Top Sounds - B

BAD SPORTS - Kings Of The Weekend {Dirtnap} From the opening ballistic detonation of ‘Off Switch’ that harnesses all the raw, unbridled, snarling cool of THE SAINTS, it’s clear this Texas trio has recorded this 14 track slice of pristine Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll with their guitars slung low and a sneer on their gum-chewing chops. To that, you can add the tracks ‘Inside And Out’ and ‘I’m In Love With Myself’ that THUNDERS would’ve not thought twice about including on ‘L.A.M.F’, ‘You Look Funny’ that takes the timeless tunesmithery of BIG STAR but cranks it up via a RADIO BIRDMAN groove while ‘Get My Head’ kicks and punches around a riff that Cheetah Chrome would’ve given up drugs for in the 80s and ‘You Don’t Wanna Know’ could be the best track to never appear on a GRANT HART album. Get the picture mofo? This is fantastically fluid and natural, high-octane Punk Rock with an ear for sublime killer melodies and all produced with more energy than a hyperactive 5-year-old after an intravenous glucose feed. An album that ticks all the required Rock ‘n’ Roll quality boxes - and does it some fucking style!! (23.12.11)

BANGERS - Small Pleasures {Kiss Of Death} These guys seemingly revel in anonymity! The very cool digipack of this 10 tracker lists no band members, contains no photos of the band, has no writing credits and doesn’t even suggest where the band hails from. Fact is, BANGERS is a trio outta Cornwall, UK and this is the band’s full debut album. It’s a stunningly impressive slab too, mixing the perfect songs structures of THE MAGNIFICENT with the gruff, balls-out Rock of GREAT ST. LOUIS and adding a bit of STIFF LITTLE FINGERS for good measure. Lyrically, the songs revolve around observations but are written with formidable wit and alacrity. ‘Irritants’ highlights people’s lack of humour (especially when faced with the use of metaphors), ‘Church Street In Ruins’ is a pointed observation on consumer culture while disc highlight, ‘Integral Faults’ wonders why life cannot be simpler and, using more metaphors, more worthwhile. The songs don’t pander to the verse-chorus-verse routine either; many have highs and lows but the lyrical narrative progresses with the song. Truly excellent stuff that’s thought provoking, intelligent and witty - not to mention decidedly rocking! (29.08.11)

BANNER PILOT - Resignation Day {Fat Wreck} A remixed and remastered version of this lot’s debut album that was originally released on Go-Kart in 2008. Despite all the studio trickery that has taken place, it still fails to hide the fact that this is not as good as the album below. The sound is very much typical Midwestern Punk - that’s to say a DILLINGER FOUR influence is evident along with a few nods to THE REPLACEMENTS and a smidgen of HUSKER DU, although the main vibe I got was JAWBREAKER meets FACE TO FACE. It has some strong moments: ‘Shell Game’ is unquestionably the epic track of the album with, I think, some piano accompaniment in the arrangement, ‘Baltimore Knot’ ups the pace to claim the album’s fastest track while ‘Absentee’ is a bass-lead, instantly accessible cracker. This is made a little more special than a simple ‘reissue’ with the inclusion of the split 7" the band released with THE MONIKERS on Kiss Of Death Records. This is a much more abrasive sound - even echoing CRIMPSHRINE. It’s all wrapped in a digipack sleeve with an annoyingly hard-to-read lyric sheet. Not bad, but check out the disc below first. (16.12.10) 

BANNER PILOT - Collapser {Fat Wreck} Second album (but first for Fat) from this Minneapolis-based quartet. On first listen, it lacked identity and melted into the plethora of similar sounding, polite bands. You wanna know the sound? Think a mature Pop-Punk band with less superficial lyrics and more structured arrangements. Successive plays proved these fellas have a bit more depth. You can clearly hear a kinship with label-mates SMOKE OR FIRE and LOVED ONES in hard-hitters ‘Empty Lot’ and opener ‘Central Standard’. I also heard ‘24 Hour Revenge Therapy’ era JAWBREAKER, especially in the raspy vocals and tense, fractious arrangements best shown in ‘Greenwood’ and ‘Drains To The Mississippi’. Elsewhere album highlight ‘Farewell To Iron Bastards’ has a bitter chorus that just falls outta the speakers while closer ‘Write It Down’ includes an excellent bass-driven breakdown before the guitars build into a fading crescendo. Only downer is ‘Starting At An Ending’ which is slick and decidedly nice. Overall, this is a deceptively effective record that, had it been a touch rawer and a little more abrasive, may have been the most impressive album from a new Fat Wreck signing since the DEAD TO ME debut. (31.10.09)

