Top Sounds - S

SHADRACKS, THE - Tranquil Salvation {Damaged Goods} Hot on the heels of the rather spiffy album below comes this equally spiffy three-track limited 7” EP. Lead track is an up-tempo rocker powered by a relentless riff, a sneering, dismissive vocal and a general vibe of ‘77 snottyness. Flip the wax and you get a downbeat descending guitar riff that starts ‘Count To Ten’ and while being a tad more restrained than the lead track it retains that sneering vibe and features some stellar backing vocals that alternate between harmony and cutting Poly Styrene-esque belligerence. Final track is a cover of the DEAD MOONS track ‘Walking On My Grave’ and sees one of the band’s ladies taking on lead vocals with slightly decadent style. Great stuff that continues where the album left off and provides enough titillation to have me looking forward to the next album. (16.06.19)

SHADRACKS, THE - The Shadracks {Damaged Goods} PODCAST PLAYED Striding out of a Kent, UK garage come three-piece SHADRACKS with this 12-track album. Think minimalist ‘77-esque Punk fused with Garage Rock a’la FUZZTONES and you’re there. I heard a definite early ALTERNATIVE TV vibe throughout, but most notably on opener ‘When I Can’t Remember’. Elsewhere the bass line from ‘Psycho Killer’ is lifted and morphed into something of its own on ‘She Sailed The Sea’, ‘Plastic Lives’ brought in a SHITTY LIMITS vibe, ‘The Wrong Things’ that’s got a bit of pace about it and the KINKS riffage of ‘Corinna’ while ‘Unable To Recall’ could be the best track evoking a slightly slowed down KILLJOYS. Just to emphasise the ‘77 aesthetic, there’s a rather nifty cover of ‘Boredom’. Fun stuff that held the attention throughout and I bet they cut it up fantastically live. Definitely the perfect anecdote to to the over-produced ‘Punk’ bilge we hear too often. All hail Rock ‘n’ Roll!! (22.10.18)

SIGNAL CRIMES - Perfidious Albion {Network Of Friends} What a tragedy... This is a one-off project featuring members who have been in bands such as HERESY, RIPCORD, VIOLENT ARREST and FOUR LETTER WORD. It’s a mere eight tracks spread over 12”s of heavy, multi-coloured splatter vinyl and, like you shouldn’t need to be told with that CV, it fucking rages! Opener ‘The Invisible War’ could actually be the highlight as it analyses the disparity between wealth and poverty, property and welfare. Elsewhere both ‘To Spite My Face’ and ‘Apex Predator’ fly the band’s HC flag (with the latter dropping in a sedate, slightly discordant passage akin to TH’ INBRED), ‘Former Self’ pivots around a great riff and could’ve been on a FOUR LETTER WORD album (that’s a compliment, Welly!), ‘Rise Of The Right’ is a veritable Punk stomper with great lyrics and some wild bass parts from Kalv while closer ‘A Fascination With Monsters’ includes some distinct DAG NASTY-esque guitar work and could be the other highlight. As always with anything Welly is involved with, this looks fantastic, includes relevant quotes, a download card and a badge. First contender for the 2019’s best release. (31.05.19)
SINGING LUNGS - Groan {DIY} Debut 10-track album from this new trio out of Flint, Michigan and from the mega-catchy opener, ‘Home’, it’s clear SMOKING POPES is a major influence. Throw in a bit of BUFFALO TOM, a slight DINOSAUR JR fuzztone and LEMONHEADS structures and you’re pretty much there. Plenty of highlights be it the relatively epic ‘Disappearing Act’ that has some of those DINOSAUR licks and ‘Where I Belong’ that’s catchy, understated and vaguely Americana (via THE ‘MATS) sounding in parts while ‘Conscience Rocks’ could be the highlight with its ‘Shame About Ray’-esque acoustics and melodies. Vocalist Jason has a really interesting and unique voice; powerful, clear and highly melodic (check ‘Where Have You Been’ - awesome vocal that could almost be out of musical theatre even!) which suits the music just right. With the quality of playing and the song structures, this was a rather smart listen and if you’re a fan of 90s melodic Punk/ Alt Rock, this will be right up your street. (20.09.19)

