sit up and take notice, I’m convinced just 2 songs in; they have already done enough to prove EZN are far from a spent force.

 

It’s impossible to do an Enuff Z’Nuff review and not mention The Beatles. Lennon-esque, sentimental balladry is rife in the likes of ‘It’s All In Vain’ and ‘Broken Love’. Chugging guitars, ringing chords and soaring vocal melodies take this listener to the same heights the likes of ‘Fly High Michelle’ and ‘Right By Your Side’ did back in the day.

Donnie Vie returns for ‘Strangers In My Head’ and it’s no surprise that its an album highlight. His lush tones carry the dark and foreboding tune to another worldly plain. It’s a powerful. riff heavy rocker that sees the writer delve deep inside his own head. So much so, it makes the following ‘Drugland Weekend’ sound like a just another dumb ass rock song, all style and no substance, but hey there’s nowt wrong with that sometimes!

 

Enuff Z’Nuff never got the breaks they deserved. But let’s face it, most of the greatest bands suffered the same fate! But put an Enuff Z’Nuff greatest hits package together and it stands tall quality wise with any band you would care to mention and that will be their legacy.

‘Brainwashed Generation’ is a surprisingly good album, which recalls their glory days and the best of their influences. Sure, it’s not as good as ‘Strength’ or even ‘Animals…’ song for song, but it’s on a par with anything the band put out after, and that is a good place to be 15 albums into your career.

Chip continues to fly the flag for Enuff Z’Nuff, writing quality tunes and touring the world. It’s all he’s done since the heady 80’s and no one’s gonna stop his love train now.

Buy ‘Brainwashed Generation’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

When Little Angels called it a day in 1994, singer and main songwriter Toby Jepson was left feeling heartbroken, confused and betrayed by his band. What do you do when your whole world has crumbled in front of you? How do you find the strength to carry on, when everything you have worked so hard for is taken from you?

Well, Toby retreated to a cottage in Guilford, set up a makeshift studio in a derelict Oast House with money from Sony and recorded his first solo album ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’. While he didn’t know it at the time, the set of songs he wrote, recorded and self-produced were a direct reaction to the break-up of Little Angels and would result in an album so steeped in retrospection and soul searching it would resonate so strongly some 25 years later.

 

To me, the mid 90’s was the best period for rock music, period. The musical climate had changed, the glory daze of Hair Metal had been wiped out by Grunge, yet even that genre itself was fading fast following the suicide of its main protagonist. Bands had to adapt to change or die, Alternative was the new mainstream and everything seemed just more edgy.

Many great songs and many great albums have been born from heartache and break-ups and Toby Jepson’s coping mechanism was to channel his feelings into ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’. It’s a dark album, ironically the complete antithesis of what Little Angels were all about. In trying to make sense of where it all went wrong, who to blame and what to do next, Toby found himself stepping back and looking inside himself for the answers, whether it be examining his recent divorce (‘Better Off Without Me’), class divide and struggle (‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’) and in the case of most of the songs, directing his anger and confusion towards his former band mates.

 

What strikes me about ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ 25 years down the line is how remarkably current it actually sounds. From the crystal clear production to the dark, questioning lyricism, it sounds like an album destined for release in 2020. Take opening song ‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’, a slow burning, sombre opener that sets the mood, exploring the struggle of class divide to a background of crisp drums and weaving, sonically seductive guitars.

Co-penned with songwriting legend Russ Ballard, ‘Slipping Through Your Fingers’ not only continues the exploration of his marriage break-up but also the demise of Little Angels. Production-wise Toby creates space, the instrumentation at a bare minimum, the song riding on melody and a sense of determination. The dampened guitars build during the verse to be let loose as the anthemic chorus breaks out.

Anthemic choruses have been a Toby Jepson trademark over the years and album centrepiece ‘I Won’t Be With You’ is a prime example. This is the big rock song and an even bigger ‘middle finger’ to his former band mates. The guitars are maxed out and the passion overflows as Toby channels his anger and confusion into a song that stands the test of time. In stark contrast, the acoustic-driven ‘All Heal In Time’ is Toby’s Led Zep 3 moment. The heartfelt lyrics work perfectly with the interestingly, offbeat drums, and the beautiful folk inspired guitar picking. A great melody carries a song that offers a ray of light in troubled times.

