Top Sounds - S

SCREECHING WEASEL - Baby Fat Act One {Recess} A musical by Ben Weasel was never something I expected to hear, but here it is - Act One consisting of a 27-track double album. To give you a simple outline of the story, we have Tommy Swank (performed by Weasel) who’s the singer of Serpentello and a night club owner. He’s managed by Baby Fat, a disfigured paraplegic (played by Blag Dahlia). The setting is at the club for the funeral of Mojo, Swank’s pet chimp. The funeral is rocked with the arrival of an aggrieved father and, on arrival home, Baby Fat is swept away to fetch a backdrop for the band. Some of the road crew accost Poveretta (played by Kat Spazzy) - believed to be Baby Fat’s partner but who is actually his daughter. Swank then drugs her, she passes out and in her unconscious state vows revenge. Act One comes to an end. Yep, it’s not exactly a gracious story line, but it does flow and is aided by a great theatrical insert with additional dialogue. As for the songs? On their own they’re not among the band’s best but placed in the context of the album there is a genuine sense of drama and theatre about them. There’s excellent duets between Weasel and Spazzy, lots of use of piano and additional appearances by Todd Congelliere among others. Don’t expect to hear ‘classic’ WEASEL songs though. Of the 27 here, it’s only ‘Without Belief’ and possibly ‘Kewpie Doll’ that could be viewed as having that classic SCREECHING WEASEL sound. Without a doubt, this is Ben Weasel’s most adventurous work to date and, given the quality of the arrangements and general song structure here, it could be viewed as his best work to date. That said, ‘My Brain Hurts’ still remains the band’s defining moment. (13.05.16)

SEX OFFENDERS - Sex Offenders {Recess} Twenty track platter originally released back in 1998 from this pleasantly named quartet outta Kansas City. It’s solid, sneering Punk Rock that brought to mind CRIMINALS snot and early T.S.O.L. structures with rasping, female vocals akin to Brody in prime-time DISTILLERS mode. Most tracks don’t break the two minute barrier (with several under 60 seconds) but these OFFENDERS pack in enough energy and attitude into every track to make a convincing, cantankerous and cool Punk Rock cacophony. Highlights include opener ‘America’ that’s among the longer tracks on the album, the snide ‘Chat Show’ and ‘Suicide Girl’ that’s super catchy with gang backing vocals while best track is ‘Can’t Take This’ that surges along on a classic Punk vibe. Excellent AVENGERS cover of ‘Thin White Line’ too - what more do you want? (16.09.17)

SHATTERED FAITH - Volume III {Hostage} For those who don’t know the SHATTERED FAITH name, the band was one of the great early 80s Orange County Punk bands but, somehow, never had the breaks that the likes of SOCIAL DISTORTION, ADOLESCENTS, TSOL or THE CROWD had. In terms of sound, mix all of those bands up and you’re close, but there is something unique about the sound of SF; it’s slightly more sneering and searing. You get 10 songs on this album - the band’s first in over 30 years! The source of the songs was an old cassette that featured tracks intended for a Posh Boy released album. These have been re-written, freshly recorded and together form a definite contender for album of the year. Highlights? Well, there ain’t no filler here but the standouts for me were the raging ‘No Nuclear War’, the soaring opener ‘Rise And Fall’, the SOCIAL D vibe of ‘A Special Day’ and the ominous, droning ‘Life Is A Strain’. Production is crisp and bold, you get a lyric insert that includes a bit of band history and song origins and it’s all pressed on lovely opaque blue vinyl. Two more songs of the same quality would’ve made this just about perfect; as it is, it’s merely essential. (28.09.16)

SHATTERED FAITH - Modern Convenience {Hostage} Neat-o two-track 7" pressed on lovely, thick white vinyl. Lead track is a mid-paced track, raising questions about what has happened to the American Dream and the loss of liberty. It’s a powerful track, similar to D.I.’s classic ‘Richard Hung Himself’ in terms of sound and pace. The flip is the other side of the band’s thoughts on America. ‘U.S.A’ twists the message of side A into a patriotic, faster paced ode to the benefits of living in America. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between sides and somehow the band makes it work a treat. This comes with a download card giving to access to a rough and ready live recording from November 1982. This was a limited run and probably sold out by now; not sure if Hostage Recs intends to do any kinda re-run, but if you can get your hands on a copy, snap it up as the lead track could end up a future OC classic. (23.01.16)

