“And now the end is near and so we face the final curtain”… or something like that. After completing the A-Z and then having a bazillion compilation albums come out, Two A-Z complete CD box sets, singles comps, live comps, covers Albums, 10” reissues. It’s certainly been a fantastic time to be a UK Subs fan (Even if it’s been heavy on the bank balance) we’ve arrived at the point where I believe the band has said time is being called on their recording career. Live shows are coming thick and fast and showing no sign of relenting.

If this is indeed to be the final record under the UK Subs monicker for Charlie and the boys then it’s fair to say they are going out in style and leaving us with a piece of work that stands tall next to their very best album and I sincerely mean that because ‘Reverse Engineering’ is an absolute fucking belter.

Charlie sounds better than he has for 20 years (the covid downtime must have helped his voice recover from all those hundreds of shows he didn’t have to sing at and if Alvin was paid by the note he’d be a millionaire. The songwriting is shared out and Straughan steps up and delivers one of my favourite Subs songs for many a year in ‘C60 Audio’ but more of that laters. The middle section of this album is some of the best Subs writing for years with the thumping ‘Hoist The Sail’ with its raw guitar intro and gang vocals as Admiral Harper rallies the shipmates for a battering ram of a verse that hacks and slashes towards the solo. Great stuff. It’s only the starter for the upbeat ‘Kill Me’ I know you wouldn’t think it by the title or the lyrics but the tempo and playing are excellent. It’s one of those happy-go-lucky Subs tracks. ‘Political Amo’ is an Oliver penned track that rushes out the blocks. As you’d imagine it’s a sprightly number with a modern feel to it with a strong melody.

There are a pair of Alvin-sung songs next with a smoldering ‘Slavery’ hitting you like a HGV. If you’re not familiar with Alvin’s style of songwriting now then let’s just say this one is uncompromising and full of big groove as the rhythm is rock solid and Alvin’s vocal is similar to his former employer Mr Pop and if this was to appear as a new Iggy single people would go nuts about it, the reality is, it’s laid to rest at the thick end of a UK Subs album that’s how good this record is.

The UK Subs aren’t signing out quietly with a whimper as ‘Statement’ testifies. They’re out of the trench and taking it to the enemy leading the charge, galloping along with this as the soundtrack again with some mighty fine musicianship with the guitar right up in the mix hacking and slashing away like a maniac – exciting stuff!

It’s not all galloping charging about mind. The intro for ‘The Night Holds The Key’ is low-key and restrained but it’s short-lived. The vocals leading to the chorus are superb and another classic Subs song unfolds. The record signs off with a real thumper written by Charlie. ‘Waiting For Godot’ with a cool verse-chorus set up where the band joins on the title repeat. its a more measured tempo that’s a fantastic way to wrap this album up. Go out with a track every bit as strong as the opener ‘Bad Acid’ that shows the UK Subs are still one of the very best the UK has to offer on studio recordings. They came out swinging over 40 years ago and sign off an incredible catalogue of records with ‘Reverse Engineering’ every bit as vital as at any period of their illustrious career. Trust me when I say ‘Reverse Engineering’ is an essential purchase. Get your mitts on a copy by any means necessary. Superb stuff just Buy it!

Buy Here or for those in the UK Time and Matter have limited copies Here

Author: Dom Daley

‘Work In Progress’

Whilst they might not be clocking up the 25th Anniversary editions these three more recent Subs platters are still almost a decade old and went out of print on vinyl as soon as they were released such was the collectability of Subs albums amidst the return of vinyl buying people, In fact, it’s been eleven years since ‘Work In Progress’ was issued amidst richly deserved critical acclaim (I know I was very complimentary at the time of its quality).

This new double vinyl edition comes with one gold-coloured disc and one silver coloured disc in a very nice repro of the original artwork but in a gatefold sleeve again pressed on 10″. It’s still got the fourteen Tracks. Kicking off a new era of Subs where Jet was on six strings and the rhythm section of Alvin and Jamie really hit their stride with some of the band’s finest songs coming into existence like opener ‘Creation’ which really set the tone.