BARRY, TIM - 28th And Stonewall {Suburban Home} And I thought the album below was rather downbeat! As AVAIL seemed to get ever more intense as the band progressed, BARRY’s solo work seems to be getting calmer but no less enthralling. The album plays greatly to the strength of BARRY’s voice - that imposing, rich tone that’s doused in sincerity - that seems louder than usual, but with good purpose as the lyrics seem to reflect on BARRY’s own health problems of late and emphasize the commitment to living each day to its fullest. The upbeat songs are wonderful, Country honking romps - kinda like the STONES ‘....Main Street’ era. Elsewhere the spirit of prime-time DYLAN is invoked via ‘Walk 500 Miles’ and ‘11/7’. Highlights have to include the plaintive, impassioned history lesson of ‘Prosser’s Gabriel’, the haunting ‘Moving On Blue’ and the defiant ‘(Memento Mori)’ all of which could vie for the title of BARRY’s best vocal performance yet. The sedate feel of this album could be down to the fact that the musical accompaniment has been kept to a minimum; with the exception of a bit of banjo, Caitlin Hunt’s excellent violin skills and a bit of bass and percussion, there is little here that is not TIM BARRY. Packaging emphasizes BARRY’s quest for travelling via a foldout digipack sleeve. Highly recommended - as always. (06.02.11)

BARRY, TIM - Manchester {Suburban Home} Second solo album from AVAIL’s frontman and a more sedate, downbeat offering it is compared with the relatively upbeat debut. It opens in fine form with ‘Texas Cops’ before ‘On And On’ presents one of the most sombre offerings from the BARRY muse so far. It’s actually the more composed, reflective moments that really hit - ‘5 Twenty 5’ and the stunning closing pairing of ‘222’ and ‘Raised And Grown’ being highlights while of the up-tempo tracks it’s ‘Sagacity Gone’ and AVAIL’s ‘This November’ that stand out. Of all involved in Punk today, no other performer is more suited to the introspective country/folk album than BARRY. His vocal has a sincerity coupled with a gritty realism few others can match. He writes lyrics that reflect every day life but on a global scale - check ‘South Hill’ or the simply amazing ‘Ronnie Song’ for evidence; down-to-earth words from someone having lived (living) a full life but without feeling the need eulogise it. Anyone who grasps the power of AVAIL and the depth of experience behind the songs will appreciate this. If ‘Fifth Wheel’ registers for you on par with ‘Scuffle Town’, well, this will be a very satisfying listen. (27.07.09)

BASTARD SUNS, THE - Here Come The Suns {Something Done Right} Just where the hell did this slab of pristine Punk Rock anthems come from? Atlanta, Georgia’s BASTARD SUNS have created a varied listen here, mixing Punk, Ska, acoustic drinking songs and a bit of Rock - but each genre is expertly played, fitted together seamlessly and laden with attitude. Most prevalent is a BOUNCING SOULS/ YOUTH BRIGADE feel, which is clear on opener ‘Never Say Die’. Elsewhere, ‘We’d Go For Broke’ takes GOOD RIDDANCE style melodic HC and throws in some slick Ska breakdowns, ‘SBMT’ rips Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ and rocks while ‘R.I.P’ revels in a melancholic blues-laden swagger. Even the version of Dire Straits’ ‘Walk Of Life’ morphs into a marriage of thrashtastic Punk and skankalicious Ska! Real highlight is vocalist Clayton Hiers who, with songs titled ‘Irish Drinking Song’ and ‘Pirates Of The Whiskey Sea’, I imagined would have a faux MacGowan slur but this dude can really sing with clarity and balls. Excellent hidden Queen cover too. Production is clear and loud, resulting in an album the laboured likes of FLOGGING MOLLY can but dream of. (07.07.11)

