Top Sounds - U

UNION MORBIDE - Freely Chosen? {This Could Be Your Music Label} Digital release of this band’s debut album released in 1989 that’s been remastered and sounds raging - it’s raw yet cutting. Opener ‘It’s Too Late’ sounds way harder than anything on the demo below, while ‘777 Beyond Evil’ drops a bit of metallic riffage. All ten tracks are well worth a listen, but those that stood out include ‘Getting Older’ which recalled TERMINUS, ‘Greed’ that has that NO USE FOR THE KIDS feel displayed on the demo below if fused with SNFU, ‘I Tried To Save You’ that starts like THE MOB and then explodes while closer ‘Broken Window’ continues that INSTIGATORS sound and lead track, ‘Rebels Before’ has some serious guitar chops. Really strong stuff that, even 30 years on, sounds fresh, intense and engaging. Would love to see this stuff back on vinyl - but in the meantime this remaster is pretty darn essential. (16.11.20)
UNION MORBIDE - The Eyes of... {This Could Be Your Music Label} PODCAST PLAYED Back in the early 90s, UNION MORBIDE outta The Netherlands, recorded these seven tracks which, with the exception of one that appeared on a No Idea zine sampler, never got to see the light of day - until now. It’s solid, melodic but raging stuff too, kicking off with the freewheeling ‘Dopehead’. It’s not as cleanly produced as some stuff of the era (and better for it) and brought to mind a fusion of NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS and NRA with a bit of YOUTH BRIGADE thrown in. Best track could well be ‘Riot In My Head’ that has an INSTIGATORS feel while other contenders include the raucous ‘Eyes Of Hatred’, the frantic ‘It’s Time To’ and ‘So Intence’ that is one of two tracks that kick off with some stunning drumming. Really strong stuff that’s not stuck in one rut (closer ‘Stiff’ could be a DAG NASTY track), that’s well played and really deserves a full-on vinyl release rather than this download-only version. (05.01.19)
UNITED X BOMBS - s/t {Bomb City Rockers} With a name like that, it doesn’t take too much lateral thought to work out that this lot feature ex-members of... Wait for it... US BOMBS. Geddit? Anyway, X-BOMBers Kerry, Wade and Chip are joined in this new project by AGGROLITES vocalist Jesse and this two-track 7” is the band’s debut. Lead track ‘Phoenix’ is an impressive three-and-a-half mins of solid, catchy ‘77-esque Punk. Heard a lot of UK SUBS at their peak, some sublime PISTOLian guitar leads that lifted the song out of a quagmire that much of this stuff finds itself in and a solid vocal that Duane from US BOMBS could never have managed. Flip the disc and you get a solid Punk-Reggae fusion in ‘Night Marchers’ that’s in the vibe of ‘Guns Of Brixton’. While it pivots around a solid bass lead, the guitars keep things interesting with some inventive work and, with some of the sound effects, even evoked THE SPECIALS’ ‘Ghost Town’. Great production, solid and confident performances and limited to 500. Already way better than US BOMBS ever were - what’s next guys??? (14.06.20)
UPPER DOWNER - s/t {DIY} New trio outta Los Angeles and from the opener, ‘Disarm The Police’ a couple of things are clear: these fellas write songs with a distinct socio-political message and.. they’re pretty fucking good! That opener saw me thinking a lot of HOT WATER MUSIC with its gruff vocals, guitar parts and melody. Next up ‘Somebody Died’ kicks off all Ska-Punk and builds into a boisterous, impressive slab of classic sounding Punk. Elsewhere, think a fusion of ANTI-FLAG, LEFTOVER CRACK and HWM and you’re pretty much there. ‘Dog Food’, an autobiographic tale of drug addiction from vocalist Chris, features some frantic guitar riffage and the topic is expanded further on ‘Piss Jug’ while closer ‘Glue’ offers some positives in a quest for chasing dreams. At just six songs, none of which break three minutes, this is a brief but impressive blast of ribald Anarcho-influenced Punk Rock with a few splashes of Ska thrown in. Production is superb - bold, crisp and with a clarity many bigger bands fail to harness. One to watch for sure. (26.08.19)