The influence of the 90’s alternative musical climate is prevalent throughout this album. The grungy ‘Haven’t Got Your Strength’ is the sound of a man defeated, laid bare over Jerry Cantrell guitar riffage. The euphoric, radio-friendly ‘Save Me From Myself’, almost certainly a cry for help. Toby cites Lenny Kravitz as an influence on this album and this is certainly obvious on the tripped-out, psychedelia of ‘Open Your Mind’ and the funky, unfinished demo version of ‘Get Your Feet On’.

 

 

While ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ is a snapshot of Toby Jepson’s mindset in his darkest hour, it is a testament to his songwriting prowess and a true example of the fact that anger truly is an energy. Toby channeled that anger in the right direction and produced an album that stands the test of time. And while he continues to enjoy great success with his band Wayward Sons, ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ remains a lost gem of an album he is rightly proud of and arguably, it is his finest work.

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems to me that during these strange times 3 types of musicians have emerged during forced exile from live gigs, and these are as follows.

1 – The Hibernator (the artist on a major label who has done absolutely nothing) 2 – The Performer (the artist who does online gigs ranging from the totally unprofessional to the bloody sublime.) 3 – The Creator (the artist that records and releases music to their fanbase).

Former Biters frontman Tuk Smith emerges triumphant from category 2 and sticks his Cuban heeled boot firmly into category 3 with the release of his ‘Covers From The Quarantine’ EP. With the imminent release of Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts debut album on hold and a high profile summer tour opening for Motley Crue, Poison and Def Leppard now postponed until next summer, the mop top singer with the cheek bones to die for finds himself at a loose end. Recorded in his attic studio, with just acoustic guitar, keys and drum samples, Tuk takes five classics from different decades back to their bare roots for all to digest.

 

Opener ‘Don’t Change’ is a lesser known INXS tune that was released back in 1982. The writing partnership of Michael Hutchence & Andrew Farriss was then still in its infancy and this is a perfect example of what would rocket them to superstar status before Hutchence’ tragic and untimely death in 1997. Arguably their first true classic, it’s a powerful song that has been covered by the likes of Everclear and The Goo Goo Dolls in the past, but in the hands of Tuk and his acoustic guitar, this is a more stripped back affair that somehow carries even more power and sentiment than the original.

Next up he tackles Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’ with great effect. It may be a predictable choice, but it’s also an inspired choice. Tuk doesn’t mess with the structure or the delivery as his voice fits the song just right. The simple stabs of keys and the bombastic beats add atmosphere and drama to a classic we all know and love.

The Faces vibes are intact with his take on the Kiss classic ‘Hard Luck Woman’. I guess that figures, seems as Paul Stanley wrote it with Rod Stewart in mind, even if drummer Peter Criss ended up singing the definitive version. The picked, folky chord progression sound sublime, the vocals delivered with sentiment and passion in equal measures. It’s not trying to be Kiss or even Rod Stewart, it’s just Tuk being Tuk, playing a classic his own way.

Lana Del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ is the curveball of this collection. Tuk’s version retains the cinematic quality and the melancholic feel of Del Rey’s work, but it still has that sleazy, 70’s glam edge that the sadly missed Biters delivered in spades. Dreamy pop given a good rigorous drag through the hedge backwards…nicely done.

Now, if Fred Durst can manage a decent version of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, then Tuk Smith should be able to crack The Who classic without breaking a sweat, right? He does it justice of course. A beautiful song delivered with sincerity that truly hits you in the feels.

 

When the world finally returns to some sort of normal, I think 2020 will be remembered in music circles as the year of the lockdown EP. There has been a fair few already, some are good, some not so good. ‘Covers From The Quarantine’ is one of the good ones and should keep fans of Tuk happy until his Restless Hearts album finally sees the light of day.

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

Dutch rock ‘n’ rollers The Dirty Denims follow up 2017’s ‘Back With A Bang’ by releasing their brand spankin’ new long player ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’. It sees singer/guitarist Mirjam and guitarist Jeroen joined by a couple of new, denim-clad players aka Marc on bass and Suzanne on drums.

Continuing their tradition of releasing their albums in stages, 5 tracks were released as singles over a period of 6 months, this they entitled ‘Part 1’. Now, July sees the band release their full new album on CD, download and of course lovely vinyl.

