Archive for October, 2010

2010 Record Reviews

Posted in Music Reviews on October 2, 2010 by Billy Shears

12" maxi ep

Hammer and the Nails

12″ Maxi ep

Rock’n’Roll Disgrace Records

Having released the best demo of the last few years, expectations were understandably high for the first “official” release from Boston’s Hammer and the Nails.  The 12″ maxi ep from Rock’n’Roll Disgrace focuses on the elements that made their live shows and the aforementioned demo such a success – utilitarian lyrics, delivered brutally, at measured pace, and with a technical prowess that rivals any band playing today. The ep opens with a sense of the foreboding; a stark drum undulates, leading into what is possibly my favorite track on the ep “Ten Fingers.”  The set up in many ways reminds me of early Strong Style, but Hammer and the Nails surpass any direct comparisons. At this point, their style is well defined and easily identifiable as their own. As stated, the band have never sounded tighter, their pulse set to mid-tempo, the pedal in full effect. The messages behind songs like “Faux” and “Sleeping Giant” are delivered with a grim clarity – taking no prisoners, making no apologies. The sheer vigor of the band and this release is something that demands attention – Hammer and the Nails should revel in the fact that they have clawed their way to the top. A must have. 

Problem.Reaction.Solution ep

Tommy & the Terrors

Problem. Reaction. Solution. EP.

Rock’n’Roll Disgrace Records.

No doubt mirroring the current political zeitgeist and the overall paranoia of the times, Tommy and the Terrors have capitalized, upped the ante and delivered what I can safely say is their strongest work to date. Front to back, the ep works as a minimalist whole – the production seems, for lack of a better word, lo-fi. The tempo of the band has slowed. The artwork and packaging is stark. Tommy’s lyrics come off as more desperate, more claustrophobic than ever before. This sets the tone for the entire ep. And taken as a whole, it really, really works as a complete statement. It becomes, as a manifesto, almost Discharge-ian. Obviously not in sound, but in how the themes connect with the intonation which connect with the art. From the outset of “I Don’t Wanna” to the closer “No Mas” and especially the two in between, “Problem. Reaction. Solution.” and “NWOFU” it’s believe nothing and trust no one. People are out to get us. “I want to believe.” The band, while remaining tight as a drum, have relaxed the pace, and it only makes things angrier; Everything has come together and the results are one of the best eps I’ve heard in years. Buy this before they break down your doors, take you away screaming with the only thought left running through your mind being “Tommy and the Terrors were right.” 

Nothing Left to Say ep

The Trouble

Nothing Left to Say ep

Painkiller Records

Released to coincide with their reunion shows at Boston’s PLAY IT LOUD II in late September, Painkiller Records has compiled unreleased material from one of Boston’s most fondly remembered outfits. By this point in time, a description of the band would be fruitless – you either know or you don’t – but what was of slight surprise to me was the quality of these tunes. Not to say that I was expecting to be let down, but 2 of these 4 songs had never been released, and the other 2 were on lesser known comps. And sometimes material of this ilk has been hidden away for a reason. Not so here. Opening with “Panic Fit,” which had previously appeared on a Suburban Voice comp, this ep means business. “Panic Fit” is a ripper, and deserves a place in the Trouble canon as one of their best. “Self Destruct” follows up, and had previously appeared on a Victory Records comp East Vs. West. Again, the quality is high. Side two opens with “Short Song” which is exactly that – a quick blast of adrenaline, and then on to the closer “Brighton Roof” which gets my nod for best cut on the record. Introspective, personal lyrics combined with a less breakneck approach make it a unique winner. A real lost gem. This 4 song ep acts as a great bookend to close the chapter on one of the nineties favorite sons. Pick it up quick.   

Days Gone By

Marching Orders

Days Gone By

Longshot Records

Australia’s  Marching Orders return with their long awaited full length debut Days Gone By. On the heels of their acclaimed (at least by this blog) 10″ Last Train Home, they deliever more of the same, that is to say, catchy, well-played oi! with that unmistakeble Aussie bent. Perhaps the band’s main strength is their ability to write a memorable melody that lingers in the head and remains with you long after playing. Their sound hasn’t changed; still highly charged Cock Sparrer meets Rose Tattoo (“Assault and Battery” cover included) and why change, when it works as well as it does? The lyrics, for the most part, avoid being overly cliched (though there are moments) but tunes like the title track (nice Jam-like opening bass riff) “Weight of the World” and “Years Pass Me By” work with the right combo of wistfullness, regret and realism. The last song mentioned is probably the best on the record, and impressed me as one of the better oi! tunes of the last several years. The heavy Melbourne accent puts a stamp on the tunes as well, gives them distinction which sets this apart from the glut of sound-alikes in the scene. A special mention must also be made of the packaging. Longshot  has delieved on this record – a beautiful gatefold with a Sharpie theme, hat tipping Australia’s subculture past. Every piece of this release, from front to back, is top notch and gets our highest recommendation.

Friends of No One ep

Negative Approach

Friends of No One

Taang Records

So the story goes – after NA break up, Brannon puts all remaining recordings in a trunk and locks them away; inevitably, NA reunite, and said trunk is found containing tapes from March 1984, and Taang! capitalizes and releases said tapes on an unsuspecting public. The results? To begin with, let’s not kid ourselves; fairly poor sound quality (a tape recorder in the middle of the room, it sounds like) and a short running time. But what of the songs? To put it simply, the songs are ferocity incarnate. If it’s possible for a poor recording to lend itself to the charm of an overall release, this is it; the guitars are tortured, the feedback howls, and Brannon’s shrieks are near otherworldly – the vocals are aberrant and disturbed – the experience far from pleasant, but as “Friends of No One” clatters forth from the disc, a classic is born. And the tunes don’t let up from there. Most have appeared in one way or another before (“Genocide,” “Kiss Me Kill Me” a cover of Iggy’s “I Got a Right”) but hearing them in this setting is more satisfactory than hearing a horrible live recording, and as stated, the title track demands to be labelled a legend. Is this disc a goldmine for the ages? Well, no, but it is highly recommended for fans of the band who wondered to what sick depths NA would plunge for continued aggression had they stayed together awhile longer. Fans need to pick this up.

The Heartbreaks

The Heartbreaks

I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You single

Liar, My Dear single

Zip It Up comp track

I’ve learned the hard way not to trust much that the NME writes. As a publication, they obviously need to move papers. The direct result of this is that 1) they live to hype bands and 2) once the hype is live, the band of the moment is crushed into overkill, featured every other week until said band burns out, or the NME moves on to the “next big thing.” Which is ironically exactly what they have pegged The Heartbreaks. At this point, having only sampled two singles and a comp cut, I can’t either debunk or support this theory, however, I can say this: I like what I hear. Really like it. Hailing from the seaside town of Morecambe, the instant comparison is The Smiths. Not entirely off base, considering lyrics directly referencing kitchen sink drama like Billy Liar, as well as their outlook – relishing the day to day normal life of living in England, and celebrating the mundane in what would probably be considered a “literate” way, the spectre of Moz is never far removed from the equation. You can hear Marr’s guitar sound in the tunes as well, and at times a bit of Weller, but The Heartbreaks don’t really sound like either The Smiths or The Jam. The have a sound of their own, which is fairly energetic but non-aggressive, with a big sense of the melodic. Orange Juice-ian in parts and at times C-86ish, but neither as a whole overall. People have mentioned Motown, but I’m not hearing that. The tunes are nothing if not slowly addictive; “I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You” is an instant best of, but others like “Your Affection is Wasted On Me” made their way into my subconsciousness more slowly. But make no mistake, you will remember these songs. So is the early hype justified? So far, I’d lean towards yes, but The Heartbreaks, having only 5 tunes available so far, have a lot more to prove.