USELESS - Neglect {Ambulance} New four piece outta Switzerland with a five track EP that’s Grungy but arty in a Post-Punk hipster sense. Opener ‘Madcap’ certainly cranks out some convincing jams with barbed guitars, embittered vocals and a rather catchy chorus. ‘Dreamer’ got a bit lost in its own attempt to be overtly adventurous - plus it’s over six minutes long. ‘Cerebral Coma’ could actually take the highlight, being a droning blitzkrieg of whirling guitars and nihilistic vocals. I did find the tracks a bit over-long and over-complex. It’s without a doubt that these guys can create a decent sound when they just crank the guitars and kick out the jams, but too often it gets a tad muddled and doesn’t always hit the spot. Production across the whole EP is crisp and bruising. Make the songwriting a bit more concise, and this could be an interesting bunch indie rockers. (13.05.18)

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Top Sounds - V

VACATION - Southern Grass: The Continuation Of Rock ‘n’ Roll Vol. 1 & 2 {Recess} Mammoth, sprawling 32-track double album from this band outta Cincinnati, Ohio. There’s a myriad of sounds here, ranging from WIRE-Lo-fi art-punk, through to high-melody POSIES ragged Indie Rock, subtle TELEVISION PERSONALTIES psychedelia and onto balls to the wall Garage Punk. Plenty of good moments too, be it opener ‘Sharptooth Tinsel Town’ that blasts like THE POSIES playing at The Fest, ‘Charades’, ‘Caked Joy Rag’ and closer ‘New Residue’ all of which brought to mind a lo-fi ROBYN HITCHCOCK, ‘Burnt Hair, Good Pair’ and ‘Lose Interest’ that are all killer raucous Pop-Punk tracks worthy of TOYS THAT KILL, ‘Blueberry Patch’, ‘The All’ and especially ‘Without You’ that had a killer guitar solo were all top notch Shoegazing Psychedelia a’la third album BIG STAR meeting LOOP, while ‘Sleepyhead’ and ‘El Bako’ brought to mind JAY REATARD at his very best. Hell, there was even ‘Conventional’ that had a killer ANGRY SAMOANS riff! Unfortunately, there was a lot of throwaway stuff too: ‘Sucking Bricks’, ‘Bad Hunter’ and ‘Sometimes’ to name but three. Sure, variation is good but these screamed ‘Filler’ (and I don’t mean in a MINOR THREAT way!). A shame, as they made this rather fractious and disjointed. Had this been a double 10", it would’ve been among the best releases of 2017 and among the very best on Recess Records in general. As it is, the good bits (which far outweigh the poor bits) are killer - just a tad more of the cliche ‘quality over quantity’ would been desired. (19.05.18)

