Top Sounds - S

SAMIAM - Orphan Story {No Idea} Recorded between 1994-98 during the band’s period on Atlantic Records, this features 18 previously unreleased tracks; many are alternative versions of songs already released, but that doesn’t detract from what’s here. The opening trio in particular, recorded live in the studio, display a much more raw version of songs on ‘Clumsy’ and ‘Billy’, while the following live radio broadcast offers a similar, stripped down sound emphasising the bombast of songs. Mid-album are the real rarities - a previously unreleased ‘Clumsy’ studio out-take and two covers (recorded in Billie Joe’s basement) in the shape of STOOGES ‘Search And Destroy’ and PIXIES ‘Here Comes Your Man’. Incredibly, given the sonic disparities between the two originals, SAMIAM nail the pair in stunning form. The disc concludes with a seven track live set recorded in Germany in ‘96 that spans every album the band had recorded at the time. Each band member offers their own memories of the era in the liner notes, but a few ‘exclusive’ photos would have been a nice addition. Essential stuff for die-hard fans and a decent starting place for the SAMIAM novice also as these stripped down, decidedly rocking takes may be more immediate than those on the official albums. (29.01.11)

SCREECHING WEASEL - First World Manifesto {Fat Wreck} It’s kinda hard reviewing this without the spectre of Ben Weasel’s fracas at SXSW coming to mind; especially given ‘Come And See The Violence Inherent In The System’ that includes the lyric, "It’s a classist, misogynist, fascist and despotic tool of rich white men with bloodstains on their hands". I will say I’m a huge SCREECHING WEASEL fan and of all of Ben’s other work also (bar punching women in the face at least - opps - told ya it’s hard to avoid). This, the band’s first album in a whopping 11 years, stands as one of the most mid-paced of them all. That’s NOT a negative comment - just a fact. Ben’s sarcastic lyrical trait is evident here in the classic opener, ‘Follow Your Leaders’, ‘Friday Night Nation’ and closer ‘Little Big Man’. Highlight (bar ‘... Leaders’) is the aforementioned ‘Come And See The Violence...’ that’s the fastest on the disc, the most acerbic in terms of politics and a perfectly paced slice of WEASEL brilliance. Elsewhere ‘Totem Pole’ benefits from a fantastic guitar lead (think ‘Suzanne Is Getting Married’) and ‘Beginningless Vacation’ has a sly, addictive refrain about the verse. Have to say a sneering, snotty 90-second blast would have been a bonus. Packaging is a digipack with a fold-out lyric sheet a' la newspaper and Dr. Frank (MR. T EXPERIENCE) and Joe King (QUEERS) contribute. Totally enjoyable, totally WEASEL and one to sit next to ‘Bark Like A Dog’. (07.06.11)

SCREECHING WEASEL - Television City Dream {Fat Wreck} Re-issue of the WEASEL’s second Fat album from 1998 that has been remixed and bolstered with five unreleased tracks and new artwork. While it’s not the classic that ‘My Brain Hurts’ was, it is better than the preceding ‘Bark Like A Dog’ and the succeeding ‘Emo’. There’s never been a shit WEASEL’s album though, and this is now stronger than ever. Of the new tracks, ‘Video’ and ‘Punk Rock Explained’ are standouts, both laden with the cynical sarcasm that places them both among Ben’s best while ‘Crybaby’ is a ‘Road To Ruin’ era RAMONES pop tune. The original 15 tracks sound fresh and animated in this remixed form and kick off with one of the band’s greatest album openers, ‘Count To Three’ before launching into a couple of mid-paced classics: ‘Speed Of Mutation’ and ‘Dummy Up’. The trademark WEASEL 90 second snot-a-rama Punk is well evident in ‘I Don’t Give A Fuck’, ‘Your Mortality’ and another unreleased goodie, ‘Shut The Hell Up’. Only negative is the new packaging; the digipack is cool but the lyric insert is worse than the original - itself not great! A welcome revival of what was always one of the WEASEL’s over-looked greats. (30.11.10) 

SECTION 13 - Burning Bridges {Boss Tuneage} I can faithfully say that this - SECTION 13’s debut album - has been played daily for the last month or more. It gets better with each play too. The premise of the band is simple: 1980s USHC-influenced Punk Rock. That sure sounds easy on paper but very few have done it with as much conviction and aplomb as this. Former VISIONS OF CHANGE/ DEPRAVED vocalist Ian Murphy sounds enraged and appropriately snotty here, frequently recalling the stridency of Vic Bondi while the band grinds out some convincing, gnarled and charged Punk Rock. Highlights? ‘Can’t Function’ emphasises that AOF influence; ‘Intention’ opens with a distorto-bass before exploding into a swaggering Punker; ‘Stand’ features a stunning chorus while musically it could provide the soundtrack to a convulsive circle pit; and ‘Walled Up’ pivots around a taut, claustrophobic ascending guitar riff that wouldn’t be outta place on an early FUGAZI record. Production is raw, punchy and uncompromising which is so refreshing in the wake of so many over-produced ‘Punk’ records of late. With FOUR LETTER WORD having split, SECTION 13 could prove to be the most impressive slice of genuine, thought-provoking and inspired Punk Rock the UK can offer today. (28.11.11) 

SECTION 13 - A Demonstration {Boss Tuneage} There’s one huge problem with this. There’s only eight fucking songs!! I wanted at least double that! This new UK band features ex-members of GASH as well as Ian Murphy, formerly of UKHC band VISIONS OF CHANGE, and plays a raging, USHC-influenced form of fiery Punk Rock. There is a sincerity here that is so often missed by bands that simply go through the motions, be it the discord of ‘Newspeak’, the barbed melody of ‘Trophy Wall’ or the uproarious power behind closer ‘Coffee Grinds’. While the influence of USHC is evident (and that of DAG NASTY and 7 SECONDS specifically - check out ‘Minor Seventh’ for some vintage 7 SECONDS sounding ‘core), this is a decidedly British band with a parallel to FOUR LETTER WORD not being outta place. Lyrics are angry and socio-political in nature while the great raw production gives it a nice fuzzed, rough edge. This will be one of the best records you’ll hear this year from what is already one of the best bands in the UK. (14.06.09)