I remember interviewing Charlie around the time and his enthusiasm for the album was infectious and on hearing the songs it’s easy to see why he’d be proud of this record. ‘Tokyo Rose’ was something a bit different from the band and the Alvin Gibbs sung tracks are some of his finest writings even to this point today ‘Hell Is Other People’ is such a banger of a tune. Their cover of The Sonics ‘Strychnine’ was also a glimpse of what was to come with their covers album (post-a-z). It was a real call to arms and this reissue of sorts is a most welcome addition to any Subs collection.

Buy ‘Work In Progress Here

XXIV

As the band headed towards the end of their epic 40-plus year project who ever thought they’d even make it to X let alone surpass the lot and head into new territory. ‘xxiv’ was a stunning follow-up to ‘Work In Progress’ and showed that the band were really locking into gear as a unit with all the incredible shows they were putting in around the time covering every inch they possibly could of this planet ‘XXiv’ is a limited edition double 10” that comes in a gatefold sleeve on green vinyl (disc one) and clear vinyl (disc two). It finds itself expanded to 15-tracks over two LPs with the addition of the previously unreleased album out-take ‘Workers Beer Company’.

Originally coming out in 2013 again, it sold out on its initial release on vinyl so this will please many fans and with the bonus of the extra track it isn’t just a cash cow or pension plan. (maybe they missed a trick, not including the bonus acoustic songs or reworkings on the original double CD that came out at the time now that would have been something special) this one took what the band did on the previous release and took it up a notch or two with the barnstorming opener ‘Implosion 77’ and then led us into the harmonica honking stomper that is ‘Coalition Government Blues’. I must admit I’d not played this album in a while and have played it over several times for review purposes I have a newly found affection for it. Maybe, with the passing of time I’d rate this one right up there with the best UK Subs album through any line ups and any album. ‘Speed is punk as fuck only to be outdone by ‘Rabid’ absolute blitzing it! The thrust of ‘Monkeys’ and its backing vocals giving it a softer edge is excellent. Again the Gibbs sung songs are top quality and there is no weak spot on any side of these new 10″ records and worth every penny.

Buy XXIV Here

‘Yellow Leader’

Tying up the trio of 10″ records is the penultimate A-Z ‘Yellow Leader’. This one originally came out in 2015 and the album track listing has been restored to its full running order of 18 tracks as previous vinyl editions had to cut four tracks due to running times. So again, it’s not just a reissue cashing in as anyone who picks up a copy will realise that the heavyweight records in their gatefold sleeves and pressed on colored vinyl are well worth having a lot of care and attention to detail has been put into these and it shows. ‘Sick Velveteen’ follows a long line of super-strong opening tracks on albums and it showed that there was no sign of fatigue in the Subs camp nor writer’s block. The songs were coming thick and fast and if anything better and better.

The variety on the eighteen-track album is fantastic from the punk bangers to the reflective acoustic ‘Rebellion Song’ to the riffy ‘Slave’ and the Stooges-inspired ‘Suicidal Girl’ ‘Yellow Leader’ is the third in this trilogy release and one that to my shame I’ve not played in a while but that has been rectified and one I will play more often.

The artwork reproduction is most welcome as is everything about the feel of these reissues. Lyrics, Bonus tracks, coloured vinyl – Man, I love the UK Subs, and with a new album imminent this is a great time for us fans. Sadly, I’m informed there are no plans to reissue ‘Ziezo’ but maybe that will change when these sell out. Trust me when I say these 10″ double albums are the dog’s bollocks and well worth getting your hands on.

Buy Yellow Leader Here

Author: Dom Daley

Back in the late nineties, I had a cassette in my car with all the best songs from the cover-mounted CDs that Kerrang! Magazine gave away. The first song on side 1 of that TDK C90 was ‘Every Little Thing Counts’ by Janus Stark, possibly the most pedal to the metal, anthemic opener anyone driving a Vauxhall Nova could desire back in the day!

Formed by former English Dogs/UK Subs guitarist Gizz Butt, Janus Stark released their mighty fine album ‘Great Adventure Cigar’ in 1997 on Earache records, at that time Gizz was also playing guitar for The Prodigy while they were touring on the back of ‘Fat Of The Land’.

