By AJ Phink
With their recent reformation and return to the live circuit it seems appropriate to revisit the Mardigras Bombers 2012 debut, Come On In!, whilst we’re waiting for some new material to emerge. The Mardigras Bombers are curently a quartet, originally a quintet, from the county of Lancashire in the north of the UK. There appears to be a degree of serendipity going on as the producer of Come On In!, Patrick Dixon, is now their drummer. He has joined the current incarnation of the band which, whilst not containing the full original line up, has retained the core of the members that brought us this impressive debut album.
Opening number Validate The Mission does exactly that, it has a hard hitting punk ‘n roll quality that pulls you into the album, the guitar and rasping vocals on this number are nicely underpinned by some sinister keyboards. No Sleep is a frantic follow up, that is a stand out part of their current live set, and New Locusts and Resurrection Gang keep the attack going. The oddly named Ah Pook brings a darker and slower interlude to the album and Girl X lets the female vocals take the lead, and provides an intriguing juxtaposition between Damion Gillett‘s raspy growl and Sam Smethurst‘s sultry tones. Alien Heat, Invisible Idiot and Love Explained return to the full attack on display at the start of the album, before we get to the albums finale, and my personal favourite, Modest Proposal.
The album features the Mardigras Bombers aural assault augmented by occasional keyboards and some impressive female backing vocals, whilst they are temporarily shorn of the backing singer they have assured me they expect to be back up to full strength in the near future. If you get the chance to catch the Mardigras Bombers live I would take the opportunity to do so, especially if you didn’t get chance to catch them the first time round, as this is an impressive debut album. I hope that their yet to be announced sophomore album can build on the foundations that Come On In! has laid and that they get the recognition they deserve second time around.
Come On In! can be ordered on CD and download here
Beki and Stephen Straughan are possibly the hardest working couple in punk rock at the moment, Beki is active in Chaos 8, Stephen, also known as Steve Racket, is active in Hi Fi Spitfires and the Angelic Upstarts, and has recently become the guitarist for the UK Subs, as if that wasn’t enough both of them are in Loaded 44. I managed to catch them in a rare quiet moment to get an insight into what the future has in store for us from this industrious couple.
The Obnoxious UK are an English horror punk band, we might as well get the obvious comparison out of the way first. It will come as no surprise that the shadow of The Misfits is cast over this quartet, whilst they aren’t carbon copies by any means, there are snatches in the songs where their influence bleeds through.
Impressively The Obnoxious UK have managed to avoid falling into any of the pits that horror punk bands frequently fall into. Firstly, they are no one trick pony, aside from the obvious dark punk tones, there are places where a rockabilly influence comes to the fore and there’s even a light hearted touch of dark ska for the final track, The Cottage Strangler. There are hardcore influenced tracks, but for me these don’t work as well for this band as they mask the impact of their songs. Secondly, they aren’t po-faced about their subject matter, there is dark humour present, as there is in all the best horror movies, on a number of tracks, especially on Elvis Is Dead. They even briefly stray away from the on screen horror, political points are made and expose things far more horrific than will be shown in any movie theatre.
Horror Movie Matinee certainly ticks all the boxes for fans of horror punk and is a great listen, but the main problem that hinders this album is the production, this muffles the attack and makes the album sound like an upmarket demo recording. This is a shame, with a few minor touches this could have been a horror classic rather than a b-movie, having said that who doesn’t love a b-movie from time to time? I’m looking forward to a bigger budget sequel as The Obnoxious UK are not far off making an album that would stand out in what is an overcrowded genre.
Horror Movie Matinee can be ordered from STP Records here
The Kingcrows have been with us for about ten years now, they have been relentlessly following their own path and display an unshakeable belief in themselves. If I tell you their latest album, Funland, contains significant traces of both Motorhead and The Ramones in it’s DNA then that description should give you a pretty good idea of where they are coming from, this is bare knuckle high octane rock ‘n roll.
The Kingcrows play their brand of rock ‘n roll with energy and style, for me this is what elevates them above many other bands that tread this this well worn path, they do it with conviction and they do it really well. The pace doesn’t relent for a second on any of the eleven cuts contained on Funland and that’s how it should be for a band like this, if I want thoughtfulness and introspection I know where I can find it, full tilt rock ‘n roll doesn’t need to be either of those things. The opening track, Here We Go, is a mission statement, from the opening chords you know exactly what you’re in for from this point on. The subject matter on the rest of the songs will come as no surprise, tales of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle, rallying calls against the mainstream culture and of course alcohol.