SKEPTIC?- Hornet’s Nest {DIY} PODCAST PLAYED Birmingham, Alabama may not be the most obvious place to search for blistering Hardcore, but with this, SKEPTIC?’s third long-player, then it’s a town that may well possess the best Hardcore band in America. The ‘Now Look What You’ve Done’ album from 2012 was a cracker but this fuses the enraged brevity of OFF! with the free-falling, no holds barred quality of CAREER SUICIDE and throws in the muscular (but not macho) stomp of underrated D.C greats, THE SUSPECTS to make something really special. Not a duff track among the 12, but highlights would include ‘Lit Up’ that surges like POISON IDEA, ‘I Don’t Believe’ that has a great lead guitar (in fact that lead guitarist is smoking) coupled with some understated rhythm strumming, ‘And A Little More’ that starts with a swaggering bass recalling prime-time FREEZE or ‘Contradictions’ that has DISCHARGE-ian guitars enough to make me check it wasn’t Bones guesting. Outright highlight though is a battle between ‘It’s All Coincidence’ and ‘Every Now And Then’ that includes a breakdown to die for. Vocally, think a raging Jello Biafra and delivered with clarity. I’ve not even mentioned a WOODY GUTHRIE cover, which just proves that these fellas know protest songs ain’t all about shouting ‘fuck the world’. In fact, there’s not a single expletive among the lyrics and that makes them hit home with even more aplomb. Killer stuff that’s been playing non-stop on the House Of Scanner turntable since it arrived. This is limited too 300, comes on red vinyl and includes a download code, badges, stickers, lyric sheet and poster. No ridiculous Metal breakdowns of constipated Crust bellowing, just superb, concise Hardcore - and one that totally restores my faith in Hardcore, Punk Rock, intelligence and quality songwriting. (18.06.18)

SLED - A Better You {Bird Attack} Coming outta Florida, SLED deliver their debut album and, for those who don’t know, they were formerly called PINHOLE DOWN and among their line-up is Bird Attack Recs main man, Garrett Wadford. There is also some kinda link to former GUTTERMOUTH members. Have to say it failed to completely connect. Sure it’s pacey, snappy Punk - not a million miles from 88 FINGERS LOUIE or GOOD RIDDANCE (in fact, vocally there’s a lot of similarities with Russ Rankin here) in its execution and when it’s good - like album highlight ‘Wasting Away’, it’s a convincing listen. However, every now and then I found myself drifting off due to odd moments of out of place Rock (like the widdly solo in ‘Mono Lake’). Other highlights include ‘Connect The Network’ which had a vague NONE MORE BLACK vibe and some simply fucking shredding guitar riffage and the bold, defiant ‘Wrong’. Kinda feel this would’ve had more effect on me had I heard a four-song blitz first. I have found on successive listens I’ve been enjoying it a bit more each time... Could be a grower? (23.02.18)

ŚMIERĆ - Godzina Pusta {Nikt Nic Nie Wie} New band outta Stockholm featuring members of such bands as IMPERIAL LEATHER, ABDUCTEE S.D., CLUTCHES, IDIOT ICON and STOCKHOLM PIGS cranking out nine tracks of solid D-Beat-esque Punk that takes its inspiration from Polish poetry and vintage Polish Punk. It’s an impressive sound too, fusing a TRAGEDY-esque epic sound (check ‘Wojna’) with the dynamics of CASTRO and ARCTIC FLOWERS. Plenty of highlights, but the atmospherics of both ‘Atleta’ and ‘Noc’ standout - the latter especially being, along with ‘Wojna’, the highlight of the whole album and erupts into a full-on Hardcore rage for its second half. Elsewhere the bass-lead aggro of ‘Fabryka’ kicks on a riff that could be on a BORN/DEAD classic and closer ‘Zuzanny’ (which again has elements of TRAGEDY) impress. In fact, the whole disc kicks like a mule but has enough texture to fit alongside the likes of ESTRANGED. Lyrics are all in Polish with English explanations including influences (DEZERTER of course along with POST REGIMENT among others), neat CD packaging (12” also available) and if any of the mentioned bands crank your wheel, you should check this out. (27.05.19)

