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.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Honeydips: The Honeydips

Artist: The Honeydips
Title: The Honeydips (S/T)
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 20th September 2014
Reviewed By: Adam DT

OK, so really I can do this review in one paragraph:

Do you like surf-punk? Do you like messy, rock'n'roll/punk influenced guitar music that seems native to a beach or a half-pipe? Do you want to feel like the band you're listening to would probably play your house party for two crates of beer and some petrol money? Cool, then you are going to have fun with this EP.

That's basically all I need to say about The Honeydips’ début EP. It's simple, it's loud, it isn't too heavy, it's really fun to listen to and it's a free download (not that it needs to be). It is very much of its genre too: musically it has the simplicity of a punk band, the recording is pretty basic (and at times pleasingly sloppy), the vocals are so low in the mix that the lyrics are almost totally lost and there is so much reverb that it might have been recorded in a cave. Really, none of that matters though. Actually, it all adds to the overall effect of an EP that deserves to be listened to as a whole. It's six songs blend into one scruffy, bittersweet and oddly hypnotic quarter-hour wash of sound that ends as soon as it begins every time I listen to it. Of course, it is never quite clear weather the Lo-Fi thing is deliberate or down to bad mixing, but who cares: a DIY approach and a don't-give-a-fuck attitude are what give this band credibility. Keep the recording shitty. Keep not giving a fuck.

If you're really so busy that you only have time for two songs, try Graduated and Stop Kissing Me. Graduated has a rather sweet melancholic chorus and a nicely chilled out break down/guitar solo outro and Stop Kissing Me stands out for its repeated mantra of “I want to be swallowed by the sea / but I don’t want you drowning next to me” as it jumps energetically between half and double time.

I look forward to a second EP from these guys: I enjoyed this one a lot and I’d love to see some musical progression. Either way, check out The Honeydips. What they lack in substance they make up for in fun, and I mean that very much as a compliment.

Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties: We Don't Have Each Other

Artist: Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties
Title: We Don't Have Each Other
Format Reviewed: Stream
Format Released: 7th July 2014
Reviewed By: Katherine Tapp

When writing a novel, authors will delve into every detail about their characters in order to understand them better. The Wonder Years' frontman, Dan 'Soupy' Campbell, has used the same process, but instead to create an album. The album, We Don't Have Each Other, was released though his side project Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties. It follows the character Aaron West during the worst year of his life, speaking of his break-up, losing a baby, the death of his father, and how all this affects him. It takes you on a brilliant, if bleak, journey that'll make it hard to believe it's all a piece of fiction.


The album begins with the track Our Apartment, introducing us to Aaron West's break-up as he reads the note his partner left, taking us through the range of emotions he experiences due to this. Moving on to Grapefruit we find out their relationship began to show strain after his father died, but his partner's pregnancy gave them hope that things would get better. We are then taken on a journey to Georgia with Aaron, who hopes he'll be happier there, but he speaks of being homesick and missing his ex-partner Dianne. In Divorce and the American South we find out that the couple lost their baby through the lyrics "It's just when we lost the baby / I kind of shut off". As the album progresses the character turns to alcohol, which then causes him to experience health problems. As he makes a blanket from his coat he thinks to himself "If my dad was here I wonder if he'd even recognize me." There is a lot of depth to the character which is explored throughout the tracks, that can only be appreciated when the album is listened to as a whole.

Musically, there isn't a lot of range to the album and it can get a little repetitive. This doesn't matter so much as the clever lyrics and strong character development are the factors that make it worth listening to. You'll find yourself being taken on the same emotional rollercoaster Aaron West is experiencing, and you can't help but feel sorry for him. This album adds to Dan Campbell's reputation as a very skilful writer.

Overall, if you're a fan of The Wonder Years and you're happy to listen to a bit of acoustic-rock, then you will enjoy this album. Just make sure you set aside enough time to listen to the album in full in order to appreciate the story and lyrical content.

Still Bust: 77 For You (57 For Me)

Artist: Still Bust
Title: 77 For You (57 For Me)
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 8th September 2014
Reviewed By: Ben Chapman

It's good to see that Still Bust remain well within their stride with 77 For You (57 For Me) cleanly continuing the break to their ten-year performing career that arrived when the band treated us to last spring's If You Don’t Like Videogames. This Gloucester-based hardcore act are back, and yes, it's fairly personal, with the album's title addressing the lead singer's diabetes drawing attention to the expected average lifespan of a suffer in comparison to the population's general average.

It's not all stats though, many of the musical passages are craftily emotive as well as technical, as amongst four tracks of loud, heavy, and tormented riffing there's a passionate wail of fated injustice ever followed by its dooming backdrop. But more prevalent are the positive elements to the EP. The music's sheer energy screams for survival, its power is its own ventilation, and there's an encouraging message, not a whining play for pity, but a defiant resolution to cope and focus away from getting lost in life's other trivialities. Most importantly, Still Bust continue to bring out plenty of sturdy breakdowns as they loudly indulge their love of long song titles, which I suppose they multiply if you count each song's smirking parenthesis.

