Left For Dead – Humanity CD

Left For Dead coverOnce upon a time, punk rock turned up uninvited and gatecrashed polite society. Before too long, spiky herberts everywhere took the sound and attitude and really made it theirs. And so street punk was born, not on the lucrative mainstream circuit but in dodgy clubs and ropey pubs frequented by ne’er-do-wells of every shade. The music was raw but tuneful, created as much for a good time and a sing-a-long as for the propaganda within (and some bands didn’t even bother with the second part). Since then, many bands, both full honours graduates from the university of life (Stage Bottles, The Restarts) and playschool poseurs (Rancid, The Casualties), have kept the street spirit alive. As it happens, I generally seem lucky enough to find plenty of the mature efforts from the former (even though I don’t mind the odd bit of the latter), and such is the case with LFD.

Lyrics are upfront and direct, dealing with the whole stinking mess that is ‘the system’ without being too preachy or too intellectual. Why waste oxygen when sometimes a simple ‘fuck off!’ is all that’s needed? That’s not to say they don’t use deeper ideas when the situation demands, but they still manage to keep it all short ‘n’ sweet. Each song challenges the restrictions that the current social order places on us and, more importantly, the ones we put on ourselves by playing along with and accepting the way things are.

When it comes to the tunes it’s definitely old-school flavoured, very reminiscent of UK punk circa 80-82. The guitar is a solid rock-out affair, distortion without destruction, and layered with some catchy fretboard runs, bass riffs are clean, fluid and in plentiful supply, while the drums are well-constructed without being flamboyant. The vox are nicely delivered by the mutant offspring of Frankie Stubbs and Lemmy with the full force demanded from the sound. The production is sweet enough, not overly polished and in keeping with the feel, although I would personally prefer a slightly sharper top end on some of the percussion, just to lift it a bit in places. That’s a minor quibble though, and overall I found the whole disc most pleasurable.

The packaging is right up my street, with some smooth black ‘n’ white work by Kieran Restart on the sleeve and fold-out poster (which also contains the lyrics), a photo of the band you can use to scare small children away, and all lovingly wrapped up in a semi-matt card digipak. Bonus points are also awarded for the fact they promote the use of Kentish cider, a simpler tipple when compared to our complex West Country brews but still a much-loved part of the family.

For people who also like: The Ruts, One Way System, Abrasive Wheels

OP’s opinion: Three half

Download sample track – We Don’t Need You
Left For Dead Myspace
Buy from Active Distribution

Hold A Grudge – Doing Time CD

Hold A Grudge CD coverHold A Grudge are classic mid-paced hardcore, the good old solid kind that’ll get you through a bad day with enough left over for a pleasant supper. While at first it may seem like there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the sound, listen a bit more closely and you’ll find there’s plenty of originality on show, more than enough to make it enjoyable to the ears rather than just a task they have to endure. Beyond the initial intensity we’ve come to love from the style, there’s a strong street edge that’s well-executed and is a respectful nod to their oldschool punk and Oi! forbears. And the smooth tightness that you’d expect from bandmates who’ve done hard time together is all present and correct.

Lyrics adopt a posi attitude with a sussed social conscience, but don’t forget that everyday life can be tough at times. HAG know that survival doesn’t always come easy and occasionally carries a heavy price, but never forget that the good times always outweigh the bad. It’s clear that the need for unity underpins much of their thinking, and who can argue with that?

Altogether, this album is far more a pleasure than a chore and is a cut above much of what passes for hardcore these days.

For people who also like: Agnostic Front, Blitz, Conflict

OP’s opinion: Four

Download sample track – Doing Time
Hold A Grudge Myspace
Buy from Insurgence Records

The Redskins – Epilogue CD

Redskins Epilogue CD coverBack in the 80s, Britain and much of the rest of the world was a grim place and, to a large extent, the music we listened to reflected that. Sure we had coloured hair, drink, drugs and free festivals to take the edge off, and a few bands who tried to infuse their music with the joy of life rather than the fear of death. But mostly we listened to quite despairing noise about the state of the world which, although it stirred us up, could’ve sometimes done with a lighter side too.

Of those few bands who led the charge to a brighter future, The Redskins stand tall. Unashamedly left in the Marxist tradition, they still managed to endear themselves to many of the more militantly-inspired anarcho mob too, partly because they walked the political talk far more convincingly than other Reds we’d come across but mostly because their music was (and still is) just so fucking good! Here were tunes that were born in the heat of the dancefloor on Wigan Pier before becoming teenagers and hanging out in dingy pub back rooms with the punks. It was Northern meets rebel soul and the result was explosive.

