Tag Archives: pop punk

Sound Guernsey: Sons of the Desert, Honest Crooks, Equilibrium, Cosmic Fish – The Fermain Tavern – 17/03/17

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert and friends

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Sound Guernsey‘s March 2017 show had a very punk-ska flavour to things with their old formula of two young bands playing alongside two more experienced groups.

Cosmic Fish kicked off the show with a set of old-school pop-punk starting with Green Day’s Welcome To Paradise and continuing in similar fashion.

Compared to when I’d seen them throughout last year the trio have come on in leaps in bounds and, while they still have some way to go in terms of audience interaction and performing confidence, their renditions of songs by Blink-182, Good Charlotte and their ilk have a lot going for them.

Cosmic Fish

Cosmic Fish

Throughout the set there were a few moments where the energy found a good level that, in a perfect world, would have seen the audience get more energetic (they remained attentive but restrained) and it was the closing pair of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle and Blink’s All The Small Things that closed the set in a high.

Another band who made a good impression last year and have built on that are Equilibrium.

Having been one of the young highlights of the early Sound events the band went on the play Liberation Day and the Vale Earth Fair amongst other things but like the openers they seemed to have stepped up their game once more.

Sticking with a similar pop-rock selection, including a couple of extra Red Hot Chilli Peppers tunes, the band had a much more relaxed energy from the off and this was clearly infectious.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The aforementioned Chilli Peppers track Otherside was a highlight of the set as was their take at Blink-182’s Stay Together For The Kids where several members of the band swapped instruments.

Their takes on Basket Case and All The Small Things (also done earlier by Cosmic Fish) didn’t quite match the previous band’s but in all it was a good set and, with a little bit more power, Equilibrium will be a band worth keeping an eye on.

After a few months off following a very busy 2016, Honest Crooks were starting to gear up for an already busy summer season as they took to the Tav’s stage. While they were a little lose compared to past gigs it was all relaxed and fun as they mixed their own songs with some more ska oriented covers and they had the crowd going from the start.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a genuinely funny ‘play some Slayer moment’ (a rarity these days where that joke wore thin a decade ago) and great covers of Reel Big Fish’s Beer and Sublime’s Santeria it was really their own songs that provided the highlights and they certainly set the mood well for the night’s headliners.

Following the more modern ska warm up, Sons Of The Desert set out to provide a perfect primer for all thing two-tone and of the late 70s/early 80s UK ska scene. Spanning tracks from The Beat and The Selecter to Bad Manners and Madness it was prime upbeat skanking material all the way.

With the audience a sea of bouncing red fezzes thanks to the always manic and energetic Chris Pearson, it wasn’t long before everyone was on the dance floor and both the band and audience were having a whale of a time.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

The band themselves are something of an eccentric mix of performers that come together brilliantly and create a huge sound with a three-piece brass section and Andy Coleman on the organ bolstering the usual rock band line up for a real authentic two-tone sound.

There were many highlights in the set but for me Lit Up Fatty, Too Much Too Young and set closer Night Boat To Cairo were the standouts before it all went a bit chaotic in the encore with the entire audience joining the band on stage for a skank to bring one of the most energetic Sound nights yet to a close on a major high.

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Blink-182 – California

Blink-182 - California album coverIn summer 2016 two of the biggest bands in the world of pop punk released records that had something of a comeback feel to them. I’ve already taken a look at Green Day’s effort, Revolution Radio, so now I’ve had a listen to Blink-182’s California.

Originally forming in the wake of the pop-punk explosion caused by the likes of Green Day back in 1995, Blink-182 became arguably the biggest band of the following wave of American pop-punk with their 1999 album Enema of the State and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

Since then something of a direction on their self-titled 2003 album was followed by a lengthy hiatus and then a change of personnel before California with Alkaline Trio leader Matt Skiba joining in place of founding guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge.

So to California. As the name suggests this is a partial concept record about the band’s home state, particularly the southern part of it – Blink originally formed in and around San Diego – and it is the three tracks that most obviously provide this theme that are three of the highlights. Los Angeles, San Diego and the title track all present different aspects of the band at their most mature and inventive sounding.

Blink-182 circa 2016

Blink-182 – Hoppus, Barker and Skiba

This is balanced with the kind of songs that made the bands reputation with pop hooks, singalongs and catchy choruses aplenty, that had me singing along after only a couple of listens. Particularly in this group are She’s Out Of Her Mind and Kings of the Weekend.

