Top Sounds - U

UNDERCLASS UK - Rip Your Face Off {Punk Lives Live} Fourth studio album from this band of London Punks, and it’s a bit of an odd one. Not only has the band got a new bass player but the original guitarist, Andy Price, is back after something like a 25 year hiatus. The songs are still potent slices of ‘77-esque Punk given a Street feel with pointed lyrics, but now there seems to be a guitar lead going right through every song. Given the new bass player is quite a busy player (although pretty smoking I have to say), it makes the songs rather cluttered, especially during the vocal parts when there’s a fucking Guns ‘n’ Roses-style lead guitar wank-fest going on (check ‘Groomed’ - guitar noodling overkill!). The songs themselves are of the normal high quality from Stuart Newman though, with highlights being ‘One Size Fits All’, a reworking of the traditional ‘Give It Back’ and the rolling, boisterous riffage of ‘InFected’, while the album highlight is a straight battle between ‘Don’t Call Me (I’ll Call You)’ and ‘Checking Out’ both of which have great sing-along choruses. Neat, unlisted SLADE cover too - albeit with a guitar solo! Good foldout packaging as always from this always interesting band. (08.02.17)

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND - The People Are Home {Recess} Third album from this unhinged project that features label boss Todd Congelliere and, without a doubt, it’s the band’s best to date. I enjoyed both previous albums but this has a little more backbone and greater focus about the songs. Heaps of highlights be it opener ‘Dead Leg’ and ‘Yer Not The Only One’ both of which could fit on a TOYS THAT KILL album, ‘Diamond Ring’ kicks off with some militaristic beats before that wonderful sneering vocal of Todd’s kicks in and it’s another stomper, and ‘The Ppl R Hm’ is the meandering, alluring closer. Best track however is a straight battle between ‘Worried’ that starts with some wonderful shimmering pop moments before blowing up into denigrating, adrenal Power-Pop-Punk, and ‘And Now...’ that is built around some rather sublime BEACH BOYS style arrangements and uplifting melody. For those who like the wigged out URTC also, there are a couple of crazed instrumentals along with a couple of those moments of weirdness that only Todd and CANDYLAND can muster. Only criticism is the appalling lyric sheet - could barely fucking read it - but that might be age!! Excellent stuff that will please old fans and hopefully garner a few new ones. (22.01.16)

UNSANE - Scattered, Smothered And Covered {Amphetamine Reptile/ MVD} Reissue of the band’s third album, originally released back in 1995, that sees the band’s noise attack sharpened and honed a little compared with earlier output. If you don’t know the band, think a fusion of JESUS LIZARD, SCRATCH ACID, SWANS and MELVINS and you’re close. You get 12 brutal barrages of discordant noise core here. Opener ‘Scrape’s sets the tone with an in your face, bellicose, throat-slicing attack. Other notables include ‘Get Off My Back’ that grinds on a Sabbath meets FLIPPER drone, ‘Out’ that features some serious slide guitar playing and comes on like BIRTHDAY PARTY on a mix of testosterone and downers while ‘Test My Faith’ rolls along on a drum-heavy tribal beat. Highlights though is fist-fight between ‘Alleged’ that starts with a bluesy harmonica played over a bass before detonating into a bile laced lurch that genuinely grooves, and the hypnotic, cyclic riff and relentless beats of ‘Blew’. It’s ‘Blew’ that also contains the album’s nearest thing to a recognised chorus. Not for the faint hearted, but those that like art in their noise, and depth to their bludgeon, then look no further for a bit of a history lesson. (03.10.16)

UPRIGHT CITIZENS - Facts And Views {Artcore} It came as bit of a shock to me, but this is the first actual UPRIGHT CITIZENS record I own. I’ve had the ‘Open Eyes...’ BYO-released album on tape and have a few compilation tracks but I’ve never actually owned one of their releases. Pretty fucking shameful... Anyway UPRIGHT CITIZENS was a band outta West Germany and this is a re-release of an EP originally released in 1985. You get five tracks that fuse brisk, snotty Hardcore Punk with clever twists and a great grasp on melody over bludgeon. Highlights here include the acoustic guitar-driven ‘Future Dreams’ and the sneering, careering ‘Right Way’. It’s pressed on deep red vinyl and includes a download code. BUT - that’s not all. The 12-page wraparound sleeve includes a riveting tour diary from the band’s 1985 jaunt to the USA, which is laden with lyrics, flyers and photos and designed with the perfect aesthetic eye as everything else Artcore does. If ya want a copy, you better be quick as it comes free with issue 36 of Artcore zine. They make for an essential pairing. (24.06.17)

USELESS ID - State Is Burning {Fat Wreck} Never been too impressed by this quartet outta Israel. I don’t dislike ‘em, they’re competent at the melodic Punk they crank out but... they just don’t have that killer instinct. That said, this is the band’s eighth album and it’s much more bruising than I recall of previous efforts. What’s most noticeable is a big GOOD RIDDANCE vibe be it vocally or musically. Opener ‘Land Of Idiocracy’ and the excellent ‘Without A Choice' are prime examples while disc highlight, ‘How To Dismantle An Atom Bomb’ brings in some HOT WATER MUSIC musical skills and a soaring chorus. Elsewhere ‘We Don’t Want The Airwaves’ is a neat RAMONES-laced lyrical tribute to the memory of the late Brandon Carlisle (of TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET),  ‘Lonely Man’ zips along at a pace LAGWAGON would be proud of, ‘Night Shift’ could be a CHIXDIGGIT outtake... And that’s part of the problem I’ve always had with the band; it’s very much like playing ‘Spot-the-Fat-Wreck-influence’. Anyway, lyrically it’s strong, production courtesy of Bill Stevenson is naturally clear and blazing. 15 tracks is a bit much, but it could’ve been a cracking six-song mini-album. (14.11.16)