SONGS FOR SNAKES - Crystal Vapour Figure {Timid Crusher} PODCAST PLAYED Bloody hell - this is the fourth album from this San Francisco trio and I’ve only just found out about them? How did that happen? It’s pretty fucking fantastic stuff too; more Alt/ Indie Rock that Punk, like a fusion of BOB MOULD, BUFFALO TOM, JAWBREAKER and PIXIES with good helpings of ARCHES OF LOAF and THE BOMB for good measure. This 10 track album, which has been mixed by the mercurial talents of J Robbins, kicks of with the title track that has that THE BOMB vibe all over it. From there, ‘Exercising Demons’ highlights that PIXIES dynamic while both ‘Skin Of Porcelain’ and ‘Window Licker’ have a noticeable BOB MOULD feel vocally. Elsewhere there’s the rocking ‘Burnout Girl’, some acoustic introspection on ‘A High Winter Sky’, a nod to yesteryear in ‘The 90s Were My 60s’ and the epic closer ‘Burning Babies’. Both ‘Thaw’ and ‘Tweakers (Three Different Ones)’ saw some dynamics come into play which worked impressively on the former but not so well on the latter, making it the low point of the album for me. An absolute cracker of an album that’s got depth, quality songs and plenty of twists and turns which, 98% of the time are almost jaw-dropping. Already a contender for 2018’s best album. Yowser. (26.05.18)

SONGS FOR SNAKES/ IF IT KILLS YOU - Split {DIY} Raucous split 7" pressed on muddy-marbled mustard vinyl and kicking of with the swelling, immediate and resonant sound of San Francisco’s SONGS FOR SNAKES. Their track, ‘Cobalt Blue’ is certainly the standout with solid guitars that hit like a hammer but don’t bludgeon the listener into submission while vocalist Bill Taylor has a strong, intense voice that can hold a tune too; think SAMIAM, JAWBREAKER, HUSKER DU - yeah - they’re pretty fucking good. Flip it and you get fellow Californians IF IT KILLS YOU with ‘A Lifetime On The Phone’ which has a slightly more disjointed, angular sound. It’s still an impressive sound fusing BLUE TIP, SPECTRES and a splish of GAMEFACE. Two well matched bands both of whom deserve more attention than they seem to be getting. (18.03.18)

SPEAR OF DESTINY - The Albums {Cherry Red} Rather snazzy three CD boxset covering the first three albums from Kirk Brandon’s SPEAR OF DESTINY: ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ (‘83), ‘One Eyed Jacks’ (‘84) and ‘World Service’ (‘85). Have to say, I was never much of a fan; I had passing interest in THEATRE OF HATE but lost most of that with this newer, brassier, rockier sound. Listening to ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ however, I might have been a bit blinkered as it’s not that dissimilar to THEATRE OF HATE - especially opener ‘The Wheel’. ‘One Eyed Jacks’ is supposed to be the band’s pinnacle by all accounts and one listen to ‘Rainmaker’ or the refrain of ‘Liberator’ confirm that there are songwriting chops, drama and a quality to the album that should have seen it rise to the top of the heap along with BIG COUNTRY and, dare I say it, U2! As for ‘World Service’, it has its moments - check ‘Mickey’ for a stunning commentary of the then-recent Falklands War and the bombastic ‘Up All Night’ - but generally it fails to reach the standard set by its predecessors. All discs come with a bunch of extra songs and includes a neat 20-page booklet full of graphics and a new interview with Brandon. I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed much of this, having always dismissed them as TOH’s mainstream seeking little brother band. A real nice package for either the seasoned fan or those more dismissive souls like me. (09.09.19)
SPOILERS - Roundabouts {Boss Tuneage} PODCAST PLAYED After a couple of EP releases, we finally get the 12-track debut album from this impressive UK band. Think a perfect fusion of SNUFF Punk and SENSELESS THINGS melody with a large helping of VANILLA POD and you’re close. Highlights are plenty - in fact there’s not a duffer here - but best moments include ‘Target Practice’ that brought to mind SKIMMER with its quality vocal melody and frantic pace, both ‘See You Ringside’ and ‘Pushover’ that are tougher tracks, kinda like PEARS with some punching riffage and ‘Recently Rereleased’ that’s just a strong, clever slice of Punk Rock while highlight is a straight battle between ‘Collision Course’ with its great chorus and snappy arrangement and the choppy guitars of ‘Skimming Stones’ that includes yet another stellar chorus. While this continues the traits of the band’s previous releases, there is a notable progression in the use of a Hammond Organ on most tracks - most effectively on ‘Harry G’. It really adds a dimension to the tracks that is very much SPOILERS-own. Bit of a cracker all round really, and with VANILLA POD hanging up their Converse, these fellas might be ideally placed to continue where they left off. (08.12.18)