Of course, all good things must come to an end and even something as great as an adventure cigar is not made to last, and Janus Stark sadly split in 2002. Fast forward to 2018 and Gizz decided to reform the band, roping in Richard Gombault of 90’s pop-punk band Midget and friends Fozzy Dixon and Simon Martin. A recent tour with The Wildhearts and The Professionals followed and this leads nicely up to the highly anticipated release of their first album in way too many years entitled ‘Angel In The Flames’.

 

The thing that sets Janus Stark apart from their contemporaries is the fact that Gizz is a shredder. While ‘Angel In The Flames’ is littered with turn of the Century pop punk sensibilities, buzzsaw guitars and full band harmonies, there is a more technical and aggressive element in place thanks to Gizz’s guitar histrionics. Yet, while the lyrics are socially and politically aware, and the riffs crunchy, it’s the melodies that always shine through, they are pure sugar for the soul.

The topical opener ‘Crucify All The Leaders’ sets the scene nicely with harmonies and melodies straight out of the Eureka Machines songbook and sweet picking to match the likes of Vai and Satriani. ‘Last Exit To Change Your Mind’ builds nicely with a cool melody to a signature Gizz Butt chorus that embeds straight into the brain. A power punk chorus that reminds me of Brit Rock contenders Compulsion.

These comparisons continue through the album. Punchy, anthemic choruses abound in the likes of ‘Dead Dead’, and while the 80’s metal riffage that opens ‘Karmageddon’ could easily be mistaken for Quiet Riot or Ratt, that is where any Sunset Strip comparisons end. The melodic hardcore and post-punk roots of the songwriters here shine through and save the day.

‘Some Stars Never Fade’ has great songwriting and sentimentality that bring to mind another long lost nineties favourite of mine Mega City 4. There’s great song dynamics as the chilled verse builds beautifully over picked chords to a rousing, yet passionately delivered chorus that sends shivers down the spine. A killer solo is over in a flash and we return to the anthemic chorus hook. It’s beautifully delivered and a lasting album highlight.

 

2020 is shaping up nicely for the band with a return to live-action that will see Janus Stark travel the length and breadth of the UK through February, March and April for a headline tour of their own. They will surely come within spitting distance of your comfortable abode, so my advice to you is buy this album, dig its glorious sonic sounds then buy a gig ticket… you can thank me later.

Author: Ben Hughes

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One of the albums of the year gets a re-press on Blood Red vinyl for those who missed out on the initial press.  RPM  reviewed it Here and we urge you not to sit on your hands a second time as this will sell out as the first run did.  Go Go Go!
Alvin says, “For all you vinyl junkies that missed out on obtaining my solo album ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ on 12 inch vinyl earlier this year due the initial 300 being sold out in short order, Time & Matter Records have manufactured a new batch of 300, this time on blood-red vinyl and minus the accompanying CD and download code. This release will, therefore, be sold at the lesser price of £17 (the first pressing was priced at £22) and can be ordered from this Here”

It features twelve songs written by yours truly and an array of very talented guest musicians that reads like this: Brian James – The Damned / Lords Of The New Church; Leigh Heggarty – Ruts DC; Mick Rossi – Slaughter & The Dogs; James Stevenson – Generation X / Chelsea / The Cult / The Alarm; Barry ‘Barrington’ Francis – The Saints; Timo Kaltio – Johnny Thunders band/Hanoi Rocks / Cheap ‘N’ Nasty; Mel Wesson – Keyboard player & Ambient music designer – TV Smith’s Explorers/The Verve ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ / U.K. Subs ‘Diminished Responsibility’ LP / Films Mission Impossible 2, Batman Begins, Hannibal etc; Steve Crittall – The Godfathers; Jamie Oliver – U.K. Subs.

“I would advise interested parties to get their orders in sharp to avoid what occurred last time, which was a lot of people missing out due to the speed that the original batch sold at. In fact it was due to so many people voicing their disappointment at not being able to get a vinyl copy in time that persuaded T & M Records to go with this colour-altered second run. For those of you that are not so disposed to a bit of vinyl, there is also a CD version of the album available from the same link. Ta! A x”

Forty years into his career as the number one 4-string plank spanker on the UK punk rock scene you can perhaps forgive Alvin Gibbs the “self indulgence” (his words, not mine) of a solo record. I mean he’s worked with some of the biggest names on the scene during that time, plus he’s also penned some absolutely amazing songs along the way too… and the musician’s modesty aside, I for one was straight out the blocks to order my copy when the pre-order for ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ went live on the T&M Records website just after Xmas. So, why all the rush of anticipation I hear you ask?

