The Punk Archive aims to be the only blog you'll ever need for reviews and news on the punk, ska, reggae and alternative music scenes. We will review music from the past, present, and future, looking at CD, vinyl, mp3 and hitting as many gigs as we can handle, as well as keeping you in the loop with the goings-on in our scene and interviewing as many bands as we can. Please enjoy the blog and feel free to send any comments or feedback to us via email to thepunkarchive@hotmail.co.uk , or by visiting our Twitter at www.twitter.com/thepunkarchive , or our Facebook at www.facebook.com/thepunkarchive. You can also find us on Instagram: just search for @thepunkarchive.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Feels Like Home: Take On Anything

Artist: Feels Like Home
Title: Take On Anything
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 7th October 2014
Reviewed By: Dan Stoten

Here at The Punk Archive, we are sometimes sent music which sounds pretty samey, or fairly copycat. We're also sent a lot of music which doesn't break any moulds, but is actually just that genre played well. This isn't a bad thing: indeed, looking back over some of our reviews over the past months, we've said that actually sometimes there's nothing wrong with just playing, for example, some really good pop-punk. Pop-punk done well is fucking awesome, there's no question about that.

Upon reading the press for the new Feels Like Home EP, I was really hopeful. The band, it stated, combined the "best of the pop-punk greats" while still managing to sound "fresh". The essential pop-punk ingredients of catchiness, hooks and so on are also liberally scattered in the press notes. Expectation was high.

This expectation, it transpired, was too high for Take On Anything. While this isn't a bad EP by any stretch, it's just so close to being mundane it's unfortunately a release which doesn't so much as break the mould as even tiptoe around it.

As previously stated, this isn't necessarily a bad thing but there just aren't enough differentiating features here to make Take On Anything much more than a purely 'OK' release. To me, it seems like there's a bit of a lack of identity to the EP: to be fair to the band, they do experiment with some growls and screams, but they're almost thrown in haphazardly and they sound like they're there in a contrived manner, to almost force the tracks to stand out and sound different.

All, however, is far from lost.

The first four tracks on the EP, for me, are totally forgettable. However, the final track, which shares it's title with the EP, is an absolute stormer. What the band have done here is forget any of the gimmicks they've scattered into the other four songs on the EP, and delivered a simple, straight-up, pop-punk song. The chorus is blinding, catchy, melodic and edgy. To me, the track sounds akin to Me Vs. Hero, compliment indeed.

The EP is worth a purchase for the last track alone. I'm sure there will be fans who find the other tracks equally strong: personally, however, they've got a confused identity and consequently are a little mundane, a little lost. That is forgivable, though, on the strength of the title track, and both the potential and brilliance it displays. Certainly one to keep an eye on.

Shanty: Leave Me Out

Artist: Shanty
Title: Leave Me Out
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 22nd September 2014
Reviewed By: Dan Stoten

As a massive reggae fan, seeing the words "approved by David Rodigan" in the press attached to Shanty's debut EP certainly made my eyes light up and my desire to hear Leave Me Out pique. Rodigan is a true legend and has an outstanding ear for new talent, having backed the likes of The Skints and Protoje in very recent times, both incredible musicians.

So, to Shanty. A London-based, seven-piece reggae collective who recorded their debut EP in Sawmills Studio, Cornwall (famous for seeing the likes of Oasis and Supergrass), they've played a whole series of festivals over the past months including Boomtown, Secret Garden Party and Glastonbury. They've also shared stages with The Skints, Prince Fatty and Neville Staple.

This all adds up to a significant level of expectation for the young band.

I'm happy to say that this expectation has been broadly met in Leave Me Out. It's not the perfect EP, but at the same time there are enough flashes of brilliance here to show that Shanty are well and truly on the road to big things, and travelling apace.

The EP starts with title track Leave Me Out, and opens with almost a mix of New Town Kings and Backbeat Soundsystem, two Punk Archive favourites. Once the intro settles into the verse, though, there's an incredibly mellow, soulful feel to the track. It's delightfully relaxed, a luxurious baseline combining perfectly with velvety-smooth lyrics. It's so mellow it could blend into the background, until the upbeat brass of the chorus (which generally sounds fairly Skints-esque), which adds a perfect sparkle to this track. It's a very strong start from Shanty.