SHADOWCOPS - A Big Pot Of Hot {TNS} A big pot of rock more like!! This quartet from Manchester, UK certainly crank out the riffs - and they nail ‘em! There’s 12 songs here that mix an AC/DC balls-out rock blast played with the speedball-laced ferocity of early ZEKE and a UK Punk Rock accessibility that mirrors both VANILLA POD and CONSUMED. Best moments include the riff-riddled raucousness of ‘The Sleep Awake’, the super-catchy rocking coolness of ‘Vaulted Sky’, the SUPERSUCKERS belch of ‘Calling Out The Elders’ and the brisk burst of ‘Folie a Deux’. Production is bold with everything seemingly overdriven but not at the expense of any one instrument. If there is a fault, it’s that sometimes there is just one riff too many; a bit more conciseness may work wonders. It’s my guess that live, with a few beers in the belly, these fellas blaze big time. Definitely one for those who like a good helping of Rock in their Punk Rock. (28.07.09)

SHIT S.A. - 1983-1985: The Boski’s Cut {B-Core} Ever wonder what the GERMS would have sounded like had they been from Spain? Wonder no more! SHIT S.A. was a band outta Barcelona in the mid-80s and never officially released anything bar a couple of tracks on international comps - including the classic W.A.R./P.E.A.C.E. This massive 37-track comp is made up of remastered tapes that guitarist Charles Boski had. The quality, as you can imagine, varies from the absolutely terrible (a cover of the STOOGES ‘1970’ that is drum and bass and lots of fuzz) to incisive, cutting slices of blazing Punk ‘core (the final 11 tracks from ‘85 form an unrelenting thrash attack). Elsewhere you get a decent DAMNED cover (‘Ignite’ - not an obvious one) and an apocalyptic noise-fest version of ATTAK’s ‘Died’. Everything is in Spanish - including the expansive booklet which looks packed with info, pics and flyers. While not as instant as L’ODI SOCIAL or SUBTERRANEAN KIDS, this is still another fantastic document of vintage Spanish Euro-core from B-Core. (02.06.09)

SHITTY LIMITS - Beware The Limits {Boss Tuneage} Highly anticipated debut album by this genre-smashing UK band. The opening, droning guitar chords followed by a descending riff set the tone well for what follows. The band has an elasticity about its sound - one minute it’s stretched to breaking point before snapping back with a crack. A lot has been made of the fusion of styles the band employs; there is an obvious nod to WIRE with hints of KILLJOYS (vocally it’s a deadringer Rowland in parts) Punk, VOIDOIDS drawl, RANDY’s twisted Garage energy and SHELLAC’s Touch and Go-esque noise barrage. Best moments for me include ‘Hard Wired’ that features a tension building guitar intro and pivots around a great riff, the rapid fire staccato blast of ‘Your Limits Are My Limits’ and the taut closing title track. The drummer constantly impressed, ‘Vehicle’ in particular featured some incredible tribal tom-tom beating. Not sure I quite grasped whatever it is that many in the UK seem to be raving over about this band. While it is undoubtedly convincing, I just found it a little disjointed. Be interesting to hear the EPs that predated this album. (28.07.09)

SIC FUCKS - Live: The Bowery Collection {MVD} Need I say that this is best avoided for those with delicate sensibilities? The SIC FUCKS was one of the original CBGB/ NYC Punk bands of the 70s and featured Tish and Snooky, who were formerly BLONDIE’s back-up vocalists. This is obviously unrefined, raw Gutter Rock that mixes Punk, Glam and an early TALKING HEADS-esque experimental streak. All the warped, degenerate favourites are here: ‘St. Louis Sucks’, ‘Chop Up Your Mother’, ‘Teenage Abortion’, ‘Fags On Acid’ and a killer ‘Take Drugs’ to close. Thankfully, all the in-between song banter and obnoxiousness from the infamous Russell Wolinsky is left intact - which is as vital to a live SIC FUCKS recording as the songs. I was caught unawares by how vilely vibrant these songs still sound - and watch out for a killer Jazz trip-out take of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. The only negative is the generic packaging given by MVD to this series of CDs. As for the new breed of obnoxious rockers - you gotta lot to learn boys!! (21.02.09)

SICK ON THE BUS/ THE DESTRUCTORS - Tormentum Insomniae {Rowdy Farrago} Probably the best of all the split CDEP releases from THE DESTRUCTORS camp so far. SOTB kick things off with three short, sharp and snotty Punk Rock blasts. All tracks clock in at under two minutes - just as it should be! ‘Slut’ probably takes disc highlight with its fuzzed bass, brazen lyrics and general ROADRAGE, fucked-up adrenalin blast. Smoking guitar work also! DESTRUCTORS, in the wake of SOTB, sound a tad pedestrian. Gotta say, the band’s take on THE SAINTS classic, ‘This Pefect Day’ is dire - especially compared with the original or RED FLAG 77’s version. On a positive, the re-recorded take on the Gizz Butt era track ‘Berlin’ is cracking with an obvious UK SUBS vibe. The new track, ‘Art For Art Garfunkel’s Sake’ is typical DESTRUCTORS rock: slightly sleazy, slightly ragged and very rocking!  (13.09.10)