 

This Eindhoven based band has been at it for a decade now and sound-wise they follow on where The Donnas left off. The Dirty Denims combine the traditional rock ‘n’ roll sound of The Runaways, Suzy Quatro and The Sweet with a slew of AC/DC riffs thrown in for good measure.

They claim to play ‘Happy Hard Rock’ and don’t take themselves too seriously.  Lyrically, we ain’t talking ‘The Wall’ here, the likes of last year’s single ‘Last Call For Alcohol’ is a testament to that. What they do deal in is upbeat, powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll with a sound and energy that makes you want to turn the dial up a notch and party with the best of them.

With its powerhouse 80’s drums, rumbling bass and tongue-in-cheek lyricism ‘Thunder From Down Under’ tips its hat to AC/DC in more ways than one and they even throw in the riff to The Cult’s ‘Wild Flower’ for good measure. ‘Roll The Dice’ follows a similar path, with killer riffs emanating from each speaker, stabs of piano, high-powered hollerin’ and cool, gang backing vocals.

‘Turn off The Radio’ will incite you to do just that and put a damn record on! Today’s radio tunes are boring anyway, right? The Dirty Denims know that and so do you!  Here, we are in prime power pop Donnas territory. Urgent, anthemic and melodic, just the way we like it. Elsewhere, ‘Creatures Of The Night’ is not the Kiss classic, but it crunches nicely and powers through, a solid traditional 80’s rocker that stands on its own two feet.

‘Band Not a Brand’ is killer, bubblegum pop full of handclaps and organ riffs. It’s their Saturday morning kids TV theme, a  middle finger to high street stores that sell Ramones shirts to Instagram influencers who wouldn’t know ‘Road To Ruin’ if it smacked them in the face. It’s also the best and most commercial song they have released to date.

‘Messin Around’ adds cool handclaps and percussion to the sound. This mixes well with Mirjam’s high octane hollerin’ and Jeroen’s token AC/DC riffage to give 70’s footstomping glam nostalgia.

They like ‘Last Call For Alcohol’ so much they played it twice! The album closes with a ‘Hangover Version’, stripped back and laid bare with acoustics and percussion, it’s the Sunday morning hangover remedy to the Saturday night party.

 

‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ is a fun, party record that does exactly what it says on the tin. The Dirty Denims are doing nothing new, they aren’t here to change the world or preach a message in these uncertain times.  But if you want escapism, if you desire something old school to kick your ass into next week and to blast from the stereo while you hit the highway to Hell, then you could do no better than visit Eindenhoven Rock City for 40 minutes or so.

Buy ‘Ready Steady Go!’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man, I always have a soft spot for Californian pop/punk, especially when it’s a young band coming on like the 90’s never ended. And that’s where I introduce you to The Bombpops. Founded in 2007 by dual singer/guitarists Jen Razavi and Poli Van Dam, the 4 piece band take the title of their sophomore album ‘Death In Venice Beach’ from Thomas Mann’s celebrated novella about the price of artistic life.

The follow up to 2017’s ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ it sees the band explore dark themes of alcohol addiction, health problems, toxic relationships and suicide all wrapped up in high energy punk pop.

 

But the dark lyrical themes are certainly not the first thing that hits you about The Bombpops. The SoCal sound that inspires the band is prevalent throughout, you could say ‘Death In Venice Beach’ sounds like the lost 90’s soundtrack you need to fill the hole between ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘Josie and the Pussycats’.

Take latest single ‘Double Arrows Down’. Lyrically inspired by Poli Van Dam’s diabetes seizure and subsequent dice with death, it’s actually a euphoric blast of dual vocal melody and overdriven guitars, with a sugar-buzz pop melody that will inject sunshine into anyone’s dreary day. Sweet vocal melodies The Dollyrots would die for and the sort of catchy choruses Letters To Cleo perfected in their prime.

And so it continues for 30 minutes or so. 12 short, sharp, shocks of punk pop that do not overstay their welcome. Songs that would’ve bombarded the airwaves back in the day and singles that would’ve been vying for attention with the likes of Bowling For Soup and Sum 41 on your TV screens.

 

‘Dearly Departed’ name-checks doomed celebrity couples over high energy pop/punk. Sid & Nancy rub shoulders with JFK & Monroe as Jen & Poli deliver pitch perfect vocal harmonies and dirty guitars in unison. A tight rhythm section and a crisp production courtesy of (among others) NOFX’s Fat Mike only adds to the high quality.

