“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Well, it most certainly is in Cardiff city centre tonight, as trying to find a parking space close to the venue is verging on the impossible. I mean it’s only 7pm, yet I’m having to hotfoot it halfway across Cardiff as I don’t want to miss any of tonight’s openers, punk rock supergroup, Ultrabomb. That’s because tonight’s gig is one of those dreaded club (or should that be clwb?) nights with an early start and curfew. It’s “time to burn” indeed.

I’m not alone in my desire to catch UltraBomb either as the top floor of Clwb Ifor is respectably full for the arrival of ex-Hüsker Dü bassist Greg Norton, The Mahones guitarist/singer Finny McConnell and drummer extraordinaire Jamie….no wait, that’s not him behind the kit, that’s Oliver Perry who also just happens to be drumming for tonight’s headliners The Bar Stool Preachers too. Yup, step up that man, because tonight, for one night only, Perry (as he’s affectionately known by his bandmates) totally owns Cardiff, playing two sets on the bounce, and there’s plenty of that to come that’s for sure.

On paper, the Irish folk undertones hidden within UltraBomb’s music shouldn’t really be my musical cup of tea, but when they’re driven headlong into the more distorted and frenzied influence of the band’s rhythm section it all comes together to make one magnificent racket indeed. Frontman Fin cuts an immediately affable persona with the band playing a mixture of songs from da Bomb’s debut record ‘Time To Burn’ along with a few choice cuts from his and his bandmate’s previous bands, the pick of which for me was probably a particularly rousing version of ‘Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’. Of UltraBomb’s original tunes ‘Star’ shone brightest over the Cardiff skyline tonight, and talking of wise men RPM’s head honcho Dom Daley arrives (fashionably late as always) just in time for the double whammy of ‘Sonic Reducer’ and ‘New Day Rising’ that brings things to a close. If you are lucky enough to have tickets for the handful of dates left of this run of shows make sure you get in early doors because UltraBomb really are the, err… bomb!

As the lights go up I take some time to look around me at tonight’s assembled throng to fully appreciate just how far The Bar Stool Preachers have come since the release of their third album ‘Above The Static’, and just like my gig going amigo Mr Daley observed during the band’s Newport show all the way back in May, the thing that immediately leaps out at me is just how diverse the audience is. Granted there’s probably around double the number of people in here than that Le Pub show but with the power of Bauer and a great record behind them they really do seem to be crossing over from their original punk/ska fanbase.  There’s a guy in an Iron Maiden battle jacket stood next to a girl in an Interrupters shirt who’s chatting to a couple on a night out who are stood next to a mother and son and yup there’s still a fair smattering of us old bald heads present too. The thing we all have in common though is our mutual love of all things Bar Stool Preachers, which is never more obvious than when the band explodes onto the stage with opener ’Call Me On The Way Home’ and the whole place, as one, goes suitably nuts.

‘Grazie Governo’ and ‘All Turned Blue’ quickly follow before I realise that the Preachers are a man down this evening, guitarist Karl having recently broken a leg in three places and having to sit out the rest of the tour.  However, this has to be for the best as the versions of ‘DLTDHYOTWO’ and ‘One Fool Down’ (complete with acoustic and full throttle versions just like prime-time Scorpions would have done back in the 80s) that immediately follow are so powerful it’s impossible to stand still and all I can say really is “get well soon fella.” It must be soooo frustrating though to be missing out on these shows as The Bar Stool Preachers really are on fire right now.

That’s what comes from working your arses off though, and along with Grade 2 these lads must be the hardest working band in the UK right now….and trust me, it shows. There’s a real arena quality in frontman Tom McFaull’s delivery and he’s never sounded better than on the likes of ‘Doorstep’ or the encore of ‘Lighthouse’ where the quality of the band’s songwriting really does speak volumes.