SKA-PA - Demo {DIY} A young, new band outta Ipswich, UK and, with a name like that, you really don’t need me to tell ya that this is heavily influenced by the Ska-Punk beat. Thankfully, there is enough raw and ragged Punk about this which prevents it being the bland, polished shite of MAD CADDIES et al. ‘Shattered Young Girl’ has a neat Cockney-esque cheekiness and owes a bit to CULTURE SHOCK while opener ‘Pirate’s Quest’ is probably the stand-out track. Vocalist Kyle occasionally fails to find his mark but generally he sounds good with a clear delivery. I kept thinking of the original-wave of Lookout! bands here. I’m not sure why, but certainly live there is a raw sense of ISOCRACY if coupled with something decidedly modern. (16.09.10)

SKEPTIC? - Now Look What You’ve Done {Gravesend} After casually slipping this into the CD player, I was floored by some blazing 80s style USHC. So much so in fact, I had to scan the sleeve to make sure this wasn’t a remastered HC blast from Texas in ‘83 or something. Fact is, SKEPTIC? is a 5-piece outta Birmingham, Alabama, have been together for about ten years and this is their sixth release!! From the opening salvo of ‘Bad Debt File’ it’s clear the band takes a few cues from MDC with a hint of BILL BONDSMEN’s velocity, mixed in with an ‘In God We Trust’ era DEAD KENNEDYS attack and a splash of TH’ INBRED - especially vocally. Highlights are plentiful: ‘No Fun To Be Young’ slows the thrash down and brings in a FREEZE vibe while ‘Out Tonight’ roars with a MINOR THREAT intensity. It’s opinionated, political stuff too and even the reworking of a ROLLING STONES song blazes. As a bonus, the disc includes the rip-snorting ‘Stand Today’ EP also. The perfect antidote to lame ass Pop-Punk and apathetic Metalcore dicks. I’ve been branded a skeptic about many things, but as for SKEPTIC? - I’m a true believer. (07.06.11) 

SLEEP - Back To Square One Again 1989-91 {Boss Tuneage} This Brighton 4-piece totally passed me by back then. I remember the name but fail to recall much else about the band, so this 19-track comp of the band’s entire output is most welcome and evocative of the UKHC scene of the time. The most notable comparison is with THE INSTIGATORS (check ‘Who’s The Savage’ and disc highlight ‘If Only’) if mixed with a vocal that is, at times, a deadringer for Monkey from THE ADICTS (see opener ‘Suffocate’ and ‘Want’). Although the band only released a demo, the 7" ‘Suffocate’ and the ‘Cat And Mouse’ album, this is padded out with three never-before released live tracks. Lyrically it pivots around personal politics with ‘If Only’ and ‘Dragging The World Back’ being notable. Elsewhere, slower tracks come onlike FUGAZI meets SAMIAM with guitarist Jamie certainly able to throw in a few deft lead lines. As the band clearly states in some excellent sleeve notes, SLEEP didn’t wanna change anyone’s life, but I for one certainly enjoyed their brand of melodic HC which, 20 years on, still sounds fresh and vibrant. (17.09.10)

SMALL BROWN BIKE - Fell And Found {No Idea} First come back album from these Michiganders since their split in 2004. On initial listen, it left me so bored that I considered joining a Spanish Monastery. "Even monks must have more fun," I thought. Oddly, I was drawn back to it and once I’d got over the lack of amped guitars and the decidedly clear vocals, I got into it. Most notably, drummer Dan Jaquint, really impresses with a solid, inventive performance that continually evoked MISSION OF BURMA’s phenomenal Peter Prescott - just check out one of the highlights, ‘As We Go’. Production is by the ever-reliable J. Robbins who could be responsible for that ...BURMA influence as it’s apparent elsewhere, but distilled by an over-riding SENSEFIELD meets GAMEFACE accessibility. Other highlights include ‘You Always Knew Me’ that is the closest to older, more rocking SBB, the epic closer ‘All Of Us’ and the title track. There’s a lot of dynamics to these songs that only really hit with repeated listens - and it’s something that is well worth the extra effort as the songs literally swell with successive spins. (26.06.11)

SMOKE OR FIRE - The Speakeasy {Fat Wreck} Considering how great this band’s last album was, 2008’s ‘This Sinking Ship’, the follow-up would have to be a classic to better it. Unfortunately, ‘The Speakeasy’, although good (very good in places), doesn’t quite reach the greatness of its predecessor. That’s surprising too, as the band has been augmented with former AVAIL bassist Gwomper and ex-DARKEST HOUR drummer, Ryan Parrish. While the anthemic qualities of the previous two albums are still evident, they aren’t as enduring here, although this does come over as slightly more aggressive with a distinct ANTI-FLAG feel in parts - most notably on one of the disc highlights, ‘1968’. This album also seems to have increased the band’s political voice, especially on raging opener ‘Integrity’ and the very DYLAN-esque acoustic track, ‘Honey, I Was Right About The War’. Joe McMahon’s lyrics have always been one of SOF’s strengths and that’s not changed; his sense of placement is still evident in ‘Utah’, ‘1968’ and ‘Expatriate’ while others are more directly outspoken than before. Without doubt a good album, but just two or three tracks of filler prevent it being special. (27.12.10)

SOMETHING FIERCE - Don’t Be So Cruel {Dirtnap} Totally new name to me and one that has a sound a little different from the trademark Dirtnap vibe. The band is from Houston, Texas and this is, apparently, their third album. They kinda take the slightly angular sound of EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING but channel it through some TELEVISION (minus the big guitar work outs) while adding a sharp ear from a killer tune and come up with something that, given a few plays, impresses. Best bits? ‘Before You Raised The Gun’ emphasises that ear for quality tunesmithery, ‘Ghosts Of Industry’ rips a bit of early R.E.M. Power pop while both ‘Bad Choice’ with its discordant, jittery RED DONS vibe and ‘Future Punks’ that mirrors a ‘Police On My Back’ CLASH-style rocker battle it out for album highlight. An album that isn’t so much something fierce, but something that is convulsive and something interesting. (23.12.11) 