With the likes of ‘Sad To Me’ and ‘Zero Remorse’ they have a knack of delivering a verse that create momentum and builds to what you just know is going to be an anthemic, killer chorus that will stay in your brain long after the song has ended. The girls’ vocals work well together and it is that, along with the top notch songwriting, which lifts this album high above the current competition.

The bouncy bass intro and the offset guitar riff in ‘Notre Dame’ will bring to mind The Offspring, ‘In The Doghouse’ comes on like The Creepshow at their most commercial and the raw tale of isolation and heartbreak that is ’13 Stories Down’ sounds like a female-fronted NOFX. Elsewhere you’ll swear you’ve heard the likes of ‘Radio Silence’ and ‘House On Fire’ before. And that my friends, is the knack of a catchy melody put to very good use.

 

There are lots of comparisons that can be made to lots of cool bands when listening to ‘Death In Venice Beach’ and that’s not a bad thing. The Bombpops wear their influences proudly on their sleeves and have their own imitable style and their own way of exorcising their own personal demons with a set of strong, bouncy tunes.

To be honest, you could imagine any of the 12 songs on offer to be featured on MTV, with the band playing next to a swimming pool or a frat house in California, surrounded by teens with nothing more on their mind than pulling the hottest cheerleader and downing a four pack. And while in these troubled times those sort of antics may seem as distant a memory as the 90’s actually are, it’s still the great escape some of us need right now.

Buy ‘Death In Venice Beach’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

Seb Byford (guitar/vocals) and Tom Witts (drums) formed Naked Six while still at school to a backdrop of fog and mist on the North Yorkshire moors. The self-proclaimed grunge/schizoid blues band have been on our rock ‘n’ roll radar for a number of years following gigs with the likes of The Virginmarys and The Temperance Movement. Originally a York based band they recently relocated to Manchester, following the release of their debut EP ‘No Compromise’. They then roped in Tom’s cousin Callum to play bass, and now the three piece band are ready to take on the world with their debut album ‘Lost Art Of Conversation’.

They may be a long way from Seattle and a generation after the Grunge movement, but that same feeling of isolation, working class struggle and small town angst is omnipresent in their sound and high energy live performance.

 

Naked Six specialise in 2 chord/2 minute blasts of high energy angst, delivered with the passion of newbies who have something to prove and yet the confidence of seasoned pros. A top notch production job courtesy of Thomas Mitchener (Gallows/Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes ) only helps to capture their live energy. Urgent beats, buzzsaw guitars and vocals are spat with the aggro nonchalance of young punks who have something to say. And yeah, Naked Six do have something to say, lyrically they touch on highly topical subjects; our reliance on social media and mental health for starters.

The likes of ‘Song Of The City’, ‘Split’ and ‘Sticky Gum’ are their bread and butter. Coming on like The Vines meets The Virginmarys, this is the sound of a Naked Six gig captured on wax for all to experience. Elsewhere, if you had told me ‘Poison Apple’ was a lost Nirvana outtake, I would’ve tipped my hat in agreement. From the erratic spiky guitars to the spooky Cobain/Grohl style vocal harmonies, its quality stuff.

They take things down for a more 90s art rock, tripped-out vibe with ‘The Change’. Offbeat drums and effect-ridden guitars bring to mind the sonic sound of Perry Farrell’s side project Porno For Pyros, as the band take the listener on a trip to another plane.

Bouncy, distorted bass and jagged guitars introduce first single ‘Gimme Something’, a song that confirms the Foo Fighters meets Royal Blood comparisons I have used in the past. A confident and cocksure sound, and one that’s tried and tested.

 

While Naked Six promote a grungy, garage rock sound, there are hints that this band has the potential to be so much more when they think outside the box (or garage in this case!). The album is bookended by a couple of surprise tracks that confirm this for me. Album opener ‘21st Century Brawl’ is an atmospheric art piece, coming on like Jane’s Addiction in their prime, as Seb reels off descriptive lyrics, almost spoken word, over an alt rock backdrop of groovy bass and guitar harmonics. In complete contrast the introspective album closer ‘Outside Looking In’ showcases what this band is truly capable of. As they have proven in the past with ‘Broken Fairytale’, Seb Byford has a knack for penning heartfelt balladry as much as he does angst driven rock. The sentiment is real, as he delivers his most fragile, yet strongest vocal of the album over understated piano chords and atmospheric saxophone breaks. A winning combination that only helps accentuate the overall emotion of the song.