BATUSIS - s/t {Smog Veil} I was really excited about the prospect of this new band consisting of DEAD BOY Cheetah Chrome and NEW YORK DOLL Sylvain Sylvain. This, the pair’s debut release is, unfortunately, quite an anti-climax. Highlight by far is ‘Bury You Alive’ which is an up-tempo rocker crammed with cutting chord progressions and some excellent guitar lead work that harkens back to Cheetah’s wonderfully wasted and degenerate DEAD BOYS work (think the sublime lead on 'Not Anymore'). Snag is there is also the laboured, sludgy and borderline sexist clap-trap of ‘What You Lack In Brains’. The vocal - which I am guessing is Sylvain - is simply woeful. The other two tracks are instrumentals which, while fun (particularly ‘Big Cat Stomp’), don’t really do justice to names like Sylvain and Chrome. Let’s hope that this is just a taste of what’s to come and not just the best they have so far. (31.08.10)

BEAT THE RED LIGHT - Salt The Lands {TNS} Woarrrggghh!! Gruuunnnt!! Gummpphh!! If I thought the EP below was genre-blending, then this baby takes all that, chews it up and spits out a myriad of sounds in one bilious discharge. All I said below is still relevant, but here it’s all ten-times bigger and gnarlier. The band has swollen to eight now, and this nine track debut album deftly switches between cut-yr-bollocks-off tight Metal and phat Ska grooves. The criticism below re: the vocal has been rectified too - and in style - as they now spit and growl and groove in perfectly phrased synchronicity. Have to say though, as hard hitting and musically stunning as this is, it’s not my preferred brand of ear damage. I still think the arrangements could be much more concise and I could do without those fucking horrible growled demon death-metal vocals too. No doubt killer live but my stereo doesn’t favour such (admittedly raging) thrash metal riffs. (29.06.11)

BEAT THE RED LIGHT - s/t {TNS} Crickey! This is some serious genre-blending, bludgeoningly-bilateral, crossover chaos! This 7-piece splice some seriously cutting metal riffs with deft, bass-led Ska-Punk while throwing down some funky beats into the mix to create something genuinely original. Both ‘The Luminus Way’ and ‘Send In The Clowns’ feature riffage that’s on par with early Metallica with guitar solos to match (not necessarily a good thing in my eyes) while ‘The Scene Is Under Attack’ adds a Fishbone groove to the barrage. Lyrically this is interesting stuff, well thought out with a lot of work (possibly too much work - simplify a bit fellas!) put into the arrangements. Vocally though, it doesn’t always hit the spot; phrasing sometimes failed to match the music and the delivery could certainly be snottier rather than screamier! If FIVE KNUCKLE beating the shit outta MAD CADDIES appeals, this could be for you. If you know the TNS sound, BEAT THE RED LIGHT fit well. (31.08.10)

BEAUTY SCHOOL DROPOUT - Palookaville (A Retrospective) {Boss Tuneage} I always liked this mid-late 90s quartet outta Glasgow, Scotland. The band’s ‘Teasing The Fat Kids’ album is still in the Scanner vaults and this neat 12-track comp makes a perfect companion piece for it. The first four tracks form the band’s debut demo recorded back in ‘96. It’s grounded in the Pop-Punk sound of the day and could have fitted neatly on Crackle! Records as SKIMMER meets GREEN DAY is a good reference point. The next five tracks are the band’s final recordings from 2002, originally appearing as part of the Boss Tuneage Instant Singles Collection. While Pop-Punk is still the order of the day, these songs show a harder, more dynamic edge - J CHURCH meets FACE TO FACE if you like. It’s this session that provides the highlights too in ‘One For Sorrow’ and ‘Passing Thru’. The final trio of tracks come from the band’s brief reformation in 2009 and, guess what?? Pop-Punk is still evident although ‘Late Night Shopping’ has a neat slow-burner drive. I’m sure this will have its detractors but for solid, melodic Punk, this band was one of the best of its era. Can I be the only one who thinks ‘Blue’ would have stolen ‘Kerplunk’ had it been on there? (01.09.10)

BEEZEWAX - A Dozen Summits {Boss Tuneage} Nice guy, college radio Indie Rock stuff that owes a great deal to TEENAGE FANCLUB. I recall something this lot released years ago on Firefly that didn’t do much for me and this - a reissue of the band’s debut album from 1997 - has left me equally soporific. It’s not bad, just... well... there in the background. A few of the tracks have a ‘Lick’-era LEMONHEADS feel and besides the original dozen songs, this reissue has a couple of extra tunes thrown in. Any band that opens its album - especially one that pedals mid-paced Indie Rock with an increasingly annoying whiney vocal like this - with a track called ‘The Snooze Is On’ just leaves it open for a myriad of sarcastic comments. Fortunately for EARWAX... um... BEEZEWAX, I’m too sleepy to think of any. (05.10.10)

BIG DRILL CAR - A Never Ending Endeavor {Boss Tuneage} Never really got into this American band. They always seemed to try too hard to justify their Punk Rock credentials via links with Cruz Records and ALL but came off sounding... well... lame. Nothing has changed as far as I can see; to label this ‘Punk’ is little different from suggesting something like FOO FIGHTERS is Punk also. Anyway, this platter features 20 tracks of wannabe-CHEAP TRICK mediocre melodica, five of which are brand new recordings - the band’s first in 15 years! ‘Drops In The Sea’ is by far the best - ominous and bass-driven amidst a sea of polite melodic slop that has as much pace as an asthmatic aardvark carrying a backpack. The other 15 tracks are rare and unreleased (apparently) including a bunch of covers from HUSKER DU, BUZZCOCKS and - surprise surprise - CHEAP TRICK. Never ending indeed... (04.10.10)

BITCH SLAP BARBIE - 13 The Hard Way {Brown Bag Propaganda} Ohhh... Meet me in St. Louis baby cuz these four Missourians can crank out some choice slices of attitude riddled, down ‘n’ dirty Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll sleaze. The overriding feel I kept hearing in this was the ‘Blood, Guts...’ era DWARVES - opener ‘Taken Over’ and, especially, ‘Rumble Seat’ both display that urgent yet loose cut-throat sound with stabs of vocals punctuating the riffs. Vocalist Gita Sheridan has a bilious arrogance about her vocal, mixing Ingi outta GEE-STRINGS with Theo LUNACHICK. Elsewhere ‘Scared You’re Seeing Me’ slows the pace to a mid-tempo Garage rocker and ‘Burning Down Bridges’ is a slow-burn growler, while ‘Never Shut Up’ flies along on a sub-NEW BOMB TURKS riff and enough attitude to make ZEKE suitable for children’s TV. Sneering and incinerating stuff with the only negative being the truly abysmal band name that sucks of Hollywood Strip glam rock. (06.04.11)

BITTER PILLS - s/t {Boss Tuneage} After several years absence from the musical stage, Graeme Gilmour (ex-BROCCOLLI) and Chris Perry (ex-HOOTON 3 CAR) are back with a new project and this seven tracker. If you know Graeme’s or Chris’s ex-bands, you’ll know neither adhered to the DISCHARGE or BLACK FLAG or NOFX brand of Punkage. In fact, BITTER PILLS could be the pair’s most hook-laden effort yet. Bravely, the album opens (and closes) with an instrumental that gives a nod toward both previous bands listed while adding a vague BLUE TIP style to the guitar. The big surprise here lays in two of the highlights: ‘Done Deal’ and ‘No Surprise’. Both bring acoustic guitars and a distinct BIG STAR-esque, 70s power-pop feel to proceedings. ‘Partisan’ takes best track though, with a nod to DINOSAUR JR played via TEXAS IS THE REASON. It’s good stuff if a little mellow for my usual listening preference. Oddly the record’s sole flat-out rocker, ‘Null Pointer’ is the weakest track here, sounding kinda unfinished. Hopefully, this is not a one-off project. (01.09.10)

BLACKLISTED - Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God {Deathwish} From memory, these fellas split up at the 2006 Sound And Fury Fest. Now, this Philadelphia HC band is back with a crushingly heavy and ferocious HC attack. The 11 tracks here fly by in a relentless sub-20 minute blur. Gotta say, there are way too many Metal breakdowns, grunting and riffing for me. While the likes of ‘I’m Weighing Me Down’, ‘Self Explosive’ and the Greg Ginn-esque guitar work of ‘Matrimony’ all impressed, most of the remainder was just too 108 gone Metal for these spiky ears. Kurt Ballou’s production certainly gives the disc depth and power, but more ‘Core and less Bore would certainly be the way to go. (10.01.09)

