Here at RPM we pride ourselves on our diversity, like to think we cover a wide range of artists and we strive to step out of our comfort zone at every opportunity. So, taking a 2-hour car journey and seemingly stepping back in time a good 100 years or so, I head to The Toon for one of only five (mostly sold out) UK shows from Nashville’s best kept secret Sierra Ferrell.

Born and bred in West Virginia, Sierra Ferrell grew up on a diet of punk and grunge. She started busking in her 20’s and adopted a nomadic lifestyle, where she discovered a love for bluegrass and swing music, adopting her style to suit. She settled in Nashville and signed a 3 album deal with Rounder Records, releasing her debut album ‘Long Time Coming’ in 2021. Some say it’s her solo performances, preceding the album release and uploaded to YouTube, where this girl truly shines.

Sierra Ferrell has a voice that sounds like it should be on old, crackly vinyl, and in a live environment, as on record, she has the ability to transport the listener back to another time.

This is Sierra’s first visit to the UK and many of these long postponed European dates are sold out, so it’s no real surprise that there is an air of anticipation and excitement leading up to the performance. Its already hot in The Cluny as Sierra plucks the opening chords to ‘In Dreams’ and walks on to whoops and hollerin’ from the packed-out crowd. Wearing a red, flowery dress, matching cowboy boots and her hair up in rollers, she certainly looks old school country, yet it’s the septum ring, tattoos and ultimately the quality tunes that sets her apart from the usual Nashville country artists that come our way.

Flanked by Oliver Bates Craven on mandolin and fiddle, and upright bassist Geoff Saunders, the diminutive singer takes us back to another place, another time with her ageless, gypsy jazz and folky laments that incorporate as much calypso and Latin influences as they do country.

For an artist who has just one album, she seems to have a cult following in the UK. Looking around me the demographic is similar to an Alabama 3/Primal Scream sort of crowd, a mix of gig-hardened 50 somethings, alternative students and die-hard roots music lovers. A Glasto sort of crowd, a festival which funnily enough is happening as we stand here. How is she over here this weekend and not playing? She would be perfect at Glastonbury. Maybe next year.

A lot of people know all the words tonight and it’s a very vocal and upbeat crowd. There’s a lot of chat, a lot of foot-stomping and a whole lotta singing. Yet, a song like ‘Whispering Waltz’ stops everyone in their tracks and you could hear a pin drop while we are mesmerised by the near perfect rendition. Sierra transports the listener to the mountains of Virginia with mournful, rustic accompaniment and a stunning mandolin solo (not a phrase I ever thought I would say!).

They pretty much play the whole album, past singles and a few covers. Highlights for me would be the gypsy jazz of ‘The Sea’, the countrified ‘Bells Of Every Chapel’ and the heartfelt balladry of ‘West Virginia Waltz’ that was simply outstanding.

There was also a new song which will be on her next album called ‘Fox Hunt’. It featured Oliver and Sierra both on fiddle and had a foot-stomping, folk driven intensity that brought to mind The Levellers at their finest. This I liked a lot, instantly gratifying and judging by the whoopin’ and hollerin’ from the crowd, I was not the only one. A song that promises good things for album number two.

Between songs, Sierra sinks a large wine glass of something pink and makes use of the strategically placed fan to cool down. The main set closes with the finger-pickin’ delights of ‘Jeremiah’, one of those YouTube wonders that has the crowd singing along.

No drums, no electric guitars, just simple, honest songs played by 3 players on stringed, acoustic instruments and a voice that is effortless in its perfection.

They sure missed a trick not having any vinyl on sale tonight, as you can’t find the album for love or money over here, but the t shirts were cool, so that was a bonus.

As we always say at RPM, we strive to bring you the cool artists from the underground, the ones on the way up, the ones who bring something a bit different and edgy to the table. Sierra has something, from the first video I watched and the ensuing YouTube rabbit hole I went down. It was well worth a 2-hour trip and I will do it again when she returns. She will return, she expressed a wish to live here from the stage tonight. When she does come back, I highly recommend you check her out. In the meantime, has anyone got her record for sale please?

Author: Ben Hughes

Sounding like the best night out on the wrong side of town, Dalston’s finest and dandiest vagabonds The Urban Voodoo Machine return with their long awaited and much delayed fifth long player ‘$nake Oi£ Engin€’.

Led by the vivacious Mr. Paul-Ronney Angel, the black n’ red wearing collective have been wowing audiences for well over 15 years with their self-proclaimed “bourbon-soaked gypsy blues bob ‘n’ stroll”. Some say they are the best live band in the country, others say they are just a bunch of drunken ne’er-do-wells. Both could be right, but one thing’s for sure, you cannot ignore them.

Recorded back in early 2020 at Space Eko Studios by The Future Shape Of Sound main man Alex McGowan (who also produced alongside PR and drummer J-Roni-Mo), ‘$nake Oi£ Engin€’ captures the relentless live energy of a band who have been described as The Pogues meets Gogol Bordello playing the last damn party at the end of the universe.

Paul-Ronney Angel writes songs about living in London as an outsider. Relatable issues such as the struggles of addiction, depression, mental health problems and being fuckin’ skint! With a love of The Clash, Tom Waits and AC/DC, these swampy blues jams, New Orleans jazz inspired ditties and mournful murder ballads have been lovingly crafted by the ringleader and his crew over a bevvy or three, and a few smokes along the way.