On top of this Built This Pool and Brohemian Rhapsody show the band still have their juvenile streak with these two 30 second skit-songs very reminiscent of several from their back catalogue.

What sets California apart from Blink’s past efforts is, I think, something that Skiba brings to the table. Alkaline Trio are known for adding gothic elements to their pop-punk and dealing with darker themes and that sneaks through here. Sober is a song that while upbeat and still has the Blink thing going on suggests something deeper as do the Californian tryptic.

Admittedly Blink have headed in these directions in the past as well with the likes of Stay Together For The Kids and Adam’s Song but Skiba’s presence adds an extra level to it as well as making for a more digestible sound than DeLonge ever managed.

Blink-182 playing live

The band playing live

With a lot of variety for a pop-punk record California still falls together like a complete package of an album including some moments of the more modern style of pop-punk with heavier guitar tones along with the upbeat feel.

It’s not just Skiba who’s on top form either, but founder member Mark Hoppus (bass and vocals) and long time drummer Travis Barker are both clearly at the top of their game as well, and as ever the drums are a big part of what elevates Blink-182 above the rest of the pop-punk pack and California certainly shows this longstanding band can still be a cut above the rest.

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Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton – Fuck You Brain (single)

Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton - Fuck You Brain coverIn a nod to his well documented and ongoing battle with depression the ever prolific Ginger Wildheart has found time between touring with his own band, Hey! Hello! and The Wildhearts and recording a new Mutation album to team up with Ryan Hamilton and sneak out a single for the festive season, the subtly but suitably titled Fuck You Brain.

Available through Ginger’s Round Records Bandcamp page the three track single is raising money for the Samaritans and aiming to highlight the problems people have with depression over the holidays which, as Ginger has pointed out, can be one of the toughest times of year for those with the condition.

Belying all the preconceptions one might have of depression Ginger and Hamilton have created a short sharp dose of glam rock laced pop punk – putting the sounds of the early 1970s run through the Wildhearts filter to create something reminiscent of the Silver Ginger 5.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

While both the relevance of the title and the lyrics to the song will be familiar to many fighting depression themselves, through not sugar-coating or dealing in euphemism Fuck You Brain should also act as a very direct message to those who may discredit or simply not understand how it feels.

And if that feels a little on the heavy going side its counteracted by the music which can only make you want to move and Ginger’s always impressive turn of phrase helps keep it light too.

As well as the title track the single, in an old school moment I can only appreciate, is backed by two more short sharp tracks.

Ode To The Idiots, featuring lead vocals from Hamilton, is a blazing minute of punk rock that packs in everything you could want and is reminiscent of Jim Carroll’s People Who Died.

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

Dogbreath on the other hand has sounds reminiscent of the instrumentals on Ginger’s own Valor Del Corazon LP, combining his usual punk-metal guitars with synthesised brass and scratching to make something truly eccentric in the way only Ginger can.

As I’ve said above the single is raising money and awareness this festive season and is available through Bandcamp for £5 though as it’s for a good cause and is a great little set of songs, the musicians (who appear for free) are asking that people feel free to pay as all proceeds will go to charity.

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Burning At Both Ends – Self-titled

Burning At Both Ends album coverAfter less than a year together, during which they’ve made quite a name for themselves from their live shows, Burning At Both Ends have released their debut album.

Bringing original pop punk back to Guernsey’s music scene with hints of heavier things thrown in the album solidifies the band’s place as one to watch on the island’s music scene following its launch at a recent show at The Fermain Tavern.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 29th October 2016.

Burning At Both Ends album review scan

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Punk Night at the Tav – The Fermain Tavern – 08/10/16

Short Was Found

Short Was Found

With five bands on the bill, one of whom was marking the release of their debut album and another was making their non-festival Guernsey debut, it was a busy night at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 8th October 2016, celebrating punk rock in many forms.

First up was Silas The Assyrian Assassin who did exactly what we’ve come to expect armed with his acoustic guitar, an always impressive streak of cynical vitriol and some undeniably questionable jokes. As always the set came to life when Silas was playing off heckles from the audience, while his ability to ignore taboos and work this into songs is reminiscent of NoFX’s Fat Mike.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas’ best moments tonight came with his songs dealing with society and politics such as Trust Fund Anarchist and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while the set began to ramble by the end, it was a good start to proceedings – if you like that kind of thing.

