Top Sounds - A

ACTION PACT - Mercury Theatre - On The Air!/ Survival Of The Fattest {Westworld} Formed in the early 80s in Middlesex, England, ACTION PACT released two albums on Fallout Records - both of which are compiled on this rather excellent disc. Not only did the band have a fantastic vocalist in Alison ‘George Cheex’ Charles, but they also possessed an ear for a fantastic tune and a distinct social conscience also. The debut album, recorded in 1983 is up first with 13 songs. In comparison to some of the band’s prior singles, it's a bit over-produced but contained a number of crackers including the rancorous ‘Things That Need’, ‘People’ and my personal fave ‘Fools Factions’. The second album, released the following year, is definitely the stronger of the two with opener ‘Open Your Eyes’ setting the tone perfectly mixing the bristling early energy with a greater sense of maturity, atmosphere and song composition. Other goodies include the moody single ‘Cocktail Credibility’, ‘Up On The Heath’ which would’ve given any BANSHEES album track a run for its money and the spritely ‘Human Beings’. Truly great stuff from a criminally over looked band and if the likes of PENETRATION, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, JOYCE MCKINNEY EXPERIENCE and JOY DIVISION (in the case of the second album at least) appeal, then this should be near the top of your wish list. (21.04.17)

ADOLESCENTS - La Vendetta {Concrete Jungle} Album number seven from these Californian legends and it’s gratifying to hear the band still cranking out the jams with such apparent ease. You get 16 songs and from the high-octane opener ‘Monolith At The Mountain Terrace’ to the closing ‘Let It Go’, there’s little to complain about. Highlights are plenty - ‘Last Laugh’ has a seriously heavy-duty riff while ‘Thirty Seconds To Malibu’ is a rollicking, addictive track. ‘Talking To Myself’ is probably the stand-out, showing off Steve Soto’s bass skills. Tony Reflex still sounds pissed off and, in a number of places, I kept thinking of BAD RELIGION, especially in the vocal harmonies (check the mid-paced ‘A Dish Best Served Cold’). If there is a negative, it’s that Dan Root’s lead guitar is a bit OTT in places; if he could follow his own lead in ‘Ricochet Heart’ (which was kinda Rikk Agnew-esque), it would be more rocking and less metal. Always a band that delivers though; comes with a download code and first 1,000 are on gold-vinyl. Actually, make that 999 cuz I ain’t selling mine! (07.08.15)

ADVERSARY - s/t {Boss Tuneage} Never heard this lot before, which is not surprising as they only ever released two demos (both here) and a muted album on Meantime Records never materialized. That’s a great shame too, because this 5-piece outta Stoke-On-Trent (the home of DISCHARGE dontcha know!) were pretty fucking good. The first demo from 1989 is a cracker; rough and raw but still retaining a great clarity, bringing to mind early VISIONS OF CHANGE, SHUTDOWN (UK) and even Ed Shred’s SINK in parts. The second demo, recorded in 1991, is much more damage-inducing, bringing in some splintered arrangements, splurts of noise and vague FUGAZI-esque bass-driven, sparse and embittered dynamics - just check ‘Happy Sad’ for proof. There are plenty of highlights here - ‘Blind’ and ‘First Summer’ both standout from the debut with ‘Civil’ and ‘Shouldn’t Have To’, the latter of which is all moody drama before exploding in shards of guitar and rolling rhythms, taking the awards from the second. Definitely a band that challenged traditional Punk/ HC composition but without making it arty and exclusive. Given the quality of these demos, it’s a great shame a full album was never managed - it could’ve been one of the era’s standout albums. Gutted I missed seeing the band but thank you, again, Boss Tuneage for being a Punk archivist of great taste!! (09.02.16)

ALTERNATIVE TV - Viva La Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete Deptford Fun City Records 1977-1980 {Cherry Red} A massively impressive and massively comprehensive four-disc box set of one of the leading lights of the late-70s Punk boom. You really shouldn’t need to be told that the band’s debut album, ‘The Image Has Cracked’ is a classic. That’s on disc one along with the singles and the ‘77 Peel Session. That alone is essential stuff; if you’ve never heard ‘The Image...’ album, be prepared for one of the most confrontational openings to any album before or since in ‘Alternatives’ - a near ten-minute keyboard laced opus that slips into a caustic, damning live recording. Disc two collects the ‘Vibing Up The Senile Man’ album from 1979, more singles and the ‘78 Peel Session. The remaining two CDs collect what Mark P went on to do with the GOOD MISSIONARIES, his 1980 solo album, ATV’s stuff from the split with HERE AND NOW and a load of other ephemera. Then you get a 20-page booklet full of great photos, notes, recording details and record sleeves. A totally definitive release of an album that’s often over-looked in those lists of Punk’s Greatest. Highlights? Too many to list, but the first CD alone should be mandatory listening. However, ‘How Much Longer’ remains Mark P’s greatest musical pinnacle I reckon - and you won’t find many vocalists with such a sneering and real voice as this. If you wanna see how a ‘re-issue’ should be done and done well, look no further. (25.02.16)

AMEBIX - Monolith {Dissonance} Released in 1987, two years after the classic ‘Arise’, and on the Heavy Metal label, this is an oft over-looked release in the AMEBIX cannon. After the atmospheric, instrumental title track we get eight songs, none of which are under four minutes and most of which contain enough of the trademark AMEBIX savagery to command the attention. Songs like ‘The Power Remains’, the lurching brutality of ‘Last Will And Testament’ and cloying, claustrophobic feel of ‘Fallen From Grace’ all display a much deeper, heavier approach than those on ‘Arise’ but without going anywhere near the full-on shit extremes that DISCHARGE went. Elsewhere ‘Time Bomb’ contains a riff dense and intense enough to match ANTISECT while ‘Chain Reaction’ recalls the ‘No Gods, No Masters’ symbolism and drops it on top of a punishing, relentless riff taking what is probably the album highlight. What was really at the heart of the album’s failing (bar being on a fucking terribly named record label), was its subdued and compressed production. A worthy reissue - but if it had been remixed also it would have been a much more impressive release. (31.08.17)

ANGELIC UPSTARTS - Bullingdon Bastards {Boss Tuneage} Back with their first full album in 13 years, Mensi and the boys drop 12 tracks of spirited but not totally convincing Punk. I’ve never been a massive fan of the band and, I have to say, this is no match for the biting 1979 debut ‘Teenage Warning’. Parts sound a bit forced with some of the vocal phrasing just sounding off. That said, there are a few crackers here - ‘Until Palestine Is Free’ (which has echoes of ‘Last Night Another Soldier’), ‘The Streets Of St. Pauli’, ‘Like Father, Like Son’ and album highlight ‘Don’t Give An Inch’. Lyrically, this is as hard-hitting as anything Mensi has penned before with former Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith particularly in the firing line along with News Of The World, the Royals, Nigel Farage and the Tory Party in general (opener, ‘Tories, Tories, Tories - Out, Out, Out’ makes that clear - albeit in a slightly ham-fisted way). Besides the vinyl, there is also a limited double-CD press that includes six bonus tracks that were previously released on the split with CRASHED OUT. It was an enjoyable listen but, when I wanna hear the UPSTARTS, I doubt I’ll come back to this in preference to ‘Teenage Warning’. (22.03.16)

ANTI-FLAG - A Document Of Dissent 1993 - 2013 {Fat Wreck} It’s true these fellas can come over as ‘confused’ these days. After several albums of vociferous, idealistic and political Punk Rock on notable independent labels, they jumped ship and sign to the evil that is a major label. However, their output has continued strong and, having personally interviewed vocalist, Justin Sane, I am sure he is sincere in what he does and how it is delivered. This cracking 26-track comp takes a few tracks from each of the Pittsburgh band’s nine albums and, in the excellent booklet, adds personal notes from the band to each song. You have the obvious, ‘Die For The Government’, ‘Underground Network’ and ‘Turncoat’ along with the major label stuff (that actually sounds just as potent when aligned with material from the early albums - check ‘Hymn For The Dead’) and the newer, Side One Dummy material. Not sure what this offers those who already own all the albums, but as a convenient ‘one-hit purchase’ or introductory release, then I doubt it could be done with greater aplomb. (30.01.15)

ANTI-PASTI - Rise Up {Westworld} Well, just like there was No Maggie Thatcher, we welcome back these Derby, UK legends. Snag is, of the band’s original early-80s era, it’s only drummer Kevin Nixon who is on this, along with guitarist Ollie Hoon who was on the band’s second (disappointing) album. Original vocalist, Martin Roper, is nowhere to be seen (or heard). Anyway, we get a dozen tracks, starting in surprisingly good form with the title track. It’s got energy, great lyrics and a quality performance. Most of the album stays in that mould too, coming on a bit like MOTORHEAD with less growled vocals. Other highlights include the dramatic ‘Time To Hate’, ‘Trouble With Me’ that’s very sing-a-long and closer ‘Remote Access Denied’ that could be the highlight. Sure, it has moments that simply bored (‘Gatecrasher’ in particular is sub-standard pub rock) and new vocalist Gez Addictive, while lacking Roper’s charm, does an OK job. I think it’s actually a disservice to this line-up to be milking the ANTI-PASTI name. As a ‘new’ band, this would be quite a convincing album; as an album by the band that recorded ‘The Last Call’, it’s a bit lacking and a tad ham-fisted. (19.12.16)

ANTIQUE SCREAM - Two Bad Dudes {Self-Destructo} Yep, this is a duo and pretty dismal too. Think JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE, CREAM and Stoner Rock. Song titles ‘Golden Goddess’ (parts I and II), ‘Black Magic’ (parts I and II), ‘Dragon Chaser’ (parts I and, you guessed it, II) and ‘Harsh Mistress’. Getting a picture? Is it well-done? Might be - I ain’t got a clue but ultimately this kinda stoned, early 70s Heavy Rock with jazz infusions bores the fuck outta me. MINOR THREAT, DEAD KENNEDYS and POISON IDEA you can rest easy - there is no threat to your legacy here! (27.12.15)

ANTI-SYSTEM - At What Price Is Freedom? {Boss Tuneage} 30 years on from the band’s last release, Bradford, UK’s anarcho ragers ANTI-SYSTEM are back with three new tracks and a couple of re-recordings. If ya didn’t know, these guys in the early-mid 80s were fierce enough to be on a par with the likes of CONFLICT and ICONS OF FILTH. This EP continues that intensity and brings in some slightly metallic riffing in parts. The opening title track is an epic, eight minute stunner, kicking off with moody atmospherics that lead into a heavy riff before a vicious double bass kicks in. Then it’s off and outta the gates looking at the spurious ways so-called freedom is often achieved. Of the remaining tracks, it’s the intelligent and damning attack on religion that is ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ that is the other highlight. Both ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘Wot No Meat’ were originally on the band’s 1985 album ‘No Laughing Matter’ with the latter certainly being the better of the two. Raging stuff fusing Anarcho politics, VARUKERS bombast and ANTISECT intensity and one that easily holds its own with the band’s back catalogue. (08.09.17)

AP AND THE SILENT BRIGADE - s/t {DIY} Dunno much about this six-piece outta Atlanta, GA but this four-track EP shows some different styles that galvanise into one decent sound. Opener ‘Ol’ Kentucky’ brought to mind FILTHY THIEVING BASTARDS in its rolling country-fied slice of Americana. From there, the sound gets bigger with more electric guitars and a particularly impressive mandolin under it all, as highlighted on ‘Dirty Dog’, which could be the standout on the EP. Closer ‘Belle Chasse’ reverts back to the acoustic opener, but this is more haunting and morose before opening up into a raucous rocker with Chris May playing his mandolin like a demon. This ain't some faux Irish Acoustic Punk thing either; this relies on an Americana tradition and is much better for it. Production, at least after the first song, is loud and bold and clear and vocalist, Abe Mesaris, has a rich, powerful voice. Have to say, this is really accessible without actually being commercial and has everything needed to cross over into some kinda mainstream notability. And it’s way more pleasing than shite like Gaslight Anathema. Bonus. (09.11.15)

ARCTIC FLOWERS - Remix {Deranged} A pretty self-indulgent record, but a pretty fucking great one too!! ARCTIC FLOWERS, for those who know not, formed out of the ashes of SIGNAL LOST and play a dramatic, moody Punk sound with roots in 80s Anarcho Punk. This album goes back to the band’s four-track demo of 2010, from which you get what is still probably my favourite tune of the band’s ‘Technicolor Haze’ along with ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ and ‘Neon Tombs’ that’s a bit more aggressive. The other demo track, ‘Blue Heelers’ went onto be on the ‘Reveries’ album. The remaining tracks here are remixes of ‘Technicolor Haze’. The ‘Espectrostatic’ mix retains the song’s darker elements but infuse it with some electro-drama that brought to mind what SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES were trying to do around ‘Peek-a-boo’ while RUBELLA BALLET’s Sid Truelove mashes the song into some kinda electronic hyper-beat that could’ve been a massive dance-floor smash during the Rave era. The download code offers a pile more remixes, packing is stylish with a label-hole cut out and while its not the best record for those new to the band, it’s a total pleasure for those already well acquainted. (17.10.16)

ARNOCORPS - The Greatest Band Of All Time {Alternative Tentacles} I’ve never been one to buy into bands that exist as a gimmick and, although I’ve tried to grasp this, I just fail. You get a commando-attired band originally from Austria doing a bunch of half-way decent Metal songs with titles like ‘Terminator’, ‘Predator’, ‘Running Man’, ‘Last Action Hero’... get the picture (or is that movie?)? Have to say both ‘Raw Deal’ and ‘Collateral Damage’ were impressive, briskish tracks that you could imagine TURBONEGRO perfecting; but generally it’s more a mix of MEATMEN with some kinda mid-paced Thrash Metal stuff and a few epic Faith No More moments. This is apparently a reissue of an album that was released back in 2005 but has been out of print for a number of years. Maybe I’d get it a bit more if I rated Arnie films... I’m just disappointed that among all the macho heroic stuff, there’s no Twins representation! (30.01.15)

AWAKEN I AM - Blind Love {Victory} Being on Victory, I expected some kinda Metalcore stuff. What I actually got was 10 tracks of decidedly commercial sounding and atmospheric rock featuring a vocalist that sounds like he just got sacked from one of those X-Factor boy bands (that think they ‘rock’ and are ‘alternative’ cuz they have a tattoo, coloured hair and a nose piercing) and kinda strains to hit notes in a slightly aggressive but tame, mainstream way. Musically, there’s some interesting stuff going on, particularly with the use of keyboards creating mood and a drummer who has some neat left-of-center rhythms. Comparisons? Think FOO FIGHTERS fused with GRACER with the annoying vocals of the fella from America’s Got Talent who had shit hair and wanted to be in Queen... Adam someone or other. Have to say, production is stunning, especially on the drums (in fact, the drummer pretty much steals the show here), everything is clear and has its own space. Basically though, this is so safe it could be on mainstream daytime radio. (25.11.17)

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