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Top Sounds - V

VANILLA POD - Seeing Out The Sunrise {TNS/ Fixing A Hole} Norfolk’s finest is back with its first new record since 2009’s ‘Poets On Payday’ album and, not only is this a contender for the band’s best, it’s a contender for 2015’s best too. You get seven tracks over a 10" EP/ CDEP and it kicks off with what could be one of the band’s most aggressive songs to date, ‘She’s Dead Now’ that comes on like PAINT IT BLACK. From there, it’s classic VANILLA POD territory. Not sure how long the band has been a five-piece, but it certainly seems to have brought something approaching maturity and depth to the band’s sound; many times I kept thinking of GAMEFACE, particularly on EP standout, ‘Wishing Well’ which I played three times in a row after hearing it for the first time. Rob’s vocals also have a real depth and power on here, be he growling with anger or singing one of the band’s killer choruses, be it ‘G.T.B’ or ‘Leaving The Bentnick Dock’. Production is warm and powerful (again echoing a GAMEFACE vibe) and it is without a doubt, great to have the band back and cranking out those melodic Punk Rock jams to such an impressive degree as this. Joyous! (28.01.16)

VARUKERS - How Do You Sleep? {Westworld} Reissue of the band’s fifth studio album from 2000, originally released on Go Kart Records. It’s a bruising album blessed with better production than much of the band’s previous, rough and raw D-Beat barrage. There’s a hint of Metal here too, but only a hint - and that’s removed totally on crackers like ‘Bleed Us Dry’, the sneering ‘Memo To Me’, the distorto-bass barbarism of ‘As Good As It Gets’ and the frenetic ‘Piss Off (I’ve Paid)’, while highlight is the guitar frenzy of ‘Absolution’. Can’t say I’m an authority of VARUKERS but this is by far the most convincing and sonically impressive stuff I’ve heard by ‘em. Apparently the band toured Australia and New Zealand (and Brazil!) in the wake of this album, so it’s good to have it readily available once again.  (16.04.17)

VIOLENT ARREST - Authors Of Our Own Demise {Artcore} Latest release from just about the best HC band in the UK and it’s a blazing six-track 7" pressed on zesty orange vinyl and comes with issue #34 of Artcore zine. If you are aware of the band’s previous material, you’ll know that this is bruising, political Hardcore without a hint of a tough-guy Metal breakdown or moody Emo-guy intros. Of the six tracks, the title track is probably the most brutal thing the band has done while closer ‘Five More Years’ slows the pace a little to a stomping juggernaut that could be from one of Boston’s best. Elsewhere ‘White Suburban Punk’ is a brisk, cutting slice of ‘core and could’ve been on a FOUR LETTER WORD album and ‘Fortress Europa’ features a brief guitar solo, clever lyrics and is probably my favourite track here. There’s no breaks between the songs - just one battering ram of white hot UK Hardcore Punk after another. As always with the work of vocalist Welly, the packaging here is great. You get a cover drawn by Vince Ransid, a fold out lyric sheet with the cover artwork on the reverse, a badge and a download code. (26.01.17)

VIOLENT ARREST - Life Inside The Western Bloc {Boss Tuneage} Seventh release from this blistering UK HC Punk band that includes ex-members of RIPCORD and its first release to feature former FOUR LETTER WORD vocalist Welly taking on lead raging. As good as the band’s previous material was (particularly the ‘Distorted View’ 12" that’s included with the CD here), this is a step up. The intensity seems to have increased and the anger in Welly’s voice, coupled with his excellent lyrics, have just added another depth to an already impressive band. Highlights for me are those songs that have a vague FLW vibe - ‘Cold Front’, ‘Degradation Street’ and ‘Deposit No Return’. However, there are those blinding slices of ‘core in ‘The Game Is Rigged’ and ‘Officious Little Man’. Most surprisingly is the slow-burn grind of ‘Mission: Creep’ that has vaguely distorted vocals and is quite unlike anything else the band has recorded. As said, the CD includes the previous ‘Distorted View’ 12", plus the band’s tracks on the split single with ENDLESS GRINNING SKULLS and an outtake in the form of a cover of MAU MAUS ‘Clampdown’. Packaging is of Welly’s usual sublime standard. If you want tough, passionate, intense, political, energetic and thoughtful Punk Fucking Rock, look no further. Album of the year? It’s a contender! (21.08.15)

VIOLENT SOCIETY/ EXTERNAL MENACE - Split EP {Violated} Well matched, trans-Atlantic pairing here kicking off with Philadelphia veterans VIOLENT SOCIETY. They crank out three tracks including ‘Simcha’ that comes on like VARUKERS having a bit of a dual with DEFIANCE, while ‘Abandoned City’ is probably the band’s stand-out here incorporating a bit of early STIFF LITTLE FINGERS pogo-ability to matters and dealing with the horrors of a nuclear accident. Flip the vinyl and you get Scotland’s ever reliable EXTERNAL MENACE with a couple of songs, including the standout of the whole record, ‘Citizen Caned’ that rolls along on an addictive groove that would not be outta place on a RUTS DC album. Their other track, ‘No Uniform’, is a UK82 burner brought up to date with some urgent bass playing, a neat guitar lead and a sneering vocal. I’ve always had a lot of time for Welshy and the EM crowd, and this is another winner with VIOLENT SOCIETY being a rancorous Punk Rock bonus. (18.07.17)

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