Four of the eleven songs have been previously released as singles and soundtrack the Covid/Brexit years better than the frontman could ever have imagined. The prophetic ‘Living In Fear’ was written as a dig at the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell disaster, and took on new meaning post-Covid when we actually were living in fear. The Caribbean feel created with the addition of steel drums and brass is upbeat and fresh, and a memorable hook is always going to win me over.

‘Empty Plastic Cup’ is an ode to the rich getting richer and the poor getting fucked! It has ‘Goodbye To Another Year’ vibes, with typical bombastic, UVM backing vocals, a killer sloppy guitar riff and enough brass to kick your ass! It builds and builds to a climactic finish; you just know it’s gonna be a live favourite.

The big band vibes of ‘Johnny Foreigner’ fit the bill and the lyrics hit home even with the raw, tongue-in-cheek vocal delivery. A larger-than-life tune delivered by a larger-than-life band. The reflective ‘January Blues’ is the morning after the night before comedown. Again, with hindsight it could be a prophetic reaction to Covid as the singer drawls “last year you can fuck right off, and this year, I’ve had enough of you” over mournful violin and acoustic guitar.

Of the new songs on offer, opener ‘Little Jimmy & The Wrong Crowd’ is an early favourite. The unmistakable PR vocal drawl is omnipresent, the blasts of brass and primal beats glorious as ever. But the surprise vocal rap is sung by James Brown II and the overall Cuban feel of the track give a new dimension to The Urban Voodoo Machine killer sound.

‘Pill Popping Cross Dressing Copper’ is 2 minutes of musical insanity, another high-energy party song to add to the arsenal. ‘Hell’s Caravan’ is a sombre, death march with regimental drums and killer voodoo backing vocals, ‘Dropping Like Flies’ an ode to lost friends, while the ringleader takes us to church with the gospel-tinged sermon ‘Carry Your Weight’.

There’s enough diversity and familiarity to please fans old and new and something to whet the appetite for those who are yet to capture the band live.

Live, The Urban Voodoo Machine channel gypsy punkabilly rave-ups, mariachi marches, outlaw country and bluesy jams, with a heady dose of burlesque and circus sideshow craziness when available. These are the sights and sounds of The Urban Voodoo Machine, and ‘$nake Oi£ Engin€’ is the perfect soundtrack to the crazy world of the band who just refuse to die.

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Author: Ben Hughes

Taking a break from opening stadiums for My Chemical Romance, L.A. shock rockers Starcrawler take a visit to the sleepy Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge for one of only 2 UK headline shows. The intimate Trades Club is the venue and its not even sold out, probably due to the fact that Aussie punks Amyl & the Sniffers are playing down the road in Leeds, taking away some potential punters.

It is busy though, and from the first howl that Arrow De Wilde yells during opener ‘Goodtime Girl’ and the ensuing goosebumps, I can tell it’s going to be a killer show. I knew Starcrawler were going to be good, but not this good. With just white satin trousers and a bikini top covering her sleight frame, Arrow struts the stage pulling all the cool rock star moves, she screams like a banshee and you can’t take your eyes off her. With a dark stage and good backlighting, she looks almost ethereal with her long blonde hair, teased higher and better than any 80’s glam band you care to mention. Imagine Patti Smith meets Michael Monroe and you’re getting close.

Live, Starcrawler are definitely the Arrow & Henri show. The livewire guitar player does not stand still and spends the majority of the one-hour set wringing seven shades of shit out of his guitar. He wrestles with the instrument like it is a weapon, like he is fighting for every note, when in reality that is far from the truth.

It doesn’t all run smoothly though. At one point he loses his guitar strap mid-song, causing a Stevie Ray Vaughn style strap change, while not dropping a note[or the guitar], very slick. The guitar player halts the show during a storming version of the Ramones ‘Pet Semetary’, when he thinks he spots some aggro in the animated and rowdy crowd. Turns out to be a false alarm and the onstage chaos and disorder resumes.

New single ‘Roadkill’ sounds fantastic, ‘I Love LA’ is a given and the country-tinged Jackass theme ‘If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough’ transcends into punk rock chaos of the highest degree, the crowd lap it up.

The Pretenders-like single ‘No More Pennies’ is a cool respite from the Stooges-like raw, punk power that has the crowd excited, but material like closer ‘Beat My Brain’, with its sonically overdriven guitar lick is where this band truly shine.

Encore ‘Chicken Woman’ is a filthy wall of Sabbath-inspired grunge that culminates with the singer jumping into the crowd for a pogo before disappearing for good. Meanwhile, her guitar-wielding cohort has coaxed a female fan onto the stage and strapped his guitar on to the bewildered girl, leaving her to strum out unknown chords to a wall of feedback, as the guitarist casually walks offstage for the final time. A brilliant climax to a short but sweet set.

Starcrawler have been wowing the My Chemical Romance fans and it is easy to see why. They have the looks, the energy and the stagecraft. They also have some bloody good tunes under their studded belts. I’d heard they were good live, but I must say I was more than impressed tonight. With 2 great albums already, an imminent 3 and a formidable live reputation, the future looks great for Starcrawler. They may not play such intimate venues on their next visit, but you must see them.

