Soldiers—End of Days (2007)

Soldiers—End of Days (2007)

Soldiers—End of Days (2007)

Details

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Joe Cincotta and Dan Kennyat Full Force Studio. Produced by Joe Cincotta, Danny Kenny and T$S.

Band

  • Rick Limenez—Vocals
  • Brian AudleyGuitar
  • Chris Mazella—Guitar
  • Andrew Jones—Bass
  • Dan Bourke—Drums
  • John Moore—Guest vocals on “Even worse”.
  • Jeff Tiu—Guest vocals on “Damage is done”
  • Brendan Garrone—Guest vocals on “Since day one”

Tracks

  1. Even worse
  2. Sever ties
  3. The reclamation
  4. Decide and conquer
  5. Choosing revenge
  6. Relentless
  7. Bound by defiance (T$S)
  8. Damage is done
  9. Nothing more, nothing less
  10. Own up!
  11. Since day one
  12. Smoke and mirrors
  13. Living hell (bonus track)

Review

Every time I come across a hardcore album I’m always surprised at how much I like it. My average score for hardcore albums on this project is 73%. I perhaps should just accept that I’m a bit of an unconscious hardcore punk fan.

I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.

That should help. Until I listen to the next hardcore album, of course. I should turn this into a film: 50 First Hardcore Punk Albums starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Anyway, with that little bit of amnesia over, the album.

Soldiers are a hardcore band from Long Island in New York, formed in 2006 from the ashes of This Is Hell, Subterfuge, Last Conviction, and The Backup Plan. Following a debut EP in May 2006, this follow-up from December 2007 remains their only full-length album.

And do you know what? It’s good. If anything, it is let down a little by the mix. It often feels like it was recorded with the microphones in the wrong room or facing the wrong way, and the lead vocals are a little hidden in the mix. But otherwise the album is full of energy and contains all the key constituent parts required for a solid hardcore album: punchy bass sound, thrashy guitars with a good mid-range sound, shouty vocals with enthusiastic crowd-fueled choruses.

The songs are also typically and appreciatively short. “Nothing more, nothing less” (track 9) is only 53 seconds long and definitely proves the less is more rule. None of 13 tracks outstay their welcome. They come in, do their job, and they are done!

The only anomaly is the final track, “Living hell” (track 13) which is a rap track. Like, straight-out rap. Not crossover. Rap. I’ll just leave that there. Rap.

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, given my newly acquired awareness of my love of hardcore punk. I liked this album. With a clearer and more balanced mix it might be better, but as it is, it rocks!

Review score: 90%

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Sal—Infatuation!! EP (2007)

Sal—Infatuation!! (2007)

Sal—Infatuation!! (2007)

Details

Recorded at Stir Studios, Cardiff. Engineered by Steve Davis. Produced, mixed and mastered by Ace (formerly of Skunk Anansie) at Ace Record Production.

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Band

  • Cat Southall—Vocals
  • Noog—Guitars and loops
  • Chris—Bass guitar
  • Den—Drums

Also features Richard Holley—Keyboards.

Tracks

  1. In love
  2. Make it on her own
  3. September
  4. Goodbye
  5. Dreaming

Review

Infatuation is Cardiff band Sal’s second release, following debut album Dysfunctional (2005). The band reminds me of bands like Garbage: they have a pop-punk-rock feel, mixing melody with grit and attitude.

The EP fires off with a fast-paced, Bob Mould style song “In love”, before slowing things down with the power ballad-esque “Make it on her own”.

“September” takes the speed up again, but the song fails to hit the mark for me. It reminds me of something that might go well as the soundtrack to a montage in a US teen feel-good movie. “Goodbye” is the punkiest song on the EP with fast downstroke picking, rumbling drum fills and some of the cheesiest lyrics on the disc. Goodbye.

“Dreaming” is another mid-paced track with some nice dynamics.

Conclusion

Production-wise, musicianship-wise, songwriting-wise this is a decent enough release. I certainly wouldn’t switch it off, and I get the impression they would be fun to see live. Whether I’d hunt out this EP to listen to, I’m not sure. It’s not really my thing, but I do appreciate why it might be someone else’s.

Review score: 68%

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Details

These songs were originally released on separate CDs except “Leaning to scream” which was 7″ vinyl only until now. Released on Taang! Records, 2000.

