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Top Sounds - U

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND - Knows Your Sins {Recess} Four years on since the ‘Bird Roughs’ debut comes the 15-track follow-up and it’s an equally eclectic, if more complete, listen. If you didn’t know, the band features Recess head honcho and TOYS THAT KILL mainman, Todd Congelliere. It would be easy to dismiss this as TTK-lite - it would also be incorrect. Admittedly, Congelliere has a unique voice - part Neil Young, part bratty Punk upstart, part unhinged visionary, but where TTK amped the guitars and sneered, URTC reduce the overdrive to a 60s garage rock tone and smile, adding off-kilter, slightly psychedelic pop vibes to the mix. Highlights are the songs that have a slight swagger to them - ‘My Number’s On The Stall’ and ‘We Aren’t The World’. Elsewhere ‘Animals! RUN!!’ pivots around an echo-drenched guitar coming on like THE CRAMPS while ‘2010 Reprise’ even evoked ‘Pet Sounds’era Beach Boys. A neat digipack sleeve with half-size lyric book that includes an on-going cartoon strip makes it aesthetically pleasing. Joyous and uplifting but decidedly uncontrived, this is probably the best thing Congelliere has done since the last full TTK album. (26.08.11)  

UNFIT - Don’t Love Us Cause We Hate You {Be Fast} Fuck, this is annoying! One side of this 7" spins at 33rpm, the other at 45 - but there’s no indication! The 45rpm side I started at 33 and was plunged into a sludgy ANTISECT riff - then the vocals kicked in and it was apparent an RPM increase was in need! Anyway, this is some potent HC from this four-piece hailing from Marseille, France that fuses the NYHC sound of ‘Liberty and Justice For...’ era AGNOSTIC FRONT, JUDGE and some modern, growled BROKEN BONES stylings. The lead track is the standout, twisting and snarling its way outta the speakers while ‘Brothers For Life’ is a thrash-tastic slice of barbed HC. I’d like to hear the band get a tad faster with less gnarled and more snotty vocals. If that was the case, we could be looking at a pretty neat Eurocore band that would not be a million miles away from RAW POWER. (03.01.11) 

UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS - Funland {Smog Veil} Ask anyone who has no prior knowledge of this band to describe their thoughts and you’ll no doubt be told about hippies dressed in kaftans and headbands, acid, Monterey and/or Woodstock festivals, hash and more acid. In reality this is a project from one of the greatest rhythm sections of the USHC era - Mike Watt and George Hurley from MINUTEMEN (and fIREHOSE come to that). SACCHARINE TRUST’s Joe Baiza adds the guitar while Dave Thomas of PERE UBU and artist Raymond Pettibon assist with ‘vocals’. I’m sure Bass Player or Drum Talk magazines cream their pants over this; I purposely crapped mine just to try to stay awake. I’ve played this half-a-dozen times and never made it to the end. Think high-brow Jazz/hippy fusion boredom. Does it rock? No. Does it hold the attention? No. Did it annoy the fuck outta me? Yes. I wonder if Mike Watt is still touring with THE STOOGES? I bet IGGY rips the shit outta this!! (26.07.09)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2009 including:
UNCOMFORTABLES, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND, UNSEEN (2 reviews)

Top Sounds - V

VANILLA POD - Poets On Payday {Boss Tuneage} Has it really been five years since the last VANILLA POD album? This was always one of the most reliable and likeable bands on the British circuit and it’s great to hear that here, on the band’s fifth album, they still sound as confident, effective and thrilling as ever. Opener ‘Saturday Night’ has to be one of the best opening album tracks heard in recent years with its anthemic chorus and pleading sentiments. Elsewhere there is the jaw-dropping sentimentality of the acoustic ‘Goosedown’ that has elements of BOB MOULD’s ‘Workbook’ era, the post-party celebration of ‘Walk Of Shame’, a frantic ‘4130’ and both ‘Soul Glow’ and ‘Promise’ that feature excellent arrangements and vocal harmonies. I still hear hints of JAWBREAKER in the band’s sound mixed with a BAD RELIGION harmonic structure with an undercurrent of SNUFF-esque Britishness. Vocalist Rob certainly impresses here being powerful and tuneful. As well as the nine new tracks, there are a couple of studio outtakes from the previous two albums, which add to the depth of quality present. And all this from a band that had the massive hurdle of coming from Norfolk to overcome!! At least, it’s a hurdle from the point of view of any Suffolkonian!! "Ave ya got a light boy?" (24.05.10)

