Top Sounds - N

NASTIES, THE - Discipline {Sudden Death} Given the band’s name and songs like ‘The Shits’ and ‘Negativity’, I thought this was gonna be some crass TOTAL CHAOS bullshit Street Punk thing. In reality, it's a pretty potent fusion of D.O.A (check the title track or ‘Piece Of Shit’ for evidence) fused with a bit of TURBONEGRO boisterous Rock ‘n’ Roll and the belligerence of THE RANDUMBS. In fact, this could have been released on TKO Records in the late 90s and been a stand-out release. Vocalist Nathan Martin is one that can actually sing; there’s no resorting to toneless growling or bozo Oi!-esque shouting - instead he can carry a tune without sounding weak or slick and certainly has an ear for a great chorus as ‘Education Song’, opener ‘Cocks And Ladders’ and standout track ‘Time Is Now’ prove. The guitarists have a solid, blazing sound with the ability to throw in a few choice lead lines while the rhythm section is pretty relentless without ever letting things get out of control - even on the fastest track, ‘Sky Is Falling’, it never approaches uncontrolled thrash. Pleasantly surprised; it’s not gonna change the world, but the band does what it does well. (02.02.16)

NATTERERS - Demo {Boss Tuneage Flexipunk} Storming 4-track flexi (green flex this time!) from this female fronted band outta Yorkshire. It was issued as a demo in 2016 and, on the basis of this, deserves a full 7" vinyl release. While the band can certainly rage, as ‘Defiant (Again)’ proves, they are at their most convincing when the pace is slowed (just a tad) and dynamics and melody are explored. The guitarist in particular does some great lead lines that bring in a DEAD KENNEDYS feel in parts but keeping the riffage to the fore with clinical precision while vocalist Emma can hold a tune and bellow in equally impressive measure. Highlights here would be opener ‘Make Room! Make Room!’ and ‘Stand And Stare’. There’s something about Punk bands outta Yorkshire that I always find exciting and NATTERERS are already up there with SOFAHEAD et al. Great production for a demo too and a cool wrap around sleeve make this a winner on all fronts. Need to hear more! (11.07.17)

NERVOSAS - s/t {Dirtnap} First time I’ve come across this trio outta Columbus, Ohio and, I have to say, it’s a sound that I don’t readily associate with Dirtnap - but that’s not to say it’s a bad sound. Think ARCTIC FLOWERS, ESTRANGED style post-Punkish drama fused with that ‘classic’ No Idea Records type sound and a hint of PEGBOY and you might be somewhere close. Plenty of highlights here, be it the opening ‘Moral Panic’ that starts all subtle and moody and then detonates with a strident guitar riff and urgent vocal, ‘Arcadia’ that’s all swirling, soaring guitars and could be something from SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES circa ‘Juju’, the slightly unhinged propulsion of ‘Permanently Isolated’ or the sombre closing ‘Quarantine’ that’s awash with droning guitars and hypnotic grace. There’s a lot going on throughout the album, be it some great vocal interplay between vocalists Mickey and Jeff, guitars that soar, rage and ring and a rhythm section that employs tribal beats amid driving, surging patterns. Captivating stuff but something tells me that there is a better record in them. (05.07.16)

NERVOUS TREND - Shattered {Residue/ Schwarma/ Black Wire} Newish 4-piece outta Australia that creates a massive, pulsating, swirling and totally fucking convincing sound. It’s hard to avoid a SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES comparison; the guitars mirror those heavily chorused and delay drenched sounds, vocalist Jen has a voice that soars like SIOUXSIE in her prime, the drums are tom-tom based tribal beats and the bass propels it all giving it drive and depth. BUT - this ain’t no Post-Punk/ Goth revisionism here. This sounds totally modern, with other comparisons coming in the form of ARCTIC FLOWERS and ESTRANGED and maybe some PLAY DEAD at their most pulsating. The lyrics are very interesting too addressing (I believe) sexism, degradation and oppression but from a very unique, very thought-provoking angle. With the delay on Jen’s vocals also, there’s an ethereal and dramatic atmosphere under-pining the initially confrontational and demanding tone which creates a completely captivating sound. Really nice packaging too with a heavy cardboard sleeve and neat insert. A superb record - let’s hope an album is in the works. (31.03.16)