Their recorded output was sparse, with only one studio album (‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow’) and a handful of singles along the way before they called it quits. Luckily, this gem of a CD has been given life by the good people at Insurgence and provides a fitting conclusion to their history. It pulls together the rarest cuts that chart the band’s life, from the pre-Redskins days of No Swastikas in 1981 to a live recording of a gig in Germany from 1986, the year they called it quits. There’s also an unbroadcast hidden track from the Peel session they recorded the same year.

The whole package is top notch, with a classy digipack sleeve, liner notes that capture the effect they had, a spot-on production job (especially considering the source material) and a selection of tunes worth every penny you’ll pay for this disc.

For people who also like: 2-Tone, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Rancid, all-night dancing

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download sample track – Unionise (CNT single)
Redskins fansite and forum
Buy from Insurgence Records

A//Political – The Greatest Working Crass Rip-Off – Discography LP + Book

A//PoliticalI have never been so happy or excited about a record as when this one arrived at my door. A//Political are one of my favourite bands of all time so there will be no surprise that I will have nothing but great things to say about them. Anyway, after a long wait this record finally is out and it is one that sees one of the most active anarcho peace punk bands’ songs and writing compiled into a 60 page book and LP/CD.

A//Political claimed ‘the music is just a soundtrack to the words’. Although this maybe true, what a great soundtrack. You can hear their heavily influenced peace punk carrying aspects of bands such as Crass and Conflict but brought together with a bit more speed and aggression to create a faster tempo and more hard hitting anarcho punk soundtrack, with similar drum beats to Crass and interludes which bring you to the next lyrically packed verse in which you will need the lyrics to keep up as they are spat out with passion across the soundtrack.

The book holds between its cover the lyrics to the songs including some tracks which are on the CD and not the LP. These are tracks which featured on the ‘Planting The Seeds Of Revolution’ demo tape. These lyrics are well thought out and take a good look at the system in which we live in and, in songs like ‘Stop Thinking And Pogo’ and ‘Obscene Gestures’, sizes up the punk community which we belong to. Also in the book is an interview between the band and Profane Existence and a history of the band, as well as some old fliers. Finally we come to the communiqués which were put out by the band, giving you that extra bit of anarchism.

They were a band that seemed to pick up from where the 80’s anarcho bands left off trying to improve things, and broaden the look beyond that of the punk community to that of the wider world.

Great album, and the book has got everything you need for a good read on anarchism and punk.

AD’s opinion: Five

A//Political Myspace
Buy from Threat To Existence Records and other fine distros

Anthrax – Welcome/One Last Drop MCD

More than twenty years since their last recordings, Anthrax’s newest recordings are offered in the form of a mini CD named after the two songs featured, “Welcome” and “One Last Drop”. I have felt that Anthrax were one of the best anarcho bands who were offered up by the 80’s but I also think of them as one of the least appreciated bands of that era. In this recording they seem to have changed their sound to one of a slower pace and I keep feeling the raw aggression and passion you hear from their older recordings in songs like “Exploitation” and “Capitalism is Cannibalism” isn’t there. Overall it sounds like a different band and in “One Last Drop” nearly more of an ‘Oi!’ sound is creeping in with “Woooaahhs” being introduced, but this does not take away what the songs is about – it is of strong lyrical content with the song I feel about a lack of protest today and government getting away with murder.

The other song “Welcome” also gives a similar sound except even slower, but once again lyrically strong. I prefer the older sound than these songs, which sound like a totally different band has written them which is understandable after the 20 years, it is a long time. Lyrically you cannot knock this band, they outshine most bands today, and the artwork continues on the same lines as of their discography LP – One Last Drop.

Overall it is not a bad release, I found myself enjoying the songs more and more with every listen but just dont expect to listen to the same Anthrax as of before.

AD’s opinion: Three

Anthrax’s website
Anthrax’s Myspace

Mouth Sewn Shut – 2009 CD

Mouth Sewn Shut - 2009Building on the strong foundations they’ve laid down over the past few years, MSS are back with their best to date. ‘2009’ is a mix of new tracks and reworkings of some of their older stuff, and it’s as power-packed as a nuclear plant without any of the associated health risks (unless you stick your head in the speakers with the volume turned up to 11). Will lays down some classic metallic riffing reminiscent of Vic Concrete Sox’s work on ‘Whoops! Sorry Vicar!’, Rich pounds the dead-waking drums and Nick delivers the bass lines with the impact of a charging rhino. Then suddenly the three of them will break into some lovely skanking rhythms that may throw you off balance at first, but which fit perfectly with the overall feel once you get your head round the fact that ska-flavoured crusty hardcore is a winning mix. On top of it all, Bill bellows out the smart political lyrics with more urgency than a four-minute warning. This is an album that contains huge dollops of musical complexity and intelligent ideas without disappearing up its own arse.