VARSITY DRAG - Night Owls {Boss Tuneage} Second studio album for this project from the LEMONHEADS founder, Ben Deily. It kicks of well with an upbeat, catchy rocker, ‘Animal’. From there, it pans out to be a subtle and melodic album. A lot of the structures brought to mind Crowded House (check out ‘Galaxies’ - Neil Finn could sue!!) coupled with hints of early REM. Disc highlight ‘In This World’ is a sweeping track full of mood changes and incorporates some neat open, droning guitar parts that suggested ‘Candy Apple Grey’ era HUSKER DU. Unfortunately, the closing pair of tracks leave the whole disc feeling limp and lacklustre; ‘Morning’ is just plain dull and ‘Post Script’ is a ‘nice’ little track that could easily make a Lloyd-Webber musical. Tom Hamilton handles production (as he did on the first three LEMONHEADS albums), but this is far removed from ‘Hate Yr Friends’. Four or five tracks from this could’ve made a totally killer EP, as it is it’s a decent if patchy US college-Rock-Pop platter that doesn’t quite live up to the debut’s promise. (24.05.10)

VARSITY DRAG - Rock And Roll Is Such A Hassle: Live In Europe {Boss Tuneage} You should know Ben Deily was co-founder of LEMONHEADS and is the guiding force behind VARISTY DRAG. This was recorded in Austria in 2007 and features 15 choice cuts culled from the band’s debut ‘For Crying Out Loud’, a number of LEMONHEADS tracks and a few new tunes also. The band sounds appropriately relaxed, mixing BIG STAR pop subtleties with the more recognisable fuzzed Pop-Punkers. The production certainly lacks bass; it’s a very middley sounding recording and if there is a crowd numbering more than six it’s hard to imagine. Highlights include the breezy ‘Summertime’, the ‘Hate Your Friends’ pairing of ‘Uhhh’ and a stunning, disc-stealing highlight of ‘Ever’. ‘Creator’ is represented with four or five tracks. On a mellower note, there is the sublime ‘Blackout’. Have to say, Deily’s nasal whine got a bit frustrating at the end; would’ve been nice to have heard a bit of veracious ‘Creator’ fire in parts. This is a mid-price deal which is wise because, while this is enjoyable, it lacks the x-factor atmosphere needed for a genuinely good live album. (06.07.09)

VEEBEES - Roots ‘n’ Blues {Ocker} For the Poms and the Yanks, this really should be subtitled ‘Fucks ‘n’ Fights’ as it is far from the homage to traditional music that the title partially implies! It’s just the opposite in fact as this is un-PC gutteral Rock ‘n’ Roll that takes the theology of FEAR, couples it with a RAMONES bludgeon, a NEW BOMB TURKS energy and the Aussie Rock offence of AC/DC and HARD-ONS. The band formed in Canberra, Australia about 10 years ago and, seemingly, little has changed about the band’s concept of ‘Don’t write songs too hard that you can’t play them after a gut-full of beer!’ Highlights would be the AC/DC stomp of ‘I’d Rather Be On A Brewery Tour’, opener ‘Bottla Red’ and ‘Long Neck’ - which is, oddly, another ode to boozing! To grasp much of the humour you have to appreciate the Aussie sense of wit and irony and, while this is decidedly un-PC, it doesn’t actually offend. Truly big and boisterous stuff, relentlessly rocking and unapologetically Australian. And remember ball jugglers, nice boys don’t play Rock ‘n’ Roll! (23.09.10)

VIC GODARD AND SUBWAY SECT - We Come As Aliens {Overground} I’ve never really been a big fan of SUBWAY SECT and this, the band’s first album of new material in eight years, fails to change my opinion. It does have moments of excellence, be it the disc highlight ‘Back In The Community’ that welds ROBYN HITCHCOCK with the ONLY ONES while ‘If We’d’ve’ rings with a virtual Glam Rock resonance recalling BOWIE fused with T-REX! Elsewhere ‘Somewhere In The World’ has a neat ROLLING STONES-esque sneer and ‘Ne’er’ is poignant and reflective and contains one of the most melancholic and addictive choruses heard all year. Much of the other material just left me ambivalent. SUBWAY SECT here features one Paul Cook on drums - the same guy who was in the SEX PISTOLS - although his playing here is much more restrained. Neat packaging as ever from Overground; had to chuckle at the live pic of the band on the centre spread though, with Vic in his v-neck golfing jumper, shirt and tie, Michael Caine glasses and baggy pants!! He looks every inch the mutant father of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker - itself not a bad analogy for SUBWAY SECT. Vinyl version available direct from Vic. Email him for details.(27.11.10)

VILLAIN - It’s Rough {Arrest} Imagine the sound of complete and utter pissed off rage, laced with a total contempt of a complacent, conservative, God-fearing society and you’d have an idea that the resulting, brutal cacophony would be something akin to the noxious slab of aural ‘core blasted out by VILLAIN. There’s 11 tracks here that stampede over the senses in under 15 minutes, bringing to mind POISON IDEA throwing down a few metal riffs a’la DRI’s ‘Crossover’ era - especially on the tracks ‘Chains’ and ‘Comply’. Closer, ‘Taking Out The Thrash’ is a frantic blur of solidarity to adolescence while disc highlights ‘Dissect’ and ‘Nice Guy’ pummel with an intensity usually reserved for the likes of BORN/DEAD. The production is spot on; everything is there and cutting through while the playing is tight and concise and devoid of any wanky Metal pretention and/or twiddling. A truly bilious slice of bitter, scathing HC that could disintegrate any lame fashion Punk wannabe from the soles of his Vans sneakers through to his crimson-red flicked fringe. More like it please!! (23.09.10)

VIOLENT ARREST - Tooth And Nail {Boss Tuneage} Fifth release from this UK power house and, as impressive as the the album below is, this slab just takes the band into a whole other dimension of bone-crunching, empowering and destructive Hardcore. There seems to have been a slight slowing of pace with more thought put into the arrangements, be it closer ‘Demons’ that has echoes of ‘Time Was Right’ PARTISANS or the dynamics of opener ‘Great Firewall Of China’. The guitars in particular have a DISCHARGEian roar about them that’s added depth and power to the sound. Fear not though, any band that includes ¾ of RIPCORD couldn’t resist a bit of raging thrash as the electric, pulverising power of ‘Dead Air’ and ‘Ignorant’ prove. Lyrics are opinionated and to the point as ‘Fuck Off’ and ‘Sausage Machine’ bluntly, punishingly display. Biggest surprise is the excellent cover of THE JAGS New Wave classic, ‘Back Of My Hand’ that has a slight rewrite and now comes on like MENACE meets G.B.H.! Ripping, incendiary stuff - with a great Jack Lemmon sample too! (29,10,11)

VIOLENT ARREST - Minute Manifestos {Boss Tuneage} Remember RIPCORD? This ribald HC quartet includes three members of that incendiary UKHC band of the 80s. This is VIOLENT ARREST’s fourth release and contains 24 hits-to-the-face of confrontational, no-fucking-about Hardcore that left me breathless after a mere 27 minutes total! Although it’s not as fast as RIPCORD (that said, not much is!), traces of that sound is present in the faster tracks like ‘Invisible War’, ‘In Ruins’ and the ferocious ‘Shit For Brains’. Some of the highlights actually lay in the mid-paced growl of ‘Killing For A Living’ (best track in fact) and ‘Suicide Squad’. Lyrically, vocalist Steve Hazzard pulls no punches in his criticism of bigots, war, cops, capitalism, apathy and more social ills. There’s also a take on RIPCORD’s ‘Empty Faces’. Besides ten brand new tracks here, this repackages the US-only double 7" ‘Criminal Record’ and adds another couple of cuts lifted from vinyl-only compilations. It’s great to see these fellas have not mellowed or incorporated any wanky Metal-muso dullness and instead opt for Hardcore Punk of style, precision and power. Smoking! (30.09.10)

VISIONS OF CHANGE/ THE DEPRAVED s/t {Boss Tuneage} Finally... Fucking finally!!! I’ve been looking forward to a quality re-issue of these bands for years and, as if I couldn’t guess, it’s the Boss Tuneage crowd that have done it - and done it in style! This is a whopping 51 track, double CD retrospective of two closely-linked bands from Leamington Spa, England. THE DEPRAVED was a stunningly efficient, US-flavoured HC band and here you get both the ‘Come On Down’ and ‘Stupidity Maketh The Man’ albums plus a comp track. The albums were recorded in 1895 and ‘86 respectively and presented a fast, political brand of HC. By 1987, the band had morphed into VISIONS OF CHANGE, added some 60s quasi-psychedelic influences and released the classic self-titled debut album in 1988. Besides that, this collects a 1987 John Peel session and some unreleased demos. There was a second album, ‘My Mind’s Eye’, that is totally over looked here. While it wasn’t a patch on the debut, a few of the better tracks would’ve been a nice acknowledgment. Packaging is exemplary with a full band history, lyrics and photos all compiled in a very stylish CD booklet designed by Welly from Artcore zine. If you already know and love these bands, you’re gonna want this. If you don’t know the bands, go and buy it anyway - you’re probably looking at your new favourites from the era and don’t even realise it. As a footnote, the singer in these bands is Ian Murphy, who is now in SECTION 13 while his brother Lee went onto play in SNUFF. Essential, classic stuff. (25.09.11)

VRGNS - Manimals {Kiss Of Death} Second album from this NEW MEXICAN DISASTER SQUAD off shot trio and man, do they crank out a mighty, broiling slice of sound! Without doubt, there’s a big OFF WITH THEIR HEADS feel mixed with the accessibility of DEAD TO ME, but somehow that’s all mangled up with a Quarterstick/ Touch and Go feel. Vocalist (and NMDS mainstay) Sam Johnson often brought to mind Larry Damore of PEGBOY; ‘Righteous Killings’, ‘Hangman’ and closer ‘Miscarriage’ (which, with its droning, tonal chords and cold power could’ve been lifted directly off ‘Earwig’) all had a big PEGBOY feel. Production is full with shards of guitar flying outta nowhere while lyrically this is a little off-centre and lateral but covers subjects like religion, jail, addiction and surveillance. Impressive words and sounds that get more incisive and potent with each successive play. (21.03.11)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2009 including:
VANILLA SKY, VARSITY DRAG, VERMIN, VOIDS