Second track Bohemian Soul opens with a brilliant, old-school organ backdrop before again settling into a soulful vocal track. Although the press accompanying the EP mentions how many genres the band cover, to me, this is another brilliantly lazy and luxurious slow-jamming reggae song with a ska / two-tone edge. Again, the vocals are standout: the lead singer truly has a delectable voice which suits the relaxed nature of the music perfectly.

Rise Up has a heavier feel to it, more akin to the reggae coming out of Jamaica in the 70s. It's got a strong bassline and the vocal style has changed to fit with the feel. It's a deep groove which sounds similar to New Town Kings' latest EP, Pull Up And Rewind. It certainly is the catchiest of the four tracks here, and has a lot more energy than the relaxed previous tracks.

The EP finishes with One More, which opens with a brilliantly nostalgic vinyl crackle, before once again settling into the mellow style. For me it's the weakest track on the EP: it sounds almost spaced-out and perhaps a little too relaxed.

The EP is produced brilliantly, the mix perfect and the overall feel exceptionally professional. For a debut record, it's massively impressive.

Shanty are showing a huge amount of potential. We'll certainly be keeping our eyes on these guys...

Live: The Aggrolites

Headliner: The Aggrolites
Support: New Town Kings
Where: Exchange, Bristol
When: 13th October 2014
Reviewed By: Ben Chapman


The main room of the Exchange was in massive contrast to the last time I'd seen New Town Kings. The band had taken the stage, but where were the crowd? They set up smoothly, and presumably having soundchecked earlier, were more ready to start than the non-present audience. Regardless, they began with a strutting rock'n'roll sort of number complete with swinging knees and a decent walking bass line, merged with a classic skanking rhythm guitar. In just a few bars the overly relaxed crowd-to-be, still stocking up on pints in the next room, were hurried in to a laid-back set of smooth reggae. My fear over the audience's initial absence was soon cleared. 
A few tracks in, New Town Kings were striding through an undoubtedly well-received set. But something was holding the crowd back. An empty can of Red Stripe, abandoned, dominated the dance space. A semi-circle of eager skankers surrounded it, enjoying the music but not ready to breach the tinnie's prime space immediately in front of the band. It didn't last long though: the New Town Kings' groove was unstoppable. Soon, under the funky offbeat slink and positive lyrics of Change, the crowd were urged to "Move forwards in the right direction".
Among brilliant reggae sounds, the lead singer's slapstick silent film antics, such as winding up his foot to kick the bass drum into play, or scorching his arm on the saxophone during an impressive solo, really helped make the set. When the Kings dropped La La World, the good times were finalised. This track, managing to simultaneously sound like a musical and titular tribute to Madness' One Step Beyond, with flavours of The Specials' Ghost Town shadiness, was probably my favourite of the night. The track is a good demonstration of the New Town Kings' ability to sound authentically familiar with its genre whilst still producing music that's not overripe, a worthy blend and welcome propagation of reggae, ska, and rocksteady.
The band continued to deliver cracking tracks. Newsstand has all the feel-good potential energy of a massage chair/big dipper hybrid, right from the opening vocal arrest to the join-in chorus supplemented by the cheekiest of horn sections. Fire in the Hole's lyrics are matched with an aptly incremental musical energy provided by its rising horn section and subtly executed tempo changes.
Once again, the Essex-based nine-piece proved themselves comfortable on a stage. They raised anticipation for The Aggrolites whilst still satisfying the audience's reggae cravings. We grabbed a few too many more drinks, egged on by the performance we'd witnessed. A pity for those arriving after the New Town Kings set, but the main room they'd helped pack out was getting even busier with punters turning up for The Aggrolites, and it appeared that the intimate venue must have been overseen by a tetris master.
Silence as a man places three beers by each amp or drumkit.  American legends The Aggrolites walked onstage and proceeded to play some astounding good-humoured traditional ska polished with funk and soul.
Numerical counting has never been so much fun than when heard in Work To Do, where a strong and simple beat carries one of the catchiest reggae tunes you'll hear. It sounded like everyone in the room sang along.
Their tracks ranged from stomping grooves to incredibly chilled, old school instrumentals. Highlights included Funky Fire, with its strong and soulful vocal improvisations. The bubbling organ flicks from background to the lead, played by what could only be described as an absolute dude behind shades, playing with Stevie-Wonder-inspired relish.
There was good crowd- and cultural-interaction as The Aggrolites helped themselves to some cans the crowd had placed between the stage's monitor amps, among cries of "what is this?" the band excused themselves for their first introduction to the Cider Fairy. No need, they sounded great and were evidently enjoying themselves, each musician smoothly comfortable in their talents.
The soul influences really came though: the keyboard's heavy role and iconic organ tone; the beautiful cooing of barbershop-quality vocal harmony layering; the smooth sung choruses. Despite The Aggrolites' evident skill it was nice to see their humble encouragement for deserved praise towards the New Town Kings' previous set.
A night of well-played, well-located reggae, energy instilled but chilled, The Exchange had the honour of hosting a fine pair of bands that should be hanging on to their fans for a long while.

Restorations: LP3

Artist: Restorations
Title: LP3
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 28th October 2014
Reviewed By: Ben Goold

Restorations are a band known for their sound that sits within lots of genres, but their new album puts them in a firm place. LP3 is full of big guitar riffs, punk anthems and a collision of sounds that come together and just make sense. If you're already a fan of the Philadelphia 5-piece then you're guaranteed to enjoy it. The band joined forces with Jonathan Low who is not only responsible for records from bands such as The Menzingers, Modern Baseball and The National but also worked with the band on their previous releases and the ready-welded relationship makes for a big sound that even rings through on the smallest of speakers. 

The album starts with a big elongated intro in Wales, the first track of nine. The songs warms into the huge guitar sounds that carry on throughout the rest of the record and we are greeted by the familiar gravelly vocals of Jon Loudon. Separate Songs was an obvious track to release prior to the rest of the album, a good preview into what is to come. It is again full of big guitars that go through a variety of sounds and the drums sound gigantic. Tracks like Misprint and Tiny Prayers are punk anthems that explore deeper lyrics and then All My Home takes the anthemic feel even further with the use of an underlay of horns and organs. I would say it comes as a surprise but it sits so well with the variety of sounds, it only adds to the immense feel of the record. 

The second half of the album is similar to the first, Most Likely A Spy brings vocal chants and tracks such as No Castle just continues with big, reverby guitars. The Future hears the instruments all crossing paths to create a song that calls the previous Restorations release LP2 to mind. These crossovers are greeted by more sing-along vocals that I'm sure will ring out when played live. The album ends how it starts, with a big outro in It's Not that is driven by the massive guitar and drum sounds that you can't help but admire.  

LP3, to put it simply, is a big record. It's strong throughout, with every track defining its own place. It could most definitely be the most memorable record for Restorations yet. 



LP3 will be released on the 28th October via SideOneDummy records. 

Live: Bleach Blood

Headliner: Bleach Blood
Support: Maycomb
Where: The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch
When: 16th October 2014
Reviewed By: Millie Manders


If you know anything about The Punk Archive yet, you'll know that Bleach Blood are one of our firm favourites.  They are also really lovely people.

I met Jamie through Imperial Leisure. I knew of The King Blues, Jamie's former band. Had a couple of albums but never paid much attention until I met Jamie Jazz, heard his band and researched a bit deeper into where he and his music have come from.

Jamie is warm, engaging and funny. He's been to hell and back and isn't afraid to tell you he's got scars, but has some beautiful outlooks about life.

Bleach Blood had me hooked from the start. Ripped my heart out, poured oil into it and pumped it out again.

There is something raw and painful in the way Jamie writes songs. You want to cry while you dance to the intoxicating poison that resonates through each song.