SHEHEHE - Rock ‘N’ Roll Queen {Fall Break} Hailing from Athens, Georgia this is a hot-rocking quartet that takes RUNAWAYS riffs, chews them up via a noxious LUNACHICKS attitude and spits them out with the venom of AEROBITCH. This is the band’s second album and contains 14 songs that fly by in a blur of riotous riffs, bludgeonous beats and vicious and vivacious vocals. Highlights are heaps but ‘Days Off’ has some great rolling guitar riffs while ‘Teenager’ is imbibed with the spirit of the MISFITS. Best moment though is a dual between the broiling riffs and frantic beats of ‘Makeup’ and ‘Happy Daze’ that encapsulates the swagger of ‘Sorry Ma..’ era REPLACEMENTS. ‘Ghost Of’ could’ve been a highlight with its dramatic opening and cascade of beats and riffs, but some appalling sub-horror lyrics ruined it. Given titles like ‘Fuck’, and ‘Well Hung Over’, it’s instantly clear that this is not a band to take social commentary. That said, if you want your Summer Punk Rock Bar-Be-Qu to be a booze-riddled, uninhibited riot of good times, good sounds and good friends, I’ll vote for this as the soundtrack. (30.03.16)

SHIP THIEVES - No Anchor {No Idea} Sometimes, you just know a record is gonna be fucking great from the very first note. That’s the case here as the opening guitar riff of ‘Middle Man’ barrels out of the speakers. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the latest band of Chris Wollard - he of the mercurial greats HOT WATER MUSIC. Comparisons to HWM and, more specifically, THE DRAFT are unavoidable, but this is a sound he (along with the other three HWMusicians) created. This is a little different though; it’s not quite as intense as HWM could be - more like ‘A Flight And A Crash’ era, but mixed with THE DRAFT’s accessibility and a subtle use of keyboards. Highlights are plenty: ‘MBJOK’ is a freewheeling, complex tune that hits like a hammer to an eye socket while ‘Born To This’ has that breathless brilliance that Wollard seems to conjure up so easily. Standout is ‘Rotations’, a more sedate blast that opens with bass, drums and atmospheric keyboards and builds into a majestic panorama. The only let down is ‘Long Way Down’ that’s a bit convictionless in its strummed guitar rockage. That said, it’d be a standout for most other bands that do that SOCIAL DISTORTION-esque Rock ‘n’ Roll. The first standout album of 2016. (17.04.16)

SKANK AGENDA - Hate This Shit {One Step Outside} British bank outta Leeds that plays a mainly acoustic brand of Punk. This ain’t no faux celtic revival either, it’s three guys who attack their instruments and pry out of them some interesting sounds. I kept thinking of DEAD KENNEDYS; the basslines in particular has a similar zeal as latter day DKs. Have to say though, most of it didn’t really hit my pleasuredome. While ‘We Would Like To Apologise For The Poor’ was an outright highlight with clever socio-political lyrics, much of the rest kinda passed me by. Apparently the band has been together about 11 years but, have recently split up. I’m guessing they made more convincing entertainment in a live setting and while it was an interesting curio listen, I doubt I’ll be coming back to it too often. File next to Billy Bragg, Toy Dolls, Against Me and Val Doonican. (08.09.15)

SLICE OF LIFE - Live At The Forum 2015 {Overground} Ultra-limited (300 I think) eight track live album recorded in incredibly high audio quality of the former CRASS vocalist’s new, and acoustic, band. If you ever wonder whether acoustic music (and this is just piano, acoustic guitar and subtle bass) could sound passionate and angry, just check out the likes of ‘Your Day Will Come’ and ‘Stretford Blue’ here; Ignorant sounds just as angry and embittered as he did on those CRASS records, but with the benefit of age and experience. Plenty of highlights, be it the old SCHWARTZENEGGAR track ‘The Way Things Are’, STRATFORD MERCENARIES’ ‘Slaughterhouse’ and expletive laden opener ‘Our World’. It’s closer though, ‘Slice Of Life’ that makes most sense in this acoustic format. Without a doubt, this is very much a vehicle for the words, thoughts and voice of Ignorant. The music is soft, lilting - almost hypnotic in its beauty - and expertly played, but ultimately it’s that barbarous, South London vocal that grabs the attention and doesn’t let it drop until he says ‘Goodnight’. Lovely stuff, and different enough from the debut album from a couple of years ago to warrant your attention. (08.12.16)

SLICE OF LIFE - Love And A Lamp-Post {Overground} Even given the more mellow tracks by STRATFORD MERCENARIES, this new album from former CRASS vocalist, Steve Ignorant, is a massive departure from anything the man has released before. His instantly recognisable vocal is much more sedate, considered and subtle than anything he has done before. This is coupled with purely acoustic instruments - guitar, lots of piano (played by Carol Hodge who did the female vocal parts on Ignorant’s CRASS Songs tour), upright bass and, in one case, trumpet. The result is intimate, low-key, personal, deceptively easy listening in fact but, maybe it’s Ignorant’s vocal, it’s also totally addictive. Highlights include the title track, a reworking of the SCHWARTZENEGGAR track ‘The Way Things Are’, ‘Slice Of Life’ and the vocal and guitar only ‘Here I Stand’. ‘You’ is a spoken word piece while ‘The Home Coming’ is a long narrative with sparse piano accompaniment and possibly the most thought-provoking track here. This is a very brave album for Ignorant following the success of the CRASS Songs tour and the PARANOID VISION album; in fact, it could be his bravest release since ‘Feeding Of The 5,000’ but for totally different reasons. There’s no shouted, embittered sonic blast here, but it’s as equally dramatic, just in a different way. Would I recommend it? Hell yes! (28.02.15)