NEWTOWN NEUROTICS - Triumph Over Adversity: Live At Brunel University 04.04.1987 {Cruel Binary} There’s a lot of history to this recording by what, I consider, one of the greatest and most overlooked bands the UK has produced. Right before THE NEUROTICS were due to play this headline set, an IRA bomb scare was phoned into the venue, necessitating it be emptied and the whole momentum of the gig was lost. This recording has, apparently, not been mixed or over-dubbed and it sounds incredible. Vocalist, Steve Drewett, briefly mentions the bomb scare at the start of the gig, and then it’s a seamless performance of some great songs: opener ‘Wake Up’ remains uplifting, ‘Sects’ from the (at the time) recently-released ‘Kickstarting A Backfiring Nation’ literally reverberates while the reworking of ‘Stand By Me’ is brilliant. Highlight for me is ‘This Fragile Life’ - among the band’s very best. The band was always political and that’s highlighted here in tracks like ‘Africa’ and ‘Take Strike Action’, an adaptation of a FLAMIN’ GROOVIES track. Only negative is that a fade out occurs and a good chunk of ‘Living With Unemployment is missed. Drewett provides liner notes and, if you are ignorant of this band, this could be an ideal introduction to a new NEUROTIC life. (07.02.16)

NIGHT BIRDS - Who Killed Mike Hunchback? {Fat Wreck} Second in Fat’s Original Demos series with this being a 6-track cracker from a band everyone likes (or should), NIGHT BIRDS. There’s actually two demos here, both recorded with Mike Hunchback on guitar. The most recent is stellar stuff from 2011 and includes a sneering, DEAD KENNEDYS-esque ‘One Eye’ and a personal fave in ‘Oblivious’. The other demo is more akin to Mike Hunchback solo recordings with him recording, singing and playing all the instruments on a couple of tracks (one each recorded in 2009 and 2010) on Side 2, which it has to be said, don’t match the full band fury Brian and the guys can crank out. That said ‘Born Of Man And Woman’ has a fantastic skiffle feel about it - and it works! Closer ‘Day After Trinity’ returns to the 2011 demo and ably demonstrates that AGENT ORANGE-esque Surf vibe the band do so well. Probably not a NIGHT BIRDS release that the curious should check out but for fans of the band’s output, it’s pretty much mandatory listening. Great high-contrast cover artwork too. (29.09.17)

NIGHT BIRDS - Mutiny At Muscle Beach {Fat Wreck} Third album from a band that seemingly can’t put a single foot wrong. Just like the previous ‘Born To Die In Suburbia’, this is pretty much impossible to fault. If anything, this album sees the band developing a defined sound of its own. Sure, there are still big hints of ADOLESCENTS and a few nods to DEAD KENNEDYS, but this sounds much more like a band having found its sound - and it knows how to nail it. You want highlights? Check ‘Life Is Not Amusement For Me’ that includes a great touch of Farfisa Organ, the warp-speed of ‘Lapsed Catholics Need Discipline’, the drama of the title track, a great cover of THE KINKS’ ‘King Kong’ or the impossibly addictive closer ‘Left In The Middle’. Then there’s my own personal favourite in ‘In The Red/ In The Black’. What makes this particularly relentless is the space between songs is barely noticeable; from the blitz of the opening ‘(I’m) Wired’, the songs just punch straight in - no time to pause for breath, consider the song you’ve just heard or prepare for the next assault. Come the end of the album there’s only one thing to do - play it again just to confirm it really is that good! You know another album like that? ‘Group Sex’ - and yes - ‘Muting At Muscle Beach’ could well be just as classic. (30.06.16)

NOFX - First Ditch Effort {Fat Wreck} Studio album number 13! Guess you think this is another paint by numbers album by Mike and co. Well, think again as this is a much slower, much more textured album than anything the band has done in the past. Sure, there are still those trademark sneering vocal melodies and snide lyrics, slick guitar riffs and wild drum patterns, but there is a lot more. For starters, this includes a host of guests, most notably Johnny from OLD MAN MARKLEY on vocal harmonies, SWINGIN’ UTTER Darius Koski on viola and a couple of even more notable guitarists turn up and deliver a solo each. But then there is the use of keyboards (check ‘It Ain’t Lonely At The Bottom’ - has a big nod to THE EPOXIES), piano and even poetry on the closing track. While it’s a shock on initial listen, further plays bring out depth be it the album highlight, ‘I’m So Sorry Tony’ that’s virtually a ballad, ‘Dead Beat Mom’ that has harmonies to match THE WHO circa ‘Tommy’, and a great reworking of the ‘Sid And Nancy’ single below. ‘I’m A Transvest-lite’ sees Fat Mike open up about his cross-dressing obsession while opener ‘Six Years On Dope’ is classic NOFX with a vocal shared between Mike and Melvin. Excellent stuff again... And one that might turn a few of those skeptic naysayers heads. (25.09.17)