SOUNDS OF SWAMI - Halcyon Days {TNS} Mightily impressive 7" from this British band. You get six tracks of catchy, mid-paced but concise, corrosive HC that brings to mind the direct accessibility of CONSUMED mixed with the discordant, power-packed taughtness of KIDS NEAR WATER. Side A seems to be the more straightforward, with three raging slices of HC with opener ‘Briefcase Of Ignorance’ and ‘Lapels’ being specific highlights. Flip the vinyl and you get another three equally insistent but slightly more challenging tracks with ‘The Clue Is In The Title’ providing some studio-trickery surprises and closer ‘Your Name Not Here’ leaving me gagging for more. This apparently showcases the band’s more HC side and an impressive side of the band it is. Vocally this is powerful, argumentative and, most importantly, clear while the band is tight, crisp and formidable at playing fast ‘core with Revolution Summer discordant bridges. (28.07.09)

SOUTHPORT - Armchair Supporters {Boss Tuneage} It’s been a long wait for SOUTHPORT’s follow-up to the debut album ‘Nothing Is Easy’ nearly a decade ago. That’s a starvation diet for those who - like me - revel in the guitar playing of SNUFF founder Simon Wells. While that incredibly powerful rhythm playing is still evident, it’s apparent Wells has turned his amp’s Drive control back a few notches as this is a more textured and power-pop tinged record than anything he has been involved with previously. THE JAM continually comes to mind and - oddly - THE POLICE (if only on the sombre ‘White Lightning’ and ‘Falling Man’). The mellower direction takes a few plays to digest but soon the rollicking opener ‘Days Like These’, the dynamic bass/ drum play and killer chorus of ‘Edge Of Something’, the SNUFF-isms of ‘Disco 3000’ (an instrumental that could’ve been on ‘Reach’), and the cheeky closing pairing of ‘New Oi For Jake’ and ‘Optimism’ soon impress and had me smiling. The band features ex-BLOCKO and MIDWAY STILL members while production is crystalline and sharp. Parallels could be drawn between Wells and Bob Mould: both are great writers, both push boundaries and both leave it too long between records. Please, not another 10-year wait Simon! (28.07.09)

SPEEDJACKERS - Secularization {New Model Label} Debut release from this Italian, triple-guitar pronged, slash and burn rock ’n’ roll outfit. Imagine a mix of ZEKE energy, SUPERSUCKERS cool, the accessibility of New Zealand’s very own DATSUNS and a liberal sprinkling of ROSE TATTOO balls-to-the-wall Rock and you’re there. Considering there are three guitarists, it should be of no surprise that riffs rule the roost while the guitar solos, much like TURBONEGRO, blaze without being studiously pretentious Metal wank-offs. Highlights are ‘Il Suo Pensiero’, closer ‘Harage’ (that kicks off with some seriously intuitive ROLLING STONES-esque acoustic sleaze before being devoured by turbo-charged greabo rock heaven) and ‘The Girl’s Joke’ which saunters along on a nervous, edgy riff before exploding into a killer chorus. Decent stuff for a debut but it would’ve benefited by being a bit looser and faster. (25.05.09)

SPERMBIRDS - A Columbus Feeling {Boss Tuneage/ Rookie} Ohhhh yeah... I guess this is how a junkie feels after their first fix following a period of cold turkey: elated, absorbed, secure in the presence of an old friend, and riding an exceptional 40 minute high. Yep, after six years, Germany’s SPERMBIRDS are back with their eighth album and from the opening sneering line provided by vocalist Lee Hollis, I’m smiling and grooving on the bratty, catchy ‘core of the ‘BIRDS. There does seem to be a lot more structured guitar interplay here; I often heard a SAMIAM feel in parts - if blasted out by NAKED RAYGUN! Highlights are many but the ominous bass-drive of ‘Choose Not To Look’, the distinctly DEAD KENNEDYS-esque title track, the funked-up BIG BOYS freakout of closer ‘Honesty’ and the supremely singalong ‘Meet Me In the Middle’ all stand out. Lee Hollis, once again, makes a forceful claim for the Snottiest Vocal of the Year crown via his phenomenal delivery on ‘Can’t Live Without It’ while the band is just locked-in and relentless as it churns out corrosive and inventive Punkage. The six years since ‘Set An Example’ suddenly seem an eternity. Great to have you back in the ‘BIRD house!! (21.09.10)

SPERMBIRDS - Set An Example {Boss Tuneage/ Rookie} Some 20 years after recording the classic debut, Germany’s SPERMBIRDS are back with another 14 track cracker. While the premise of snotty Punk arrogance hasn’t changed, the music has evolved into a diverse yet powerfully direct Punk riff machine. Lyrically this is sarcastic, stinging stuff, focusing mainly around socio-politics and delivered with the formidable belligerence of Lee Hollis’s vocals. Highlights are plenty; ‘Knifethrower’ is a slower, corrosive surge that could contend for the album’s best track while ‘Say It Loud’ plays with a fun, staccato riff and 999-esque melody. ‘Hate Me’ employs a few FUGAZI-ish dynamics to spellbinding effect while ‘Never Be Sorry Again’ is textured and super-arrogant. Oh yeah - there are a couple of bonus tracks too!! This was recorded back in 2004 and is just the latest in a very impressive back catalogue. Still got something to prove...  (21.02.09)