SPOILERS - Recently Re-Released {Boss Tuneage} Smart 12-track limited edition CD compilation that takes the six tracks from the ‘Stay Afloat’ mini-album (reviewed HERE), throws in couple of 7" EP tracks from the band’s split with NO MARKS, an unreleased track written and sung by former bassist Kenny Razzell and three tracks from guitarist/ vocalist Dan’s solo acoustic EP. The tracks from the original EP still sound stunning with ‘Freaked’ in particular being immeasurably catchy. The split EP tracks keep the quality flowing with ‘Lost Your Way’ in particular emphasising the SNUFF comparison. The unreleased track lasts but 30 seconds while the acoustic tracks work incredibly well, especially ‘Lost Your Way’ that’s transformed into a fragile, highly melodic ballad. These tracks also highlight just what a good vocalist former SOUTHPORT man Dan is; he has power and clarity on the electric stuff which is coupled with the pitch-perfect diction of the acoustic tracks. Really satisfying and fulfilling stuff that’s got depth and quality songs throughout. Neat digipack sleeve too. (09.09.18)

STAY CLEAN JOLENE - Live At The Dog, Bolton 22/02/2014 {JSNTGM} Live at The Dog... in Bolton??! I guess this won’t win any prizes for the glamour of location (apologies Boltonites... or Boltonians). Location aside, we’re talking about STAY CLEAN JOLENE here - one of the best bands to come outta Britain in the last decade or so. You get four crackers, pressed on a mint green 7" and it kicks off with a blistering, resonating ‘Heads And Breakables’, which segues into ‘Record’ that burns with the same melodic intensity as LEATHERFACE. Flip the disc and you get a snappy run through ‘Green’ (dedicated to JSNTGM head honcho Andy Higgins) and finally ‘Concrete Block’ that takes the sum of all the band’s parts and shines with a chorus made for boozy crowd participation in small Punk Rock clubs. Good on you Bolton - I’m envious! Another stellar release from this band that has yet to put out anything less than stunning. Sure, there aren’t that many releases, but remember that old adage - quality over quantity. (28.10.18)

STEVE IGNORANT’S SLICE OF LIFE - Don’t Turn Away {Overground} Second album from this acoustic/piano/bass project fronted by the ex-CRASS man. You get 11 songs and, while the music maybe sedate and stately, the message in Ignorant’s lyrics are as pointed as ever. The opening title track sets the tone well, pivoting around the bass and some of stunning lyrics before the damning (and previously recorded) ‘Your Day Will Come’ kicks in. Elsewhere you get re-workings of ‘Slaughterhouse’ and ‘Stretford Blue’, ‘Song For Myself’ could be the highlight (along with ‘Stretford Blue) and sees Ignorant seemingly coming to terms with his increasing years (a trait that appears in a few songs), ‘The Story Continues’ that addresses greed and control and ‘S.A.D’ faces depression and despair. Like the 2014 debut, anyone looking for shouted, profane CRASS polemics are going to be disappointed, but those wanting the same ideals but given a new sound, a mellower sound of grandeur but still lyrically biting, will find lots to love here. Still dangerous, just not screaming. (16.09.19)

STEVE IGNORANT WITH PARANOID VISIONS - 1977220174U {FOAD} 15 track live set from Rebellion 2017 where Ignorant and PV ran through songs from PARANOID VISIONS own catalogue along with half a dozen from CRASS, a couple of STRATFORD MERCENARIES and solitary tracks by DIRT, CONFLICT and FLUX OF PINK INDIANS. What’s instantly noticeable about the CRASS songs in particular is how much weightier they are with the dual PARANOID VISIONS guitar attack; especially opener ‘Do They Owe Us A Living?’. Other highlights include a bludgeoning ‘Hiroshima’, a distinctly groove-laden ‘Where Is Love?’, ‘Braindance’ is the pick of the original PV tracks while ‘Big A Little A’ takes out album highlight. It’s clear this is overdub-free too as while the music sounds mighty, the vocals are all too often buried - although the crowd cut through pretty well, especially on the CRASS tracks. As a document though, this is beaut - pressed on heavy-weight red vinyl, neat insert - typical PARANOID VISIONS value for money in fact. It’s also limited to just 500, so I’m guessing it’s sold out already. (23.10.18)

STRUNG OUT - Black Out The Sky {Fat Wreck} Wow - this is a bit of a mind-fuck! I’ve always disliked STRUNG OUT’s fusion of tight, slick Punk and Metal bluster and was set to give this the usual ‘Yawn’ vote. However, opener ‘The Architect’ surprised with acoustic guitars and no Metal bluster at all. Then the title track is acoustic too - and so are the remaining six tracks. What’s more, it’s pretty damn good. Think PEARL JAM unplugged (minus Eddie Veeder’s annoying singing-while-constipated vocals) with a big hint of GAMEFACE (check one of the best on the disc ‘Town Of Corazon’) and  a splish of CHAMBERLAIN and you’re there. It’s not straight forward stuff either; ‘Unkoil’ includes a psychedelic passage and an understated lead while ‘Requiem’ includes a full-on electric burst of double bass drums and electric guitars and is actually very effective amidst the style of this album. Other album highlight is ‘Matchbook’ that again echoes GAMEFACE with some great songwriting and acoustic guitar work. Totally the opposite of what I was expecting and by far the best STRUNG OUT record I’ve heard. That said, I’ll still be avoiding the others! (28.08.18)