I’ve told Tom a few times over the years that every time I see him and the band live they always seem go up a notch, and tonight is certainly no exception as the band somehow manages to squeeze every drop of energy out of the Cardiff crowd, with the likes of ‘Don’t Die Today’, Choose My Friends’ and ‘Flatlined’ all getting the audience and dancefloor bouncing to the extent that I fear we all may end up in the dressing rooms below, and then there’s the main set closer ‘8.6 Days (All The Broken Hearts)’ perfectly slotting into the BSP set list jigsaw leaving everyone soaked to the skin in sweat, and not just their own either.

Returning to the stage with Tom proudly announcing that the band will be back in early 2024 for another set of shows, before then unleashing a brutal “skank off” version of their signature tune ‘Bar Stool Preacher’, I cannot help but think that the next 12 months will be crucial to the next stage of the band’s evolution not just here in the UK but worldwide. Their peers like Bob Vylan and Kid Kapichi are already getting added to major US rock festivals next year, so the time has (on the face of it) never been better for the Preachers to take their righteous fight truly global.  Whatever happens next though, I’m sure you’ll join with me in wishing them well.

“Merry Christmas and ‘appy New Year everyone!”

Author: Johnny Hayward

Greg Norton, once the bassist for one of the most influential bands to come out of the American alternative punk scene, Hüsker Dü, alongside Finny McConnell, a name you’ll recognise from thirty years as the frontman of the Canadian Irish folk punks The Mahones. Holding it together in the engine room is one of the finest drummers and most in-demand sticksmiths the UK has thrown up in the last few decades is the drumming powerhouse that is Jamie Oliver.

There you go I’ve got your attention now and I’ll say this, leave any preconceived ideas of what you are about to listen to and drop the needle or press play with a clean pallet and ‘Time To Burn’ will reward you 100 times over. Take on board that this platter was written and recorded in just four day! Yup four fuckin’ days! Wow.

The title track gets things underway with Oliver revving up his Bass drum before the song breaks out into a widescreen slice of ultracool power pop like the sounds a Buffalo Tom used to play with the guitars turned up a little and a great melody from Finny McConnell. It’s got a great tempo and a real blast of energy a fantastic opener that’ll make you sit up and pay attention. It is indeed Time To Burn.

The band then heads down a route with a barroom riff that’s windmilling throwing it out there creating a sidestep from the opener with more menace and showing that this beast has teeth. ‘Star’ has single written all over it like a cross between the opener and early Goo Goo Dolls and American college radio running through its veins I might be wrong but Husker Du comes to the fore.

Now we’re getting warmed up as the sprightly ‘I Can Make It’ rolls into view. With some exceptional drumming throwing this one in all directions like a blender of their histories and this comes out. some great vocals (again) and one of the songs that I’ve kept going back to. Oh, and turn it up baby it sounds even better.

The album flip flops through tempos with ‘Feels’ veering into Dinosaur Jr territory with some loud guitars twisting and turning all over the track. Don’t be lulled into a false sense with the dreamy intro on ‘Stickman vs Hangman’ – hold in there it’s like a rocket getting launched as it peaks it burns most brightly. You also have some Rock with ‘Faded Way’ where the collaboration works really well from the groove they hit to the melodies and backing vocals – we all know these guys can play and the solo on this is exceptional with drama and tension being used to great effect.

As the album steams toward its conclusion there are no weak tracks at all and the chemistry the three clearly have is a gift that keeps giving, ‘Super Hero Shit’ is a stone-cold banger, plain and simple it rocks like fuck, and is simple in its construction but it just works. The penultimate offering is ‘Like The Wind’ with its calmer more measured tempo and delivery in the intro before being counted out and turbocharging towards the finale.

That’s ten tracks of the highest caliber and one that will make many friends and if there’s any justice will do extremely well for the trio. One of the finest albums I’ve heard all year and for a debut, it’s exceptionally good. I would however temper my enthusiasm with the cover of the Dead Boys classic ‘Sonic Reducer’. Although there’s nothing wrong with this interpretation of it, some songs are sacred and should be left well alone, and if I’m being picky it’s because I’d have preferred to hear another original tune rather than a decent cover. It’s a magical song that can’t be improved upon but as a tip of the hat, I get that, maybe a B side? but I’m not going to let one (very good version I might add) song take anything away from what should be in your top ten come the end of the year. Banger! Make no mistake about that. Absolutely buy it!

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Author: Dom Daley

Black Bombers – ‘Last Bite’ (Easy Action) there is an air of confidence and an overwhelming sense of quality when the guitar chimes in on this new single from Birmingham’s finest. Channeling the spirit of Stivs Lords and the cool of Killing Joke with its howling guitars and haunting rhythm it’s a smoldering smokestack of a tune and as it reaches the guitar solo, it gives you goosebumps as the band reaches the climax before dropping back into the groove on what is a most excellent single. It’s taken a while to reach your turntables due to covid but this one has had a couple of years to ferment into this beast of noise. Flip it over and you get treated to a rather splendid version of ‘Take My Money’ from the Damned criminally overlooked second album ‘Music For Pleasure’. What a killer tune ‘Last Bite’ is and thats why its the pick of the pops for the month no question about it! Cool tunes and cool artwork – if only all 7″ singles were this good. Buy Here

Buzzcocks – ‘Senses Out Of Control’ (Cherry Red Records) The songs to emerge from the post-Shelley Buzzcocks are creeping out after the covid hibernation and ‘Senses Out Of Control’ is a lovely slice of Diggle fire and brimstone. Uptempo and out of control as Diggle fires up the telecaster and smashes the chords out of the speakers for what is your typical Diggle Buzzers tune (effectively) I’m not going to debate the should it be released under the Buzzcocks banner or not but I will say it pretty bloody decent to be fair. Live it will sound punchy and brutal but there is a huge Shelley-shaped hole happening. The B sides to this lovely 10″ record also feature the tracks ‘Carnival Of Illusion’ that tackles cancel culture in a more measured track. But the diamond in the rough here is the excellent ‘Hope Heaven Loves You’ with a great meandering guitar line. Sure to become a collector’s piece these two tracks won’t be on the album when it’s released this summer so fill yer boots. Buy Here

Suzi Moon – ‘Animal’ (Pirates Press Records) Hot on the heels of her debut EP Suzi Moon unleashes ‘Animal’ her latest EP on Pirates PRess and this time it rips out of the blocks with the super turbocharged ‘Sonic Attraction’. Her debut album ‘Dumb & In Luv’ is due this summer and if this trio of tunes is anything to go by then it’s going to be an absolute blast. the title track is a brooding, twisting, rhythm meandering along before the guitars crash in on the chorus when Moon declares she’s a fucking animal you better believe it. To wrap up this EP Moon indulges some power pop tinged punk rock on ‘Gold Record Autograph’ its another string to her bow. With a vibrant melody, the chorus is fuckin’ excellent and like a bubble gummed chorus Moon knows shes is onto something, and surely it’s only a matter of time before she sells out venues globally and she’ll have her very own Gold Record. Get it here

Flickertail – ‘Don’t You Let Me (Let You Down)‘ (Golden Robot Records) Irish Aussie rockers FLICKERTAIL release new single ‘Don’t You Let Me (Let You Down’ on 29th March, out on Golden Robot Records. lifted from the upcoming live EP ‘Afterlife, which is slated for release mid-year. The track features sizzling guitars, high-paced lyrics about parties and poor decisions and a balls-to-the-wall drum solo that could make John Bonham blush.Pre-order/add/save ‘Don’t You Let Me (Let You Down)’ HERE

Chuck Norris Experiment – ‘Where Eagles Dare’ (Self Release) By no means a new tune but a new version from the mighty CNE as they lay into the Misfits classic. CNE gets the tempo and rawness of the song and capture it perfectly. Free Rock n Fucking Roll – yes please. Fill yer boots and if you already haven’t got yourself on board this is the perfect opportunity. Get it Here