SONIC AVENUES - Disconnector {Dirtnap} Fourth long-player from this always impressive Montreal band. While this is still supremely enjoyable New Wave, Power Pop Punk, there is something new here too. The use of keyboards is more prevalent throughout, giving it a kinda NEW ORDER cleverness in parts, and there are occasional darker, post-Punk moments akin to SPECTRES. From the opener ‘Future’ which is among the album highlights, you get 12 tracks which, I have to say, combine to make the most enjoyable SONIC AVENUES release so far. Other highlights include the sublime Pop of ‘Dancing In The Sun’ and ‘Where No One Falls’ which show that NEW ORDER vibe but channeled through PLAY DEAD dynamics, and the uplifting, sneering Power Pop of ‘Illusions - The System’ while ‘Tunnel Vision’ made me check to make sure this wasn’t a new PETER HOOK record. ‘Death Trap’ shows that post-Punk vibe of SPECTRES and could claim to be the standout track while the closing ‘Defective’ meanders on an Alt-Country vibe and builds into an effervescent Punk jam. There’s not a duffer on here, it’s a totally life-affirming sound and has a valorous, freewheeling vibe. Joyous. (21.07.17)

SORTS, THE - Six Plus {B-Core} Um, this lot kinda passed me by back in the late 90s/ early naughties - and listening to this reissue of their final album from 2003, it’s easy to see why. This is a vague fusion of Jazz, Funk and Dub, most of it instrumental and very sparse sounding. Among the band’s number is ex-HOOVER man Chris Farral on drums and former RAIN LIKE THE SOUND OF TRAINS man Joshua LaRue at the helm. Have to say, all it reminded me of was the fucking GRATEFUL DEAD with a drummer who knew how to play off-beats. Boring as botulism, twice as painful and equally irritating on the a-hole. (17.08.17)

SPACE JUNK - Bite Your Tongue {High Kick} Second album from this hard-rockin’ Garage band outta Melbourne, Australia. You get 10 tracks that take the Punk gone Grunge dragged through Psychedelia and channeled through Garage that MUDHONEY typified fused with the psychotic hypnotism of STOOGES’ ‘Fun House’ and the scathing attack of THE REATARDS. Opener ‘Raised By Snakes’ sets the tone with some high octane guitar action and is one of the album’s best. Elsewhere you get the throat-lacerating vocal attack of ‘When It Rains’, the lurching ‘Something I Don’t Know’ and the fuzz-bass of ‘Better Now’. Production is crisp and punchy without being clean or sterile. Given it’s mastered by Mikey Young (who’s worked with EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING), that should be no surprise. In fact, this shares a lot of traits with the releases on Amphetamine Reptile Records, but with sharper production. Could’ve done without some of the over-blown, guitar solo rock moments (‘Warning’ dragged in parts while the wailing guitar ruined ‘Son Of Eh Holden’) but this still impressed given the glut of rocking Garage bands around. (4.11.16)

SPECTRES - Utopia {Deranged} Album number three from this dark, post-Punk band outta Vancouver, Canada. While I’ve enjoyed every previous record, the band has never quite captured the majestic sound present on this album. The same influences are still apparent - ‘Pornography’-era CURE, THE MOB and JOY DIVISION but this has greater punch, bringing in a PLAY DEAD and even KILLING JOKE power. Opening with a spacious drum beat, 'New Buildings'  is one of the highlights of the album. Each track from there is a highlight in itself but notables include ‘Figures In The Sand’ with a vocal that's similar to an ethereal Jeff Pezzati (of THE BOMB), ‘Daniel’ that’s moody and epic, ‘Crosses And Wreathes’ that is the most open nod to THE CURE the band has ever recorded, while both the title track and the closer, ‘16 Years’, display depth and power. While Nathan’s bass still drives the band along, the guitars on here ring with a clarity not heard on the band’s previous album and those ghostly vocals of Brian's soar to intoxicating levels. Easily the band’s best so far and this includes a lavish 7"sized lyric book. Great work and one that’s been a big player here at the House Of Scanner. (28.11.16)

