Top Sounds - S

SAVAGE REPUBLIC - AFRICA CORPS: Live At The Whisky A Go Go 30/12/81 {Independent Project Records} Live recording of SAVAGE REPUBLIC when they were still known as AFRICA CORPS and recorded when the band supported none other than MIDDLE CLASS.  You get ten tracks in 36 minutes that have their roots firmly in Post-Punk (almost before it had been defined) but throw in the uncompromising attack of Hardcore and a few droning moments of Industrialism to create a sound which would have been quite unique in the confines of The Whisky in 1981 - think MISSION OF BURMA playing JOY DIVISION via FLIPPER. Highlights include ‘Next To Nothing’ that comes on like PUBLIC IMAGE LTD, ‘Mobilization’ which highlights the FLIPPER vibe with a damage-inducing bass sound and the militant, enraged ‘Machinery’ that’s riddled with the kinda scary-surf guitar leads that East Bay Ray perfected on those early DKs releases, while best track is a battle between the confrontational, bruising minimalism of ‘Kill The Fascists!’ and cloying KILLING JOKE/ ALTERNATIVE TV-isms of closer ‘When all Else Fails...’. Pretty captivating stuff and, as usual with IPR, this is all packaged in wonderful style with their trademark, highly stylized over-sized CD sleeve, fold out inlay with memories of the gig and four reproductions of the show’s flyers. Wonderful stuff... (10.02.23)
SCENIC - Incident At Cima {Independent Project Records} Another wonderfully packaged reissue from what is rapidly becoming a favourite label.  This time, it’s a reissue of the 1995 instrumental debut album from SCENIC, that featured former SAVAGE REPUBLIC guitarist Bruce Licher. Its inspiration is the East Mojave Desert and plays out over 15 tracks. Sound a bit pretentious? Well, opener, the swirling ‘The Shifting Sand’ suggested it, but then we get ‘The Kelso Run’ followed by the title track and we’re looking at GUN CLUB meets ENNIO MORRICONE with a splish of GRANT LEE BUFFALO for good measure. Other highlights include the ominous, circling drone of ‘Carrying On To Cadiz’ and ‘Bossa Dune’. Does it evoke the Mojave? Not sure, never been. This also comes with a bonus disc of demos and basic tracks and a fantastic fold out poster/ info sheet with images of the desert itself. Not something I’ll come back to often, but the love that Independent Project puts into their releases make each and everyone interesting, substantial and a true pleasure to hold. (17.06.22)
SCHIZOS - s/t {Sweet Time} Well, this sure ain’t the sound we know from Nashville!! Think the brutal distorto Garage Punk of REATARDS, TEEN GENERATE and VILETONES played with maximum snotty disgust and you’ll be there. Add on a bad live recording of THE GERMS and the aural assault of DOUBLE NEGATIVE and you’re even closer. Tracks like ‘Trapped Inside Tennessee’, ‘Banned In Birmingham’, ‘Dead Routine’ (that features a frantic guitar riff) and the nihilism of ‘Juice Is Loose’ should state where this is coming from, and where it’s heading. Gutteral, psychotic, noxious Garage Punk Fucking Rock. Nuff said. (15.02.21)
SCREECHING WEASEL - Some Freaks Of Atavism {Recess} Well - this surprised me! A real return to form for Ben and the latest incarnation of the WEASEL. Opener, ‘She Ain’t Your Baby’ is a prime time blast - could easily have been on ‘Anthem For A New Tomorrow’ in fact. From there you get another 13 tracks which, while not quite up there with the likes of ‘My Brain Hurts’, this is probably the band’s best since ‘Major Label Debut’. Plenty of highlights be it the sneering ‘To Hell With You’ that features some rather BAD RELIGION-esque backing ohhs-and-ahhs vocals, the stuttering ‘Brain In A Jar’, the mid-paced swagger and demure guitar lead of ‘Losing My Mind’ and the classic Ben Weasel loser traits of ‘Never Been In Love’ that features a majestic key change while best track is a dual between closer ‘Bleed Through Me’ and the rather dark and sinister ‘God Help Us’. Interesting use of keyboards throughout too; nothing to overriding but noticeably filling out the sound. There’s very little to dislike here; in fact the only negative is the minimal packaging - no lyric sheet, no download code but nice red vinyl. (05.05.21)