SWEET THINGS, THE - Slather {Spaghetty Town} PODCAST  PLAYED Two track 7" that spews Rock ‘n’ Roll cool, even from the sleeve which shows the very Rock ‘n’ Roll looking quartet hanging outside a drug store like the mutant offspring of ALICE COOPER BAND and ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT. Main track is a bit like a fusion of HANOI ROCKS with GEORGIA SATELLITES and really stands out from the pack due to a rather fantastic honky-tonk piano that lifts the track and shakes your ass in the process. Uplifting chorus too!! ‘Dustianne’ on the flip continues that effortless Rock ‘n’ Roll swagger and includes a soulful female backing vocalist. Think ROLLING STONES at their sleaziest peak. Have to say, I’d like to hear a bit more pace, a touch more abandon about the sound as over the course of an album it might get a bit pedestrian - but not at the expense of the piano player. The band’s from NYC, has members from the likes of DIMESTORE HALOES, L.E.S. STITCHES and SHARP LADS and this is their debut release. One to watch for those who like Rock ‘n’ Roll with swagger and can make the old cliches sound fresh again. (22.03.18)

SWINGIN’ UTTERS - Peace And Love {Fat Wreck} PODCAST PLAYED It’s rare for a band to release its 11th studio album and it’s their best yet. Consider that in context of the strength of SWINGIN’ UTTERS’ back catalogue and it’s miraculous. Not only is this the band’s best so far, it’s by far the most adventurous. It’s clear a great deal of thought has gone into the arrangements of these songs; they’re less guitar-heavy than some previous records, but no less penetrative, addictive or joyous. From the opener, ‘Undertaker, Undertake’, with its propulsive bass and bristling energy, it’s clearly something new but still distinctly UTTERS. Then Darius takes lead vocal for a virtual post-Punk Brit Pop song in ‘Sirens’ and you know this is new but thrilling territory. So the album continues with ‘E.C.T.’ being ‘Road To Ruin RAMONES ramalama, ‘Deranged’ having a psychedelic, acoustic intro the BEATLES would have been proud of circa ‘Rubber Soul’ which morphs into a traditional spit and sawdust UTTERS Punk gem, as is ‘Human Potential’, and ‘Demons Of Springtime’ hints at DILLINGER FOUR. It’s ‘Imitation Of Silence’ that’s the disc highlight, romping along at an infectious pace, bass propelled, haunting guitar melody and a damning indictment of Republican presidency from Reagan to Trump. Similar sentiments are voiced in ‘Yes I Hope He Dies’ and while many Punk bands would bash such a track out with maximum venom, here it is nuanced and enhanced by wonderful melodic flurries. A stunning album and the best Fat release of 2018 - and there’s been a few good ones! (06.01.19)

SWINGIN’ UTTERS - Drowning In The Sea, Rising With The Sun {Fat Wreck} Ohh yes!! Easily one of the most consistent and convincing bands on Fat Wreck, this is a walloping 33 track best of that dates right back to the 1992’s ‘Scared’ and features tracks from every significant UTTERS release right up to 2014’s excellent ‘Fistful Of Hollow’. All your favourites are here, ‘Windspitting Punk’, ‘No Eager Men’, ‘Tell Me Lies’, ‘Pills And Smoke’, ‘Catastrophe’, ‘Stuck In A Circle’... I could go on but you have your own faves, and they are most likely here. Unfortunately there are no unreleased tracks to make this appeal to hardened fans. Yep, I realise this is probably released to lure the curious but given this is a career-spanning disc and having already owned all the records this is culled from, I still found it really fulfilling (possibly due to the fact it doesn’t run chronologically) and, if any proof was needed of the band’s perpetual quality, you have it here. Double vinyl or single CD, neat time-line and flyer insert too. My main concern is whether this spells the end of the band. Although they’ve had a great run, and the time line shows a few members have left, I genuinely hope there is at least one more album in the bag. Here’s hoping!! (12.07.18)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2018 including: