More under-the-radar releases from the global village of punk rock, with an occasional dalliance down the sidestreets of stuff that kinda, sorta fits. Safety pin through cheek? Check! Then we're off!
Orlando, Florida's Gatorface is a four-headed beast of Californian-style melodic punk built from the wreckage of the now-defunct New Mexican Disaster Squad. Pleasingly fat of sound, Wasted Monuments (No Idea) perhaps lacks enough killer hooks to make it utterly essential although momentum is kept high and the driving chorus of 'Not Scientists' complements the surfy verses particularly well. The way 'Burning Crosses' breaks down into a chuggier piece half way through is neat, and is typical of an album that might just get stronger as it goes along.
There's something quaintly invigorating about Rehasher's brand of high energy, melodic skate punk. All of a sudden it's 1993 again and everything on Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords is totally happening, dude. High Speed Access To My Brain (Moathouse Records) is hell-for-leather pop of a decent standard, just right for moving onto once you've outgrown the training bra and Bowling For Soup downloads. If Sum 41 are in need of a decent support act, they could do worse than hire these fellas, who include Less Than Jake's Roger Manganelli on guitar and vocals. Top fun.
As soon as the torn throats of 'Born In A Vein' kicked in, it was easy to know we were onto a winner. Young Livers' Of Misery And Toil (No Idea) is in super-awe of Hot Water Music but when has that ever been a bad thing? The battling guitars, the passionate voices playing off against one another, this is a superior project from start to finish and just makes me regret even more not travelling the 100 miles necessary to catch them earlier in the year on their UK tour. Let the plaintive chorus of 'Finger To The Pulse' pierce your heart and 'Of Misery and Toil' pull the tears from your eyes: "Heavy of our tongue / Lay these words onto you / And it's obvious / That it's nothing but sound." It may not bring anything terribly new to the Floridian punk game but it has a singular certainty, a focus and understanding. "And for what it's worth these inward skies stagger and subside." Awesome.
Let's face it, the UK has had little appetite for garage rock unless it's a) American, b) Scandinavian, c) Australian or had some kind of involvement from Billy Childish, so being a trashy sounding bunch of reprobates from Leeds probably isn't a route to fame and fortune. The Despondents self-titled debut (Dirty Water Club Records) is a snotty, rough-sounding antidote to whatever your big sister's boyfriend is pumping from the back end of his Corsa. 'Dressed In Black' is a pretty fine initial blast, with 'California' bringing a Ramones-y feel to the party. But what's that? Oh, heavens ... it's the crass detector with its flashing blue light, the one that says I'm too old for references to "get(ting) laid" ('You Stupid Girl'). 'Gotta Getaway' (England Sucks)' is a great title for a song though. You kinda hope they have no friends and every other band in Leeds thinks they're arseholes. Build up that whole gang mentality.
Talking of Australia, as were were momentarily, Violent Soho have managed to get themselves onto Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label with a strangely dated album of grunge that's very much in the style of fellow countrymen The Vines. Luke Boerdam (now that's a punk name if I ever heard one) screams in all the right places, the quiet/loud riffs are comfortingly Cobain-esque and if I was 14 I might think higher of it. 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend', with its vaguely plodding Nirvana riffs and, well, Nirvana-ish phrasing is about all you need to hear. No doubt they're due onstage at Reading and Leeds very soon. Daylight slot, mind.
Back to dear old Blighty with the punk 'n' roll of The Hacks' On Record With ... (self released), a mini-album of Dr Feelgood-y pub rock. About as fashionable as a burkha on the streets of old Paris you imagine, but reassuringly gritty and if you knew they were playing down The Dog and Partridge on Saturday night, you'd probably make the effort.
Here's something a bit different: The Anti-Karoshi are a German act with roots that grew under the searchlights of the East German state (Note to younger readers: once upon a time we all thought we were going to die in a nuclear holocaust. It's why we still cling to hoary old GBH records.) 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall (look it up) the members are facing up to what it means to play punk music and tell stories without government scrutiny. There are hints of Fugazi, Refused and American labels like Dischord and Touch & Go about their loose-limbed post-punk. By far the most musically intriguing album (Per/Son/Alien, Exile On Mainstream Records) under the microscope this issue, this comes highly recommended.
Blacklist Royals' Semper Liberi (Paper + Plastic Records) is the kind of earthy rock favoured by the likes of The Gaslight Anthem, their home town of Nashville, Tennesse instilling an unpretentious aspect to what do, which goes as far as being able to call a track 'Rock & Roll' without blushing. Old timers with Social Distortion records in the collection will feel right at home. Unspectacular, but straight-down-the-middle good time music.
It's a few years since we picked out Defiance, Ohio's The Great Depression as one of our albums of the year and they've even issued an album (The Fear, The Fear, The Fear) that passed us by completely. So Midwestern Minutes (No Idea) comes as a welcome reminder of their raucous and rousing American folk-tinged punk. The sing-along anthems are thankfully present and correct, as is their thoughtful, uncertain side ("Do you know how close I have been to giving in?" - 'A Lot To Do') that sets them apart from many of their contemporaries. The jaunty 'The Reason' is a particular highlight, a tribute to the friends bands make on the road - and those who aren't there next time they hit town. It's typical of an outfit who place relationships and communication at the heart of what they do. Another fine album.
The fact that the dulcet tones of Janet Street Porter is the first thing you hear on Dirty Tactics' It Is What It Is (Say 10 Records) is a bit unsettling, but such thoughts are soon discarded by the thumping 'When You Wake Up'. There's an undercurrent of Anglophilia on this Philadelphian act's second album, a suggestion that they think records made in London in 1978 were just the best thing ever. The washes of organ under 'Baltimore' add a little new wave charm and, once the Italian torch song gets out the way, 'La Cancion De Los Andes' has all the hallmarks of spunky Camden indie. If you want to take a chance on just one album this time round, this might just be the one. As we say about toast: "We like!"
'Til next time, hombres.