SEIZED UP - Brace Yourself {Pirates Press} PODCAST PLAYED Debut album from this Californian Hardcore ‘super group’ that features members of BL’AST (vocalist Clifford Dinsmore), GOOD RIDDANCE (bassist Chuck Platt), ALL YOU CAN EAT (guitarist Danny Buzzard) and THE DISTILLERS (drummer Andy Granelli). You get 11 enraged tracks which fuse BLACK FLAGisms with discordant JESUS LIZARD jams and moments of CAREER SUICIDE abandon. Highlights include ‘Disasteroid Mutation’ that’s laden with discordant bass fuzz fused with DEAD KENNEDYS warped Punk ‘core, the relentless riff frenzy of ‘Sobriety Hurts’ that culminates in a sludgy creepy-crawl and ‘Blob Of Mediocrity’ which could be the best example of a GOOD RIDDANCE jam with BL’AST, while highlight is ‘Bleeding Fingers’ that’s got a damage inducing bass breakdown, refracted guitar signatures and a bellicose vocal. Impressive, raging and politically charged stuff - just as it should be given their collective CV. (28.06.21)
SENSIBLE GRAY CELLS - Get Back Into The World {Damaged Goods} PODCAST PLAYED Second album for this on/off project featuring Captain Sensible and Paul Gray of THE DAMNED (keyboard player Monty also guests on a track) and you know what? It’s really rather fantastic! Of the 12 tracks, highlights include the title track that certainly evokes THE DAMNED’s own ‘Grimly Fiendish’ in its composition and harpsichord section but is infinitely better, ‘Black Spider Memo Man’ pulls the Psychedelic sound of ROBYN HITCHCOCK and MARTIN NEWELL with swirling keys and lush backing vocals, ‘Stupid Dictators’ clattered like early WHO and ‘DJ With Half A Brain’ even brought to mind THE JAM, albeit with a wild wah-wah laden guitar solo from Captain. Obviously, the specter of THE DAMNED hangs heavily over this. Every song did lead me to the question, “Could The Damned have done this?” Generally the answer was no, but in the case of both ‘So Long’ and album highlight ‘Fine Fair-Weather Friend’ I could hear Dave Vanian singing - the latter especially would have benefited from his croon (and the closing atmospheric keyboard drone could be lifted straight from ‘Curtain Call’). There’s a lot to like here; Captain keeps guitar heroics to a minimum, Gray’s bass playing is inventive, mercurial even and pushes everything along while drummer Marty Love (of JOHNNY MOPED’s band) makes a solid claim that maybe he should be the new DAMNED drummer. Limited edition came with a 12” EP (both sides decidedly Psychedelic) and on splatter vinyl. And I haven’t even mentioned the very baronial-sounding dig at Prince Andrew. Highly recommended!! (14.06.21)
SENSIBLE GRAY CELLS - So Long {Damaged Goods} Ohh - this is interesting! Latest version of this project from THE DAMNED’s Captain Sensible teaming up with the band’s best bassist, Paul Gray. This is a two-track 7” which is a prequel to the second album. I think it’s limited, but with both tracks taken from the album, it’s hardly essential bar to those collectors. Lead track opens with some very ethereal, psychedelic keyboards before opening up into a track that could easily have fitted very well onto THE DAMNED’s recent ‘The Rockfield Files’ release. Big keyboard breakdown in the middle, Gray’s bass powering the whole thing along - bit of a stunner. Flip the red wax and we get ‘What’s the Point Of Andrew?’ which is, obviously, a very pointed commentary at the philandering prince. Includes THE DAMNED’s Monty on keyboards and has a similar psychedelic whimsy as TELEVISION PERSONALITIES. Very sedate, very hazy and very directed. Nice vintage looking sleeve (the sleeve fold-arounds look so real - even now I’m checking them for about the tenth time!), nice record - roll on the album!! (26.01.21)