SPEDDING, CHRIS - The RAK Years {Cherry Red} Spedding, for those who don’t know, was a bit old to be a genuine contender when the original Punk boom happened in the UK. However, he did have close ties via recoding the SEX PISTOLS and working closely with THE VIBRATORS, notably recording the rather smart ‘Pogo Dancing’ 7". He was also, um, in The Wombles!! This 50-track, 4-disc boxset collects his albums from 1975 through to 1980, collecting the 1976 self titled album (which features the spiky hit single ‘Motor Bikin’’), 77’s ‘Hurt’, 1979’s ‘Guitar Graffiti’ and finally ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ from 1980. Have to say, my preference lays with the first two albums, although all have their merits. ‘Hurt’ in particular is notable for the opening ‘Wild In The Street’ which was also covered by CIRCLES JERKS. It also includes a take on Bo Diddley’s ‘Road Runner’, the brooding, STRANGLERS-esque magnificence of ‘Not Superstitious’ and my personal favourite ‘Silver Bullet’ that fuses the Country-isms of LONG RYDERS with the songsmithery of PAUL WESTERBERG. You also get a 20 page booklet that’s loaded with pics and copious liner notes by Phil Hendricks. All albums (bar the 1980 one) include bonus tracks too. Totally enjoyable stuff that I’d take any day over butthole scrapings like ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE. (22.12.17)

SPELLING MISTAKES - Feels So Good {Real Groovy} Issued for Record Store Day 2014, this is an electric-blue marbled vinyl slab from this Auckland band that, as anybody with a vague knowledge of New Zealand Punk history will know, was one of the most infamous and renowned bands of the late 70s NZ Punk scene. They fused the sneer of 70s Punk with a vague 60s Pop sensibility and created a couple of classics in the form of ‘Feels So Good’ (later used in a beer commercial!) and the iconic ‘Hate Me, Hate Me’. You get 14 tracks here that feature some raw demo tracks from 1979 (check ‘Stingy’ and see if the likes of EATER don’t come to mind!), the ‘Feels So Good’ single, a live recording from the band’s last show and some of the better recordings from a 1999 session. It includes a neat insert loaded with gig flyers and photos. No doubt that this is Kiwi Nation Punk Rock gold and on vinyl for the first time in the case of many of these tracks, however I would recommend you hunt down the 50-track double CD ‘Epileptic Apocalypse’ for the one-hit, all-you-need deal. (05.03.15) 

SPOILERS - Stay Afloat {Boss Tuneage} The new project from former SOUTHPORT man Dan Goatham and, have to say, it’s the most fun I’ve had in 13 minutes with my clothes on for sometime (and with them off on a few occasions!). You get six tracks of snappy, melodic but tough UK Punk Rock that takes early SNUFF intensity and SKIMMER melody and fuse it with SMOKE OR FIRE structures. Highlights could be any from the intense opener, ‘All For One’, through to the epic sounding ‘Punk Don’t Die’ to closer ‘Who’s To Blame’ that even has a hint of the Hammond organ beneath the guitar bluster. However ‘Freaked’ could be among the contenders for 2015’s best song. There’s some very clever and witty lyrics going on here too, with only snippet-catchphrases highlighted in the sleeve. Definitely something that reminds me of those classic early Crackle! Records singles, but brought up-to-date with a freshness and vitality few bands muster. There are lots of good, new UK bands - and these fellas could be the pick of the bunch. Shame about the shit band name though! (28.07.15)

STARVING MILLIONS - V {DIY} A moody atmospheric start of ethereal droning and acoustic guitars kicks off the fifth EP from this Wellington, NZ band. The opener proceeds to develop into a slow burn, gravel-vocalled dense Metal-esque number. It sets the tone well for this EP too, as this certainly has more of a VOI VOD Metal feel to it with less of the LEFTOVER CRACK Punk blur of previous releases - as the third track proves with its blitz of beats and time changes. Of the remaining three tracks it's Four that takes out the prize for disc highlight with some guitar chops that brought to mind GRADE before more disjointed beats and scorched vocals kicked in giving the track some additional abrasion. The five tracks here certainly seem to be more anguished than previous releases - both musically and vocally - with an emphasis on angular arrangements and austere, punishing power instead of flat-out speed. Not sure if there is a physical version of this as I got a basic promo CD (devoid of song titles), so check out the band’s bandcamp page if you wanna get with one of the more adventurous, demanding and impressive bands circulating in New Zealand’s current Punk scene. (24.11.17)