SPIZZ - Where’s Captain Kirk? The Very Best Of... {Cherry Red} I’ve never been too taken by the output of SPIZZ. I find him a little too eclectic for my tastes. Highlights of this career-spanning retrospective for me had be the SPIZZENERGI stuff, espeically the minimalist ‘Soldier Soldier’ and ‘Amnesia’. I enjoyed the SPIZZENERGI:2 stuff also which surprised me. For those unfamiliar, SPIZZ is an individual who, at various times, resurrects his musical career with a new SPIZZ venture. Musically, he kinda mixes WRECKLESS ERIC with TELEVISION PERSONALITIES, BUZZCOCKS and an electronica direction that could suggest a SPARKS influence. The 19 tracks here really represent all I will ever need - or have the desire to own - by SPIZZ (and of those I could have lost at least four!). Also includes a 1996 enhanced version of ‘Where’s Captain Kirk? (21.02.09)

STAGE BOTTLES - Power For Revenge {Mad Butcher/ Kob} Skinheads... Tattoos... Oi! I expected some ploddy bozo 4-SKINS yob rock - but how wrong! From the off, Germany’s STAGE BOTTLES hit the ground running with the excellent title track. It’s punchy stuff and way more structured than the 3-chord caveman bellowing often associated with Oi! This actually brought to mind a big FORGOTTEN feel and, oddly, the NEWTOWN NEUROTICS! Some of the vocal phrasing and guitar lines could’ve been lifted straight from ‘Beggars Can Be Choosers’. Highlights include ‘Russia’ that opens with an acoustic and swells from there while closer ‘Madness On My Mind’ is a reflective meander about keeping your composure. Lyrically, there is a dominant anti-capitalism and anti-fascist theme - which is totally supported here at Scanner. A neat twist also is the use of a saxophone by vocalist Olaf. It’s not used in a Ska-Punk sense, rather it carries a melody and lends it added punch. Unfortunately, two members have left the band since this eight tracker was recorded. I sure hope the replacements keep the band on this exhilarating track. (30.11.10)

STAJNAS LOBOS - Brain Waves Searching Hearts Beats {Lupa} Third release from this Swedish, dual female vocal attack, 6-piece. It’s high energy stuff mixing the warped Indie Pop bliss of BIS with the hyper dynamics of THE REZILLOS, the angular abrasion of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES and the unrelenting energy attack of RANDY. The 11 tracks fly past in under 20 mins and each one reverberates with more gum-chewing cool than an entire Wrigley’s factory. Highlights include the ‘My Sharona’ New Wave stylee groove of ‘Last Of The Robots’, the jarring opener ‘Sonic Eaters’, the sauntering, swaggering ‘Death Machine’ and ‘Trash’ that has all the ambivalence of the grimiest rock ‘n’ roll THUNDERS-wannabes mixed with a definite Punk Rock arrogance. Cracking stuff that’s well played, vibrant and produced with enough Garage Band balls to keep it at a miraculous distance from mainstream fastidiousness. (21.02.09)

STAND OUT RIOT - The Gentleman Bandits {TNS} What a shame that this, the second album from Manchester’s excellent Ska-Punk-Carnival fusionists, arrived with ZERO packaging - especially given how great the debut album (below) looked. Add on the fact that vocalist Francis writes decent lyrics but his rapid fire delivery is often a bit difficult to follow due to the festival of sound going on around them, and the lack of packaging could be seen as a big err on the part of TNS. As for the sounds, this seems more aggressive than the debut, but no less enjoyable. These are complex songs - not in a boring Math-Rock or Metal way - just multi-parted with swells and instrumental breaks that flow and thrill. Even the more straight forward songs, like ‘Live For Nothing’ constantly spring surprises. While the CAPDOWN parallel is still valid, tracks like ‘Doublethink’ bring in some Dub vibes with highlights ‘Developing Detachment’ pivoting around a synthesised vocal harmony and crazed arrangement and ‘Outtakes And Takeaways’ incorporating a vibraphone! One step closer to filling those LIGHTYEAR shoes and now a band that can fairly lay claim as the best band on the impressive TNS roster. (30.05.11)

STAND OUT RIOT - Carnival Militia {TNS} Let’s get the obvious outta the way: there’s a huge CAPDOWN influence going on here. Thankfully, there is a heap more than mere ‘Civil Disobedients’ revisionism. The fact the band has eight members who create some dexterous arrangements gives it a distinct LIGHTYEAR vibe that could prevail over the CAPDOWN influence - check out ‘Ambush Paddington’ for proof. Add on some acoustic guitars, violin and flute to accompany the brass and a vague folkly/traveller feel is brought in. Lyrics are strong be they political (‘The British Nazi Parade’ and ‘The Oxbridge Mafia’ are especially potent) or personal and written with flair and intelligence. Production is clear and big and the graphics in the booklet are sharp and imaginative. It’s early days for the band and whether it eventually claims the vacant LIGHTYEAR crown remains to be seen but, as an album, this had me dancing around like a sore-arsed baboon that had just sat on an ants nest. This is a band that knocks seven-shades-of-shit outta most other so-called Ska Punk bands - especially those on the other side of the Atlantic! (15.06.09)

STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS - Never Rest In Peace {Alternative Tentacles} Second album from the HIPSTERS and it’s immediately apparent that this is a more Hardcore-based album. The upbeat Ska-Punk feel that proliferated the Fat Wreck released debut is only evident here in the excellent ‘The Civilization Show’ that almost steals the album thanks to an inspired guest vocal from Dick Lucas (SUBHUMANS/ CITIZEN FISH). Elsewhere, Stza’s (opps - Sturgeon) LEFTOVER CRACK trademark comes into play on ‘S.F.H Theme’, ‘Church And Rape’, the thrash blaze of ‘Allergic II Peoples’ and, obviously, ‘Look Who’s Talking Now!’ that’s written with fellow CRACKster, the late Brandon Chevalier-Kolling. Unlike LOC, there are a few moments of accessible melodic Punk in ‘3,000 Miles Away’ and, specifically, ‘Design’. Lyrically it’s typical Stza fair and production is crisp and sharp but raw enough to cause abrasions. Gotta say, packaging is excellent; a neat digipack, fold out lyric booklet and laden with animations. Actually, considering the graphics along with the title track, ‘Banned From The Land’ and disc highlight, the meandering ‘Dreams Are Dead’, this does have the feel of a classic Anarcho album - with added Crack! (29.11.10)