Well, the best place to start is with the guest list of musicians that Alvin has assembled to help him make this record. It reads like a veritable who’s who drawn from his expansive career and boasts the likes of Brian James, Mick Rossi, Timo Kaltio and James Stevenson amongst the names eager to offer up their services as Disobedient Servants. It was only the name of Iggy Pop that for me was the real glaring omission, but then when I first got to hear ‘Ghost Train’ the lead single from the album, I had to double-take. Could my jug-likes be deceiving me? That is surely Iggy crooning his way through this belting ‘Instinct’ like rocker, but no…it’s actually Alvin Gibbs, and what a great voice he has too. ‘Clumsy Fingers’ the flipside of that mega limited and long since sold out 7” also proved to be a fun time piece of Iggy influenced garage punk, and these two tracks alone were enough to convince me that this was certainly no vanity project and Alvin Gibbs was possibly about to do a Keef and release a solo album fans of his day job band would be clambering to hear too.

With Alvin having also released one of the best books about being in a rock ‘n’ roll band, the awesome ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ (recently re-released as ‘Some Weird Sin’) written about his time spent playing bass for Iggy Pop. It kinda feels eu natural for ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ to kick off with ‘Arterial Pressure’ a (just shy of 2 minutes long) barnstormer of a track written about how Alvin got to know Joey Ramone through Mr Osterberg.

Next up is the aforementioned ‘Ghost Train’ which here perfectly segues into the equally Iggy -like strut of ‘Dumb’, and right here we have as near a perfect opening 1-2-3 to any album I’ve heard in many a long year. Seriously folks if these tracks were on a new Iggy record the mainstream music media would be spunking their chinos over them.

‘Camden Gigolo’ takes things down an anthemic gear or two before ‘Clumsy Fingers’ speeds off in a frenzy of glam tinged punk rock guitar complete with few week’s road dirt under those nails.

Not unlike Glen Matlock’s excellent ‘Good To Go’ album from the tail end of 2018, where ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ really excels is when it throws you a curveball and in side one closer ‘Heaven And The Angels’ Alvin delivers a menacing slice of southern fried psycho-drama that challenges the listener with each new listen twisting and turning itself into your very soul.

Flipping the record over and side two kicks off with perhaps the most UK Subs like track on ‘Your Disobedient Servant’, the riotous ‘Back To Mayhem’ a track that simply fizzes with raw energy, that’s before the more subtle slide driven ‘Polemic’ takes you on a fascinating trip through what influenced Alvin to get into the music business in the first place.

It’s here that for me the LP flips from the overarching influences of Iggy and garage punk to that of one drawn from the likes of Mott and Bowie with ‘No!’ hinting at latter day Hunter and ‘Desperate Dave Is Dead’ doffing its baker boy cap to one of the young dudes passed all to soon. ‘I’m Not Crying Now’ too has more than just a little bit of cracked acting going on within its grooves, whilst album closer ‘Deep As Our Skin’ hints at just how great Cheap And Nasty might have been if Alvin had been given more a role in front of the microphone.

Having been lucky enough to get a good few preview listens of ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ the immediate thing that leapt out at me was just how much this sounds like a band, not a solo record. So kudos indeed to the real heartbeat of The Disobedient Servants; guitarist Steve Crittall, drummer Jamie Oliver and of course Alvin himself for making this one hell of a riotous rock ‘n’ roll record….and one I just can’t wait to get my finished vinyl copy of.

As I mentioned in the intro to this review ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ is available to pre-order right now via T&M Records on LP/CD and via Bandcamp for the download (the links are below). If you are after the LP/CD combo you best make sure you snap one up sharpish as when those red and white splatter babies are gone they really will be gone. So, trust me when I say, ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ is one record you really do not want to be without.

 

Buy It Here

Bandcamp

Author:Johnny Hayward