SHIP THIEVES - Irruption {Chunksaah} PODCAST PLAYED Album number four from this project of Chris Wollard, best known for his tenure in HOT WATER MUSIC. Just ten tracks, but fuck me, what a set of tracks! From opener ‘The Embers Of Enlightenment’, that flows on a propulsive, bubbling bass line and locks down on some solid riffing, the quality of things never drops. Highlights could be each and every song. But the urgency of ‘Race To Oblivion’, the huge chorus of closer ‘Lurking Strain’, ‘Tangled Net’ that has guitars that hammer down in a way the song could claim to be the most aggressive in Wollard’s cannon so far (and the same could be said for ‘(I Don’t Wanna) Face The Dog’) and the BOB MOULD tones of ‘Virulent Man’ (in fact, there are a few tracks that recall MOULD) could be the standouts along with album highlight ‘He Lost His Head’ which could easily have fitted on ‘Mush’ and been a key track. Another stunner from Wollard; the production is bold and literally flies out of the speakers, performances are stellar and there’s enough of a difference between this and HWM to justify this as a totally separate entity. Think I’ll play this again, right now. (18.11.21)
SHIVA BURLESQUE - Mercury Blues + Skulduggery {Independent Project Records} Originally recorded back in 1990, this was this Los Angeles-based band’s second and final album. Fantastic stuff it is too - equal parts DREAM SYNDICATE, GUN CLUB and what we now know as Americana. Kicking off with the title track, this is wonderfully graceful and sublimely powerful stuff focused around the core writing team of vocalist Jeffrey Clark and guitarist Grant-Lee Phillips. Not a duff track in sight with particular highlights being the propulsive, haunting ‘Do The Pony’ that evokes the spirits of the Navajo and Monument Valley, the drama of ‘Sick Friend’ and the closing, hypnotic ‘Chrome Halo’ while the violence of ‘Chester The Chimp’ is tempered by the grandeur of ‘Nez Perce’. Thrilling stuff, all remastered for this release and packaged in the usual, high quality over-sized CD packaging with quality booklet and cards. Not only that, but this comes with an additional (and thrilling) 10-track CD of demos. Wonderful, invigorating stuff. After this Phillips went onto moderate success with GRANT LEE BUFFALO while Clark released a solo album, ‘Sheer Golden Hooks’ in 1996. (25.06.22)
SLACKERS, THE - Nobody’s Listening {Pirates Press} Limited two track 12” ultra-violet disc (note - both tracks are on one side on black vinyl, the other is a full colour digital print) from these New York City Ska mainstays. Lead track is an up-tempo cracker, kinda like THE SPECIALS with a NYC groove and fantastic brass solo. The flip, ‘Sleep Outside’ is more of a Rock Steady groover, with a lyric that looks at eviction and the general state of the US nation. Have to say, I usually avoid a lot of Ska-Punk stuff, but this is fantastic - more in a traditional Ska style than that irritating shite peddled by the likes of Mad Caddies. This contains way more substance and even something approaching menace. Production is crisp and the tracks appear to be recorded live.. Great stuff - I like it!! (31.01.21)

SLACKERS, THE - Blue (Pirates Press} Huh? Another single already?? Given how impressed I was with the single below, I sure ain’t complaining. This time it’s a 7” limited to a 1,000 copies on four different colours of vinyl. Lead track ‘Blue’ is a dub-heavy tune with a bass line as heavy as ‘Jah war’ and a brass arrangement as haunting as ‘Ghost Town’. It’s actually a push to get the American voters voting in the right - blue - direction (which thankfully they did). The flip is a dub-version of the same tune that applies all I said above but to depth charge levels. Gotta say, I prefer the release above, but this still impresses and especially the message behind the music. (31.01.21)