Burning At Both Ends changed the atmosphere considerably with their brand of pop punk which was as solid and tight as they come – in fact their performance here made me wonder if it was maybe a bit too precise.

Despite this their songs are undeniably great examples of their style and, as the set went on, their energy increased, particularly following slower number What If Someday They’re Not There.

With this the audience began to get more invested and the energy began to flow both ways as in the best performances rounding off their set on a high and making a great case for picking up their newly released self-titled debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

From one extreme to the other, energy is never something that Jawbone have to worry about while precision seems to not really be something that matters to them so much, and tonight was no different as they ripped through a set of punk classics and originals in their usual, no frills, style.

Back to their full strength line up is when they are at their best and are one of the most fun bands playing in Guernsey today, and they proved this here.

Their original songs bring to mind a mix of NoFX, Rancid and Jersey punks Bulletproof as highlighted in what guitarist Lee described as ‘A love song between myself and the Tory government’.

Jawbone

Jawbone

Rounding the set off with The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg along with Silas on guest vocals marked an energetic and fun highlight and brought to mind punk gigs of years past with songs delivered in sloppy fashion but with real passion.

With the energy up Honest Crooks kept it going and continued the old punk gig spirit with their ska and reggae infused sound.

Particularly notable early in the set was bass player Cheese being handed increasing numbers of shirts and jackets and continuing to play despite his arms being largely immobile as he overheated under the stage lights.

Back to the music and it was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the trio with tight songs delivered with energy and fun designed to fill a dance floor – and that’s just what they did.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks with Lee and Dan

As the set went on they were joined by Lee from Jawbone for a particularly heartfelt take on Rancid’s Fall Back Down before his bandmate Dan joined them for kazoo and Bez like dancing duties on Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s High Grade.

With midnight fast approaching the atmosphere in The Tav dropped somewhat, as it tends to at this time, as people headed to town while Short Was Found were setting up. None the less the band launched into a loud and furious assault of a set mixing hardcore and metal with straight up punk rock.

Frontman James Pallot delivered with a forceful conviction as always and former Bulletproof rhythm duo Lee and Darren were tight as ever with Darren’s drumming speed and intensity particularly standing out.

Short Was Found

James of Short Was Found

As the set went on the small audience came and went and, while the thrashy guitar solos provided something of a diversion it was hard for the short sharp shock approach from the start of the set to not become a bit repetitive which combined with the lower energy in the room to make for a slightly disappointing climax, but this was far from the fault of the guys on stage giving it their all.

What tonight did prove though was that punk rock is as much a varied force to be reckoned now as it ever was and, while I might be a bit biased, it offers something for pretty much anyone from fun high energy danceable sounds to socio-political vitriol all in an uproarious musical package.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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The Doomsday Project’s final show – The Vault – 19/08/16

The Doomsday Project with Sophie Mahy

The Doomsday Project with Sophie Mahy

After 6 years together as a band and four years gigging regularly around Guernsey, pop-punk outfit The Doomsday Project called it a day with a show at The Vault on Friday 19th August 2016.

Having started off as one of the youngest independently gigging bands in the island they gave newcomers Rogue, a band in a similar position now, the support slot and the bar was packed all evening.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 27th August 2016 and you can see a gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Facebook page.

You can also read my review of The Doomsday Project’s first public gig here

Doomsday Project and Rogue review 2 - 27/08/16

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Elliot Falla – Screaming At The Sky

Elliot Falla - Screaming At The Sky EP coverFollowing the success of the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Blake, George Ezra and more, the world has hardly been short of well turned out, young, male, singer-songwriters and one at the top of the list of those coming out of Guernsey right now is Elliot Falla. Having gigged as a solo acoustic act his debut EP, Screaming At The Sky, takes four of those songs and expands them to have a full band sound.

Opener, Say Goodbye To Our Minds, starts things off strong with that acoustic sound as other instruments gradually build behind it until it becomes a nice slice of fresh, young sounding, middle of the road rock.

You’re My Way Out builds on this with hints of blues added to the template (it’s no surprise Falla has shown himself to be a devotee of fellow islander Robert J. Hunter). This is followed by the EP’s potential misstep, Mystery Woman, that lands just on the wrong side of the balance between naïveté and immaturity, while its mix of sounds doesn’t coalesce as well as the other three songs.

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla

Closer, You’re All Gone, however is possibly the record’s strongest track and, for me, has the feel of being a ‘lead single’ to it.