 

With lyrics that deal in social commentary, questioning our attachment to our screens, our actions and motives, and music that harks back to a time when the alternative was mainstream, edgy and downright essential, Naked Six seem to be on to a winner. ‘Lost Art Of Conversation’ is a modern rock record that is exciting, authentic and comes at the perfect time.

Times they are a changing, and while this album was of course written pre-lockdown, I can’t help but think the lost art of conversation is something a great deal of us are re-learning right now due to isolation and social media being our only form of communication.

“This is the dawn of a new age…” announces the singer in the title track. I wonder, did Seb Byford know how true those words would ring just a few months later?

Buy ‘Lost Art Of Conversation’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture the scene; You’re the guitar player in a cool punk n roll band with a member of The Wildhearts, you release a well-received mini-album, a couple of singles, do a bunch of great support gigs with cool bands, even some great headline shows of your own. Things are looking up. Then The Wildhearts reform, your singer/bass player goes back to said band (quite rightly) to take on the world and record one of the greatest rock albums of the last decade, leaving your little band in hiatus. The drummer and guitar player form a cool as fuck pop-punk band called The Spangles and you’re left twiddling your bleedin’ thumbs until they’ve got it all out of their system.

Well, we may not have The Main Grains anymore, but that loveable rogue JJ Watt is back from the ashes with a new band and he’s only gone and roped in the likes of Kory Clarke and Tracii Guns to guest on his new project The City Kids (no, not the long gone, Cardiff based glam legends, how many times do I have to tell ya?!)

 

Joining JJ are guitarist Dennis Post (Warrior Soul/Flush The Fashion), Berty Burton (Tigertailz) and Dave Sanders (Falling Red). The City Kids follow the recent single release ‘Best Of You’ with their debut album ‘Things That Never Were’. Self-produced and mastered by the legend that is Dave Draper, ‘Things That Never Were’ is a collection of songs and ideas penned by the guitar player when he was still in The Main Grains. In fact, the overly catchy ‘You Get Nothing’ was a live favourite in their set.

You could say The City Kids sound is no real departure from JJ’s previous band. If anything the sound is rawer, the vocals dirtier, but the melody is still prevalent throughout. This is gritty rock ‘n’ roll with a sound that sits somewhere between Social Distortion and The Yo-Yos.

‘Best Of You’ opens the album in style with a Ramones style “one-two-free-four” count in and a blistering guitar lick. Dirty biker rock is the order of the day, JJ’s vocals as gritty as the guitars are dirty. Fat, ringing power chords fill the verse as it powers to an anthemic and upbeat chorus. A sonic guitar solo that would make Dregen proud and a Wildhearts styled mid-song breakdown gives you a hint where these guys are coming from and where the rest of the album will be taking us.

 

It’s no surprise the aforementioned ‘You Get Nothing’ was a Main Grains live staple. That chorus refrain is a banger, and hearing a recorded version finally does it justice. At 2 minutes 30 seconds, it’s over in a flash leaving the listener crying out for more.

And much more they give us. Mid-paced rockers such as ‘Before You Fall’ and ‘All I Want’ are all well and good, the latter taken to another level with some blistering fretwork courtesy of LA Guns guitar slinger Tracii Guns. Elsewhere, ‘No More Heroes’ is a catchy, radio-friendly slice of power pop with a punky edge, think The Replacements meets Social Distortion for reference here.

There are a couple of true standout tracks. ‘Rats’ is a killer, trashy ride featuring Billy Tee and Alex Holmes from The Suicide Notes. Their delivery adds a certain sleaziness that gives an edgy, Faster Pussycat meets Backyard Babies feel. The guitars are slung around the knees, the gang vocals spat with venom. This one is a whole lotta fun, as is album closer ‘Round And (A) Round’. A song that was co-written with Warrior Soul legend Kory Clarke and features the man himself sharing lead vocals with JJ, along with those The Suicide Notes dudes, yet again adding gang vocal goodness for the chorus. This is a killer, no-frills anthem. Upbeat, punk and belligerent just as you would expect. Kory’s unmistakable raspy vocals are on fine form and it pretty much sums up the whole feel of the album.