SONGS FOR SNAKES - Forced Pleasantries {DIY} PODCAST PLAYED Album number five from this rather stunning quartet outta San Francisco. You get eight tracks that kick off with the decidedly FORGETTERS meets THE BOMB sound of ‘Confusion Is Control’. These aren’t short songs either - only two last under four minutes with highlights being the two longest in ’If Only’, which, at six-plus minutes, could be a complimentary piece to SUGAR’s ‘Hoover Dam’ with ringing guitars, tonal droning and a surging yet shimmering instrumental finale and ‘Symphonic Deterrent’ that’s nigh on eight-minutes of laconic, early TEENAGE FANCLUB-esque majesty. Elsewhere, the title track has an epic droning SWERVEDRIVER vibe and ‘Her Decent’ could be a BOB MOULD track from ‘Warehouse’, while closer ‘A Vapid Life’ is a rollicking nod towards the opening track again. This is a pretty much near perfect set of songs from a band that has never disappointed; songwriting is top notch, musicianship is inventive without being self-indulgent and production is just right - dynamically capturing all those droning tones coupled with ringing guitars with aplomb. Hugely recommended. (31.08.21)

SPECTRES - Nostalgia {Artoffact} PODCAST PLAYED I thought the previous album from this Vancouver band, ‘Utopia’, was a modern classic of Goth/ Dark Punk type stuff. This, the band’s fourth, is a worthy follow-up and sees the sound a little lighter in places and typified by opener ‘The Head And The Heart’ that has distinct echoes of JOY DIVISION. Eight songs follow, not a duffer among them with particular highlights being ‘When Possessed Pray’ has hints of THE CURE, closer ‘Along The Waterfront’ and the urgent, surging ‘Pictures From Occupied Europe’ while best track is most likely ‘Insurgence’ that literally explodes and then flows on a pulsing bass, tribal drums and insistent guitar. Have to say, the vocal performance of Brian Gustavson on this album is awesome mixing ethereal almost frail musings (see ‘Dreams’) with a more bombastic delivery echoing THEATRE OF HATE on some of the tracks mentioned. Visually, just like ‘Utopia’, this looks fantastic pressed on frost white vinyl with very sharp, clean graphics that follow the colour of the vinyl with added navy blue. Absolute stunner and yes, probably my favourite release from 2020 and one that just gets better with each listen. (08.02.21)

SUNSHINE STATE - The Mess {DIY} Second album, and download only it seems, from this band that features ex-AGAINST ME! drummer Warren Oakes and WHISKEY AND CO’s Troy Perlman. You get ten tracks that, like the debut album, display a great sense for songwriting and the AGAINST ME! vibe of the debut isn’t as apparent here. In fact, there’s a vague SOUL ASYLUM feel to a lot of these songs if mixed with the dramatic sounds of TEXAS IS THE REASON. Opener ‘Hard Life’ certainly has those SOUL ASYLUM parallels while ‘Comfort’ shows the TEXAS... comparison. Other goodies include ‘Recover’ that starts like THE CURE before morphing into something SAMIAM could do and ‘Keller Family Curse’ that has guitar tones to match the sonic blast of DINOSAUR JR while highlight ‘Decision’ is probably the closest they get to an AGAINST ME! sound but throw some really effective keyboards into the mix. Hopefully someone has the good sense to give this a physical release - it surely deserves it. (15.01.21)
SWEEPING PROMISES - Hunger For A Way Out {DIY} PODCAST PLAYED CD/ cassette reissue of this Boston MA band’s debut album from last year. You get ten tracks of impressive bass-driven, post-Punk gear that’s sparsely played, inventively arranged and features a few twists and turns that are unexpected - think JOY DIVISION fused with COCTEAU TWINS and KLEENEX with a splish of SIOUXSIE’s commanding presence and you’re more or less there. Plenty of highlights be it the pulsing ‘Safe Now’ which could be the best example of a SIOUXSIE comparison (especially circa ‘Peek-a-boo’), the jittery ‘Cross Me Out’ and ‘An Appetite’ which evoked BAUHAUS without actually sounding like them while best track could well be ‘Falling Forward’ that’s propulsive and includes a stunning vocal from Lira Mondal. A really strong album of dramatic post-Punk that’s both liberating and claustrophobic in performance and sound. Lots to like. (05.10.21)

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