Across all four tracks Falla’s rich voice is generally impressive, though there are a few moments where it’s slightly mid-Atlantic sound feels put on and it sounds like he’s maybe trying too hard to sound like those who came before.

Musically the songs mix a few styles to create something that, while familiar, also has its own feel. Through the singer-songwriter template, comes hints of indie, blues, pop punk and MOR rock which is combined with some great production work and additional backing vocals to create an impressive full band sound.

For a debut EP Screaming At The Sky lays some solid foundations from which Falla can, hopefully, build a more coherent sound of his own as he and his writing mature and he adds a full live band to the mix, both on stage and in the studio.

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The Doomsday Project and Elliot Falla – The Vault – 18/02/15

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Wednesday nights are a strange night for a gig in Guernsey – while the midweek is packed with open mic nights and the occasional lower key cover band outing, new original music tends to stick to the weekend. So, it seemed an odd choice when The Doomsday Project announced their album launch for a likely cold (it was) Wednesday night in February.

Seeing their audience though it all became clear as, along with the well-meaning parents, aunts, uncles, etc at The Vault, the crowd was mostly at the higher end of school age, and the night fell in the middle of half term.

Support for the show came in the form of Elliot Falla and, while recent discussion on social media centred on James Bay and his ilk got me wondering if the world really needs another soulful, young, middle class, floppy haired, singer songwriter with an acoustic guitar, this didn’t matter to the audience.

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla

Tightly packed to the front from the off they greeted every song (both originals and covers) as if they were already smash hits, and of course anyone getting up on stage and pouring their heart out into a microphone is to be appreciated on at least some level.

While Elliot seemed to be giving it his all on stage, I found it hard to get into his songs as the sound mix coming from the PA left much of the music lost in monotone bass drone. From what I could hear though the young man demonstrated a varied vocal delivery, with a rougher side hinted at from time to time, although there were a few points where the power he was going for seemed a little forced.

Despite being opening act Elliot was granted an encore (after what felt a little like his more enthusiastic admirers called for one while the rest of the bar continued chatting) and delivered an acoustic take on Arctic Monkey’s Mardy Bum that ended his set on a high and left me wanting to see him play where I could hear a little more of the definition in his music.

As soon as Elliot left the stage the young crowd surged further forward, packing in as tightly as they could in anticipation, leaving the older contingent a bit more breathing room further up the bar, and it wasn’t long before The Doomsday Project launched into a cover Chelsea Dagger and got the crowd singing along for the next hour and a half or so.

George of The Doomsday Project

George of The Doomsday Project

After a couple of tracks the sound in The Vault seemed to level out making things at least slightly clearer and certainly clear enough for the upbeat, smiley, pop punk barrage that was to come. Across the set The Doomsday Project played every original song in their repertoire interspersed with covers, including a nicely rough and ready take on The Hives Tick Tick Boom and early mock-punk favourite Jilted John’s Gordon Is A Moron.

As always bassist/vocalist George Russell was the charismatic centre of attention, playing to his crowd with a real frontman style, but not in a way that became cocky and just seemed like he was having a great time while both guitarists, Alex Ogier and Adam Walford, were more forthcoming on stage than I have seen in the past.

Having gigged regularly for the last couple of years has seen the band become very tight on all but the newest numbers and they played here with a real solid confidence.

Later in the set The Doomsday Project were joined by Sophie Mahy, as seems to have become traditional, but with the direction the band have taken since their first shows her rendition of Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life felt a little out-of-place amongst the punkier material.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Another unfortunate moment came when George swapped to acoustic guitar for Anymore, one of the band’s most accomplished and mature songs, but was almost drowned out by feedback for the tracks duration, once the soundman got round to turning the guitar up at all.

These couple of off moment were generally eclipsed though by the positivity and upbeat tone of the rest of the set that, while it became something of an endurance event (as we neared midnight and the two hour point), showed one of Guernsey’s few genuinely young and upcoming bands putting on a show and taking their next step forward, but I couldn’t help but feel it would be good to see them put more faith in their original songs and play to audiences more away from their comfort zone.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th March 2015:

Doomsday Project album launch review scan - 14:03:15

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The Doomsday Project – album review

The Doomsday Project album coverOn February 18th 2015 Guernsey pop-punk four-piece The Doomsday Project release their self-titled debut album.

Despite only being in their teens the band have been gigging regularly for a few years including slots at the Chaos festival and supporting UK rockers Evarane amongst frequent outings at The Vault, The Doghouse and more.