Author: Ben Hughes

Starcrawler Facebook

Look at that cover art, now there’s a dude who understands the fine art of being a rock star! Raised in the woods of West Virginia on a diet of 60’s & 70’s rock and a whole host of world music, you could say Gyasi (pronounced Jah-See) had an isolated upbringing. But his time with just his parents record collection and Charlie Chaplin/Buster Keaton movies was all the inspiration he would need to create a theatrical, rock n’ roll persona.

After joining his first band at 15, Gyasi eventually relocated to Nashville to search for the rock n’ roll dream. Now it seems, the newest dandy from the underground is vying to claim the crown of the long-gone rock stars and the bands that are well past their prime.

‘Pronounced Jah-See’ is the first long player on vinyl for this artist. This album collects a bunch of previous singles and new material together on glorious purple wax (other inferior formats are available) and it just begs to be placed on a turntable, the needle to be dropped and the volume to be cranked!

From the opening falsetto vocals and fuzzy guitars of ‘Burn It Down’ to the epic closer ‘Godhead’, Gyasi takes the listener on a pre-digital age tour-de-force of retro rock n’ roll. While the aforementioned opener comes on like Foxy Shazam meets The Darkness, and surely gets my attention, the sublime power pop makes way for the swampy, blues stomp of ‘Tongue Tied’. With a killer guitar harmonizer and some harmonica, it walks the same muddy, southern blues paths that the likes of The Back Keys and The White Stripes have frequented.

You can’t review this album without mentioning the Bowie/Bolan influences, and it doesn’t stop at Gyasi’s fashion sense either. (Yes, Gyasi could be the only man to pull off leopard skin flares and red stack-heeled boots in 2022). ‘Androgyne’ is Ziggy Stardust with countrified slide guitar and well-placed handclaps. ‘Fast Love’ channels T-Rextasy to the max, and ‘Kiss Kiss’ adds some New York Dolls swagger to the mix with honkytonk keys, sexy sax and Johnny Thunders guitar licks. Every song is a banger, hands down, and there’s enough diversity to keep the interest, even for the modern playlist generation.

The thing is that Gyasi is wearing his influences just as well as he wears his threads, man! But he also throws in modern day twists and turns to keep it contemporary. There are hints of Brit Pop going on and he always manages to create killer hooks and choruses that will stick like glue. Take ‘Feed Your Face’, it’s everything glam rock wannabees for the last 40 years have failed to master. Take a pilfered Bowie riff, add a killer chorus and a bunch of handclaps and bobs your uncle, you’ve got a potential hit single!

Then, just when the naysayers will have him nailed as a Bowie rip off artist, he goes and takes the listener on a sentimental trip to Haight-Ashbury. ‘Walk On’ is as Summer Of Love as you can get without putting on a Mamas and The Papas record. A live feel is created with its acoustic intro, it reeks of the San Francisco sun, reefer and doe-eyed hippy chicks with flowers in their hair. Or is it just a Kula Shaker song? I don’t care, all I know is, that it’s the coolest trip my ears have heard in ages and I love it!

Elsewhere, the acoustic ‘Little Tramp’ delivers Led Zep 3 vibes and was probably written around a campfire in the company of faeries, wolves and other such mystical beings. I think I even heard a flute on it! And then to round things off he somehow manages to channel the influences of both Pink Floyd and The Beatles in the epic ‘Godhead’.

Gyasi takes the rock n’ roll swagger of Zeppelin, the bad boy boogie of T Rex and combines the theatre of Queen & David Bowie with the campness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, all rounded off with catchy hooks and killer choruses that are all of his own making.

While you may argue there is nothing original in rock n’ roll these days, I feel that this album is the most exciting and complete record I have heard this year, hands down. But ‘Pronounced Jah-See’ is more than just a throwback to rock n’ roll’s golden years, it’s a statement of intent that Gyasi is here to take on the world and be the poster boy for the next generation, and that’s just the attitude we want from our rock stars, isn’t it? Music lovers, you ask where the future festival headliners are…I present you Gyasi, give him your stages!

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Author: Ben Hughes

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The line-up history of Chicago Power Pop legends Enuff Z’Nuff is a complicated thing to follow. In a nutshell; After 15 years and 10 albums singer leaves band – guitarist (not original guitarist) becomes singer. Guitarist quits band – singer rejoins. Singer quits again – guitarist becomes singer again and subsequently quits…bassist and founding member becomes singer. In-between all this, add the usual band antics including drug addiction/stints in rehab, lawsuits, being shafted by record label/band members, and the tragic deaths of 2 band members. Are you still following?

Fair play, Chip Z’Nuff  is still holding the Enuff Z’Nuff flag flying high in 2022 and if he looks a bit disheveled in his trippy, hippy attire then, he has good reason to be. Not only is his third studio album as lead singer of Enuff Z’Nuff to be released later this year, he precedes that with this, his second solo album entitled ‘Perfectly Imperfect’.

You could be forgiven for being skeptical when Chip took over lead vocal duties from the estranged Donnie Vie. Yeah, the harmony vocals of Chip & Donnie were sublime, but could the bassist possibly pull it off without his longtime songwriting partner? Well, with 3 EZN albums under his diamond studded belt as lead singer and his second solo album on the shelves, it seems the rose-tinted bespectacled Chip is doing just fine on his own.

Of course, the ghost of his former singer is never far from any EZN related release and this album is no different. The first single ‘Heaven In A Bottle’ is an old Chip & Donnie tune that harks back to the early years of the band and has been doing the rounds in demo form for eons. It’s a typical, mid-paced ode to Cheap Trick, the sort of tune they could knock out in their sleep back in the day. Chip’s trippy, laid-back tones are more subdued compared to Donnie’s Lennon-like rasp, and that feel sets the pace for the whole album.

It’s impossible to review this album and not make comparisons to his past songwriting partner. And Chip doesn’t really help matters on ‘Doctor’ by pilfering the main hook from Donnie’s ‘Light Shine On’ from his 2014 release ‘The White Album’. But that said, the duo co-wrote so many tunes the original idea could be from either of them, I guess.

His reworking of ‘My Heroin’ (cunningly re-titled as ‘Heroin’ here) from EZN’s 1995 album ‘Tweaked’ is quite frankly the highlight of the album. I was skeptical on first listen, as its one of my favourite EZN tunes, but fair play, he somehow improves on it. The original was a bare bones recording, a masterpiece of the acoustic slide, harmonica and gut-wrenching sadness, an ode to the pitfalls of addiction. I didn’t think a full band version would improve it, but somehow, with just the addition of bass and drum tracks, it does.

Of the originals on offer, album opener ‘Welcome To The Party’ brings to mind ‘We’re Alright’ (again from ‘Tweaked’) and is a fine listen. It chugs along on the cool hook, again coming on like a long-lost Cheap Trick poptastic dittie that would not sound out of place on ‘Live at Budokan’. ‘I Still Hail Ya’ has a quirky vibe, it’s full of dreamy pop melodies and euphoric vocalisin’. And I’m still not sure if ‘3 Way’ is a driving song or a euphemism for kinky sex, but it’s one of the more upbeat Power Pop ditties on offer and I like it.

Still dressing like a late 60’s Carnaby Street reject at 53 years old, Chip Z’Nuff is flying high again with a selection of old melodies, reimaginings and new ideas.  But listening to ‘Perfectly Imperfect’, I’m left wondering why this album is released under the ‘solo’ moniker? It is no real departure from the signature Chip sound, but it is a departure from the Enuff Z’Nuff signature sound, as are the last 3 albums without his songwriting partner.

If you are an Enuff Z’Nuff fan you will love it I’m sure, but at just 9 songs, it speaks volumes to me that the strongest offerings are the last two on the album; the aforementioned ‘Heroin’, a song Chip wrote a lifetime ago, and a 48-year-old Mott The Hoople song called ‘Honaloochie Boogie’. Maybe it’s just a stop gap to keep the fanbase happy, or one of those ‘contractual obligation’ albums, but as the title suggests, this solo album feels a bit cobbled together, out of time and out of place. But you know what, I do quite like it.

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Author: Ben Hughes

2 years on from their covers opus ‘Cocaine And Other Good Stuff’, Warrior Soul return with a brand new album, the title inspired by their enigmatic singer’s past stint in the slammer.

The fact that Kory Clarke has been in trouble with the law may come as no surprise. The mouthpiece of Warrior Soul has been spitting bile for well over 30 years. A band well ahead of their time, Warrior Soul shoulda took the world by storm back in the early 90’s with their politically-charged diatribes and apocalyptical forewarnings, but sadly the world wasn’t ready for Kory’s metallic-tinged rage.

Band members have come and gone; some have sadly shifted off this mortal coil (RIP bassist Pete McClanahan) but the warrior remains…punk and belligerent to the end.

‘Out On Bail’ is a collection of 8 songs that has a running time of around 30 minutes. It has been self-produced by Kory and features a host of players in the ever-changing Warrior Soul lineup that currently includes Dennis Post on guitar and Christian Kimmett on bass. No less than 3 guitar players and a matching number of drummers (Kory even plays drums on one track) lend their talents to an album that was recorded during various lockdowns.

An atmospheric intro piece sets the cinematic vibe, before blasting into topical opener ‘We’re Alive’, a song that builds on urgent beats and that unmistakable 40-a-day gritty vocal that has certainly weathered over the years. The no-frills production suits the raw, punked-up vibe and this opener is a statement of intent for one of New York’s most outspoken sons.

‘One More For The Road’ recalls the Warrior Soul of old in both style and delivery. Road stories and past glories are all wrapped up in dirty riffage and crashing drums. It’s a hypnotic cacophony of new age noise, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we?

3 tracks in and ‘Hip Hip Hurray’ again takes us back to the early 90’s alt-metal sounds. A politically-themed diatribe set to crashing primal beats, sonically seductive guitars, and a trademark, anthemic Kory chorus that will remind you just how satisfying it can be to fist-punch the air along to a song! Somewhat ironically, the title track is an 80’s rock throwback. Featuring a familiar-sounding riff straight from the sunset strip, and an instantly addictive hook, it’s a song you can’t help but like. It has a ‘live in the studio’ feel and an AC/DC style finale that sits well.