It’s Your Fault and You’re Stupid (Kind Regards Barbaros Icoglu) opens the record well with loads of ideas crushed into one crunchy tune and plenty of authentic bite. The dissonant alternation of ringing chords and heavy shouting that's nevertheless catchy makes this one of the more accessible tracks in what's certainly a challenging yet rewarding EP. Paradoxical guitars harmonise towards a youthful, almost primal angst that’s hinted at in the next song's title.

TV On After Breakfast (Would You Like Your Hair Cut) leads wildly by wayward chord progressions that don't follow the expected route. Still Bust lay down a satisfying punk feel with a progressive hardcore edge. The lead singer roars the menacing interrogative ‘Did I ever tell you / about that time in Beijing’ so twistedly that the listener would probably rather not know.
         
I've Never Been More Happy To Have A Hypo (However This Could Mean I Have Irreparable Knee Damage) suggests a silver-linings attitude. There's a rapid intro that degenerates into a heavier, slower thrashing that picks up emotional momentum and throws in the occasional disturbance. The following track Twenty Foot (Broken Foot) is a nicely structured series of unexpected riffs. Here, Still Bust show off their ability to throw so much variety into one song, laid down with a heavy precision, organised madly. The intro's winding melody intrigues and is tough to follow. This ending track is arguably the most progressive and inventive whilst still not diverging from its own powerful sound. The song may break into a tender walk of soft piano chords, yet the ever-present, intimidatingly impressive shout of the vocals, which Matty sings are ‘out of tune / but never out of spite’, somehow manage to croon along whilst still sounding appropriate if jarring. Afterwards an intensely drawn out build-up led by some brilliant drumming smashes the final track into the listener's memory.

It's a solid four tracks. Perhaps you could admit the band seems to have lost only a slight degree of the energy and heavy hooks that are heard in their last release. Take the last minute and a half of their previous album's title track, If You Don’t Like Videogames. Or the humourously honest How Much We Sound Like Rise Against (And Other Things We Shouldn’t Say to Each Other). You can tell something in the songwriting has developed in this newer release, but that does mean they've left something behind. Nevertheless, this more wayward and progressive hardcore hailing EP has a definite impact that'll be a keeper among fans and serve as an enjoyable listen-in for those seeking a moment of heaviness.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Boston Manor: Driftwood

Artist: Boston Manor
Title: Driftwood
Format Reviewed: Stream
Format Released: (MP3) 13th October 2014
Reviewed By: Dan Stoten

The Story So Far have done a lot for the pop-punk world. Since the Walnut Creek five-piece have gained popularity, there's been a huge amount of copy-cat bands, some of which have made it, and some of which certainly haven't. Some of the cream of the pop-punk world now have some clear influences from TSSF, but also retain their own identity.

Fortunately, Blackpool's Boston Manor fall into 'retaining their own identity' category with Driftwood, their second EP. However, that identity seems to have been made by forging together elements of pretty much every pop-punk band in the world, ever, and adding some unique lyrics. It's a bizarre one, because throughout every track on this six-song EP, you can grab elements of so many other bands (from Save Your Breath, through Neck Deep to Me vs Hero) ...but overall, the sound is Boston Manor, and Boston Manor only. It's a rare skill.

Overall, Driftwood is certainly a good-to-excellent EP. It kicks off with Salt Water, which, at just over a minute, whets your appetite for what's to come. Next comes lead track Peach State, for which the band have released a characterful video. Peach State, to me, feels a very real song, a really genuine one. It's well put together, bounces along with a huge amount of energy, and has vocals passionate enough to get anyone singing along. It's in this track (the verses in particular) that arguably the band do sound quite similar to TSSF, but the chorus is a lot more melodic and smoother. It's a really good track, this, and one which immediately piques your interest, as the best pop-punk should.

Title track Driftwood is also a belter, and displays Henry's gritty, guttural vocal perfectly. It's a brilliantly choppy track, Of the six tracks on offer here, it's the one I've returned to the most (which is saying something when Peach State is quite so catchy). There's something about it: having listened to it a good few times now, I think it's the unpredictability the choppiness brings. You almost don't know what's going to happen next, and that's not something often said about pop-punk.

Wolf keeps up the same frantic pace set by the first three tracks. It's another one with melodic verses, and a catchy chorus, which here, due to the more gentle nature of the backing vocal, sounds a little more fragile and isolated. This brings a welcome tonic to the 'all-in' nature of Driftwood. What I would say, however, is that Wolf does begin to sound a bit samey. Unfortunately,  See You In Three Years carries that theme on. It's another good track but doesn't stand out in the same way as some of the others here.

Square One, the final track on the EP, does stand out a little more with it's more laid-back style. It's less frantic and more rounded, and feels more like a 'classic' as opposed to new-wave pop-punk track. There are some delicious harmonies here. It's a strong end to the EP.

So, to sum Driftwood up: it's like everything and nothing you've ever heard before. All pop-punk fans are going to like this. I'm pretty certain Boston Manor are going to be massive. You heard it here first...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Bunny Gang (ft. Nathen Maxwell): Thrive

Artist: The Bunny Gang (ft. Nathen Maxwell)
Title: Thrive
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 23rd September 2014
Reviewed By: Dan Stoten

From time to time, the timing of a record is absolutely spot-on in terms of the environment it's released into. We're in that time of year where it's starting to get a bit chillier, a bit more auburn generally, and a bit more autumnal. But, it's a nice time of year where it's still warm during the day, the evenings are fine if you get another layer on, and it's still light enough to do stuff in the early evening. It's a comforting, nice time of year.

Thrive, the second album from the Nathen Maxwell-fronted Bunny Gang, is absolutely the perfect soundtrack to this transitional but beautiful time of year. It's a beautifully constructed set of tracks which are so delightfully mellow on your eardrums that it feels almost like snuggling into that warm extra layer.

That's not to say, however, that this is a record you shove on in the background and go about your daily business. It's such a complex album, with so many elements and genres thrown in. Thrive is not something that's easy to ignore. You've got reggae. You've got folk. You've got punk. You've got rock. Somehow, the band have managed to combine all of these elements, seemingly in each song, to brilliant effect.


One of the overriding thoughts I get when listening to the record is of the sheer quality of the musicianship on display in Thrive. There are some scarcely believable parts here: the band clearly are hugely talented. I would expect that seeing them perform is bewitching. Equally, Nathen has a genuinely beautiful voice. It's so melodic and harmonious, it near-caresses your ears as the tracks drip invitingly from the speakers.

It's also worth saying at this point that you won't get the full benefit of Thrive unless you play it through some quality speakers or headphones. There are so many intimate elements, so many gorgeous basslines, which just aren't picked up by tinny iPod / iPhone headphones or laptop speakers. Get this one playing the old-school way, you won't regret it.

To talk through individual tracks on this record is a bit of a challenge, as it's such a well-moulded album which flows together perfectly. You don't pick and select tracks to listen to, you put the whole thing on and relax in a glowing Autumn sunset.

There are some truly gorgeous elements here, too. The chorus of title track Thrive is almost painfully so. Maxwell's vocal is so sweet, so soulful, the melody behind so smooth, you can't help but smile broadly as the bassline and guitar filter through. It feels like an old-school song. It's not one that relies on effects or computers, this is quite simply stunning music played brilliantly by hugely talented musicians. That's refreshing.

The intro of the first track on the record, entitled The Reckoning, is something special, too. Combining countless influences into what sounds like a soul-influenced street-punk call to arms, it's an instantly recognisable riff. Maxwell's lyrics here sound acutely Rancid-esque, which surely is one of the biggest compliments we can pay.

The Bunny Gang also show their punkier edge in We Are The Ones, where their gang vocal and looser, more wailing guitar style add in a bit of grit. It's smooth grit (if that's even possible), however, and sounds like a combination of Rancid, The Aggrolites and Frank Turner. For the reggae fans, too, there's plenty of influences here. Try Pave The Way, with its beat, incredible bassline and catchiness.

Thrive is a record I really, really enjoyed (and still enjoy) listening to. It's not one you immediately give five stars to, but it's one of those albums which you keep coming back to time and time again. It's a brilliantly crafted, delightfully old-school, and downright beautiful piece of music. Get it in your collection, find that auburn sunset, and relax. You won't regret it.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Finch: Back To Oblivion

Artist: Finch
Title: Back To Oblivion
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 29th September 2014
Reviewed By: Adam DT

I want to get something out of the way up front: I really like Finch. I was just the right age when their insanely well received 2002 début What It Is To Burn came out and I had it on repeat for weeks. I used to play its closing track Ender at open mic nights (badly). 2005's Say Hello To Sunshine was heavy as hell and divided opinion somewhat, but after two break ups and nearly ten years with no full length release I was entirely ready for Back To Oblivion to blow me away. I couldn't wait to be impressed, but sadly I'm not sure that I was.

My problem with this record is not that it is bad as such, actually there are a handful of pretty great moments, it's more that it feels rather uninspired as a whole. There is no question that it starts strong: the first three songs catch your attention like a right hook and for a moment it feels like Finch have never been away. But as the album plays out things get less urgent, less refined. Those first two albums seemed to have direction and purpose, but unfortunately Back To Oblivion just feels undercooked.