STARK RAVING MAD - Amerika {Just4Fun} Formed in 1983 out of the ashes of Houston’s PISSED YOUTH following a move to NYC, STARK RAVING MAD played a brand of hyper-speed USHC that one the likes of JERRYS KIDS and DRI matched but added to it a vocal that sounds akin to the bastard offspring of Jello Biafra and Darby Crash. This 32 track monster collects the band’s two 12" EPs, ‘MX’ and ‘Amerika’ along with some updated recordings from, I assume, the band’s reformation in 1995. The whole disc lasts just on 30 minutes and when you consider there is a whopping 10 seconds between songs, you’ll appreciate these guys didn’t fuck about with unnecessary bridges or solos - it’s just foot to the floor snotty ‘core from start to finish. Highlights blur into one big blast but ‘Ignorance’s Day’, an updated ‘No Reason’ and most of the ‘MX’ release all impressed greatly. USHC purists will lap this up for good reason as its unrelenting Thrash burns like a sulphuric acid body wash, although it may be a bit too one-dimension for the casual listener. Decent booklet too, with photos, flyers and a brief history of the band. (07.02.11)

STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Forever Won’t Wait {Dirtnap} Second album from this Canadian quartet formed outta the ashes of MILLION DOLLAR MARXISTS and SEDATIVES. Gotta say, the worst thing about this is the band name, otherwise it's one of the most insistent, catchy and god-damn convincing slabs of Punk Rock I’ve heard all year. Imagine the sneering brilliance of CUTE LEPERS' immediately accessible Punk sounds but played with the drama and equally brilliant dynamic of RED DONS and you’ve got an idea of the quality here. Highlights include the taut, rhythmically pulsating ‘Election Day’, the hyper addictive melodies of the opening salvo of ‘Take It Back’ and ‘Landslide’ while both ‘Ontario’ and ‘Gonna Die’ offer razor-sharp 60-second blasts of Punk Rock that could be used in a master class for aspiring Punks on how to write catchy yet sneering slices of sound, while ‘Never Wake Up’ combines it all in breathless fashion. Bit of a DICKIES obsession going on too as the album concludes with a great take on ‘Cross Eyed Tammy’ and Leonard is sampled at the start of ‘Only Wanted You To Know’ Thrilling aural amphetamine for a Punk addicted nation. (23.12.11) 

STRUNG OUT - Agents Of The Underground {Fat Wreck} I’ve never made a secret of how I consider this lot to be the most overrated band on Fat Wreck. So, given that this is the band’s seventh album and 20th anniversary, I find it hard to believe a band so stunningly mediocre can be together that long and be consistently supported. Anyway.... This is another slab of Metal-infused Punk-lite. There’s guitar noodling all over the fucking show. Yuck. This does seem much more radio-friendly that the last few releases but, while the bluster may have been tempered, the tedium hasn’t. For all I know, this could be Whitesnake... Iron Maiden... Even fucking Bon Jovi in parts. This is produced by Cameron Webb who has worked with luminaries like SOCIAL DISTORTION, DANZIG, PENNYWISE and more. I guess he had to finally get a blot on his CV. If this is Punk Rock, then look out for STRUNG OUT shows with Meatloaf coming to an auditorium near you every soon. (14.12.09)

STRUNG OUT - Prototypes And Painkillers {Fat Wreck} There’s good news and bad news with this. The bad news is that Fat has sent this out in a shitty b/w cardboard sleeve. The good news is it’s only another piece of incongruous Metal jizz from STRUNG OUT. This is a career-spanning comp of outtakes, singles, demos and other assorted slices of dismalness. I did enjoy the first couple of tracks, but a Metal-tinged take on the DESCENDENTS classic ‘I’m Not A Loser’ signaled the string-bending and vocal warbling histrionics. By the time of a take on Ozzy Osbourne’s turd, ‘Bark At The Moon’, this has degenerated into a slime-laden amalgamation of safe, radio-friendly ‘Punk’ and spandex enshrouded widdley Metal. (14.05.09)

STUPIDS - The Kids Don’t Like It {Boss Tuneage} Over 20 years since the last Stoops album and the first thing you hear is Tommy and co taking the piss outta Led Zeppelin! Yeeesss!! The 16 tracks that follow that sarcastic opening barrage stand up to and possibly usurp those recorded in the 80s. You want white-hot scathing thrash with attitude and humour? Check out ‘Beach Punk’. Killer guitar breaks? Check out ‘It’s Not My Fault’. The chorus of a massive hit, but in the context of bracing cauldron of smoking, DC-tinged core? Check out ‘Remember Me, Dismember You’. That old humour? Check out the whole album! While there are no suggestions of farts, burps and junk food, there are also no macho Metal breakdowns or extraneous guitar solos that proliferate HC today. In place of the juvenile frivolity of those classic early albums comes the pathos of tracks like ‘Middle Aged Punk’ - a song that could only be written by a guy hitting 40 who has had critical success in both Hardcore and dance music! There’s still a GOVERNMENT ISSUE vibe, but mixed with the hard-hitting dynamics of THE FREEZE. And I’ve not mentioned the epic, 5 minute+ closer followed by their renowned self-deprecating humour yet! If you don’t know ‘Retard Picnic’ or ‘Jesus Meets...’ already, then this is the place to get au fait with Les Stoops. The band’s best album? Quite possibly! (28.07.09)

