Album Feature

Posted on November 24, 2007 at 3:27 PM

THE RABBLE - The Battle's Almost Over... {Filthy Lucre} The third album is always a tricky proposition for a band. It's the album that proves whether there is depth beyond the band's formative years. It's the album that should show a marked progression without compromising its original ideals and direction. Basically, it's the album that proves whether a band should be regarded with respect or is dismissed as a passing fad that was once fun, but now sounds contrived.
Thankfully, for these three fellas from New Zealand's North Island, the third album represents a resounding, triumphant success. The band takes the spirit of youthful exuberance that made the debut album such a cracker, adds some depth and musical experimentation. From the mix comes an album that is focused, insistent and mature whilst retaining all the Punk Rock energy, vitriolic delivery and petulant dynamics that have always made this band one of the best in its field.
The album's artwork states the band's case even before any music is played: vocalist/drummer Rupe walks alone but indomitable into a seemingly post-apocalypse wasteland armed with a solitary guitar case in hand. Once the CD starts, it's clear that THE RABBLE is more than able to let the music speak for itself, and damn the naysayers.
The opening track, 'Seeking' is one of many highlights. It starts with a guitar intro that would not sound out of place on latter GUN CLUB albums. Once the band makes its presence known, an anthemic chorus comes from nowhere stating the band's disdain of apathy and of its desire to push forward.
Fifteen tracks follow ranging in subject matter from the joy of youth, the spirit of Punk Rock, life experience and, best of all, some political insight and opinion with the tracks 'Dead End' and, more specifically, 'Sick And Tired'. This lyrical direction has often been lacking on the band's previous material and it's good to see the band addressing the subject without resorting to any of the recognised Punk Rock clichés.
Musically, the spectre of SOCIAL DISTORTION pervades through much of the album. It's not a blatant rip-off; just well executed songs ('Devils Highway' in particular) that owe more to SD in spirit than anything the band has previously recorded. This is mixed with a classic UK Punk sound that is somewhere between the melodic structure of 'Nobody's Heroes' era STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and the musical muscle and defiance of the 'Time Was Right' album by THE PARTISANS. Fuse those three influences together and the result could be retrogressive; here THE RABBLE makes it fresh and vibrant.
Add to that instruments as diverse as acoustic guitar, bagpipes (on the fist-throwing, exultant title track), mandolin, double bass and even a harpsichord and you are left with something that every third album should establish for the band in question: it's own sound and identity. Ultimately, that's what THE RABBLE has achieved with this record - a sound that is the band's own and, given the strength of this album, it's a formidable, tumultuous, pulsating Punk Rock beat that's as addictive as it is enjoyable.
This album also sees the recording debut of the new line-up. Chazz now handles all the guitar parts with stunning aplomb, be it bittersweet solos such as on the closing 'City Of Sin' or clinical rhythm playing as demonstrated on the sublime ascending/descending Pistolian riffing of 'Start Again'. What may be the most telling line-up change is new bassist Jamie, whose tight, dextrous playing fills out the sound and augments it with an inflammable intensity that had been missing. The blistering bass breakdown in 'Sick and Tired' ably demonstrates this.
The album does have its low points though. Both 'Bored' and 'Zombies' are a little generic. They are not necessarily bad tracks; both are energetic and ably played, they just fail to stand up to the overwhelming strength of the other 14 tracks present on the album.
Jim Seigel of Boston's infamous Outpost mixed the album which could explain some of the general depth and weight behind the music ('New Generation' has a massive sound) but for a great mix to work, the raw ingredients have to be there - and THE RABBLE has them in abundance. Mark, from THE UNSEEN, does a guest vocal on 'This World Is Dead' which is a bit of a scoop for THE RABBLE and the juxtaposition of different voices works well.
And this is released on the band's own DIY label. While others have jumped ship and signed to a major, THE RABBLE remains in control of its own destiny. Given the quality of the record - including artwork, song structure, musicianship and production - the album as a whole should be cited as something approaching a minor-classic.
This is a coming-of-age record for the band, one that sees it transcend the boundaries of routine but good Punk Rock and move into the territory reserved for genre-defining innovators.

Show Time!

Posted on June 29, 2007 at 10:21 PM

No Way Out Records, Hamilton - 23rd June 2007

I don't get to too many shows here in New Zealand due to Taumarunui being kinda isolated and public transport being kinda shite! This worked out ideal though; a Saturday show on a weekend I had already arranged to be in Hamilton and an early finish too - chuffed.
No Way Out Records is on the main street of Hamilton and was formerly known as Upsett Records. It's a shop dedicated to Punk, Hardcore and select Metal - an essential place to visit on any trip to Hamilton. The hall in which the bands played was a rehearsal space, basic floor lighting, no stage, a loud PA - a great place for Punk Rock as it lacked any kind of pretension or atmosphere-crippling mainstream intrusion.
Auckland's SUICIDE DOGS kicked things off with some rowdy Punk Rock. It was the most obviously 'Punk' band on the line-up and played a set of stirring, often bitter CLASH style anthems mixed with a barbed STIFF LITTLE FINGERS approach and topped with a modern thrust. The band looked really good too, with vocalist Luke in stencil-sprayed jeans and heaps of movement from the guys on either side of him. Tracks I caught that were particular standouts include 'Wasting My Life Away' and the lead track of tbe band's debut album 'Breakin' Away'.
Former SOMMERSET man Ryan Thomas was on next. I rated SOMMERSET highly and was looking forward to hearing what Ryan would do with just a guitar and his voice. For 6 songs it was OK, but then it became monotonous. The set consisted of new originals, a few covers (including a decent SOCIAL DISTORTION tune) and a couple of old SOMMERSET classics. I'm sure the new songs would benefit big-time with the backing of a band; as they are they all fused into one with only a couple having enough identity to stand out. If he had played a much shorter set, I think it would have been beneficial for all.
COBRA KHAN feature another ex-SOMMERSET man, Milon Williams, along with members of other notable Kiwi bands like COLD BY WINTER and BALANCE. The sound was instantly bombastic after Ryan's solo dirge. It was loud, hard, punchy and rather bludgeoning - but great! I don't have the band's 'Sleepless Lions' release, but I did pick up a few titles like 'Runaway' that featured some blazing guitar lines and mass-backing vocals. The closing, rather hypnotically punishing track was stunning also. The only negative was the fact that Sarah's keyboards were sometimes lost under the concentrated battering ram of the guitar attack. Definitely a Kiwi band to check out.
THE DRAFT which, like you should already know, feature ¾ of HOT WATER MUSIC (Chuck Ragan being the omitted ¼). Kicking off with the uplifting 'New Eyes Open' the band instantly pulled the crowd (which was stunningly sparse) in and held their attention for the entire 35-40 minute set. Most of the 'In A Million Pieces' album was played, but special mention must go to 'Let It Go', a cataclysmic 'Wired' and the uplifting, triumphal set closer 'Lo Zee Rose'. Chris seemed much chattier on-stage with THE DRAFT than he did the last few times I saw HWM and it was good to see the band enjoying the performance. That rhythm section of Jason and George is still one of the best I have ever seen - I've said that before but the pair are so tight and inventive musically it's a joy to watch and hear. I was expecting at least one HWM track but, thankfully, never got one. It was great to see THE DRAFT not relying on HWM's highly respected reputation.
And so it ended - a great night where the Kiwi bands could hold their heads high and the gang from Gainesville certainly washed away the residue of their former band to offer something new, enthralling and no less special.