As well as featuring in session on the January 2015 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey, I was given a sneak preview of The Doomsday Project’s album and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 8th February 2015:

Doomsday Project album review scan - 07:01:15

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Chaos Goes Star Wars – The Fermain Tavern – 04/05/14

Static Alice

Static Alice

It doesn’t take much of an excuse for the guys who organise the annual Chaos festival to have a party so, as last Sunday fell on a bank holiday weekend and it was May The Fourth (Be With You… if you’ve not been keeping up with the puns) and thus Star Wars Day, it seemed a perfectly suited time to warm up for their 10th anniversary festival at the end of June with a long evening of live music at The Fermain Tavern.

Things started in mellow mode with Autumn and her harp playing a selection of songs and tunes. Its been a while since I’ve caught Autumn and I have to say while her harp skills had always been great she had, in the past, sometimes been let down by her vocals. Here though there was no such issue as she sang and played in a nicely relaxed style to start the day and, while many stayed outside on the Tav’s deck in the sun, those inside they were treated to something unique.

The Black Vote

The Black Vote

Following an appearance by The Phantom Cosmonaut (who I won’t review for obvious reasons, look him up, you’ll see why) it was The Black Vote’s time to hit the stage and really kick up the speed and noise with a set of their brand of punk rock.

As ever The Black Vote delivered exactly what everyone has come to expect and, while it’s not to everyone’s tastes, and wavers on taking things too far most of the time, if hard, fast, noisy punk rock is your thing then they kicked off the full bands in style.

Much like a few weeks ago at Fermain Fest, The Doomsday Project had the job of following The Black Vote. With a set of pop punk it seemed more to the tastes of the crowd as frontman and bass player George Russell, complete with Darth Maul costume, and co played through a set of mostly pop-punk covers that, for me, took me back to the late 90s and early 2000s.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Performing a few songs with a guest female vocalist varied their sound a bit, which was nice to hear, and they had some originals in the mix too which hint that they are heading in the right direction and could be a band to keep an eye on over the next few years – although Cuttlefish is fast becoming a stand out, ill-fitting, low point of their performances – decent tune but could do with some reworking in the lyrics.

It was time for a debut next as One Mind To Lose took to the stage. Fronted by Gemma Honey, formerly of Party In Paris, a good vocal performance was expected and delivered and the rest of the band all seemed to be hitting their marks admirably (despite a couple of issues from the lead guitarist’s cables).

One Mind To Lose

One Mind To Lose

With a mix of pop-rock covers and originals on offer they delivered a set that sounded a little loose and undisciplined in places, but for a first public show it was an admirable outing and with a bit more stage presence One Mind To Lose could become another on the list of new bands to watch out for.

The night was rounded off by a couple more established, but still fresh, bands. Brunt began this, hot of a performance at the previous weekend’s Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses event (the final of which is coming up on May 17th).

Brunt

Brunt

As ever their sound stands out from the crowd in the current crop of regularly performing bands over here but once again it attracted a dedicated group of followers and the vaguely psychedelic, stoner grooves seemed to draw in quite a few others as well.

Bedecked in Sith-style robes Brunt seemed more at ease of stage here than I have seen them in the past and there seemed to be some new material in amongst tracks from their recently released debut EP and, while it was slow and heavy, they seemed to strike a chord at the Tav.

The night was rounded off by Static Alice, back on more familiar ground than at their #Triplestoked show, as they mixed covers and originals and really got the crowd going despite the show running a bit late – well it is called Chaos!

Luis of Static Alice

Luis of Static Alice

Dressed in a range of Star Wars inspired outfits, including guitarist Luis rocking a Princess Leia look without a care, Static Alice’s wall-to-wall pop rock brought a great, fun atmosphere to the show and there seemed to be much more balance and dynamic amongst the band members than at their last outing here.

It’s not often you see Lightsabers on the dancefloor but they were all but mandatory during Static Alice’s performance and, even though it was late, the party kept rolling to the bitter end of Ballroom Blitz and an original song that worked brilliantly to close the night and showed a real confidence from the band in their own material which is always encouraging to see.

With a little less than two months until the festival, Chaos continued the road to their big show with great style tonight, and some amazing Star Wars inspired costumes from both bands and audience to boot.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the gig on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 15th May, here it is:

Chaos Star Wars Day gig scan - 15:05:14

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