 

If you like your music, loud, proud and raw as fuck, if you like your rock with some dirt under the fingernails and extra power under the hood, then you could do no better than check out this new long-player from The City Kids.

The limited-edition 2 CD version of ‘Things That Never Were’ sold out in just 5 hours, but you can pre-order the extremely unlimited standard CD from the link below right now.

Buy ‘The Things That Never Were’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wealth of artists on the ever-growing roster of Chicago based label Bloodshot Records is something to behold. Over the past 25 years, they have been championing American roots music, the sort of bands that maintain a DIY punk ethic, whether they be country, soul or garage rock based. The likes of Banditos, The Yawpers, Barrence Whitfield And The Savages, as well as Laura Jane Grace and Sarah Shook, have all graced our pages. And their latest release is the debut album from a 6 piece bunch of shaggy haired 20-somethings that wear matching boiler suits and go by the name of Rookie.

 

Rookie are a 6 piece band who formed in 2017 from the ashes of local acts such as Joe Bordenaro And The Late Bloomers and the fantastically titled Yoko And The Oh Nos. They emerged from a grassroots, Midwestern DIY scene, seemingly out of time with their retro ‘cosmic’ country-styled rock ‘n’ roll music. With three guitar player in their ranks and a drummer (Joe Bordenaro) who shares lead vocals with guitarist Max Loebman, they evoke a classic period of American rock ‘n’ roll, seemingly untainted by modern technology or social media.

Opener ‘Hold On Tight’ evokes 70’s rock radio from the opening chords and high registered hollering. Simple rifforama and blistering lead guitar solos give a high energy introduction to a band that seems far more clued in than their years suggest.

The lazy, hazy groove of ‘I Can’t Have You, But I Want You’ is prime Americana as much as Neil Young or The Allman Brothers in their prime. Sweet, full vocal harmonies flow through the chorus as slide guitar takes precedence. Likewise, closing track ‘E Jam’ is an excuse for the guitarists to shine and break out the extended solos like no one’s watching.

One thing’s for sure, Rookie go a long way to remind music fans about the glory of the guitar solo. And I don’t mean the widdly, over-played 80’s rock solo, I mean back when men were men and rock music did just what it said on the tin!

Rookie are the perfect soundtrack to any highway cruise. Just roll the top down, turn the radio up and light the doobie in your hand. Take ‘Fake Grass’ for example. It has an instantly satisfying melody you will swear you know already. A tinkling of the ivories and some gently weeping guitars give an Exile-era Stones feel. A sense of yearning is accomplished by the time they reach the first chorus and all your woes will be forgotten (at least until it finishes). Classic Americana with a Southern rock twist; they come on like The Band meets Skynyrd on a dusty highway, which surely ain’t a bad place to be. Glorious.

They veer into indie pop territory momentarily too. Recent single ‘Sunglasses’ flows along like a summer breeze, without a care in the world. With clean guitar tones and sweet  acoustics, it has quirky, hippie-fied feel, reminding this reviewer of BMX Bandits or even The Thrills. Instrumental ‘Introduction II’ comes on like a lost 70’s Aerosmith studio jam, with solos aplenty, before the band segues into ‘One Way Ticket’, a tune choc-a-bloc with Hammond and finger-picked guitar.

 

Seemingly untainted by the last 40 years of music, Rookie are a band rooted in the past. There are no Grunge, R&B or rap influences here. They don’t deal in Nu Metal, Ska or even punk rock. Hell no, I wager Rookie don’t even own iPhones! They play no frills rock ‘n’ roll from a different time, hats off to em, I’ll raise a glass to that!

Channeling the pop sensibilities of Cheap Trick, the riffage of Thin Lizzy and laid back, west coast Americana vibes, Rookie have succeeded in delivering a debut album steeped in 70’s rock nostalgia, yet still sounding remarkably fresh.

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

Affectionately referred to as the ‘Baby Wildhearts’ back in the day, Scottish rockers Baby Chaos disappeared off the radar after 2 critically acclaimed albums and high profile tours with the likes of The Wildhearts and Terrorvision. Even re-inventing themselves before the turn of the century with a different line up as Deckard was a short-lived move, and we assumed Chris Gordon and his cohorts were assigned to rock ‘n’ roll history with all the other coulda-shoulda-woulda beens.