STUPIDS - Feel The Suck {Boss Tuneage} This record defies all reason. How a band that redefined UK Punk and Hardcore and which reveled in the irreverent joy of youthful abandon can release its first record in over 20 years and retain the indelible sound it possessed in the 80s, add to it and record what could be its best material to date is beyond me. Yep, LES STOOPS are back with Tommy in the driving seat and Marty Tuff playing guitar with the same urgency he had on ‘Peruvian Vacation’. This three-track, red-marble vinyl 7" is the first fruition of their reuniting with a lead track that could easily have fitted on 'Jesus Meets...', while the flip sees two faster, thrashier numbers akin to the band’s earlier records. Of the three tracks, only ‘Rock Gods’ doesn’t appear on the soon-due album, ‘The Kids Don’t Like It’. It’s no throwaway track; opening with a resounding shower of discordant power chords before sliding into a DCHC-inspired fury and culminating with an almost RITES OF SPRING-esque breakdown. Tommy’s vocals sound great too; the intervening 20 years haven’t made him sound any less bratty, but they have bestowed a depth to his voice that was missing on ‘Retard Picnic’ et al. Great to have you back boys! (14.06.09)

STUPIDS - Violent Nun, Peruvian Vacation, Retard Picnic, Complete BBC Peel Sessions {Boss Tuneage} The first four of six reissues encompassing the entire back catalogue of this infamous, ground-breaking Ipswich HC band. Each disc comes in a digipack sleeve and features extensive, quality liner notes accompanied by interviews, photos and flyers with initial pressing on coloured-vinyl-effect CD. THE STUPIDS was one of the first UK bands to adopt the USHC sound, but injected a revolutionary (for the time - 1984 post-CRASS) sense of FUN into a Punk scene of overbearing seriousness.
Violent Nun was the band’s debut 7" single and totalled eight tracks of thrashy, fun, adrenalised Punk. Additional to the 7", you get another four tracks from the same session (making up the ‘Leave Your Ears Behind’ demo) and the debut 15-track demo cassette, ‘Fat Drunk And Stupid’. The difference between the two tapes is unequivocal. On ‘Fat Drunk...’ Tommy Stupid plays guitar and the sound is comparatively plodding UK82 stuff with quirky Yank humour. Six months later, the ‘Leave Your Ears...’ demo sees Tommy in his rightful place - behind the drum kit and singing - the sound is faster, catchier and instantly brings to mind early GOVERNMENT ISSUE. Having owned the 7" for many years, it’s hard to pick highlights but opener ‘Elephant Man’ and the dismissive ‘I Don’t Like Nobody’ still thrill.
Released in 1986, Peruvian Vacation was, at the time, the most intensely hyper, USHC influenced record thus far released by a UK band. Even today, the velocity of ‘You Die’, ‘This Is The Norm?’ and ‘The Pit’ coupled with killer melodic hooks remain virtually unequalled. Looking at these re-issues, this debut album was the only album to be recorded with a consistent line-up until the final release, ‘Jesus Meets...’. The whole album is indicative of mid-teen Punks thrilled by the urgency of USHC and jaded by redundant UK82-isms in ‘86: it’s bratty, snotty, arrogant, full of life, irreverent and miles away from any political preaching. It’s not all thrash though; the band’s wicked humour was at the fore on the lounge-jazz of the title track while ‘I Scream Inside’ employed some deft DAG NASTY-esque guitar tones. Besides the original 14 tracks, you get another 19 comprising of the unreleased ‘Mr Adult’ album (a ‘Peruvian Vacation’ precursor but slower and muddier), a demo and three (throwaway) tracks from the off-shoot band, COOLEST RETARDS, that feature future Stoopie, Ed Shred.
1986 also saw the release of the second album, Retard Picnic which is probably the one I still play most. Like the debut, this was recorded twice with the second version being preferable. During recording, bassist and co-founder Wolfie Retard left the band leading to a greater role for Ed Shred. The album saw the band’s songwriting really evolve with those DAG NASTY tones coming to the fore on tracks like ‘Terrordome’, ‘Shaded Eyes’ and the classic opener, ‘The Memory Burns’. There’s still plenty of white hot Thrash - check ‘Heard It All Before’, ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ and ‘Killed By A Cripple’. This totals a massive 42 songs and besides the original album you get an unreleased flexi-disc and some of the original sessions (including the band’s first foray into Hip-hop with ‘Arthur C Clarke’s Army’). It culminates with a 1987 live recording from Washington DC, featuring a make-shift line-up of future SHUDDER TO THINK bassist, Stu Hill. It’s a 17-track affair played to a mildly responsive crowd but, oddly, both Tommy and Ed are the epitome of politeness! This is probably the place to start if you are ignorant of these UKHC legends.
Complete BBC Peel Sessions says it all. From December 1986, THE STUPIDS recorded three Peel sessions within a year plus one as the band’s alter-ego FRANKFURTER. With the exception of the second STUPIDS session, all are unreleased and consist mainly of alternative versions of songs available elsewhere. The pick of the sessions for me is probably the final STUPIDS one, thanks to a cracking cover of the UK SUBS’ ‘You Don’t Belong’. Other notables include a pastiche of 7 SECONDS on the FRANKFURTER session and Tommy Stupid apparently recording both ‘Dog Log’ and ‘Stupid Monday’ entirely on his own. Probably the least essential of the reissues, but one that those who own all the original albums will be most interested in. (22.05.09)