NOFX - Sid & Nancy {Fat Wreck} If there is one thing NOFX how to do, it’s how to make a 7" special, something that almost has novelty value - just like those classic old DICKIES 7" if you will. The artwork of this alone (front and back covers) makes it pretty essential. As for the music? You get one track each side pressed on deep red vinyl, the label bearing Sid’s visage on one side, Nancy Reagan on the other. Sid’s side is the lead and it’s another NOFX cracker, flying along on a lightening fast riff and dropping some killer lyrics, least of all "He called her Mom, she called him delicious, the weekend Nancy Reagan sucked off Sidney Vicious." It includes a surprisingly mellow breakdown too. Nancy’s side features ‘Generation Z’, a short mid-paced track that starts all brooding and has a vague ecological message if I heard correctly. By NOFX standards, it’s a bit throwaway. Production here is pretty lo-fi too; the guitars don’t cut as much as usual but that adds a bit to the charm of the 7" format. Another NOFX record - another goodie!!! (22.12.16)

NOFX - Backstage Passport Soundtrack {Fat Wreck} Back in 2008, NOFX did a TV show called ‘Backstage Passport’ and this is a 15-track compilation of various songs and stuff heard in that. It’s definitely something for the completest only as a good half of this is pretty throwaway - and I’m saying that from a perspective as a proud NOFX fan. Stuff like ‘The Greatest Country In The World’ and ‘Insulted By Germans’ are literally one-play-only tracks, along with the recording of a few jokes (admittedly, they did raise a chuckle). That said, this does contain a few a gems hidden amidst the quagmire of averageness: the live recording of ‘Leaving Jesusland’ is great while their cover of THE DICKIES classic, ‘Fan Mail’, could be the disc highlight. Elsewhere the acoustic ‘You Will Lose Faith’ continues the anti-religion vibe and ‘Your Hubcaps Cost Most Than My Car’ is rather obtuse and decidedly unsettling. Much as I like NOFX, I really can’t see myself returning to this too often; I’m sure it probably worked better in the TV show where there was some visual stimulation also, but hear in plain old audio... much of it falls flat. (30.08.15)

NO IDEA - Jag Hatar Punk {Just 4 Fun} Recorded back in 1986, NO IDEA was a 4-piece outta Sweden and this day-glo lime green 7" contains 12 tracks of impressive Euro-core that fuses the dramatic Punk of ESKORBUTO with the thrash of RAW POWER, LARM and even HERESY (check ‘No Straight Edge’). There’s a bit of a Metal feel in places too, thanks to a proficient sounding guitarist. Highlights? ‘Whitehouse Statement’, ‘Parasit’, ‘No Nuke’ and the title track all stood out. Most of the tracks are in the band’s native Swedish but judging by the song titles, there was a distinct political side to the band. Looks like these tracks have been remastered too and, if you tackle the download, you get a total of about 30 songs by the band. Impressive Hardcore that has a few Crossover elements, especially on the second side. I’d never heard this short-lived band before and it’s great a label like J4F can find this stuff and re-release it for today’s market. If European Hardcore is your thing, then given the quality of this release and that monster download, it’s a no-fucking-brainer that you need this. (19.12.15)

NO MORE ART - Sorrows Of Youth {Rockstar/ New Dark Age} This is the new(ish) band to feature former RHONDA vocalist, Milo, and BORN/DEAD/ RED DONS man, Will Kinser. Not sure why it’s taken me a while to get round to playing, but this certainly falls more into RED DONS territory than BORN/DEAD. You get eight tracks of high energy and dramatic, but not too distorted, songs that instantly brought to mind BUZZCOCKS if fused with ARCTIC FLOWERS. The female vocals of Milo are stunning; like a fusion of PENETRATION’s Pauline Murray and Vanessa from SAMUEL and JUNCTION. There’s not a duff track here, but highlights would have to be the urgent riffs of ‘The Walled City’ and ‘Last Lucid Moments’ while the slightly more brooding closer ‘Icarus’ could claim best song. Production is really well balanced with guitars to the fore and the vocals kept a little low in the mix but still cutting through. The vocals could possibly have been a bit over-riding had they been any louder. Packaging is also sumptuous!! You get a nice minimalist outer sleeve with a heavy duty inner sleeve with full lyrics. A record that’s pretty hard to fault - hope the follow-up is imminent! (18.01.16) 

NOT TONIGHT AND THE HEADACHES - If You Were Real You’d Do Your Own Stunts {Boss Tuneage} Fuck - this is slick! Second album from this Grimsby, UK 4-piece of mid-paced, highly produced melodic Punk Pop. Have to say, I found this incredibly mainstream sounding, there’s no real cutting edge (I would’ve even settled for a blunt edge!) but it is saved by some standout tracks which, had they been separated on a 4-track EP, would’ve made a rather smart release. There’s a big GAMEFACE circa-Revelation Records vibe here but unfortunately not quite hitting the mark that Jeff Caudill and co manage so effortlessly. Highlights? ‘Reasons To Smile’ does just that - a wonderful, bouncy, gem with a stunning chorus, ‘State Of Confusion’ sees a LAGWAGON feel come into it and ‘She’s With You’ is a spirited, almost snotty rocker while ‘Thick As Thieves’ would’ve rounded out that fictional EP. The previous album had a nice ramshackle SENSELESS THINGS vibe, something missing here. This includes guest appearances by a dude outta CHINA DRUM and a couple out Canucks BUM. Not bad, just rather sterile (especially that closing track). (16.02.16)

NO USE FOR A NAME - Rarities Vol 1: The Covers {Fat Wreck} I’ve made my dislike of NUFAN vocal from the days of Scanner in print form through to this digitised version. Yeah, good musicians but I find them rather bland. This however, I really got into. You get 13 covers that are decidedly different from shite like ME FIRST... as these recordings appeared in various places over the course of the band’s career. There are some goodies too - SOCIAL DISTORTION’s ‘1945’ CHEAP TRICK’s ‘Dream Police’, a superb ‘Selwyn’s Got A Problem’ that’s a spin on the D.I classic and, disk highlight, a wonderful take on THE VAPORS’ ‘Turning Japanese’. Elsewhere you get DAG NASTY and MISFITS, along with some unexpected treats like KISS, DEPECHE MODE, some TV show themes and even ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. Each track is played well (which is kinda expected with these guys) and has a certain fun attitude about it that ME FIRST... replace with the smell of money and boredom. Here’s a first - I’m recommending a NUFAN record... This will make a great soundtrack to those backyard summer Punk Rock bar-be-ques! Bring ‘em on!! (28.11.17)

NOWHERE - Cancer {DIY} A new New Zealand band made up of members from such notables as FREDDY FUDPUCKER, SOMMERSET, RITALIN and PCP EAGLES, and a band that played a killer set supporting THE DICKIES in Auckland. This is a ten-track album of really fucking clever songs that fuse the dynamics and intensity of prime-time FUGAZI with the twisted accessibility of MISSION OF BURMA and a hint of HOT WATER MUSIC making something that is original, impressive, intense and intelligent. Each track could be mentioned as a highlight but the intensity of closer ‘Gutter Love’, the twisted grace of ‘Pay The Rent’ and the opening ‘Disease’ could all claim to be best tracks. The breakdown in ‘Ordnungsamt’ (and the climax of ‘Gutter Love’) really display how muscular these guys are musically - the rhythm section is power-packed while the guitars splinter in shards of either intense riffing or subtle melodies while the vocals some how bring to mind Chuck outta HOT WATER MUSIC if he crooned. That may seem strange but the actual sound is stunning. Lyrically this is pretty dark too, with a seeming theme of death running through many tracks. This was recorded in Berlin and, given the wandering nature of at least one of the band, might be the band’s first and last release for a while. A shame too as these songs have a dynamic and originality about them to set NOWHERE way apart, and ahead, of the rest. (07.09.15)

NUCLEAR SOCKETTS - Complete Singles {Overground} Never really heard this early 80s band before; that’s particularly bemusing as they were from Lowestoft, England which is only a few miles away from my home town of Ipswich. Anyway, this compiles the band’s two singles from 1981, a track that appeared on a flexidisc with Trees And Flowers zine and five unreleased tracks, including the shelved third single. Musically, think ‘Chairs Missing’ era WIRE, fused with THE FLYS, a little NEUROTICS and oddly, New Zealand’s SPELLING MISTAKES kept coming to mind! It’s a sharp, but textured almost New Wave sound with highlights being ‘900 Days’ from the unreleased EP and, particularly, the entire debut EP ‘Honour Before Glory’ that contains ‘Pretender’s Zeal’ which goes off in a virtual WIPERS/ TELEVISION guitar frenzy. Apparently the band was a John Peel favourite too. This is limited to 300 and is pressed on a rather lush peach-coloured vinyl. Highly recommended for Punk historians and those who favour energetic yet melodic 80s Punk. (05.08.15)

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