STARVING MILLIONS - IV {DIY} Fourth release from this caustic quartet outta Wellington, New Zealand. This time, the guys dish up seven tracks in just over 15 minutes and it’s a barbarous fusion of dark Hardcore and dense Metal without actually falling head-first into turgid Metallurgy. Think CRISPUS ATTUCKS and BORN DEAD ICONS having a fight with LEFTOVER CRACK supporting one side and NEUROSIS on the other. Opener ‘Left In A Tomb’ sets the tone perfectly and is one of the highlights on the album, along with ‘Vultures’, the slower, droning ‘The Payback’, ‘With His Knife Drawn’ that, from its opening riffage, threatens to burst into KIM PHUC greatness and the closing ‘Take A Stand’ that features a clean guitar, sample dialogue and invokes MISSION OF BURMA. Have to say, given the blow-torched, sandpapered vocal delivery, a lyric sheet would’ve been nice, even though it’s pretty clear what the bile behind a track like ‘Monster’ is all about. I can’t think of another band in NZ that play this dark, gnarly and brutal stuff with such effectiveness. (08.11.16)

STARVING MILLIONS - III {Good Times} A four-piece outta Wellington, New Zealand with its third album and, from the opener, it’s a brutal, relentless and fucking face-melting listen. Take PAINT IT BLACK style Hardcore but add the darkness and weight of BORN DEAD ICONS and a hint of LEFTOVER CRACK (when they’re not playing Ska) and you might be close. There are a stack of highlights here be it the broiling ‘Hate’, the riff frenzy and gang vocals of ‘CKB’ or ‘Bigot Scum’ that lurches along on a droning riff, brutal distorto-bass, piledriving drums and a bilious vocal making a justifiable claim to be the album’s best. Then there’s the warp-speed thrash core blur of ‘Everything Will Burn’, the mechanical blitz of ‘Mind Rots’ which has a MINISTRY muscle while closer ‘Not Safe Here’ starts all moody before detonating on a indomitable beat and barked vocal. Totally combustible and scathing Hardcore but with ideas and dynamics that are executed with precision and passion, and totally devoid of those ham-fisted Metal breakdowns that a few too many NZ so-called Hardcore bands pedal. Comes with a sticker and download code too. (28.12.15)

STATE FUNERAL - Tory Party Prison {Boss Tuneage Flexipunk} Six-track flexi (red flex this time!) from this raging political Punk band outta Brighton, UK. This was originally released as a demo and if you imagine a fusion of POISON IDEA intensity, CONFLICT politics, SHITTY LIMITS dynamics and THE ENEMY-esque Punk, you’re close to the raw ‘core cranked out here. Plenty of highlights be it ‘Fear’ that pivots around a fantastically catchy riff before detonating into a PI burn, or the damage-inducing closer ‘Austerity’s Deathgrip’. Personal highlight is the 50 second ‘Mass Extermination’ that twists and turns and has a distinct hypnotic beat under the flurry of guitars. Neat and stylish folder out lyric sleeve too. Production could be a tad more bass heavy - as long as it doesn’t dilute those guitars!! One to watch and another band of note in what appears to be a burgeoning UK Hardcore scene. (30.06.17)

STAY CLEAN JOLENE - s/t {JSNTGM} Oh my - this is good... really fucking good in fact. The debut single was a cracker but the ten songs here had me grinning like a monkey that has just learned to masturbate (an odd analogy, but you should see my grin!). From the boisterous opening of ’Concrete Block’ this is an album laden with massive songs, huge riffs and incredible melodies. There is a big nod to HOT WATER MUSIC in terms of guitar interplay and vocals, but SCJ infuse the bright, bubbly melody of early MEGA CITY FOUR and the dynamics of PEGBOY. Trying to pick a highlight is virtually impossible as this is close to perfection to my ears but closer ’Replica’ is essential listening, ‘Record’ (that emphasises that PEGBOY reference) and ‘One Hundred’ are among my picks, although the energy of ‘Heads And Breakables’, the more restrained ‘Easy Target’... I could list each song actually. Special mention has to be given to bassist Dan Borszcz who’s doing some incredible stuff under those raging, ringing guitars. Totally life-affirming, inspiring and original. If there is any justice in this Punk Rock World of ours, this will be viewed as a genuine classic of the future. Yep, fucko, it’s that good! Most likely album of the year already. (28.04.15)

STEAKKNIFE - One Eyed Bomb {Rookie} First album in nine years (really??)  for this side project of Lee Hollis’ (better known as the vocalist in the SPERMBIRDS). You get 16 tracks that don’t seem quite so frenetic as the band’s previous work; these slow things down in places, add a few twists to the riffs and a slightly darker sound, coming up with probably their most convincing album yet. That said, the opening title track is a HC rollercoaster that could render OFF! sounding like a mid-paced Jazz band. From there, not a single track could be considered filler be it the slow burn sneer of ‘Wired Ego’, the attitude laced ‘Urine. Asshole’, the twists of both ‘You Look Good (In That Guy’s Dress)’ (which includes a pounding riff that early AC/DC would’ve been proud of) and ‘Stop Looking At Me’ or the album’s best ‘Harpoon’. The vocal performance of Hollis is impressive here; while retaining that trademark sneering, snide vocal, he can also be heard doing a deadringer of a take on Jello Biafra, which adds a vaguely frightening, unhinged dimension to an already tumultuous vocal. THE EX-WIVES add some female backing vocals too, giving a few tracks some added depth. Recommended? You betcha life on it!!  (23.07.16)

STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Graceland {Dirtnap} Album number five from SAB and it runs with the promise shown on the previous ‘Dial Tone’ album, throwing up 13 songs that could be the most consistently impressive set of songs yet from Adamyk. Highlights are plenty be it the insistent opener ‘Through My Fingers’, the pulsating pace of ‘Die Dead Forever’, the relentless rhythm and keyboards of ‘Tell Me To Fall’ and ‘Carry On’ while ‘High Mile’ is similar to the electronic Punk of label mates MIND SPIDERS. Then you got album highlight ‘Swallow You Whole’ that could claim to be Adamyk’s best track. The DICKIES influence is much less evident here with the dramatic RED DONS vibe taking more prominence as ‘False Teeth’ proves, but all the songs still pack near perfect catchy Punk adrenalin. More importantly, this could be the first Adamyk album that genuinely sounds like no-one else, and it sounds fucking great too. Includes a cunningly hidden track too!! Lovely clear vinyl and download code too. I’m gonna play this again!! (27.01.17)

STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Dial Tone {Dirtnap} Fourth album from Canada’s Mr. Reliable, Steve Adamyk and band. It certainly seems apparent that this is reaching out in a new direction as, from the opener, ‘Force Fed’, the album has a distinct RED DONS/ OBSERVERS feel that the previous album, ‘Third’, only hinted at. There’s a few keyboards used on this album too, giving it a vague WEIRDOS vibe in places. Sure, that effervescent DICKIES-esque pop influence is still there - check ‘Crash Course In Therapy’, ‘Waiting For The Top’ or ‘Cover Me’ for evidence. Elsewhere ‘MRI’ provides one of the highlights as it drills with the arrogance and energy of first album ADOLESCENTS, ‘Anne’ could be the best song the RAMONES never wrote while closer steers the album into the next era of Adamyk. A definite return to form and one that bids well for the future. (20.07.15)

STEVE DREWETT AND THE INDESTRUCTIBLE BEAT - Disgraceland {Cruel Binary} This is a rather infamous recording for those of us who are Steve Drewett (ex-NEWTOWN NEUROTICS) fans. These 13 tracks were recorded back in 1990 and available only briefly as a download. The premise was to fuse his ability to write classic political Punk songs with the beats and groove of Africa. The results are interesting and, on initial listen, don’t necessarily work. Parts of the songs seem too busy and a little bit forced. Repeated listens however allow the songs to grow and the groove to become infectious. A lot of this is due not just to Drewett’s great songs but the bass of Mac (ex-TRAVIS CUT no less!) that bubbles and slides and really takes these songs to the heart of Soweto (via Harlow!). Highlights are plenty including a rip through THE CLASH’s ‘Capitol Radio’ (actually parts of this bring to mind THE MESCALEROS), both ‘Thinking About You’ and ‘I Can Rise’ which embody the NEUROTICS passion while ‘Take My Advice’ meanders and slowly builds. ‘When The Oil Runs Out’ gets a reworking and the closing 10 minute epic ‘Something’s Going On’ features another incredible set lyrics from Drewett. Great stuff, although not my most favourite of Drewett’s work - but his is one of the most impeccable discographies in UK Punk. (03.10.17)

STEVE IGNORANT WITH PARANOID VISIONS - Now And Then... {Overground} Latest full length album from this most appropriate pairing and, once again, PARANOID VISIONS deliver a total gem of an album. You get ten tracks in total each of which are towering examples of where Punk Rock should be in the current day and age. The songs are structured, passionate, political and captivate from first listen. Highlights are plenty: ‘Bleak Town Revisited’ meanders along on a FUGAZI-esque bassline before power chords swamp the chorus, both ‘Loudmouth (Kick The Fucker’) and ‘Something More’ hurtle along while opener ‘Look Mummy, Clowns!’ sets the tone of what follows with a snarled vocal and soaring guitars. Add on a couple of STRATFORD MERCENARIES reworkings, ‘War’ and ‘Strange Girl’ from the EP below and a stunning reworking of the SCHWARTZENEGGAR track ‘Art And Craft’ (that could be the best track on the album) and you’ve got another album that defies categorization beyond Punk Rock and which is without compare. One aspect that really did stand out is the sublime guitar work from P.A. and Danarchy. The lead work genuinely enhances the songs while the riffs and rhythm work is solid, urgent and inventive. Vinyl comes with a CD and poster. Would like to have heard a little less reworked stuff, but generally another faultless record from the Dublin band and another contender for the year’s best. (08.01.17)