Closer ‘The New Paradigm’ is Kory at his finest doing something a little bit leftfield. It builds on a stark yet hypnotic bass riff, Kory’s poetic lyric, and a guitar riff reminiscent of prime Jane’s Addiction. An atmospheric, alt-rock feel permeates throughout as the instrumentation ebbs and flows nicely, Kory’s sandpaper vocals leading us into the new world.

So, it’s pretty much business as usual for Warrior Soul in 2022. ‘Out On Bail’ is a solid, no-frills punk n’ roll album, just as you would expect it to be. A short, sharp shock to the system that is as raw, messy, and undiluted as its frontman. And while there is nothing here as exciting as my personal favourite ‘Space Age Playboys’ era of the band, it’s a satisfying listen from an artist who has weathered the storm, come out the other end fighting, and still has something to say.

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Author: Ben Hughes

10. Steve Conte – ‘Bronx Cheer (Wicked Cool Records)

09. David Ryder Prangley – ‘Vampire Deluxe’ (Serena Records)

09. Captain Future – ‘Ghostman’ (Gypsy Hotel Records)

07. Sonny Vincent – ‘Snake Pit Therapy’ (Svart Records)

07. Rich Ragany & The Digressions – ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ (Story Highway Records)

05. Jesse Malin – ‘Sad And Beautiful World’ (Wicked Cool Records)

04. Alice Cooper – ‘Detroit Stories’ (earMUSIC)

03. Bronx – ‘Bronx VI’ (Cooking Vinyl Records)

02. The Wildhearts – ’21st Century Love Songs’ (Graphite)

The RPM Online Writers Album Of 2021

01. Sami Yaffa – ‘The Innermost Journey to Your Outermost Mind’ (Livewire)

RPM ONLINE ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2021

Who voted for what.

Gaz Tidey

The Bronx – ‘The Bronx’ (Cooking Vinyl/White Drugs)

Sami Yaffa – ‘The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’
(Livewire/Cargo Records)

Alice Cooper – ‘Detroit Stories’ (earMUSIC)

The Wildhearts – ‘21st Century Love Songs’ (Graphite Records)

Duran Duran – ‘Future Past’ (BMG)

Royal Blood – ‘Typhoons’ (Warner Records)

Rob Zombie – ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’
(Nuclear Blast)

Death By Unga Bunga – ‘Heavy Male Insecurity’ (Jansen Records)

Ricky Warwick – ‘When Life Was Hard And Fast’ (Nuclear Blast)

Weezer – ‘Van Weezer’ (Atlantic)

 

 Gareth ‘Hotshot’ Hooper

The wildhearts – ’21st century love songs’ (Graphite Records)

Crashdiet – ‘Rust’ (Frontiers)

Ricky warwick – ‘when life was hard and fast’

Elvis Presley – ‘Elvis Back In Nashville’

Sixx am – ‘Hits’

Alice Cooper – ‘Detroit Stories’ (earMUSIC)

Cheap Trick – ‘In Another World’

L.A. Guns – ‘Checkered Past’

Motley Crue – ’40 year Anniversary Remasters’

Ginger Wildheart – ‘Love In The Time Of Cholera’

David Ryder Prangly – ‘Vampire Deluxe’ 

 

Martin Chamarette –

David Ryder Prangley – ‘Vampire Deluxe’

Luke Haines ‘Setting The Dogs On The Post-Punk Postman’

Mad Daddy – ‘self titled’

Radio Days – ‘Rave On’

The Speedways – ‘Borrowed And Blue’

Mad Rollers – ‘Get Mad’

Dan Sartain – ‘Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise!’

The Scaramanga Six – ‘Worthless Music’

Sami Yaffa – ‘The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’

CUIR – ‘L’album’

 

Fraser Deathtraps

Bronx – IV

The Wildhearts – ‘Twenty First Century Love Songs’

The Drippers – ‘Scandinavian Thunder’

Alice Cooper – ‘Detroit Stories’ (earMUSIC)

Bitch Queens – ‘Custom Dystopia’ (Lux Noise Records)

Chuck Norris Experiment – ‘This Will Leave A Mark’

Mike McKinnon – ‘Silent Like A Bomb’

The Boatsmen – ‘Verses The Boatsmen’

Governess – ‘Never Going Home’

Dead Furies – ‘Midnight Ramble’

 

Johnny Hayward –

Sami Yaffa – ‘The Innermost Journey to Your Outermost Mind’

The Bronx – ‘VI’

Rich Ragany & The Digressions – ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’

Mike McKinnon – ‘Silent Like A Bomb’

Gary Numan – ‘Intruder’

Nestor – ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’

Table Scraps – ‘Coffin Face’

Green Lung – ‘Black Harvest’

Watts – ‘Shady Rock & Rollers’

Chuck Norris Experiment – ‘This Will Leave A Mark’

Also recommended

Razorbats – ‘Mainline Rock N Roll’, Wonk Unit – ‘Uncle Daddy’, Black Spiders – ‘Black Spiders’, The Limit – ‘Caveman Logic’,  Alice Cooper – ‘Detroit Stories’, Death By Unga Bunga – ‘Heavy Male Insecurity’, Bitch Queens – ‘Custom Dystopia’, The Chisel – ‘Retaliation’, Roger Taylor – ‘The Outsider’, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – ‘Raise The Roof’