This is EXACTLY what you get when you watch Bleach Blood live; all that raw emotion and experience moving like an electrical storm over the crowd's head.  The band all seem to feel the words Jamie has woven and the audience is taken into it: herded through the stories like children through the rain.

A testament to how powerful Bleach Blood’s brand of pop-punk is, is that even though the show venue was changed a mere two hours before doors opened due to a health and safety issue, The Old Blue Last was rammed. Having put out an emergency Facebook update or two, fans had raced to share the new information far and wide. 

So! The show! Image wise Bleach Blood have it down. Good looking, scruffy punk-a-likes with rugged hair and skinny jeans, fitted t-shirts and beaten up Vans… and a backing vocalist/keys and synth player by the name of Julia Webb who is glamorous in a vintage chic/grunge style sequinned dress and Doc Martens.

Frank Invisible is a genius on the drums and as a musician in general. His rhythms are tighter than a thumbscrew on a thief in the dark ages and he fluctuates between all-out rock, perfect pop and complex dance riffs throughout the set.

Jamie engages the crowd consistently throughout his set, always humble and thankful to those in attendance, his band and everyone else involved in getting the night back up and running.  He clearly reconnects with each of his songs as he sings them, releasing the feelings and performing with energy and solemnity. 

Tom and Luke's driving guitars and syncopated bass are perfection, as are the harmonies and BV's from the whole band.  It is a well-rehearsed, rounded set clearly planned out and executed to a high standard. God knows why these guys are still in small venues, although to be fair the intimacy is awesome, the atmosphere intense. They do deserve to be in far larger venues though, entertaining even bigger crowds.

If you haven't seen a Bleach Blood gig yet, I implore you, for the umpteenth time: DO IT! It won't be much longer before free gigs or fiver entry is a thing of the past, and you'll have to get crushed at barriers to get close to them...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Arizona: The Hunter, The Gatherer

Artist: Arizona
Title: The Hunter, The Gatherer
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 20th October 2014
Reviewed By: Katherine Tapp


Some records have the ability to make you immediately want to find out whether that artist is playing at any of your local venues. Post-hardcore rockers Arizona have acheived this with their debut EP, The Hunter, The Gatherer. This EP will have you picturing the amount of head-banging, moshing and circle-pits it's going to generate during a live show. 
There are only four tracks on this EP, and each of them are worth listening to for their heavy riffs and passionate vocals. While there isn't an awful lot setting them apart from some of the other post-hardcore bands out there, this doesn't make it a bad record.

The EP opens with Black Hart which is notable for its simple, yet well structured riffs which would sound brutal live. This track is followed by The Hunted, which takes longer to kick in but is worth listening to for its raw screams throughout.
The third track, The Gathering, repeats the process of simple riffs and raw screams, but by this point it is getting a little tedious. Luckily the fourth and final track Preacher provides a bit of a break from this, and easily becomes the best track on the EP. It lulls you in with a slow start before introducing the sound that you have come to associate with Arizona. This track acts as a good conclusion to the EP as it makes it clear we will be hearing more from the band in the near future.
Overall it is a strong, consistent EP. While it can be a little too much when listened to all together, each track is well structured and showcases the band's potential. They do have a sound that you can associate with them, but it seems more thought needs to be put into making this more unique in comparison to other contenders.

Interview: Finch

Following the release of new album Back To Oblivion, we caught up with post-hardcore rockers Finch...

The Punk Archive: How does it feel to be back together again, playing music?
Finch: It's mostly the cliché "good to be back with the boys playing in the band feeling"… but also for all of us, I think, navigating the 2014 music landscape has come with a slight learning curve.  We know how to be a band, how to tour, how to rock the house… but definitely since our last hiatus, the emergence of social media in everything we do has been a shift.  Everyone seems to want to be a voyeur now.
   
The Punk Archive: Give us an overview of Back to Oblivion. Do you have favourite tracks from the record?
Finch: This new record is a return to the unknown that is the band life, the music life, and tour life: the amazing, the crushing, and everything in-between.  It's a semi-commentary on social breakdown and the hope of return. Back To Oblivion as our entry back into the music foray is us doing a record that we think is missing from 2014's landscape.

The Punk Archive: In your eyes, how does it differ to your previous releases?
Finch: I think it might reflect us in our slightly more mature form…  I don't think this group is as angry as it used to be.  There's still plenty of things for us to pissed about in the world these days, but the young adult angst is kinda gone now.  I think we went back to trying to write a rock record that spoke to what's running around in our brains now.  Jumping back into the foray of band life,  leaving our families to try to take care of them, and wanting generally a better world.   

The Punk Archive: What would you tell fans of your previous works to expect when hearing it?
Finch: Don't expect anything, just listen…. It's a Finch record.

The Punk Archive: What reaction are you hoping to receive from it?
Finch: We hope that everyone takes it in and gets what were trying to do.  A little bit of a sound that we think is lacking at the very moment from music people digest.

The Punk Archive: How have your influences changed over the past ten years?
Finch: I think the general 'getting older' thing has been the biggest change in everything. Some of your priorities shift and you start seeing the world in a little different light. I think that creeps into the music you listen to, the media you take in, how you act in the world and whatnot…  In music land, I'm not searching out the most aggressive and intense thing I can find at all times.  I mellowed out a little I guess!  

The Punk Archive: Letters to You is an absolutely timeless classic. Do you think your music ages well?
Finch: I think that a good song is a good song. If it resonates with people, a song will stand the test of time. I think Letters To You is one of those songs that people find something in that they can reference back to their own lives no matter what the year.

The Punk Archive: On the subject of Letters to You, the drum riffs on the chorus of that track and of Postscript sound very similar. Why is that? 
Finch: Ya know, people have tried to peg me on stuff like that, about that record, for a long time! Music I came up with and bands I jammed didn't have any hard and fast rules about how you can never repeat a figure. At the time, I think what we did felt like it served the song. What It Is To Burn wasn't exactly tracked in the order the record appeared… the fact that those songs ended up right next to each other in the final album order was how the deck fell to make the album feel right.

The Punk Archive: Have international events over the past decade changed your musical mind-set?Finch: International events? I don't really think anything's really any different than it's ever been, right…? There's always been some crisis or some horrible thing going on somewhere in the world hasn't there? Sitting there watching the media is just going to paint a picture of pain and suffering for sure. That stuff moves units… I could find you booms and crashes for people all over history. But, I think you have to be aware of that stuff but not let it dominate your mind… there are a lot of good people in this world too. I fight with myself to be positive and push in the right direction anyway, so I think that struggle just keeps me trying to make stuff that makes people feel good in the end, regardless of what's happening in the news or whatnot.

The Punk Archive: From all your releases, which are you most proud of and why?  
Finch: I'm not going to pick a favourite child! Each release has something unique to it and brings a different vibe.  Each one has done well in its own right for its own reasons.

The Punk Archive: What do you think of the scene now? How much has it changed across your hiatus and has it done so in a good way?  
Finch: The scene, like everything else, just moves a lot faster and is more reliant on machines. Music moved around the air in a digital form is the norm now.  If you don't let people stare into your life with social media, you aren't keeping pace with the status quo. If you're in a band, the fans expect to be able to find out every little graphic detail. They always wanted it, but now it's kinda do or die.  Music production has been democratised (for better or worse) and now you have so many more things to chose from… kinda more of everything.  It's a brave new world!

The Punk Archive: How were your first post-hiatus live shows in 2013?  
Finch: They were crazier than we ever expected! We were just expected to do one show and now I'm sitting here answering questions for you about our new record: they were so good! Those shows definitely showed us that the fans wanted a new record.

The Punk Archive: What does the rest of 2014 and 2015 bring for Finch?  
Finch: Touring and support for Back To Oblivion mainly.  Get out there and start bringing the record to the people!

The Punk Archive: And finally, what is your favourite bird?
Finch: Actually, at the moment, I would have to say the Humming Bird! There's tons of them around my house and we put out feeders with juice for them.  It's fun sometimes to sit there and watch them come in and jockey for position on the feeders, those little things can be crazy aggressive! They're so agile, they can change course at any time, its fun to watch them zoom around.