There was one album in particular that got me through the first Covid lockdown here in the UK, and that was ‘Graveyard Island’ the superb third album from Isle of Wight punk rocking skinheads Grade 2. Released at the tail end of 2019, it was a record that had initially passed me by, but once I discovered it (via a good friend who also resides on Graveyard Island) it was like a true beacon of punk rock hope shining through those darkest of days.

Fast forward to Rebellion 2022 and playing to a packed Pavilion audience Grade 2 then went and delivered one of the performances of the weekend, giving us an immediate sneak peak of the new album they already had up their sleeves (more of which in a second) to help kickstart a blistering set of older tunes that instantly had the audience in singalong punk rock heaven. They then turn up on the “hush hush” Pirates Press released Cock Sparrer tribute album, that snook out around Christmas time, and here the lads managed to take a Sparrer deep cut and truly make it sound like one of their own, which is no mean feat I’m sure you’ll agree. Reviewing that album for RPM (something you can read here)  I declared that 2023 really could be Grade 2’s year, so with their fourth album now cued up on my system and ready to play, what would the next 35 minutes have in store for me, and would the album actually live up to my high expectations?

Just like during their aforementioned Rebellion slot ‘Judgement Day’ gets things off and running in fast and furious style, the bass of Sid Ryan rattling the speakers with its punchy bottom end and drummer Jacob Hull attacks his kit like the IOW’s very own Joey Castillo whilst it’s the almost Dick Dale like guitar work of Jack Chatfield that truly propels this 1 minute 32 second ball of sonic fury, and before you know it we’re into one of the album’s (many) highlights, the cowbell (yup punk rockers use cowbells too) tonking beauty that is ‘Fast Pace’. It’s on tunes like this where Grade 2 really stand out from the punk rock pack, ditching the speed for a more intense melody packed approach, in many ways they remind me of Newport’s very own 60 Foot Dolls. This is music meant to be danced to, and there’s even a Hammond organ solo that crops up mid song to seal the deal. Fantastic stuff!

Up next, ‘Under The Streetlight’ takes us back to ‘Murder Town’ complete with a doff of a cap to the band’s label masters Rancid, whilst ‘Doesn’t Matter Much Now’ is another bootboy terrace anthem in the making, very much like latter day Argy Bargy. Then there’s the early days Jam anger of ‘Midnight Ferry’ which switches the perils of missing the last tube home for the last boat home, and oh the delights of living on an island eh!  I must give a special mention here to the band’s ear for a melody, as this tune could very easily have been a contender back in the days when singles sold, instead of TikTok views, actually lead to artists becoming household names.

Having been one of the lead videos from the album ‘Brassic’ is the song that initially got me truly excited about this record, its jagged riff and instantly memorable chorus (complete with female backing vocals) knocking the tune well and truly out the park.

As the album reaches its midway point the tracks that fall either side, the Matt Freeman like 58 second blast of ‘Gaslight’ and the anthemic ‘Don’t Stand Alone’ complete with its (once again) glorious backing vocals, really are the perfect example of the two sides of the Grade 2 songwriting coin, and it’s at this almost perfect point I’m going to dip out and let you discover the rest of the album for yourselves, because you really do have to hear it.

I said it at the top of the review that I thought 2023 could very well be Grade 2’s year, and with a proper multi-date UK tour kicking off in just a few weeks’ time, along with dates with Rancid and The Bronx (now that is a one hell of line up) later in the year, it very well could be, it just needs you to get off your arses, buy those gig tickets and most importantly snap up copies of this 15-track Grade-A punk rock record. It’ll never be off your turntable, or out your CD player (you might even be constantly streaming this) come its February 17th release date.

What the hell are you waiting for?

Hit the links below to make it all happen!!!!

Buy Here

Author: Johnny Hayward