Ben Hughes

Vintage Trouble – ‘Juke Joint Gems’

Sami Yaffa – ‘The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’

Ryan Hamilton – ‘1221’

The Brothers Steve – ‘Dose’

Alabama 3 – ‘Step 13’

Delilah Bon – S/T

Steve Conte – ‘Bronx Cheer’

Jesse Malin – ‘Sad And Beautiful World’

Amyl and The Sniffers – ‘Comfort To Me’

Captain Future – ‘Ghostman’

 

Dom Daley

Sami Yaffa – ‘The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’ (Livewire)

Jesse Malin – ‘Sad And Beautiful World’ (Wicked Cool Records)

Richard Bacchus & The Luckiest Girls – ‘Viva La Wattage’ (Sioux Records)

Sonny Vincent – ‘Snake Pit Therapy’ (Svart Records)

Killer Hearts – ‘Skintight Electric’ (Spaghetty Town Records)

Rich Ragany & The Digressions – ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ (Story Highway Records)

7. Steve Conte – ‘Bronx Cheer (Wicked Cool Records)

8. Trampoline – ‘Love No Less Than A Queen’ (Strap Originals)

9. Civic -Future Forecast (ATO Records)

10. The Yowl – The Yowl’ (Sioux Records)

 

Kenny Kendrick

Green Lung – ‘Black Harvest’ (Svart Records)

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – ‘Raise the Roof’

3 Black Label Society – ‘Doom Crew Inc.’

4 Flotsam & Jetsam – ‘Blood In The Water’

5 The End Machine – ‘Phase 2’

6 Manimal – ‘Armageddon’

7 Smith/Kotzen – ‘EP’

8 Motorhead – ‘No Sleep till Hammersmith (40th Anniversary Edition)

9 Armored Saint – ‘Symbol of Salvation Live’

10 Steven Wilson – ‘The Future Bites’

 

Dan Kasm

Iron Lizards – ‘Hungry for Action’

Pretty Sick – ‘Come Down’

AFI – ‘Bodies’

Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters – ‘Waiting In A Corner’

Sonny Vincent – ‘Snake Pit Therapy’

Dinosaur Jr – ‘Sweep It Into Space’

Zeahorse – ‘Let’s Not (and say we did)’

Governess – ‘Never Coming Home’

The Boatsman – ‘Versus the Boatsman’

The Wildhearts – ’21st Century Love Songs’



Special entry: The Dogmatics – ‘Est 81 Retrospective’

Gerald Stansbury

The Wildhearts “21st Century Love Songs”

The Damn Truth “Now or Never”

Helloween – ‘Helloween’

Jesse Malin – ‘Sad and Beautiful’

Cradle of Filth – ‘Existence is Futile’

Dropkick Murphys – ‘Turn Up the Dial’

The Middlenight Men – ‘Issue 1’

Thunder -‘All the Right Noises’

 

Nev Brooks

Bobby Gillespie/Jenny Beth -‘Dystophian Ashes’

Nick Cave – ‘Idiots Prayer’

Nick Cave/Warren Ellis – ‘Carnage’

Paul Ronnie Angel – ‘London Texas Lockdown’

Sister Cookie – ‘In the Blue Corner’

Wildhearts – ’21st Century Love songs’

Sammi Yaffa- ‘Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’

Ferocious Dog -‘The Hope’

Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – ‘Raise the Roof’

Primal Scream- ‘Live at Levitation’

Lady Blackbird -‘Black Acid Soul’

Jesse Malin- ‘Sad and Beautiful World’

Captain Future – ‘Ghostman’

 

Snake, rattle and roll campers, Frank is back with album number four and it is as tasty as its title suggests. Short and sweet, ‘Sticky’ comes hot on the tails of its predecessor ‘End Of Suffering’. This album was written during lockdown and as such, is less about metal health and anxiety, but more of a social commentary full of pent-up anger and small-town survival in Covid Britain.

“We all lost a year to the doldrums” Frank sings during ‘Rat Race’, the penultimate track on ‘Sticky’. Elsewhere in killer single “Go Get A Tattoo” he proclaims to “never want a lockdown again”. These are perfect examples of the relatability of Frank Carter’s lyricism and one of the reasons The Rattlesnakes have become one of the best live bands in the UK.

With each album release songwriters Frank Carter and guitarist Dean Richardson have pushed the bar higher and ‘Sticky’ is no different. Taking inspiration from pop and electronic music and collaborating with rock diva Cassyette, Rapper Lynks and Idles main man Joe Talbot, the band move further from the hardcore punk roots and dig deeper into commercial rock territory, yet always keeping it diverse and interesting at every turn and twist.

The fuzzy bass, processed beats and frenetic guitars of the opening title track bode well. The social commentary is rife from the start and Frank’s message, as ever, is never subtle. A wicked tale of late-night drunken antics “what the fuck is wrong with me? kicking around at half past 3” he yells. Musically it continues where ‘Kitty Sucker’ left us on the last album, yet lyrically it spirals out of a lockdown hell. 2 minutes and 34 seconds of introspection, self-loathing and punk rock power. Just what’s needed right now, yeah?