STEVE IGNORANT WITH PARANOID VISIONS - The Height Of Ignorance {FOAD} The run of truly fantastic releases from Ireland’s PARANOID VISIONS continues with the re-uniting of the partnership with Steve Ignorant (y’know - he was in CRASS) and this ultra-limited 10" mini album featuring six songs. You get two versions of the lead track ‘War’ which opens and closes the EP with the latter being more full on and mixed by Rat Scabies. What’s in between is a killer take on THE RUTS’ ‘West One’ that has Ignorant sounding like the perfect replacement for Malcolm Owen, a take on the old SCHWARTZENEGGAR track ‘Hands’, an updated take on PV’s own ‘Strange Girl’ and ‘Ordeal (Needles In The Nurseries)’ that sees Deko reciting a poem of a drug-ravaged society. It’s not exactly Yeats, but it is hard-hitting and includes an interesting soundscape behind it. Not only is this limited (to 150 copies), but it’s pressed on maroon vinyl, packaged in a stunning fold-out gatefold sleeve and includes a CD of the album, sticker and badge. PARANOID VISIONS hasn’t released a duff record for many years now and this keeps the Punk Rock Quality-o-meter tipping towards maximum. (29.09.16)

STIV BATORS’ DEAD BOYS - Last Stand 1980 EP {Ugly Pop} I’m a bit biased here, y’see the DEAD BOYS represent to me the best of all the US 70s Punk bands and Stiv as possibly my favourite ever vocalist. So this unearthed gem instantly gets the thumbs up. The three tracks were recorded live on what was the final DEAD BOYS tour (well, final until the band reunited for Halloween in 1986), if it was the DEAD BOYS as only Stiv and guitarist Jimmy Zero played (hence the amended name). The tracks were unearthed by the drummer (David Quinton) and were recorded at three different gigs. You get ‘Son Of Sam’ (raw, not the best in terms of sound but OK), ‘Third Generation Nation’ (also raw, sneering and minus Zero) and the highlight ‘All This And More’ (not as raw but a stunning rendition of a nearly perfect song). The whole thing is a lovely looking package too, with a four-page insert containing graphics and a totally enjoyable piece written by Quinton. Certainly not a release for the casual Stiv/ DEAD BOYS fan, but completists and obsessives do actually need this. Big question though - what other tapes is Quinton sitting on? Can we have a series of these delectable 7"s? (25.05.15)

STONE THE CROWZ - Protest Songs 85-86 {Overground} Not heard much of this London Anarcho band from the mid-80s before, so this 16 track comp of all their output is welcome. Obvious comparison is CONFLICT, from the shouty and enraged vocal delivery, spoken word intros, large proportion of songs about animal rights and the riotous music through to the graphics. However, I did hear some of rhythmic brutality of KILLING JOKE (check ‘Friendship Through Profit’) and FLUX... Highlights are plenty: opener ‘Skin Deep’ is a tirade against the use/ murder of animals for food, clothes, testing etc, ‘Minds Decayed’ sprints along at a great pace and brazen roar of ‘No More Asking Nicely’ all contend for best track. There are two demos here, but the sound quality suggests more; unfortunately the packing doesn’t specify what tracks were on each release. The first five tracks are clearly the band’s most instant work being sharply produced and truly fucking angry. CD has a bonus live track (packaging again fails to say from when or where). A welcome retrospective that should find a home in any Anarcho’s collection. Note that drummer Steve went onto front Endangered Musik (not to mention Plastic Head!) that released ANTISECT’s ‘Into The Void’ and HDQ’s ‘Hung Drawn And Quartered’ while vocalist Trevor and bassist Matt went on to form AXEGRINDER. (26.10.15) 

STUNGRENADES, THE - Class War: Fight Back! {Bastard Son} Second album from these Kiwi bruisers from New Plymouth. The band features former members of SHUT THE HELL UP and HORROR STORY among others and this baby cranks out 15 tracks in 18 blitzkrieg minutes! Needless to say, there’s no fluffing about; from the opener ‘Industry’s Dead’ through to the pointed closer, ‘Bring Me The Severed Head Of State’, it’s full-on, direct and totally fucking raging. Think a fusion of M.D.C., ZEKE, COSMIC PSYCHOS and G.B.H. and you’re there. Best bits include the pummelling ‘Shart Attack’, ‘Time For War’, ‘Bad Feeling’ that slows things a bit and introduces a bit of a swagger, and the nod to hometown partners in ‘N.P.H.C.’ Production is surprisingly crisp, especially given the ferocity with which some of these tracks are played, while Craig’s vocals are clear, boisterous and don’t fail in pulling any punches when it comes to directing his ire. There’s always been some great, snarling Punk bands in New Zealand with New Plymouth itself providing several. This is another name to add to that impressive list. (17.10.17)

SUNSHINE STATE - Pour {No Idea} Debut album from this new band featuring former AGAINST ME! drummer Warren Oakes and WHISKEY AND CO’s Troy Perlman and it’s a very pleasant listen laden with some quality songwriting skills. The sound of AGAINST ME is hard not to use as a comparison, but that’s fused with the moods of J CHURCH and the rocking vibe of SOUL ASYLUM circa ‘Hangtime’. Highlights are plenty: ‘Lunchblood’ emphasises the SOUL ASYLUM vibe with a distinctly rocking chorus while ‘Disgusted’ is the best song AGAINST ME! never wrote. Elsewhere ‘Concrete World’ has a Darby Crash tinged vocal sneer, opener ‘Sour Mash’ starts with a JOY DIVISION bassline and erupts into what will no doubt be a massive Fest hit about drinking whiskey. Standout is ‘Friends Of The Deceased’ that uses some keyboards and brings to mind the greatness of THE BOMB. Production is bright, crisp and allows each instrument space and clarity while lyrically this falls into the personal; I’m sure some acquaintances of the band might wonder if these songs are about them as they are lyrically vivid. Passionate and impressive stuff and played by some guys who are pretty much at the top of their game. (31.08.15)

SUPER FAST GIRLIE SHOW - Don’t Go Down Gentle {DIY/ Antipop) Debut album from this trio outta Liverpool, UK that eschews the usual 6-string guitar assault in favour of dual bass rumbling destruction. Comparisons with COP SHOOT COP are kinda inevitable but these guys bring in a NOMEANSNO attack, BLACK FLAG bludgeon and an occasional BEASTIE BOYS (a’ la ‘Sabotage’ gone Scouse) delivery to the vocals. Songs are to the point (but never wallow in thrash or noise) with those basses flying a damaged freak flag, dualling and battling and totally convincing. There’s wah-wah, distortion and all kindsa effects on them but they are relentless. Highlights include the bruising ‘I Don’t Care’ that emphasises the NOMEANSNO structures, ‘Stones’ that has more punch the the entire career of Mike Tyson, the closing ‘Pub Fight’ that’s got an insatiable groove while the out-right highlight is ‘Mind Control’ that thuds along on a bass line that could even have a paraplegic shaking his booty. I might have referenced all Yank bands here, but there is a distinct British (in)sensibility about this - and I like it. (25.06.16)

SWHAT - Wasty Tasty {Heart Of The Rat} Ballarat, Australia is a quaint and stylish township laden with historic buildings with stunning facades. I like it lots. It’s also home to one of the best bands in Australia - SWHAT! This raging 13 tracker follows on the heels of the cracking 10" from 2014 and, just like that 10", this is a sublime slab of raging Garage Punk riffs, relentless tunes and just down right bruising, no-fucking-about Punk Rock that’s not retrogressive nor following any latest trends. Of the tracks, highlights would be ‘T.V. Coliseum’ that I’m sure the SUPERSUCKERS would pay a great deal for as they ain’t written anything that convincing in over a decade, ‘Greasy And Pointy’ that’s got more of a lurching, almost BLACK FLAG crawl about it, the Punk bludgeon of ‘Me’, the lovely named ‘Piss Taste’ which is the kinda Punk that MUDHONEY always threatened to produce while ‘Hang On To Your Thoughts’ has enough bluster and boisterous chops to just take out the title of album highlight (although closer ‘Take It Out’ could contend too!). Another cracker to prove that glorious 10" wasn’t just a one off. Australia has a habit of producing hard rocking Punk bands, from BIRDMAN and SAINTS through to CELIBATE RIFLES and HARD-ONS. A new name can now be added to that list - and its SWHAT. (12.11.17)

SWINGIN’ UTTERS - Fistful Of Hollow {Fat Wreck} What’s happened here? After a run of pretty poor releases, I’d written the band off and held little hope for this, the band’s 9th studio album. But from the bass-heavy opener through to the acoustic folk of the closer, there's not a single duff track and, what’s more, it could arguably claim to be the best thing the band has ever done. Amidst the 15 tracks are gems like ‘Tell Them Told You So’ that’s quirky like EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING and truly rocking, ‘I’m Not Coming Home’ that has the impetus and Rock ‘n’ Roll cool to such an extent it could appear on ‘Help’ (y’know - the BEATLES album?), ‘Tonight’s Moon’ that pivots around a deceptively easy lead refrain, and the classic UTTERS Punk of ‘From The Towers To The Tenements’, ‘More Or Less Moral’ and the title track. Good to see each member having a hand in the writing and, I have to say, the contributions of Jack Dalrymple (who I have criticised in his UTTERS guise previously) are among the album’s best. Truly a return to form, production is executed to perfection and the band sound vital, energetic and back to the former, glorious self. Chuffed!!! (28.05.15)

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