But let's start with those first three tracks:
Back To Oblivion, the opener and title track, shows the louder, cleaner, more melodic side of Finch. It's a nicely uplifting song that almost feels like a more mature, more optimistic take on their 2002 breakthrough single Letters To You and puts me in mind of Funeral For A Friend’s own 2007 album opener Into Oblivion (Reunion). This is followed by Anywhere But Here, a heavy, darkly melodic track with a chorus that will grow on you like ivy. The driving percussion and laid back guitars remind me of In Case Of Fire and its position on the record paves the way beautifully for my personal favourite: Further From The Few. This track throws down a metallic verse riff and a swaggering mosh pit starter of a chorus that gives way to a part-spoken, part-screamed bridge and a stupidly pleasing half time outro. Now, like many of us, I love screamed vocals, and I have to say that Nate Barcalow's scream sounds even better to me on this album than ever. Sadly it is a woefully underused tool on Back To Oblivion, just one way in which Finch seem to have abandoned their edgy, abrasive unpredictability in favour of some rather middle of the road decisions.

Aside from those first three songs, Two Guns To The Temple has a hunger that is lacking elsewhere on the record and a scream that could curdle milk, Inferium’s rather lovely and unexpected ‘Cello line certainly pricked my ears up and the ¾ time signature of Tarot is welcome rhythmic variation. But sadly, that is pretty much where the magic ends for me. There are 12 songs here, at least eight of which I would be fine with never hearing again. Play Dead for instance, starts well enough but drops into chorus that Nickelback might have rejected. The Great Divide seems to be a perfectly acceptable rock track, but I have listened to it about 10 times and honestly I couldn't pick it out of a line up. Picasso Trigger has an over-worn Deftones-esque tonality that makes it immediately feel like it was overplayed on Scuzz about seven years ago and Us vs. Them almost gets it right with a chunky riff and a rather tasty bass line, but, like so much of this album, it loses out to unimaginative guitar lines, predictable structure and a noticeable lack of song writing weight to carry it through.

The trouble with Back To Oblivion is this: there are bits that I love and there are bits that I hate, but there is also a lot that is just… OK. Not dreadful, certainly not excellent, just average, and that is far more damaging. For me, Finch has always been a band that takes risks; that write slightly unhinged but beautifully honed guitar music. Unfortunately this is not the band that I found on Back To Oblivion. What I found was a band that is yet to prove this reunion was entirely a good idea.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

American Hi-Fi: Blood & Lemonade

Artist: American Hi-Fi
Title: Blood & Lemonade
Format Reviewed: MP3
Format Released: 9th September 2014
Reviewed By: Katherine Tapp

After a semi-hiatus American Hi-Fi are back with their latest album Blood & Lemonade. The album tries to capture the charm of the classic pop-punk sound but unfortunately falls flat. It feels as if the band are holding back and the result is something inoffensive and, well, dull.

The first track, Armageddon Days, would have gone down better a few years ago, but as a modern track it doesn't sit well. The chorus doesn't quite deliver, considering the anticipation brought through the build-up, though it successfully teases the listener into wanting to sit through more of the album. It would work well as a background song once the chorus has kicked in due to its poppy sound, but there's nothing particularly special about it.

Golden State returns to their original sound a little, although it becomes a little generic and doesn't have the same spark as previous albums. The third track, Coma, saves the album in terms of catchiness. It contains memorable hooks and succeeds in making you feel the need to dance and sing along. Although the lyrical content is rather weak the song definitely stands out.

The album starts to take on a heavier tone from Wake Up onwards. The fifth track, Allison, has a lot of potential, it flows together a lot better than some of the other songs so far. It builds on the catchy tunes offered in Coma with stronger vocals and heavier instrumentals; plus some worthier lyrics thrown into the mix.

These two tracks act as a successful rise to the next song, Amnesia, which is easily defined by its heavy guitar riffs. It provides a good mixture of darker tones, confident instrumentals, and a lighter chorus. This all blends together well and the song earns its place as one of the best tracks on the album.

Killing Time lowers the heavy tone, which seems like a disappointment until you hear Carry The Sorrow. It stands out with its bouncy tune, despite it being considerably slower than other tracks. It also shows confidence that was hard to find in some of the earlier songs.

Portland is a track that returns to their original sound but also adds a new spin on it. This particular track succeeds in establishing the classic sound the album was striving for, while creating  a well put together song. It fits well as the penultimate track with its lyrics "it's been a long, long year and I feel like coming home" acting as an appropriate opening to the album's conclusion. No Ordinary Life ends the album with a much needed guitar solo, a factor that could have strengthened some of the other tracks.

Overall, if you're a fan of American Hi-Fi's previous works then you will like this album. However it probably won't succeed in swaying new listeners as its slow to build up and lacks confidence. It's fine as an album, but really it isn't anything special.