For vinyl nerds (including yours truly), this package has also been given a limited release in various yellow-and-black colour combinations.

For people who also like: Agnostic Front, MDC

OP’s opinion: Four

Download sample track – My Enemies’ Enemy Is No Friend Of Mine
Mouth Sewn Shut’s Myspace
Buy from Rodent Popsicle Records and other fine distros

The Skints – Live. Breathe. Build. Believe. CD

Live Breathe Build Believe coverThere are some who say that youth is wasted on the young. I beg to differ, especially when said youth are producing slabs of sound as sweet as this. This cheeky bunch have got musical smarts about them that’s for sure, being well versed in the bouncy reggae legacy of Bob Marley with more than a nod to the urban Midlands flavours of both Steel Pulse and UB40 (a balancing act they pull off with effortless ease). Their 21st century attitude rattles out in some slickly delivered MC action and sharp breaks from the drums, all smoothly mashed into a ska groove that borrows from and adapts that recognisable 2-Tone rhythm. Spirit of punk is what binds the whole lot together before kickstarting the chemical reaction that follows.

There’s enough lyrical grittyness on display to make it perfectly clear The Skints are directly connected with the world they share with their peers on the streets and estates of Grey Britain, with all the hard times that can entail. But, more than anything, they’re about hope, about freedom and fun wherever and whenever the opportunity arises or can be created.

The Skints are a voice for the future that deserves to be heard, danced to, enjoyed and acted upon in equal measure.

For people who also like: The Specials, Lily Allen, (Tottenham) AK47s

OP’s opinion: Four half

The SkintsDownload sample track – Murderer
The Skints webpage
Buy from Rebel Alliance

The Autonomads – No Mans Land CD

The Autonomads - No Mans Land CD

It’s great to see DIY is still being kept alive by bands like The Autonomads. This release comes in a hand-folded A3 poster inside a hand-sewn hessian bag with a hand-numbered tag showing which one of the thousand pressed you’ve got. Impressive enough before you even get to the content. When you put this much care into the packaging, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll put some serious effort into what’s inside too. Having seen the band live before picking this up I know they do exactly that when they plug in and turn on, and the CD doesn’t deviate from the script.

This is tight and energetic punked-up ska with a decent splash of dubby sauce. It’s set off perfectly with some nice upfront sax and crowd-pleasing singalong choruses. The lyrics are a mix of the personal and political, not too dissimilar to the creative wordplay favoured by Dick Lucas, which is exactly how it should be. Packed into the backroom of a pub with this lot on the stage gets the dancefloor hot n’ sweaty very quickly. Grab this release and chances are you won’t be able to resist a quick skank when you put it in the CD player too (although that’s not so advisable if the CD player is in the car and you’re driving).

For people who also like: Inner Terrestrials, The Blaggers, Sonic Boom Six

OP’s opinion: Four

Download sample track – GMP (Greater Manchester Police)
The Autonomads’ Myspace
Buy from Pumpkin Records or the band

I’d also like to point out how nice Pumpkin Records were when I bought this and a Warcoma EP (review coming) from them for a grand £8 including postage. There was a slight delay in getting the package sent as The Autonomads were still in the process of making the next batch of bags. As well as sending me very friendly email updates about the order, they also threw in a complimentary copy of ‘Is It Fucking Worth It?‘ by Paradox (review also coming) when they were eventually able to post the discs out. There was even a lovely little hand-written note thanking me for my patience. Now that’s punk as fuck!

Dirty Revolution – Before The Fire CD

Dirty Revolution - Before The Fire coverThere may still be a few grey clouds outside but, with a beat packing more bounce than Skippy and a voice that’s as enchanting as a baby’s laugh, this disc is a great way to kickstart the summer season.

Dirty Revolution hail from the not quite so exotic and distinctly untropical climes of Cardiff but sound like they’ve spent their lives fed on a Caribbean diet of no-nonsense rudeboy ska and laid back roots n’ reggae rhythms. Add in the fearless attitude to cultural cut n’ paste favoured by the youth of today and you get this belter of an album. There’s more than a touch of punk spirit at play across the whole affair, as well as a nod to Motown, a breath of husky jangly indie-pop and even a bit of a rock-out now and then.

This is very much in the mode of Scum Of Toytown and Back To The Planet (and even has hints of Chumbawamba with the power and presence in Reb’s lead voice), although The Revs’ own style makes them sound both more fulsome and spacious than either. There’s a wicked streak of humour, some cutting commentary and even a bit of sorrow gleaned from everyday life, albeit sorrow coloured with hope and optimism from the lessons learned. When I hear lyrics written with such obvious passion and delivered with even more, my faith in the future burns a little brighter.

And, although there was an April shower while this was playing, all I could see was the sunshine breaking through the clouds.

Dirty RevolutionThe limited edition pre-order version in my hands (500 copies pressed and lovingly hand-numbered) has two bonus tracks on it and is printed to look like a mini bit of vinyl. The CD is stylishly black instead of silver on the ‘shiny’ side just to complete the effect. There may still be a few copies available if you hurry, but the standard version still has ten tracks worth raiding your rainy day fund for. And, like most of the Rebel Alliance roster, they’re pretty good at taking their sound out to the masses, so make sure you seek ’em out or entice them down your way sometime.

For people who also like: King Blues, AOS3, Los Fastidios

OP’s opinion: Five

Download sample track – 50p
Dirty Revolution’s webpage
Buy from Rebel Alliance

Millions Of Dead Cops / The Restarts – Mobocracy Split LP

Mobocracy vinylWith two of my favourite bands on one record, I knew the chances of me being impressed were high even before the needle hit the groove. The splatter vinyl and top notch sleeve illustrations by Kieran Restart simply added to the thrill of anticipation. And thrilled I was once the technology did its thing and launched the noise into my living room (and, probably, my neighbour’s too).

It’s hard to believe that MDC have been doing their thing for over thirty years when you hear the youthful urgency and energy contained on their side of the wax. They’ve certainly not taken their foot off of the accelerator as the time has passed by. As well as the usual political targets left bullet-ridden by Dave Dictor’s verbal crossfire, MDC also allow themselves to get more personal at times, sharing salutory tales from the scars they’ve picked up along the way. You’d be wise to listen to such wisdom. The intricacy in the music, especially when played so fast, shows a natural affinity between the band and their instruments that can only be acquired through having spent so long in each others company. The only slight criticism I have is that the sound is a little flat for my tastes, and some bits could do with stronger back-up (rhythm guitar?) when the fret-shredding begins in earnest. But the overall power of the whole thing is undeniable, especially when Dave’s vox kick in. I’d even go as far as saying that this is the strongest release they’ve done since that classic first album and EP.

OP’s opinion: Four

Download sample track – Patriot Asshole
MDC’s Myspace

While The Restarts don’t have the length of service of their American friends, they’re certainly a familiar part of the punk rock furniture. Listening to this cuddly threesome bark out their heartfelt and down-to-earth thoughts and feelings about the world is both uplifting and comforting, like a big bowl of stew and dumplings on a cold winter’s night. Sure, it might be grim outside but, with the right fuel inside you, you can face it head on and with a smile. Many bands try and pull off the straight-up street sound and no-nonsense attitude combo with varying degrees of success (and, more often, failure *cough* Casualties *cough*), but The Restarts manage it effortlessly because that’s exactly what they are – straight-up no-nonsense punks. Whether it’s at the ‘punk Glastonbury’ affairs that help pay the bills, or in a squatted basement raising cash for any number of causes that need it, they give it their all. They’re on the road as often as they’re not, so be sure to go and say hello if they pass anywhere nearby. Until then, grab this gem and turn your own humble abode into the next best thing.

OP’s opinion: Five

Download sample track – Square One
The Restarts’ website

A joint release between Rodent Popsicle (limited brown/white or splatter vinyl), Crash Assailant (CD), No Label (limited clear vinyl, black vinyl, CD) and Dirty Faces (same), or something like that.

It’s worth saying that I bought this from Rodent Popsicle Records, as there was a bundle deal on at the time which meant I got this, a Toxic Narcotic pic disc LP, and two limited 7″s (‘Human EP’ and ‘Solid EP’) containing the above two plus the likes of Phobia, Embrace The Kill, Citizen Fish and Mouth Sewn Shut shared between them, plus a free copy of Mouth Sewn Shut’s ‘Doomed Future Today‘ CD (Bill, RPR’s operator, also does the main shouty stuff for the band), all for $34. And twenty of that went on the airmail alone, plus another buck or so for the superb packing. I’m sure he must’ve lost money on this!  Bill is a lovely bloke to do business with and, even without the offers, the stuff he puts out is very nicely priced for such high quality items.

I’m sure the others are all equally as lovely too!

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