Luckily, a certain Ginger Wildheart persuaded then to reform for a few support gigs, which led to inspiration, new musical ideas and a re-emergence for one of Brit Rocks brightest hopes. In 2015 the band finally released their third album, the ambitiously titled ‘Skulls, Skulls, Skulls, Show Me The Glory’, which was as spectacular as the title suggests.

4 years have passed and they are back with ‘Ape Confronts Cosmos’. A new challenge for the band, now bolstered to a 5 piece with the addition of a third guitar player in Alan Easton. The slate has been wiped clean and Chris Gordon has written an album full of completely new and fresh musical ideas.

 

Once you get past the fact that ‘Ape Confronts Cosmos’ has possibly the worst cover art of the year, if not the millennium, once you pull out that beautiful slab of red vinyl, place it on the turntable and let the needle drop…that’s when the magic takes you. You see Baby Chaos are one of those bands that have the ability to take you on a journey. They are an album band, and by that I mean this album needs to be listened to as one piece of music to get the full, desired experience.

Words such as ‘epic’ and ‘grandiose’ are thrown about nonchalantly in reviews, but when it comes to Baby Chaos, they truly are justified. There are gargantuan walls off riffage, cascading harmonies and melodies to die for at every turn and in every song. Muse comparisons are rife, especially in the likes of ‘You Won, You Won’ and ‘Run Towards The Roar’, but don’t be scared! Yeah, Chris Gordon’s vocal style is not dissimilar to Matt Bellamy, but the triple guitar attack and clever song dynamics easily outsmart the Teignmouth trio in my opinion.

With a stabbing rhythm and an almost PIL style vocal delivery, ‘Out Of The Blue’ opens the album with a post punk influenced statement of intent. It leads into a euphoric, other-worldly chorus, then out again quick as a flash. The top notch production job courtesy of main man Chris Gordon just helps to accentuate the  3 way  jagged guitar interplay, and it sounds quite frankly …massive!

Regimental riffage a-la The Wildhearts, layered Queen-like harmonies and urgent, precision drumming make the likes of ‘Mouse. Lion. Mouse.’, and the aforementioned ‘You Won, You Won’ and ‘Run Towards The Roar’ utterly essential listening in 2020 and we have only digested side one!

 

The picked acoustics of ‘I Belong In Battle’ give a respite from the hard rock assault, but its short lived. You see, Baby Chaos have a penchant for delivering a relentless refrain of guitars that just keeps on coming and they create soundscapes that put them right up with the best in their genre.

Side 2 opener ‘Orphans On The Moon’ has a grandiose, alt rock feel. Like The Smashing Pumpkins meets Thirty Seconds To Mars, it eyes up the stadiums of the world for recognition. They even come across like Sparks on ‘A Quiet Jubilation’ with one finger keyboard notes, as an underlying vocal melody weaves beneath the main operatic gang vocal. That then segues into the massive sounding ‘Everything I Counted On Has Been Proved Wrong’. A killer, power pop hook that’s up there with the likes of Silver Sun and guitars that crunch as heavy as Metallica, what more could any discerning rocker desire?

It’s not all an assault on the senses though; Chris Gordon is a diverse and creative songwriter. Just lay back, close your eyes and drift away to the dreamy, acoustic lullaby ‘The White Witch’. A tripped out ride to take the listener to another plane in these troubled times.

Elsewhere, the closing ‘Cut Through The Ocean’ sounds live in the studio and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a one take recording, just the main man and a lone acoustic guitar laid bare, heart on sleeve for the world to see. It comes across like a reprise, the singing delivered in almost a whisper, with just haunting backing harmonies to accompany the frontman.

 

Baby Chaos return with an album that continues where ‘Skulls Skullls Skulls, Show Me The Glory’ left off. Chris Gordon’s trademark anthemic, guitar-driven noise has a tendency to go off on a tangent to itself and that is what keeps it interesting and sets Baby Chaos apart from the majority of their contemporaries. A wild and expansive sound is created by a band led by a songwriter up there with the best of his generation. Baby Chaos are my Radiohead and my Pink Floyd all rolled up into one gloriously heavy package.

The fact that ‘Ape Versus Cosmos’ will go largely unnoticed by the mass music buying public is a crying shame. I urge you to not let this happen to you. An early contender for album of the year makes ‘Ape Confronts Chaos’ an essential purchase.

Buy  ‘Ape Confronts Cosmos’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes