Top Sounds - N

 NECROS - Clubhouse Sessions November 1981 {Alona’s Dream} A six-track 7" that represents parts of this legendary Midwest USHC band’s set from late ‘81. It was recorded on a 4-track at L-Seven and Negative Approach’s practice space and, considering the era and recording method, it sounds pretty smoking and surprisingly clear. It kicks off with the previously unreleased ‘Raw To The Bone’ - a track noticeably more structured and a tad slower than what the band released prior. You also get three tracks from the ‘Sex Drive’ EP and a couple of SHAM 69 covers in a re-worked ‘What Have We Got’ and ‘Rip Off’. Highlight has to be a stunning ‘Police Brutality’ that makes the cover price worthy alone. Comes on sexy, deep red vinyl, splatter cut-out cover and includes an insert with track details and rare pics from Smegma Journal. A most welcome companion to the ‘Sex Drive’ EP and ‘Conquest For Death’ album. (31.03.14)

NEOMYTHICS - Projectiles {Ex-Fed} First thing that hits you about this, the band’s second album, is the stylish packaging. High gloss, crisp lines and a multi-fold out sleeve house the 10 track album. Musically, it’s an interesting album that kept my attention while not being the kinda sound I instantly go for. Imagine some of Neil Young’s more experimental work, the pop sensibility of Crowded House, a pulsating and funky rhythm section and some understated alternative rock sounds and you are close. At its best - ‘Point Click And Kill’ and ‘Incidental Casualty’ - there’s a vague MISSION OF BURMA invention while the title track uses one of those annoying electronic vocal effects. Elsewhere ‘Plane Sight’ rolls on a neat, punctuated riff while closer ‘Standing Stones’ starts as a haunting piano-lead ballad before opening up into a well-crafted, atmospheric song. Lyrically, this is interesting with a distinct anti-authoritarian feel to a lot of the words, but present in a very intelligent manner. If Talking Heads and Young and Crowded House appeal, so may this. (09.04.14)

NIGHT BIRDS - Born To Die In Suburbia {Grave Mistake} From the opening bass rumble of ‘Escape From New York’ (yep, from the film), it’s easy to expect this to be a copy of the band’s stellar debut album below. However, rather than fly off in a surf-punk AGENT ORANGE direction, this gets churned up in a mind-numbingly excellent WIPERS-esque vortex. The title track follows without a break and from there on, you know this is gonna be a very special record indeed. Sure that surf vibe appears every now and then, but this seems a little darker than the debut evoking not only WIPERS but THE FREEZE (check out ‘Modern Morons’, ‘Maimed For The Masses’ and ‘Less The Merrier’) and the result is an album that not only matches that excellent debut, but actually surpasses it. Other highlights include ‘Ads In My Eyes’ which could almost be THE GERMS, ‘Nazi Gold’ which rolls outta the speakers on a wonderful droning riff and perfectly fuses WIPERS with ADOLESCENTS and closer ‘Golden Opportunity’ which is like an aural adrenalin shot. In fact, there is not a duffer on the album. Production is perfect, clear and crisp and cutting but not polished or clinical. It would not be an over-statement to say that this sounds like the definitive USHC/ Punk album for the current age. Stunning stuff - and among the rare stuff that’s recorded today that will stand up to the greats of the 80s. Classic? Totally!! (17.04.14)

NIGHT BIRDS - The Other Side Of Darkness {Grave Mistake} Ya don’t have to be the hippest of cool Punk Rock catz to know this band has already released four killer singles prior to this 13 track, 23 minute debut album. The big question is, does the band cut it in this extended format? Well, if you are seriously asking that question fucko, the answer is a resounding "Ohhhhh yeah!!!" This is, without a doubt, the band’s finest release yet sounding a touch gnarlier but more focused, more streamlined, more damage-inducing. If you are unaware of the band then imagine a fusion of DEAD KENNEDYS surf-esque guitar signatures, ADOLESCENTS raging snotty Punk and early CHANNEL THREE power. Don’t think this is any kinda retrogressive USHC homage though as the four guys in the band bring the sound bang-up to date, infuse it with even more attitude and adrenalin, resulting in on of the best records of 2011 by a fucking mile. Highlights? Please - each track is an absolute dream of vibrant, snotty USHC but ‘Paranoid Times’, the tres DK vibe of ‘Landfill Land’, closer ‘Oblivious’ and ‘Hoffman Lens’ could all stake a claim to being the best of a shit-hot bunch. Trust me, in 10-15 years time, this album will be spoken in the same hallowed tones as ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’, ‘Dance With Me’ and ‘Living In Darkness’. Classic? You betcha! (30.03.12) 

NIGHTLIGHTS - So It Goes {Eulogy} Considering this is the band’s first album, it’s a stunningly assured and confident release. The band hail from Daytona Beach, FL and I’m sure they’ve considered a move to Gainesville a few times as this is basically Beard Punk Rock that those who attend The Fest salivate over. That’s not a criticism, just a fact. If you fuse BANNER PILOT with HOT WATER MUSIC and throw in the almost obligatory MENZINGERS influence, you’re close; add a bit of SMALL BROWN BIKE and you’re closer. Highlight would be ‘Laces Out, Dani’ that opens up with some neat guitar interplay before launching into a powerful, anthemic rocker although opener ‘When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies’ and the excellently titled ‘That John Denver Is Full Of Shit!’ come close. The main criticism is that it’s all a bit samey; there’s a guitar/bass breakdown every song, one guitar picks out the notes the other strums. I’d really like to hear the band do some wild balls out Punk; as it is, Festies will love this. (31.03.12) 

NOFX - Stoke Extinguisher {Fat Wreck} Make no mistake, I fucking love NOFX. That may not be ‘cool’ to say in some parts but fuck it - I’ve never been ‘cool’ nor do I ever wanna be. This is a cracking 6-track EP that detonates within 13 minutes. It’s pretty much standard NOFX fair and includes a track by the late Tony Sly in ‘The Shortest Pier’. Highlights include ‘My Stepdad’s A Cop And My Stepmom’s A Domme’ that features some of the wittiest lyrics Fat Mike has penned in a few years while ‘I Believe In Goddess’ from the album below appears here in a raging demo take. The lead track, oddly, didn’t do much for me while closer ‘New Year’s Revolution’ opens with an organ before slipping into typical melodic NOFX ‘core with more good word play. It’s all produced by DESCENDENTS’ Bill Stevenson, Spike Slawson of SWINGIN’ UTTERS lends some backing vocals and it’s wrapped in a neat digipack designed by Sergie outta SAMIAM. It’s an EP that ain’t going to convert any NOFX sceptic but for those who are fans, there’s enough here to make it a worthy purchase. (30.06.14)

NOFX - Self/Entitled {Fat Wreck} Whatever your thoughts about this lot, I find them pretty hard to fault. This is the band’s 12th studio album and it’s just yet more effortless-sounding Punk Rock quality. I’m not sure this is quite as good as the previous ‘Coaster’ album; a few tracks here just don’t hold the attention as much as they should. That’s not to say this is weak - far from it when you have tracks as combustible as ‘I Believe In Goddess’, ‘My Sycophant Others’, ‘Cell Out’ and ‘Secret Society’. Highlight has to be opener ‘72 Hookers’ that starts all mid-paced and then steps up the pace and wit with the suggestion hookers would make good soldiers. Typical NOFX wit and it really works. ‘I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again’ is a lyrically inventive song of divorce and record collecting and the closer is a Christmas song! Production is, as usual, loud, crisp and balanced. Digipack sleeve... Probably an album more like ‘Ribbed’ than ‘Punk In Drublic’, but it’s NOFX - that alone is a mark of quality. (23.02.13)

NOISE BY NUMBERS/ MAGNIFICENT, THE - Split {Solidarity/ Drunken Sailor} A wonderful split on a dirty lilac 7" slab. NOISE BY NUMBERS is a new band to me with a couple of notable members - Jeff Dean (NAKED RAYGUN/ THE BOMB) on guitar and Dan Schafer (SCREECHING WEASEL/ RIVERDALES) on vocals and guitar. Both the band’s songs are up-tempo, melodic with ‘Lost Luggage’ having a vague SAMIAM feel. It’s ‘Southgate House’ that really works, opening with an explosion of ringing guitars, a most obscenely catchy chorus and pulsating beats. Flip the beastie over and the UK’s MAGNIFICENT offer two slices of their near-perfect Punk. ‘King Of The Denim Jackets’ is one of the highlights from the band’s ‘Bad Lucky’ album and makes an appearance here with ‘Don’t Send Me Flowers’ that includes the guitar of Jeff Dean with his ‘other’ band mate, Jeff Pezzati, helping out on vocals. Just like everything THE MAGNIFICENT has done, it’s a great song with a natural but well-structured arrangement and a vocal that could be Jim Islip’s best yet. Download code included - cracking! (17.05.14)

NOT TONIGHT AND THE HEADACHES - Love And Other Weapons Of Mass Destruction {Anarchy/ Boss Tuneage} Crickey, this has a vintage Pop-Punk sound that harkens back to the quality of early SENSELESS THINGS and SKIMMER mixed up with a bit of ALL! Opener ‘Waiting For You’ instantly grabs the attention and what follows sounds like some kinda greatest hits album. Each track is a finally tuned slice of melodic Punk but highlights would be ‘Up In Arms’, ‘Mistake’, the brisk adrenalin rush of ‘Trainwreck’ and the double hit of ‘Self Destruct’ that gets an electric and acoustic outing. Add on a cover of ‘Rush Hour’ (bonus points for a song by a former GO-GO!) and you’re looking at a rather smart debut album from this four piece outta Grimsby, UK!! Seems the lyrics are in a similar vein as SENSELESS THINGS too, although ‘I Thought I Was Superman’ seemed to offer a few pertinent observations about boozing. Not sure about the Marvel Comic artwork though (especially on a label called ‘Anarchy’ - CRASS it’s not!); it’s not badly drawn but just seems a bit throwaway. (17.11.14)

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