This is a band that will produce few surprises but you don’t always want to be challenged and surprised, sometimes you just need something that makes you feel alive and The Kingcrows do that in spades. Now that both Motorhead and The Ramones are no more we need someone to fill the yawning chasm they left in their wake, I think The Kingcrows could well be the band to bridge that gap, they are energising, fun and whilst there are no surprises in Funland it certainly gets the adrenaline going.
Funland can be ordered from STP Records or directly from the band here
Loaded 44 were formed two decades ago in the North East of the UK, the members are all prolific songwriters and are active in numerous bands, including Hi-Fi Spitfires and Chaos 8, making them something of a grass roots punk supergroup. Come On! is Loaded 44‘s sophomore album, it is the follow up to their impressive debut, Wasted On You. Sadly that album is no longer available, but Come On! gives those who missed out a chance to hear this excellent quartet.
Loaded 44 take their influences from late 70’s punk rock and new wave, the eleven tracks that make up Come On! are buzzsaw guitar pop punk tracks, that’s not pop punk as in four trendy haircuts marketed as punky by a major label, but a collection of infectious razor sharp punk songs which build to catchy choruses. Musically the album contains an impressive array of guitar riffs and hooks that are layered over a tight backline, whilst Beki Straughn‘s trademark powerful vocals carry the melody. This combination makes Come On! an irresistible and exuberant punk rock album that conveys an authentic attitude and intensity on every track on the album, throughout the length of Come On! Loaded 44 maintain an impressively high energy level that only drops when the final chord fades away.
Obvious comparisons for any female fronted punk band would the likes of Blondie and The Epoxies, Loaded 44 are less poppy than the former and not as retro as the latter, they balance punk sensibilities and whilst they embrace the past, they certainly aren’t living in it. My only concern would be that as the members of Loaded 44 have so many irons in the fire that it may be a while before we see another release from them.
Come On! can be ordered from STP Records or directly from the Loaded 44 website here
Skurvi are an old school punk band based in Brighton, England, Get ‘Em In is their debut album and has been bought to you by the grassroots punk label STP Records. Their previous release, Pints Half Full, was released in 2014, that EP served up five tracks of short sharp old school punk rock, Get ‘Em In is a further thirteen cuts of the same alcohol influenced raucousness.
The album opens with ‘Til We Die, a fine statement of intent about their dedication to the punk rock lifestyle, for me this is easily the high point on the album as this a catchy frantic number that celebrates doing the same thing every night, and that is an appropriate metaphor for the rest of the album. The remaining tracks seem somewhat unoriginal to me, from the opening number you know what you’re going to get. You can hear the echoes of the likes of Cock Sparrer and Peter And The Test Tube Babies throughout this album, if you’re a fan of those bands, and want more of the same, then this is definitely the album for you, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard it all before.
The album is in no way subtle, It’s no frills punk rock and if you like your music tinged with alcohol and humour then you will play this, and then play it again, but for me it’s too close to sounding like the bands that have come before them and Skurvi don’t say anything that hasn’t been said before.
You can order Get ‘Em In here
This is Healthy Junkies third album since their inception in 2009, they have retained the core of the band, French vocalist Nina Courson and British guitarist Phil Honey-Jones, and have bought bassist Nim Sadot and drummer Tony Alda into the fold to produce their finest work to date. Box Of Chaos was released earlier this year on STP Records, so it seems I’m a bit late to the party. I hate being late to a party, especially when it’s one that is this good.
The album opens with Nice ‘N Sleazy, no relation to The Stranglers track of the same name, this is a stunning opening track, the enticing vocals and searing lead guitar build up my expectations, and I’m happy to report they are met throughout this impressive fourteen track album. Box Of Chaos is lyrically and musically impressive, across the album they demonstrate a range of influences that results in a glorious hybrid of sleazy punk rock. Lyrically they are not a band afraid to tackle important issues head on, for me the strongest track is Je Suis Free, a vigorous defence of artistic freedom inspired by the Charlie Hebdo shootings, this is a hard hitting number that builds to a defiant refrain.
Their dedication to their cause is clearly paying off, the combination of incandescent guitar riffs, breathless vocals and self assured delivery means that Box Of Chaos is their best album to date, to me it sounds like all the stars have aligned for this release as this is a very impressive album that needs to be heard, and more to the point it should be. Healthy Junkies are almost perpetually on tour in the UK, on the strength of this album I sincerely recommend checking this band out, I certainly will be.
Box Of Chaos is available from the usual sources and tour dates can be found here
Devasteight With Destruction is Cambridgeshire rockers Born To Destruct‘s eighth release since they formed in 2007, over the years their line up has changed and evolved to the point where they are barely recognisable as the band that burst onto the scene in 2007. Unlike many bands who mellow and develop a more subtle approach as they get older, Born To Destruct appear to be getting noisier and rowdier with age.
Devasteight With Destruction is the kind of brutal punk rock that was a precursor to the UK82 scene, this album carries the same kind of the kind of take no shit attitude that was exemplified by early releases from the likes of The Anti Nowhere League, and if you’re a fan of sweary disrespectful punk rock then you really should be investigating their bandcamp by now, as you will love this album. For me the relentless guttural snarl and pounding drums can become a repetitive, but if you want subtlety and introspection this is not the band for you.
Born To Destruct is snotty and visceral, this is raw and uncompromising no frills dirty punk rock that has a metaphorical middle finger raised. I can’t help feeling that they are a band whose brutal assault on the senses is one that should be experienced live, but whilst you’re waiting for them to arrive at a local venue Devasteight With Destruction will keep you happily annoying your neighbours until they arrive. This sounds like a band who appear to be growing old disgracefully, and they sound like they’re loving every minute of it
Devasteight With Destruction can be ordered directly from STP Records here: http://stprecords.co.uk/page4.htm
This is the full length debut from Spunk Volcano And The Eruptions, the eponymous singer is better known as the guitarist and singer in Dirt Box Disco and this is the other outlet for his prolific songwriting. There are elements of oi, street punk and good old fashioned punk rock to be heard on this release, but it’s all done with pop sensibility, albeit a quite a noisy sweary one. This is not an album for the easily offended but that should be pretty obvious given the band’s name and the album title.
From The Fall tinged opener, Massive Mistake Masterclass, there is a clear theme to the album, this is not politically correct in the slightest, in particular on the title track and DNA Failure, although it must be noted that the tongue is firmly in cheek throughout the release, although who’s cheek I’m not sure. Shit Generation doesn’t just feature the offensive, there are pop culture references, reminiscences abut random items from past, has anyone else ever written an ode to a Ford XR3 before? These sit alongside romance, relationships and even quite tender love songs, admittedly all of these themes are done noisily and without too much subtlety.
This is one of those albums that sounds even better when you’re drunk, even when sober you cant help singing along to this, although you might not want to do this in polite company. It’s anthemic sing-a-long choruses are infectious and reflect the quality of the songwriting that might be lost under the swearing and power chords. Spunk Volcano And The Eruptions serve up straight up scum rock, fans of Snuff, The Dwarves, Anti-Nowhere League and obviously Dirt Box Disco, will adore this album.
It seems appropriate that on the 40th anniversary of The Sex Pistols playing the Manchester Free Trade Hall, a concert that changed everything for Manchester’s music scene and inspired many of this town’s most beloved bands to form, the annual North West Calling festival is taking place. Now in it’s third year it showcases the diversity of the punk scene and always boasts a generation spanning line up. Sadly both The Ruts DC and The Anti Nowhere League had to pull out of this years event but there are always bands willing to step into the breach.
By noon a healthy queue has already formed outside The Ritz, on what is an unexpectedly warm sunny Saturday in Manchester, whilst other less dedicated souls have ensconced themselves in the bars opposite the venue and are enjoying some early alcoholic refreshment. As people are still filtering into the venue Criminal Mind take the stage, the opening slot is always a difficult one as you’re playing to a sparse and sober crowd, despite this they take the stage and play like they’re headlining, their gurning acrobatic guitarist provides a visual keypoint and they play an intense set of politically informed hardcore tinged punk rock that blows away the cobwebs and provides as good a start to the day as you could wish for.
Spunk Volcano And The Eruptions are a different kettle of fish, their singer is a vision in his Captain America briefs, army boots and fluffy mohican topped balaclava They play hard edged pop punk songs that reminisce about the obscure items from the past and unrequited love. Their sing-a-long choruses and banter with the burgeoning crowd builds on the fine work by opening act Criminal Mind and by now things are starting to warm up in The Ritz, both metaphorically and physically.
Crashed Out are next and play a brutal set of street punk, I’m unsure whether its the fact that it’s now approaching melting point or because the first two bands provided such an incredible start to proceedings but the crowd seems to thin out. However, the dedicated fans of this band seem to enjoy themselves and they end their set with rousing cover of punk legends The Clash which is, as you’d expect, well received.