WolfWolf & The Tuzemak Orchestra – ‘Monster’ (Lux Noise Records) For fans of the Bop n stroll Blues rock n roll of Urban Voodoo Machine, Wolf Wolf make an impressive mind-bending noise on this new single ‘Monster’ where they team up with The Tuzemak Orchestra: https://www.wolfwolfband.com

J Prozac – ‘Building Blocks’ (Rum Bar Records) Another band rolls off the Rum Bar conveyer belt and onto our stereos. This time its heart-worn sleeve heartland punk & garage rock from J Prozac. while still keeping the big hearted ‘whoa ohs’, snotty vocals and powerful punk rock guitar riffs of his former bands in check. It’s a memoir, diary, and photo book of lost but not forgotten moments, anthemic pop-punk lifted from the new album ‘Building Blocks’ is punk rock with a smile. Get the album Here

The Brokendolls – ‘The Only’ (Lux Noise Records) Lifted from the bands upcoming album ‘Snakecharmer’ Hard Rocking Punk N Roll sees the Brokendolls impress and march to the top of the pile giving the likes of Backyard Babies a run for their money with this new track. If the rest of the album can live up to these expectations then it promises to be a belter!

These Arms Are Snakes – ‘Camera Shy’ (Suicide Squeeze Records) US hardcore gents These Arms Are Snakes have announced a new rarities album called ‘Duct Tape & Shivering Crows’ which will be released April 15th so they have this video for the first single.

Ultrabomb – ‘Star’ (Ultrabomb Records) Greg Norton, once the driving force behind one of the most influential bands to emerge from the American punk scene, Hüsker Dü, alongside Finny McConnell, a name you’ll recognise from thirty years as the frontman of the Canadian Irish folk-punk sensation The Mahones. Completing the trio is the drumming powerhouse Jamie Oliver, having served well over fifteen years in the seminal British punk band UK Subs, as well as shorter stints with the likes of SNFU among others. Written for the singer’s daughter this is quality alternative punk rock. this second single has hints of Early Buffalo Tom and The Replacements which is always a good thing. With an album out soon the future looks written for Ultrabomb. Buy Here

Rough Gutts – ‘Control’ (Boss Tunage) From the ashes of Rotten Foxes Rough Gutts have only gone and made a record and if this video is anything to go by the Brighton rockers are gonna blow away everyone in 2022. Tour dates and a record out of control punk rock n fuckin roll is back in business and Rough Gutts are gonna rule – get on it kids before they’re all gone.

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The Lickerish Quartet – ‘ Fortunately’ (Stranger Danger Records) The first song from Threesome Vol. 3, ‘Fortunately’ is Set for release May 20 on Stranger Danger Records and Tapes, distributed by Burnside and the Orchard in the U.S. and by Lojinx in the U.K. and Europe.  Sony Japan recently partnered with THE LICKERISH QUARTET to release all three EPs on June 29, as a collection entitled ‘FABLES FROM FEARLESS HEIGHTS’, which will include two previously unheard cover songs, as well as a special “best of” vinyl LP in that region. Pre-orders can be found Here

The SoapGirls – ‘Breathe’ The SoapGirls consist of French-born, South African-raised sisters Noemie Debray (Mie) (guitar, vocals) & Camille Debray (Mille) (bass guitar, vocals) The fearless siblings began their music career as child street performers at ages 8 and 9, roaming the streets of Cape Town singing whilst selling handmade soap for charity, earning the name The SoapGirls’. ‘Breathe’ is the first single from soon to be released 4th album ‘In My Skin’. It’s a load of energy with the uncompromising style and attitude & all the excessive, debauched live shows have paid dividends. The pair have gained quite a reputation through their live shows such as Rebellion & Camden Rocks.

You can catch the pair as Their Don’t Give A Damn tour kicks off in the UK in April at Nambucca on the 15th before heading to Europe, followed by the US in July & Japan in August.