VANILLA POD - Goodbye My Love... {Brassneck, TNS + six others} PODCAST PLAYED And so, after what must be 20 years or more of treading the boards at every Punk Rock shit hole (and cool hole) venue in the UK and further afield, Norfolk’s favourite sons VANILLA POD finally call it a day with this cracking four-track 7”. All of the traits that make these fellas so popular here at the House Of Scanner (in fact, they were interviewed in the very first Scanner - which was printed 20+ years ago now!) are in place here too - tight, fast playing, great singalong choruses (check ‘Grey’ - sublime), inventive twists and turns that enhance the song rather than the players’ ego (see ‘G.O.B.’), the clarity and power about Rob’s vocal... Just great British Punk Rock with a nice deprecating, good time attitude with it (see ‘Disgracer’). Comes on tan coloured vinyl with lyric insert and download code. It’ll be a great shame to see these fellas split up; even from here in NZ they have always been a staple when it comes to credible, fun and fucking smoking Punk Rock. Already missed. (22.03.19)
VERNON WALTERS, THE - Present History {TCBYML} Another digital only release from this label highlighting some of the Netherland’s Punk past. This one was originally released back in 1987 and featured a member or two from Hoorn locals, ANTIDOTE and OBSESSIONS. You get 11 remastered tracks which had me thinking of BLYTH POWER (check the vocals and especially ‘Love Paranoia’) fused with early BUZZCOCKS and a hint of early ADAM AND THE ANTS. There’s plenty of highlights too, be it ‘M.L.K.’ that pays homage to Martin Luther King, ‘Restless’ that kicks off with some tribal drumming before morphing into slashing guitars and disquieting monotone vocals and the meandering, jagged ‘Your Love Forever’ which recalled some of PSYCHEDELIC FURS’ darker moments while highlight would be ‘The Truth About You’ that is an amphetamine energy rush of Power-Pop laden Punk Rock. I’d never heard this lot before, but this is a superb album which has plenty of light and shade, ideas and melody while still being resolutely non-mainstream. (25.05.20)
VICIOUS CYCLES, THE - Motorcycho {Pirates Press} 12 track long-player from this five-piece outta Vancouver, Canada. I was expecting full-on CRAMPS Psychobilly type stuff with a predilection for souped-up cars, but this is actually rather sedate, sing-a-long Garage Rock, very much like THE HIVES with a hint of latter day STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. Have to say, I had to play it a couple of times as the first spin was sooo far from what I was expecting it didn’t really register. Of the tracks, ‘Thrill Seeker’ is not too far from ‘Smart Alex’ era ADICTS, ‘Don’t Need No Dynamite’ features some smart female backing vocals and ‘If It Looks Like A Cop’ stand out, while the likes of ‘Be My Bird’ just left me cold. I had high hopes, but this barely got on the first rung of a very steep ladder. It was all just a bit pedestrian and cliched. I’m sure there’s a cycle path these fellas could follow... (08.05.20)
VIOLATORS - Tied To The Tracks {Violated} You really should remember this North-West England band from their classic 1982 single ‘Summer Of ‘81’ (among others) on No Future. The band is back with Shaun Stiles still on vocals and this four-track EP, which kicks off with ‘All Too Human’ that’s solid, boisterous and an obvious lead track. ‘Drag Hag’ sees a more evident split between the male/female vocal dynamic and has a decidedly snappy guitar riff. Disc highlight would be ‘Toxic Graffiti’ that has a Jori take lead vocal with formidable lyrics about the Christian Right trying to make the freedom of choice illegal set against a surging, mid-paced riff while closer ‘Corpus Christi’ is probably the most forgettable of all the tracks. Solid stuff that, whilst not exactly matching the classic greatness of ‘Summer...’, still stands head and shoulders above a lot of ‘reformed’ bands new material. Limited to 100 I think too - so be quick! (10.07.19)
VIOLENT PLAYGROUND - Violent Years {Antigen} For those who remember the late-90s Punk scene in Ipswich, Suffolk, the name VIOLENT PLAYGROUND will rapidly spring to mind. They played an angsty, raucous and often volatile sound and following a reunion gig in 2018, went onto record five new tracks - all of which appear here. There is also two tracks from a 2002 EP with two further tracks from 2001. It’s interesting to hear the 2002 tracks back to back with the 2018 tracks and realise the band’s sound is still very much intact. Highlights would be the fluid opener ‘Paranoia’, the 2002 single ‘Years’, the sinewy, probing ‘Take It Over’ and ‘Great Die Young’.  If you want soundalikes, think MAGNAPOP with the post-Punk angst of WIRE and a splash of searching SIOUXSIE-esque melodrama (check ‘No Harm’). Really enjoyable stuff, with a few memories within also. Have to say, loved the accordion in ‘Violence In Dub’ - was like a fusion of YOUNG GODS playing Kurt Weill and RUTS DC!! (07.09.19)
VULPYNES - Dye Me Red {FOAD} Four track 10” EP from this female guitar/ drum duo outta Dublin. First thing that hits is how distinctly unIrish this sounds. Opener ‘It Washes Out’ kicks off with a riff straight outta Seattle before the mood switches to Detroit while a vague LUNACHICKS meets PANDORAS vibe happens throughout. It took a few plays to get into, but there’s definitely some good Garage Rock chops going down here. Of the remaining three ‘The Hunt’, is a bit more relaxed, ‘I Can’t Sit Still’ lurches along on a droning, unsettling riff and slightly discordant groove while closer ‘Bitches Are Like Waves’ returns to that Seattle via Detroit vibe. Packaging is alluring too; a perfect split between clear and sultry red vinyl and a clear sleeve in which is a transparent insert with the high contrast cover image on. The lack of a bassist isn’t too apparent, the vocals are seductive yet commanding and the jams are varied in style but always pack a punch. One to watch... (29.04.20)
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