We then take a one-two trip following our man on an all-night bender. The dumb-ass punk feel of ‘Bang Bang’ fits the bill and the barking dogs and sonic boom bass of ‘Take It To The Brink’ are either designed to confuse or make the listener uneasy, and they both succeed. It’s hyper cool and well, when Frank is inciting you to bang your head off the wall and take another drink, what is a man to do?

Aided and abetted by Idles man Joe Talbot, the single ‘My Town’ is a social sidewinder that highlights the struggles of mental health many have experienced during lockdown. It’s an anthemic blast of punk noise straight from the street that could be just like the one where you live.

The tongue-in-cheek ‘Get A Tattoo’ could be the greatest single of the year. Bouncy bass and gritty lyrics lead to a frantic, killer chorus that most bands would die to have written. The inclusion of rapper Lynks adds cool street cred for the kids and makes it one of the standout rock tracks of the year, let alone of this album. If you aren’t singing that chorus over and over by the time you read this, or you seriously don’t get the urge to go out and get inked immediately, then you must be dead inside.

Again, collaborating with an edgy, current artist is a master stroke. The helium induced vocalisin’ of Cassyette adds a new dimension to the signature Rattlesnakes sound. The juxtaposition of the male/female lead vocals works well and adds intensity to an already electrifying tune.

They even drag in Primal Scream legend Bobby Gillespie to add his dulcet tones to album closer ‘Original Sin’.

‘Sticky’ is a release for all the pent-up anger, aggression and forced confinement of recent times. It may be relatable if you felt like smashing a bottle against a wall just to feel the release, it may be relatable if you feel the urge to get a tattoo just to feel the pain, it may even be relatable if you just wanna see Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes live again and lose your shit like never before.

Many releases this year have been given the title ‘an album of the times’ and it’s no real surprise that Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes have given us another with ‘Sticky’.

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Author: Ben Hughes

10 years ago, I was banging on to anyone who would listen about this great new band from L.A. called Vintage Trouble who dressed suited and booted, like they meant business, and played the kind of dirty, pelvis pushin’ rock n’ soul music usually reserved for whiskey drinking, juke joint jivers.

 

 

They gained friends in high places and toured the world on stages opening for the likes of Bon Jovi, The Who and AC/DC. In between they played clubs and sweaty dives across the UK and Europe gaining a live reputation and a following affectionately known as Troublemakers.

 

Their management had an agenda and it seemed to be paying off. They were, and I don’t say this lightly, probably the best live band on the planet at that time. Singer Ty Taylor possessed a voice raw like James Brown but as controlled and powerful as Freddie Mercury, and he could work a crowd as well as both of them. The band were as tight as any band I have ever seen. The Zep meets James Brown comparisons came thick and fast in the press and with a killer debut album called ‘The Bomb Shelter Sessions’ up their sleeves, they seemed to have the world at their feet.

 

Many of the songs they were playing live back then were already recorded for album number two, but it was ultimately shelved by the powers that be for whatever crazy reason, and the band went in a different direction, releasing the critically acclaimed, yet disappointing ‘One Hopeful Road’ 4 years later. Fast forward a decade and these ‘lost’ songs have finally surfaced under the moniker ‘Juke Joint Gems’, with no fanfare, no press coverage and as yet, no physical release.

 

Opener ‘The World’s Gonna Have To Take A Turn Around’ is probably their finest moment, previously available on the UK double CD version of ‘TBSS’ back in 2011. A perfectly executed protest song pure and simple, it’s a fitting soundtrack for these troubled times of BLM, Climate change and Covid. This song straddles genres and would have mass appeal if played in all the right places. Soulful, mournful and bluesy, yet as uplifting as singing hymns in church at Christmas. A sublime introduction.

 

A live version of ‘Love With Me’ appeared on that same CD, the studio version here is more polished around the edges but still retains that electrifying spark that the band possess live. The following ‘24-7-365 Satisfaction Man’ was a Troublemaker live favourite back in the early days. One of their trademark, deep soulful love songs, it builds on a killer, slow beat rhythm courtesy of drummer Richard Danielson and bassist Rick Barrio Dill. The understated guitars by Nalle Colt are there just enough to accentuate things and leave space for Ty to work his magic.

 

Three songs in and already I have been transported back 10 years to those magical early gigs, watching a killer live band prove themselves to a new audience night after night. The songs sound just as I remember them live, and while they benefit from the studio treatment, they lose none of their fire. ‘Red Handed’ is a deep cut for sure, that guitar intro is insane, I had to give it a rewind! The added, soulful backing vocals and stabs of piano bring it to life and the scratchy wah-wah solo gives a New York 70’s vibe to proceedings, and it’s a dirty groove for sure. Things get dirtier with ‘Low Down Dirty Dog’, and it sounds just as the title suggests. A foot-stomping, backstreet anthem that retains the live feel of the band and showcases the more edgy, rock n’ roll side that they are more than capable of. This is where those Zep meets James Brown comparisons are justified.

 

 

‘Let It Not Be So’ on the other hand takes thing in a completely different direction. Coming on like a Nat King Cole seasonal ballad, this is Ty’s soulful upbringing and musical influences coming to the fore. Chilled acoustic guitars and a laid-back, perfectly executed rhythm are there creating space for the vocal melody to shine. Elsewhere, ‘Twisted Together’ and ‘Lover Let Me Be’ have a Jackie Wilson, 50’s soulful pop feel, coming on like classic 45’s spinning at a Northern Soul club.

 

 

Then we get to my favourite of the whole damn bunch. ‘You Saved Me’ is hands down my favourite tune by these suited and booted dudes, yet I have only had live versions going around in my head for the last 10 years. I love the dynamics of this song, the little stop-starts, and the lyrics are delivered just as I remember. The way Ty accentuates the hook in the chorus each time, it’s just sublime and gives me goosebumps just as it did when I saw them play it live. For me, it is one of those songs that was instant the first time I heard it, like it has been in my head forever.

 

 

Album closer ‘Get It’ was only previously available on the Japanese edition of ‘One Hopeful Road’. Again, an early live favourite that has an Ike & Tina Turner vibe. A killer beat, kudos Richard here, as he gets to shine on that kit. It’s a pumping, juke joint jive of a tune with a killer bassline and a gang vocal chorus you can’t help but sing.

 

Personally, I feel ‘Juke Joint Gems’ should’ve been the follow up to ‘TBSS’. These songs showcase the live energy of a band rich in soul and rock n’ roll, who can deliver the goods live night after night. For those who were there, these songs are heaped with nostalgia and will take you back to those early, sweaty gigs. For the uninitiated, this is a testament to what you missed out on and hopefully it will make you buy a ticket the next time they return to these shores.

It’s been a long time coming, and even though it should’ve been released years ago, Vintage Trouble have probably just bagged the album of the year.

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

Written and recorded during the lost year of 2020, through times of fear, anxiety and isolation, to a background of sirens, street protests and impending doom, ‘Sad And Beautiful World’ is Jesse Malin’s 9th studio album. A follow up to the 2019 critically acclaimed album ‘Sunset Kids’, this 17-track double album was recorded sporadically by Jesse in his native New York at Flux Studios, with his touring band of 10 plus years, in-between weekly livestream shows from The Bowery.

 

‘Sad And Beautiful World’ is a double album spilt into two halves. First, we have the more mellow ‘roots rock’ of disc/record 1, followed by the slightly more upbeat ‘radical’ disc/record 2. Jesse is a troubadour who sings songs and tells stories about what he knows and what he experiences, and this album is not so much a Covid record, as an observation of feelings, fears and searching for redemption. Overall, it comes across as a record filled with hope in troubled times.

 

From the laid-back Americana of opener ‘Greener Pastures’ to the closing celebratory and euphoric ‘Saint Christopher’, out illustrious host takes us on a journey, a trip through his mind if you will.

 

To be honest the themes of the two records blur into one with not much to distinguish between roots and radical, and while this whole double album would fit snugly on one CD (like record companies insisted sometime in the 90’s), Jesse is old school and releases albums like his heroes, so we’ll go with the double album format. The single ‘State Of The Art’ for example is as upbeat as you like, it hits like a statement of intent, from that piano intro to the killer, familiar pop melody that builds to a classic Malin chorus, it’s up there with Billy Joel and Springsteen as far as I’m concerned, and don’t take that statement lightly.

 

If you’re a fan, you will probably be aware of several of these tunes already, as there have been quite a few singles in the past 12 months. From the retrospective ‘The Way We Used To Roll’ to the Lou Reed groove of ‘Backstabbers’, onto the heartfelt, rootsy balladry of ‘Tall Black Horses’, they all showcase the diversity and depth of a singer/songwriter at the top of his game.

 

For me, there were two songs that stood out from the crowd in the lead-up to the release, and after a dozen play-throughs of this album they still come out trumps. ‘Todd Youth’ is a gloriously heartfelt tribute to a fallen friend, featuring pumping NYC street bass, handclaps, and HR from Bad Brains. The juxtaposition of sad subject matter and an upbeat, radio-friendly melody makes for a tune that imbeds itself deep in the soul. Jesse also pays tribute to another fallen hero/influence by covering Tom Petty’s ‘Crawling Back To You’, a lesser-known but highly sentimental trip from his 1994 solo album ‘Wildflowers’. The bare-bones recording with acoustics, piano, and that unmistakable Malin NY drawl, its melancholic, starkly beautiful, and as much an album highlight here as the original was in its initial release.

 

Come to think of it, the ghost of Tom Petty rears his head throughout ‘Sad And Beautiful World’. The country twang and heartfelt feel of ‘Lost Forever’ is as Tom Petty as you can get. But there’s also nods to another icon David Bowie in his 80’s heyday on the likes of ‘Before You Go’ and ‘A Little Death’. Sometimes it’s just in the bassline or the way he phrases certain things, just listen and you’ll hear it, trust me.

 

For me, ‘Sad And Beautiful World’ harks back to Jesse’s debut album ‘The Fine Art Of Self Destruction’ that came out nearly 20 years ago. The mark of a great songwriter is the ability to take you on a lyrical and melodic journey, and the fact that Jesse still has the power to create emotional works of art filled with hope, optimism and heartbreak in equal measures is a testament to his years on the road and his ability to express and keep it real. An essential purchase for all you rastas, as Jesse would say.

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Author: Ben Hughes