Band

Pick Your King EP (1983) — tracks 16–28

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts—Guitar
  • Glen Estes—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Kings of Punk (1986) — tracks 4–15
Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes EP (1984) — tracks 29–40

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts—Guitar
  • Chris Tense—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Learning Scream 7″ (1998) — tracks 1–3

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Ian Miller—Guitar
  • Chris Tense—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Learning to scream
  2. Another place
  3. Xerox frustrate
  4. Lifestyles
  5. Short fuse
  6. God not god
  7. Ugly American
  8. Subtract
  9. Cop an attitude
  10. Death wish kids
  11. Made to be broken
  12. Tormented imp
  13. One by one
  14. Out of the picture
  15. Untitled
  16. Think twice
  17. It’s an action
  18. Thing called progress
  19. In my headache
  20. Underage
  21. Self abuse
  22. Cult band
  23. Last one
  24. Pure hate
  25. Castration
  26. Reggae (I hate)
  27. Give it up
  28. Think fast
  29. A.A.
  30. Legalize freedom
  31. Cold comfort
  32. Typical
  33. Thorn in my side
  34. Laughing boy
  35. Rubber husband
  36. I gotta right (written by Iggy Pop)
  37. Rich get richer
  38. Don’t like it here
  39. Die on your knees
  40. Time to go

Review

Thanks mainly to Suicidal Tendencies’ early albums and The Misfits I have quite a soft spot for American hardcore punk. This compilation album from Portland, Oregon punks Poison Idea certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The album comprises their first three releases: Pick Your King 7″ EP (1983), Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes 12″ EP (1984), Kings of Punk (1986), plus the much later Learning to Scream 7″ EP (1998).

There is a marked difference in production quality between the earliest release (tracks 16–28) and the later releases surrounding it. But it doesn’t detract much from the enjoyment of the songs, although in general I do prefer the song-writing on the later tracks.

Poison Idea were seemingly influenced by southern Californian bands like Black Flag, Discharge, and The Germs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Poison Idea themselves then went on to influence the bands in neighbouring Washington state who launched the grunge sound a decade later, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

There is a raw, energetic honesty to these songs; they are heavy but melodic and played with fervour. “Tormented imp” (track 12) for example (which is probably my favourite song on the compilation) has a wonderful stomp, and lyrics spat out with passion.

Conclusion

While I complained in my last review that many of the songs sounded much the same, for some reason it really doesn’t matter quite so much on this album. Perhaps it wasn’t the homogeneity that was the issue, perhaps it was the soul, the humanity, the passion. And by ‘eck, this album has plenty of that.

This album surprised me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have. And ‘enjoy’ is definitely the word: I didn’t just like it, I enjoyed it. It’s definitely the best hardcore album I’ve listened to during this project.

Review score: 95%

 

H8 Target—H8 Target EP (2005)

H8 Target—H8 Target EP (2005)

H8 Target—H8 Target EP (2005)

Details

Recorded at Rhythm Studios by Paul Johnston. Produced by Paul Johnston and H8 Target.

Band

  • Mart—Lead vocals and guitar
  • Scary Dave—Guitars and vocals
  • Mark—Bass
  • Pix—Drums

Tracks

  1. Never fade
  2. So far past sick
  3. Inspiration

Review

This is a self-released demo/promo EP from Birmingham-based hardcore/punk/metal band H8 Target and to be honest, if I hadn’t seen the CD packaging (cover that’s clearly been printed on an inkjet printer, white-label CD) then I would never have guessed that it was a demo.

The recording quality is fabulous. It doesn’t have the raw, sounds-like-it-was-recorded-in-a-bathroom feel that some demos suffer from. This has a good balance between high-end guitar parts and drums and low end bass and meaty-sounding distorted guitar riffs. If anything, the recording as a whole leans towards the mid-/bass-end but that only adds a gravitas and heaviness to the recording.

From the opening riff this EP demanded my attention. Usually I listen to a recording over and over during the week before I make a decision on it. Well, I’m now on my second listen through and I’ve already made up my mind. And the whole thing is only 14′ 10″ long.

“Never fade” has a fabulous, rumbling riff not even a minute into the song. This must be a fabulous song to play live. It’s definitely metal… erm, hardcore… no, metal again… nope! definitely hardcore… who cares! It rocks!

“So far past sick” definitely starts in a very hardcore vein: pounding drums, staccato-ed riff, screaming vocals. And… well, it doesn’t really let up. I can imagine bouncing along to this at a gig.

“Inspiration” opens with a clean, picked riff accompanied by bass. Drums and guitar two join in as the song builds to another hardcore inspired riff, verse and chorus. At about 1′ 50″ the song slows. Open chord. INSPIRATION! shouted over the top of it. And then the build… It’s all very Biohazard. But it’s a British Biohazard and it’s brilliant.

Conclusion

From the outside (a homemade album cover and white label CD) it doesn’t look particularly impressive. But it’s what I often say about houses: you should never judge them by what they look like outside: it’s how they are inside that counts. And inside this is fabulous.

The final word goes to my son Joshua (6) who said about the cover, while nodding his head along to “So far past sick”: “I love how that line goes along and that line goes down and it looks like a sniper’s target, pointing at a dragon’s head. It’s cool!”

It is cool.