BLACKLIST ROYALS - Semper Liberi {Paper And Plastick} Yeah... I know... It’s only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but I like it. Correction: I really fucking like it! This 5-piece outta Nashville doesn’t do anything new; it takes punchy, powerful Southern-tinged REPLACEMENTS Rock ‘n’ Roll, adds a RANCID-esque sneer, sets the guitars to a SOCIAL DISTORTION stun and throws in a big grass-roots Gainesville, FL buzz. That sound is augmented by acoustic guitar, harmonica, piano and fiddle to create an album that’s traditionally American but with balls and laced with joyous, fist-throwin’ anthems. Highlights? The Country ROLLING STONES honk of ‘Drive On’, the careering burn of ‘Things They Say’, the combustible opener ‘No Looking Back’ and the epic, album-stealing ‘White Line Fever’ that has a panoramic sound of dominant guitars, piano and an excellent performance from drummer Rob (who impresses throughout) whilst lyrically encapsulating a wander-lust of the vast highways and byways of Americana. Production is near perfect for this too; it’s sweeping and broad yet retains an edge that aligns itself with a basic understanding of Punk Rock dynamics. This band could so easily crossover into the neutered realms of Gaslight Anthem mainstream mediocrity and their shit-stained ilk; but on the evidence of this alone, it’s unlikely. (11.01.11)

BLACKOUT - Stop The Clock {Profane Existence} Much as I liked this Minneapolis band’s debut album, the poor mix/ mastering really let it down. It’s good to see the band learnt from that because, from the opening burst of ‘Gears’, this drops with the force of Shakespeare’s Complete Works after being accidentally picked up by Ozzy. The sound is full-on Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll much like MOTORHEAD having a fight with ROSE TATTOO before POISON IDEA appear to clean up the scraps. ‘Lost Sight’ sees a change in pace as it drops down to a sludgy Crust groove before speeding up to a punishingly relentless attack. Other highlights include ‘Every Day’ and ‘Jargon’. Although is sounds crisper than the debut, I gotta say the vocals are still a tad lacking (in fact, ‘Wheels Of Sin’ sounds little more than the sound of a 65-yr-old with a 60-a-day smoking habit). Get that right and #3 could be a scorcher. (13.07.09)

BLAGGERS ITA - United Colors Of... {Mad Butcher} Excellent reissue of this vociferously anti-fascist band’s final material before signing to a major. While this retains all the Street Punk bite of the ‘On Yer Toez’ debut, a high-energy dance vibe was brought in creating a captivating and accessible but no less antagonistic sound. The ‘93 album ‘United Colors’ is complemented here with 91’s ‘Blaggamuffin’ and three rarities in the shape of two singles and a radical reworking of the SEX PISTOLS’ ‘Submission’. Highlights are many but the entire ‘United Colors’ album is a masterpiece; from the opening statement of ‘This Gun Is Cocked’ through the dub of ‘That’s Where It Ends’ to the reworked ‘Here’s Johnny’ election single and culminating with the closing Punk thrash of ‘Young Blaggers’, it’s an essential listen for anyone into UK Political Punk, containing as much bile as CONFLICT but the groove of ‘Sshh’ era CHUMBAWAMBA. Liner notes are basic with a brief synopsis of the band and a timely plea to stand up and fight shit-stains like BNP. If the kids are united indeed!! (25.10.10)

BOMB, THE - Speed Is Everything {No Idea} I shouldn’t need to say that the other band of Jeff Pezzati, THE BOMB’s vocalist, is NAKED RAYGUN, do I? With this, THE BOMB’s third album, the band has irrefutably stamped out any lame NAKED RAYGUN comparison that may have been flung in its path previously as this is a stunningly energetic and accomplished disc. Pezzati in particular has never sounded so commanding (and that’s coming from a huge RAYGUN fan); his voice soars and resonates throughout while the band creates a backing that is inventive and bruising - if a little more melodic than RAYGUN. J. Robbins production is perfect for THE BOMB also - everything has room and together the sound is solid, loud and textured. Robbins also provides guest vocals, along with PAINT IT BLACK’s Dan Yemin. Highlights? The strength of this really is as a body of work, but opener ‘The Kids’ has a strident urgency, ‘The Rescue’ is dramatic, building from a bass and plaintive vocal to a punishing, HUSKER DU-esque atonal workout while ‘Spaceman’ is simply sublime. The final song, ‘Blown Away’ culminates with the phrase, "Loss for words?" After hearing this, you may well be lost too. Now, any chance of a new PEGBOY album also? (05.10.10)

BOOTSCRAPER - Country & Eastern {TNS} Debut album from this 7-piece ‘agro-folk’ band outta Leeds, UK. It’s a truly riotous affair of rabid acoustic guitars, flailing mandolins, smoking fiddles and pumping accordions. Yep, think THE POGUES played with the finesse of the WHISKY PRIESTS and given an entirely Eastern European raggle-taggle ho-down vibe. It’s very accomplished musically, multi-vocalled, freewheeling stuff with highlights being the tale of oil greed that is ‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Gimme Some Time’ (which is one of a few that employs excellent countrified BYRDS arrangements but played via the stomp of BLUBBERRY HELLBELLIES!), ‘Never Satisfied’ and the Tom Waits-esque closer ‘Big Problemo’. I’m guessing these fellas are a riot live, creating a booze-sodden party atmosphere. The sleeve graphics represent the sounds well also, being light-hearted but stylish. If you realise Punk is more of an expression than a hairstyle or brand of sneaker (as it so often seems today), then this may well serve as a nice slice of energised variation in your record collection. (31.08.10)

BORN/DEAD - The Final Collapse {Prank} Yes, this was released nearly two years ago! YES, it’s been in the review pile for over a year. Why? Because I’ve played this slab of noxious Hardcore Punk weekly since I received it trying to find some objectivity; and I’ve failed. Oakland’s BORN/DEAD continues its path of devastatingly bleak yet effective Hardcore resolutely laced with an Anarcho feel. From the opening fuzzed bass onslaught leading into pummeling drums, droning feedback and the bludgeoning riff of ‘Barricades’, it’s clear that the band has returned to its Hardcore roots if mixed with the Crust influence that made ‘Endless War/ Repetition’ so great. The dual vocal blitz of ‘Nuance’ provides the album highlight while the closing ‘Assault’ opens with a DEAD KENNEDYS vibe before slamming into a full-throttle POISON IDEA attack. Elsewhere there is a stellar CRESS cover and a return of the seismic dual-vocal barrage on ‘Sirens’. Comparisons maybe drawn to TRAGEDY, but for me, BORN/DEAD represents the peak of what Hardcore Punk should represent: confrontational, opinionated, angry, political, intelligent and raging, foot to the floor Hardcore Anarcho Punk Rock. What more do you need? (14.01.10)

BREAK IT DOWN - Three Songs {DIY} Interesting three track debut DIY CDEP here, from this self-confessed ‘Anglo Hispanic Hardcore Punk’ band. It’s confident, political stuff (if a little light on the Hardcore) - as would be expected of a band that includes ex-OLDER THAN DIRT, PARADE OF ENEMIES, CEREBROS EXPRIMIDOS and BAD TASTE members. Soundwise, it’s rooted in 80s Punk with instant comparisons being early EXIT CONDITION and DECADENCE WITHIN, although disc highlight, ‘Heard It All Before’ pivots around a neat guitar lead that could’ve been lifted from a DEAD KENNEDYS album. While lyrically this attacks the likes of corporate control and extols the benefits of personal liberation, some of the phrasing from the dual-vocal attack of Jaime and Toni doesn’t quite hit the mark. I hope to hear something a bit more abrasive next time round. You can download this for free from the band’s Myspace page. (02.09.10)

BROKEN BONES - Fuck You! And All You Stand For {Dem Bones Recordings} Ahhh… it’s nice to see this band of Brit Punk thrashers has lost none of its poetic verbosity when it comes to naming albums… I thought they’d lost if after ‘Fuck Off And Die’ but here’s ‘Fuck You…’ Good work fellas!  This is, I think, the band’s ninth studio album and must stand as one of their most ferocious, both in terms of music and lyrical targets, so far. Guitarist Bones has laid down some of his most Armageddon-inducing riffs and wailing lead-lines since his DISCHARGE days with ‘Stop ‘em Now‘ and ‘I.E.D’ in particular bringing to mind the glory days of ‘Never Again’. Lyrically, war, terrorism and torture all feature heavily while politicians get a lashing in ‘House Of Frauds’ and ‘Minimum Wage’ berates the rat race. If there is a negative, it’s in Qiuv’s vocal delivery that just gets far too one-dimensional; it fits the blazing Hardcore thrash perfectly but a bit of variation between screams and bellows would have been welcome. (31.08.10)

BURNING HEADS - Spread The Fire {Be Fast} This must be something like album #10 from France’s premier export since LES THUGS and Chardonnay. What’s instantly apparent is the political content of the lyrics; they hit with the impact and insight of PROPAGANDHI and don’t resort to a succession of cliched slogans or fuck-the-world rhetoric. Musically, it’s clear to see why the band was once on Epitaph Europe (and Sony and Victory come to that) as the riffs and structures bring to mind PENNYWISE but better - check out opener ‘The Invisible Disease’ or ‘I Just Wanna Be Me’. It’s not all Epi-esque Punk though; some of the best moments - ‘Competition’, ‘Bomb The World’ and ‘Face The Facts’ - incorporate the moods of Jeff Pezzati’s THE BOMB while ‘Disobey’ and ‘Forget’ (that tackles 9/11) add some ADOLESCENTS and NAKED RAYGUN vibes to the tight and proficient Eurocore. Production is crisp, lean and cutting. Always a reliable band, this incisive 12" slab of vinyl is on par, if not better, than anything in the band’s repertoire thus far. (17.12.10)

BURNING IMAGE - Fantasma {Alternative Tentacles} It’s been a massive 20 years since the last album by this Californian Deathrock band. In that time, the band has written ten inventive, powerful and atmospheric slices of Goth-tinged tunes that mix ‘Weathered Statues’ era TSOL with the potent dynamic of SOUTHERN DEATH CULT. Add on the production and general depth of sound of KILLING JOKE and the sneering effrontery of PUBLIC IMAGE LTD and you have the idea. It opens with the majestic ‘I Am Alive’ followed by the equally accessible ‘Despair’. The album then plummets headlong into flanged guitars, swirling dramatic arrangements and a sound so dark that it makes the SISTERS OF MERCY sound positively sun-tanned. It’s compulsive stuff, slightly unsettling and apocalyptic, with only ‘Mr. Dark’ reverting back to loose, energised Rock ‘n’ Roll. This line-up features three of the original band members, with Anthony Leyva from the 2003 line-up filling in the bass spot. Unquestionably a release that proves dynamics and atmosphere can also possess a bite on par with that of a rabid wolf. (27.07.09)

BUZZCOCKS - What Do I Get? {Secret} Kinda feel this should’ve been pushed as a DVD with a CD as opposed to the other way round. So, What Do U Get? The CD is a 28 track live recording from London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire from 2003. It’s a really polished and energetic performance from the band also, with a powerful, clear sound. All the classics are played, along with a smattering of newer tunes but disc highlight is a colossal take on ‘I Believe’. The DVD is the real highlight though. The gig itself includes an extra five tracks not on the CD and is filmed on a massive array of cameras, offering camera angles aplenty. Some of the editing gets a bit too much at times but it’s certainly shot with an eye on the dynamic. There’s little between song banter; it’s not until ‘Sitting Round At Home’ (track 12) that we get a break from the onslaught of classic tunes. There’s an excellent scene of Steve Diggle doing some serious guitar destruction too - only Pete Townsend has done better! Besides the gig, the DVD boasts a fine selection of extras, be it a soundcheck version of ‘Why Can’t I Touch It’ (one of my faves and sadly not in the actual set), a massive and entertaining 45 minute interview with Diggle and Shelley, a gallery of tour and backstage pics and a significant amount of footage from an Australian tour. This really is way more than ‘just’ a live album and DVD; a lot of thought has gone into the DVD and, even for the casual BUZZCOCKS fan, this makes excellent viewing - especially with a few beers and some Punk Rock mates! (12.11.11)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2009 including: