Great Cynics new album ‘Posi’ arrived on Friday and it’s a fantastic return from one of the UK’s most underrated bands. The album is full of the classic warm guitars, infectious melodies and lyrics about bags of cans in the sun Great Cynics are known for, but also sees the band develop their sound and draw from a wider set of influences. One of the best examples of this and one of the standout tracks on the album is ‘Don’t Buy The Sun’.
The track begins with a slow build of melodic, clean guitars and drums that recall 90s emo such as American Football, however when the bass enters the drums pick up and the song explodes into a punchy and passionate attack on tabloid fear-mongering. Lead singer Giles Bidder delivers his vocals with a hint of distortion to add some bite and makes good use of repetition (“Now everyone’s pissed off, now everyone is pissed off” / “They’re just trying to scare you, they’re just trying to scare you”) to really hammer the message home. It’s a two minute blast that incorporates everything that makes Great Cynics so beloved by their fans and a healthy dose of something new. And say it one more time for the people at the back, don’t buy The Sun.
Caves have been missing from the UK punk scene for too long. The Bristol two pieces’ 2014 album ‘Leaving’ was a 20 minute explosion of crunching guitars, battering drums and fiercely delivered, personal lyrics about politics, gender and oppression (their 2013 record ‘Betterment’ is also a belter). The band have been relatively quiet since then however, with guitarist Lou Hanman leaving Bristol for America’s punk capital, Philadelphia.
This move has led to a change in Caves’ songwriting and their upcoming third album, ‘Always Why’, promises new developments in their sound, but the first single released from it, ‘Need It Most’, is a slice of classic Caves. The pounding drums carry infectious energy, the palm muted guitars add bite and, despite the 3400 mile distance between Philly and Bristol, the chorus is perfectly designed to be sung in The Exchange or Mother’s Ruin with a can of horrifically strong cider in hand. It’s crunchy, punchy and arrives not a moment too soon.
Every new Idles song right now sounds vital. Every new Idles song sounds like a pure cry of fury stemming from something deep inside that you’ve been struggling to articulate and come to terms with. The gift of Idles is they can articulate it with a few simple lines and a violent crash of guitars, bass and drums. They bring it out of you, hold your face in front of it and scream, “fucking look at it.”
Whether it’s over politics, art or your own life, that unflinching self-reflection and subsequent catharsis is at the core of their upcoming debut album, ‘Brutalism’, which was written in the wake of the death of lead singer Joe Talbot’s mother. The band say new single ‘Mother’ is “an exploration of who she was and is,” with the ‘is’ seeming particularly important. Someone with as much passion and fire as Joe didn’t come from nowhere.
‘Mother’ is driven by brutal but intricate drumming and a classic hardcore sounding bassline, whilst Idles’ twin guitars become more and more distorted and twisted as the song builds. Joe delivers his vocals in a way that makes you think he probably had to be restrained in the booth during recording. You can almost imagine him clawing at the glass and fighting against chains as he spits refrains like “the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich,” and the two word chorus; “mother fucker”.
Nothing really sounds like Idles right now, but most importantly, nothing at all feels anything like them.
I’ve written before about Dream Nails, the ‘feminist punk witches from hell’, and their new video for ‘Tourist’ continues to prove just how exciting and vital they are. They’ve been playing ‘Tourist’ live for a while and it’s become a firm fan favourite that combines everything that makes Dream Nails so brilliant. It’s got a classic punk vibe with a heavy dose of riot grrl and a hook you’ll be singing for weeks, plus a message 50.4% of the population will appreciate all too well (side eyes emoji…).
Driven by an infectious bassline, it swerves from a punchy riff to a building, forceful breakdown, and is all held together by a catchy, political and biting chorus that goes out to every guy who thinks people are for saving and the world is a film about an awkward but attractive leading man who’s just trying to find himself (“I’m not your story, I’m not your novelty, I’m not here for you to be a hero“). It’s gleefully wicked and doesn’t pull any punches or take any shit.
Dream Nails have said their second EP is on the way and if ‘Tourist’ is anything to go by it’ll be the perfect soundtrack to punching the patriarchy in the throat.
Photo Credit: Steph Jed
The Smith Street Band don’t change too much, they just get better at being The Smith Street Band. New single ‘Birthdays’ sees the band tread new ground with a synth driven bridge and guest vocals from Melbourne singer-songwriter Jess Locke, but it is undeniably both a progression and also a song that captures the same magic that is apparent in the rough recordings of South East Facing Wall six years ago.
Written about a chance meeting on a pier in Hobart, the song is full of the endearing, honest and delicate lyrics that Wil Wagner has become so adept at writing. The song moves from a typically rousing Smith Street chorus to some gorgeously peaceful interludes that cut through with a soft and wonderful calm – encapsulated perfectly in the lyric, “Wanna be alone, wanna be surrounded, wanna be transient, wanna be grounded, but all the dissonance disappears from me, when you drape your arm across my knee intentionally lazily.” It’s sweet, wholesome and beautiful. The sound of a band that are confident and comfortable in their creativity.
Great Cynics returned this week with news of a new album, ‘POSI’, and a new single in the form of ‘Butterfly Net’. The band have been relatively quiet of late and have undergone some line-up changes. Iona Cairns has left (an understandable shame given how busy she is with Shit Present and her solo work) and it seems two new members have joined Giles and Bob, and this seems to have resulted in a rejuvenated and fuller sounding band.
The core elements of the Great Cynics sound are still there, but with two guitars rather than one everything just feels a little richer and more developed. Lyrically the song is all classic Cynic’s territory, standing tall with a can in hand in the face of your troubles, but Giles’ writing seems sharper whilst still maintaining the colloquial and poetic quality it’s always had (the lines lines “I owe you this cold morning of pure light” and “caught the 37 to Peckham, picked up some Tyskies and felt completely fulfilled” are particularly lovely). The extended breakdown to end ‘Butterfly Net’ recalls The Smith Street Band’s outro on ‘I Love Life’ and overall the song definitely suggests ‘POSI’ will be well worth a listen.
There’s something completely endearing about The Seamonsters. The six piece band from Sheffield make honest and undeniably charming indie music with bright, sepia tinged guitars, eclectic and interesting drums and falsetto vocals. Each member is properly utilised too, with bass-lines, keys or lead guitar shining through at different times and highlighting a strong collective songwriting ability for such a young band (the members are 17/18).
The Seamonsters’ self-made videos depict scenes that anyone who was a teenager in the UK can relate to and also highlight a strong DIY ethic. They draw from UK indie such as The Wombats, whilst there are also pop punk and emo elements such as Modern Baseball to their sound. There are only live demo recordings online right now, but the band have promised more (and they say even better) music is coming in the next few months, so they’re definitely one to keep an eye on.
Photo Credit: Katy Blackwood
“Drink it all in, you’ll never get the taste out of your mouth.” Sung with distorted vocals and heavy feedback, it’s a pretty good lyric for the week Donald Trump officially becomes president, and Bristol post-punk band Spectres’ dark, foreboding music seems to fit our current dystopia pretty perfectly.
The band have a relentless, pounding and droning sound that utilises feedback and heavy distortion to create an industrial level of noise that almost veers towards a brutal form of techno at times (lead singer Joe Hatt has described it as “brutalising” guitars). The sheer volume and variety of noise Spectres create means you find yourself getting lost (although consumed may be the better term) in the punishing sounds as they crash over you. It’s not an easy listen, but it is certainly not a forgettable one. Their videos are sick (interpret that as you will) too.
Dream Nails describe themselves as feminist punk witches from hell and I am not going to argue with them (about that or anything because I’m scared they’ll hex me). They’re part Riot Grrrl, part Minor Threat and part The Ramones, with just a smidge of Spice Girls thrown in for good measure, and they’re the most fun I’ve had seeing a band I’d previously not known in absolutely ages.
From the moment they took the stage they threw good vibes, passion and joy into the room in abundance. They’re tight and excellent musically and can make a racket with the best of them. On record they’re equally great. Whether they’re extolling DIY ethics and female solidarity or tearing down patriarchal ideas and threatening genitalia with Deep Heat and hot sauce (“Siraracha Everywhere!“), they approach each song with a fierceness that never fails to be fun.
Anger and solidarity are more important than ever in 2017, but it’s important not to forget to make time for joy, and the way Dream Nails combine these emotions is what makes them fantastic. Be careful though, you’ll be singing lyrics like “nobody cares and your dick is on fire” for ages after listening and that can lead to some odd questions in work.
Photo Credit: Steph Jed