Review score: 94%

The Undertones—Dig Yourself Deep (2007)

The Undertones—Dig Yourself Deep (2007)

The Undertones—Dig Yourself Deep (2007)

Details

Dig Yourself Deep is a 2007 studio album by The Undertones. It is the band’s second album with lead singer Paul McLoone, who replaced Feargal Sharkey when the band re-formed in 1999. Engineered and mixed by Mik O’Connell.

Band

  • Paul McLoone—lead vocals
  • John O’Neill—guitar and vocals
  • Damian O’Neill—guitar, keyboards and vocals
  • Michael Bradley—bass and vocals
  • Billy Doherty—drums

Tracks

  1. Dig yourself deep
  2. So close
  3. Here comes the rain
  4. Everything you say is right
  5. Him not me
  6. We all talked about you
  7. Fight my corner
  8. Precious little wonder
  9. Tomorrow’s tears
  10. Easy way out
  11. Happy valley
  12. Move right in
  13. She’s so sweet
  14. I’m recommending me

Review

John Peel famously said that The Undertones’ 1978 track “Teenage Kicks” was his all-time favourite track, so much so that he wished for a line from the song to adorn his gravestone.

Until this week that song is the only Undertones song that I’ve been aware of. I don’t have much punk in my collection, and this is the only album that falls somewhere between the sub-genre of ‘pop punk’ and ‘new wave’ (of which I have a few more examples in my collection: Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, New Order, Talking Heads, Television).

This album is the band’s second with singer Paul McLoone who replaced Feargal Sharkey after the band reformed in 1999 after a 16 years hiatus—their first incarnation ran from 1975–1983.

This is definitely a pop-y, punk-y record packing in 14 songs in around 33 minutes. The shortest song clocks in at only 1′ 39″, only three manage to get above 2′ 30″.

This is a fun album of throw-away melodic songs that had my middle son (6) bopping around my study.

The songs seem to have feet planted firmly in both a nostalgic punk past but also in the present: they sound fresh and urgent.

My favourite song on the album though is probably “Move right in” (track 12), a gentle ballad that moves around a steady arpeggio—maybe it’s the season: it sounds like it should be a Christmas song!

Conclusion

This is a good album but for me it’s not a great album. The songs I found quite disposable: listen once then throw away. Other than “Move right in” none of them really moved me, no pun(k) intended.

I’ll keep it though as it was fun to see my boys dancing around to it!

Review score: 70%

Hüsker Dü—The Living End (1994)

Hüsker Dü—The Living End (1994)

Hüsker Dü—The Living End (1994)

Details

Recorded at various venues (though mostly at Le Spectrum in Montreal, Canada) in October 1987. Produced by Hüsker Dü and Lou Giordano. Liner notes written by rock critic David Fricke. Released 1994 on Warner Bros. Records.

Hüsker Dü database

Band

  • Bob Mould—Vocals, guitar
  • Greg Norton—Bass guitar
  • Grant Hart—Drums, vocals

Tracks

  1. New day rising
  2. Girl who lives on heaven hill
  3. Standing in the rain
  4. Back from somewhere
  5. Ice cold ice
  6. Everytime
  7. Friend, you’ve got to fall
  8. She floated away
  9. From the gut
  10. Target
  11. It’s not funny anymore
  12. Hardly getting over it
  13. Terms of psychic warfare
  14. Powerline
  15. Books about UFOs
  16. Divide and conquer
  17. Keep hanging on
  18. Celebrated summer
  19. Now that you know me
  20. Ain’t no water in the well
  21. What’s going on
  22. Data control
  23. In a free land
  24. Sheena is a punk rocker

Review

In early 1995 I wandered into Our Price Records in Kilburn, north London, and stepped out about half an hour later clutching a copy of Sugar—File under easy listening (1994) which began my love of Bob Mould’s work. I came to listen to Hüsker Dü after both Sugar and Mould’s early solo work.

Workbook (1989) remains one of my favourite albums of his. I loved it so much and thought that my younger brother would too that I famously bought him a copy for his birthday. He HATED it. Much to my dismay and surprise. I inherited his copy years later when he finally considered that enough time had elapsed that I wouldn’t think it rude. In truth he could have given it away on the day of his birthday, I wouldn’t have thought him rude… just, well, wrong.

It was when I later moved into a flat in London with my friend and then-colleague Graham Fairbairn that he introduced me to Hüsker Dü, and their last-but-one album Candy Apple Grey (1986) in particular, and so the circle was complete. The third leg of my Mouldy stool, if you like.

This album The living end (1994) was released in 1994, six years after Hüsker Dü broke up. Allegedly Bob Mould himself has never listened to the album.

Although the songs on the album cover the whole of the band’s nine year history this isn’t an album that I would introduce people to Hüsker Dü listening to: it’s not the best live album; it’s not the best showcase for the band. Although maybe I just don’t know their back catalogue well enough—I would accept that.

Production and clarity aside, what this album does have going for it is energy and, of course, the songs. Hüsker Dü were very punk/hardcore-influenced and it shows, with echoes of bands like the Ramones in there. I remember reading years ago in Guitar World magazine that Mould’s use of minor 7th and minor 9th chords helped define that whole melodic hardcore genre.

Conclusion

I’ve probably already said elsewhere on this blog that I’m not a huge fan of live albums: for me, they don’t really capture either the purity of the music or the live vibe. That said, this is a decent enough album and I find myself having to balance between my enormous admiration for Bob Mould with the fact that it’s a live album of songs spanning the band’s career. And then do I score it against the other albums in this project, or against Bob Mould’s back catalogue.

Review score: 80%

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Underdog—Matchless (2010)

Underdog—Matchless (2010)

Underdog—Matchless (2010)

Details

Tracks 1–8 produced by Underdog and recorded and mixed by Dan Nicholas at Electric Reels Studios, Pleasant Valley, NY in December 1985.

Tracks 9–15 produced by Underdog and Don Fury and recorded and mixed by Don Fury at Don Fury Studio, NY in Fall, 1988.

Tracks 16–26 produced by Underdog and Don Fury; recorded by Dan Nicholas and John Moorehead at Electric Reels Studios, Pleasant Valley, NY; mixed by Don Fury and Underdog at Sunset Productions, NY in Winter 1988.

Released on Bridge Nine, 2010.

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Band

  • Richie Birkenhead—Vocals and guitars
  • Danny Derella—Guitar (tracks 1–8)
  • Chuck Treece—Guitar (tracks 16–26)
  • Russ Iglay—Bass
  • Greg Pierce—Drums (tracks 1–8)
  • Dean Iglay—Drums (tracks 9–26)

Tracks

  1. True blue
  2. Special forces
  3. Not like you
  4. Frontside grind
  5. Say it (to my face)
  6. Never too late
  7. Looking out for you
  8. Friends like them
  9. Over the edge
  10. A lot to learn
  11. Underdog
  12. Mass movement
  13. Reach out
  14. Without fear
  15. The vanishing point
  16. From now on
  17. A lot to learn
  18. Over the edge
  19. Mass movement
  20. Never too late
  21. Back to back
  22. Underdog
  23. Without fear
  24. Blindside
  25. The vanishing point
  26. No matter what

Review

Having been born at the end of 1971, the first wave of punk rock almost passed me by. I was mildly aware of various bands like Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, Buzzcocks, The Boomtown Rats, Dead Kennedys, but I didn’t go out of my way to listen to them. Punk just became part of the background noise of my growing up: the occasional track on British TV, badges bundled with Bubble Pops gum, logos painted on the back of local punks’ jackets.

The first rock music I remember getting into was on a double LP owned by my dad that featured Genesis (“The Knife”), and Jethro Tull (“Locomotive Breath” perhaps?). It was partly this kind of progressive music that punk was reacting against. Then I got into Queen, big time. Which led to Metallica, Celtic Frost, Slayer and the whole mid-80s thrash movement.

It wasn’t really until Slayer’s  1996 album of cover tunes Undisputed Attitude that encouraged me to explore the whole punk and hardcore scene a little deeper. I listened to a few British bands (Peter and the Test Tube Babies, The Clash, Sex Pistols), as well as a few bands from across the Atlantic (The Misfits, Ramones) mainly because of their links with Danzig and Anthrax, respectively. I even touched on a few hardcore bands when their paths crossed closely with mainstream metal at the time (Sick of it All, Biohazard, early Beastie Boys, M.O.D.). But my exploration didn’t go much further.

It’s been interesting this week listening to this album of mid- to late-80s hardcore punk, a coming together of 26 tracks from 1985 and 1988.

The first eight songs have a very raw feel, that reminded me of Bleach-era Nirvana as well as the various tracks on Slayer’s punk tribute album. The album opens with a very punk signature sound: a bass riff and squealing atonic guitar. Track two “Special forces” must be one of Underdog’s most famous songs, because I’ve heard it before!

The final 18 songs are from three years later, 1988. It sounds a bit more polished with the guitar tone in particular sounding a bit heavier and a bit bassier. This part of the album sounds more hardcore than punk, to my ear.

Conclusion

I’ve not found this a particularly easy album to listen to, to be honest. As I said, punk and hardcore are not sounds that I’m easily drawn to. I loved Suicidal Tendencies, but more when they strayed towards metal.

That said, I can appreciate this music even though it’s not particularly my genre. There’s an energy and integrity to it which I love.

If you are a fan of New York hardcore and haven’t listened to Underdog then certainly check this album out. Hey! If you want the CD drop me a comment and I’ll send it to you.

Review score: 70%

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