The Restarts take the stage and this trio deliver what for me was the best set of the day, this is a return to hardcore influenced punk and they wake the crowd back up with a politically charged set, this is the first band of the day to get a frantic mosh pit going, amongst those in the pit is Criminal Mind‘s hyperactive guitarist. This is a band I am keen to hear a lot more of and a review of their last album will be forthcoming shortly.
The first of the old school bands, Vice Squad, are next to take the stage and have the unenviable task of following the incredible set by The Restarts. Beki Bondage has obvious stage presence and given she’s been a stalwart of the punk scene since the 1970’s I can only assume there is a truly awful picture of her in an attic somewhere as she doesn’t appear to have aged. They deliver a crowd pleasing set of highlights from their extensive back catalogue.
Belfast’s The Defects are next, they have been ploughing the punk furrow since 1978 and provide an uncompromising set of old school punk rock that warm the audience up nicely for Dirt Box Disco, who have become a fixture of North West Calling and have been rising steadily up the billing as word of mouth about their antics has spread. Unsurprisingly the crowd has swelled by the time they take the stage and they bring North West Calling to life and energise the sweaty crowd. They are a visual spectacle to behold and their anthemic hard edged pop punk has the audience respond and when My Life Is Shit is played they almost blow the roof off The Ritz. Their set was eagerly anticipated and they haven’t disappointed.
The UK82 legends GBH playa pummelling set but this doesn’t seem to hit the heights I’ve seem them reach in previous years and they are followed by The Angelic Upstarts. Along with Dirt Box Disco these have become a perennial feature of North West Calling. Lead singer Mensi prowls the stag with an aura of restrained fury, it’s clear they have lost none of their original anger at societies inequalites and they deliver a charged set. I’m glad to see that they have already been added to the bill for North West Calling 2017.
The Cockney Rejects and the Sham 69 close out what has been a memorable and sweaty day. The latter have reformed with three quarters of the original line up for today’s show. They play a greatest hits set to round out the day, it’s good to see Jimmy Pursey, Dave Parsons and Dave Tregunna back together. They play a well received set but but given the energy, creativity and commitment on display earlier their set seems to fall a bit flat.
I can’t help feeling that the up and coming bands have stolen the thunder from the old guard and I can’t think of a better indication of how the punk scene has remained fresh and vibrant, in particular Criminal Minds and The Restarts made a distinct and lasting impression on me. On the basis of this year’s North West Calling it seems to me that tomorrow belongs to the next generation of bands, the passion and commitment on display indicates the punk scene is alive, well and relevant after it all started in Manchester forty years ago to the day.
Photography by Dean Unsworth (left to right Vice Squad, GBH and The Restarts)
Having been born and bred on the lower working class streets and alleyways of Stoke-On-Trent, UK punk and Oi! act Wasted Life sing about what they know: poverty and social injustice. And based on their rough and tough exterior I wouldn’t be surprised to learn about their own down and out challenges. I imagine these guys cope with hardship or insult with fists clenched and broken bottles raised – don’t be stepping on their turf or you may not leave in one piece. That they share so many similarities to the ever-prideful working class champions The Business comes as a given.
Wasted Life’s current activism comes in the form of It Means Nuthin When Your Dead, twelve tracks of pub-friendly, fist-pumping tunes about a crumbling world. Vocalist “JJ” barks up a storm as he belts relentlessly from the depths of his throat. His gravelly call gets the job done but doesn’t offer much staying power (he’s steady to a fault). Shallow might be a better descriptor, especially when compared with the North American norm set by The Dropkick Murphys or Street Dogs. That being said, I’d take JJ over the likes of Murderer’s Row any day.
Still, JJ can be distracting, and his all-or-nothing delivery often detracts from the message the band so feverously takes on. Take for instance “Deprivation;” it’s somewhat of an angry eulogy for Stoke-On-Trent, with references to pottery (once the region’s biggest export), jobless streets and boarded up houses. Reading the lyric sheet provides astonishing clarity and insight, but the rattling pace and steadfast tempo never gives listeners time to stop and think. The song plays out without cues or prompts to challenge listeners’ thinking or to incite the change implied by Wasted Life’s very existence. While I understand that the band is angry, their anger is unproductive in such high doses.
The remainder of the album plays out in a similar vain, with plenty of wasted opportunities dampening otherwise sharp social critiques. It Means Nuthin When You’re Dead attempts to stand in big shoes but ultimately picks the wrong size. The result is in the low-average range for Oi!, so unless you’re a regional enthusiast, this one might be best left for the locals.