STUPIDS - Van Stupid/Frankfurter - Eat EP, Jesus Meets The Stupids {Visible Noise} It’s 1987, the STOOPS sign to Vinyl Solution and Van Stupid is my least favoured release of the band’s. While some songs are among the strongest the band recorded, the disc always left me confused. Ed Shred’s likeness appeared on the cover, he wrote many of the lyrics - but he never played on the album. Furthermore, the band’s flirtation with Hip-Hop reached its nemesis with ‘Stoopie Boys’ - a dire stab at BEASTIE BOYS white-boy Rap which, when delivered with a Suffolk accent, falls flat - yo?! It was this release that saw things blossom beyond imagination for the band with mainstream music press front covers and even a centre-spread in Smash Hits due to the band’s obsession with skateboarding. Subversion without intention - the best form! The CD is filled out with the superior Frankfurter - Eat EP release. As the title suggests, the release had an obsession with food, along with zombie songs. It epitomises the band’s frivolous nature and saw Ed Shred take over guitar duties when Marty Tuff quit. There is a sense of fun that ‘Van Stupid’ lacked whilst the playing, especially on ‘Gimme Donuts’ and ‘More Of The Same’, is sharp and pointed. The disc is rounded out to 24-tracks with the original ‘Frankfurter’ demo and an unreleased AC/DC parody.
The ‘Rock’ influence continued on the final release, Jesus Meets The Stupids. The opening salvo is another AC/DC pastiche while ‘Pigman’, an instrumental, incorporates lots of rockisms. Thankfully, the remainder reverts to excellent, forward-thinking ‘core with ‘Stupid Monday’ and opener ‘You’ll Never Win’ being two of the band’s best ever. With the addition of Stevie Snax on bass, this was the first album since the debut that saw the band with a stable line-up, which could explain why, 20+ years on, this sounds the most impressive of all the STUPIDS releases. As with the early records, this has a big GOVERNMENT ISSUE vibe, but rather than ‘Legless Bull’, this possesses the majesty of ‘You’. Bonus cuts here get limited: there’s the 7" EP that came with initial copies of the album consisting of two comedic commercials, an old co-written ‘Tard tune and that blazing UK SUBS cover mentioned elsewhere. Finally there is the unreleased (and rejected) TEN minute sub-Zeppelin slice of hideousness that is ‘Buttum’ and then the track from the Sounds mag freebie EP, ‘Live To Rock’. I would love to have seen the ‘No Cheese’ tour 10" the band recorded with Australia’s HARD ONS added to this, but alas no. Easily the best of the Vinyl Solution releases and, given hindsight, possibly the most satisfying of all these re-issues. (22.05.09)

SUBHUMANS - Death Was Too Kind {Alternative Tentacles} Way back in 1978, a band outta Canada released its debut single - ‘Death To The Sickoids’/ ‘Oh Canaduh’. The band was the SUBHUMANS (not to be confused with the British Anarcho band) and it went on to release many notable records. This compiles all of the band’s earliest releases, beginning with the aforementioned single and progressing onto the self-titled 12" EP and the ‘Firing Squad’ 7". A couple of unreleased remixes of rare tracks flesh it out. Comparisons with countrymen D.O.A are inevitable; the bands shared members and D.O.A recorded a version of the SUBHUMANS’ classic, ‘Fuck You’. It’s fair to say SUBHUMANS was slightly more diverse in its sound with the likes of ‘Slave To My Dick’ and ‘No Productivity’, but the band is certainly no less essential. Each track (complete with individual liner notes) represents classic time-capsules of an era outraged by Punk and which was to inspire USHC, but ‘Firing Squad’ remains a firm personal favourite. It’s been remastered from the original recordings too bringing new life to some long-lost (or at least rare, E-bay expensive) classics. (21.02.09)

SUPERBEES, THE - Top Of The Rocks {Acetate} Huh? This lot are from LA?? Odd as this rings with a sound akin to that of the mutant offspring between Motor City Central (think MC5) and the Antipodes (think RADIO BIRDMAN). It doesn’t just pilfer the past though - there’s a vitality that brings this careering into the present. Opener ‘Silver Jet’ is a sneering, compulsive track while ‘Greyhound Tooth’ swaggers and snarls with the venom of the HEARTBREAKERS. ‘The Lonely Kind’ is another highlight, crawling along on a ROLLING STONES psychedelic vibe (not a million miles away from a ‘Satanic Majesties’ feel) aided by the pulsing Farfisa playing of Jake Cavalier of THE FUZZTONES and the rich Motown-on-speed backing vocals of Reggie Kat. It ends, slightly disappointingly, with an AEROSMITH cover - which is a bit too much like wearing the band’s influence on its sleeve. Bar that, this is a neat six track taster of down ‘n’ dirty, raucous Garage Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll. Now, pass the JD babe.... (21.11.10)

SWINGIN’ UTTERS - Here, Under Protest {Fat Wreck} It’s been eight years since the last album by these bastions of San Fran Punk Rock, and in the interim they’ve snagged ex-ONE MAN ARMY mainstay Jack Dalrymple from DEAD TO ME. Has the wait been worth while? I’ve always rated the UTTERS be it on record or live and this, while sounding a little more polished than previous releases, certainly keeps up the quality levels of the band’s past. Right from the opener, ‘Brand New Lungs’ there is a parallel with BAD RELIGION that continues throughout (check ‘Give It All To The Man’ - it could be an ‘Against The Grain’ outtake). Elsewhere, Darius takes lead vocals on a few tracks with his breezy, vaguely New Wave voice adding a RED DONS vibe while Dalrymple provides the closer ‘Effortless Amnesiac’. The remainder is tried and tested UTTERS Punk Rock. Highlights include ‘Reds And Blues And Beggars’, ‘Taking The Long Way’ and ‘Good Things’ while the FILTHY THIEVING BASTARDS project gets hinted at via the Country honk of ‘Scary Brittle Frame’. A slick digipack sleeve tops off another impressive release - I just wish things could’ve been a little rawer and unrestrained. (08.08.11)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2009 including: