Standing on the platform of a freezing cold Walmer station in the wee small hours of Sunday morning, waiting for the train that would take me homeward bound to Swanley, I found myself (amongst swearing under my breath at the fact my train was delayed, and perhaps yawning) reflecting on the previous 24 hours that had gone before it. Just down the road from the station I was sat at was The Railway Pub, and at this hour of the morning, only some broken glass on the pavement outside and some tatty posters in the windows gave any clue at what had come before it. It had seen me experience a gig like no other, one I had to travel nearly 60 miles just to get to, a fair distance for any gig, let alone one by local bands in a tiny pub in a small coastal town, but one that was a pretty hefty rollercoaster of music, beer, and great fun from its relatively slow start to its blistering finale. And now that I’m back home and back to normal levels of sleep and energy (just about), it’s time for me to recount, in as much detail as I can, that hectic Saturday afternoon and evening.

It’s pretty safe to say that the day hardly got underway in glorious fashion – in fact, if you had no prior idea of the quality of some of the bands following, you’d be well within your rights to have walked through the front doors, seen the first band playing on the first stage (what I’ll call from now on the Bar Stage), and have turned round and walked straight back out the door again to stay in for the evening with The X Factor. I’m not joking – opening band Dr Goon (2/10) were so atrocious they had to be seen to be believed. Not seen for too long, mind – just long enough to realise that listening to them play was on a par with sticking a cordless drill in one ear and a screwdriver in the other. Their main problem (amongst the myriad of others) was that they looked like they had never even seen each other before, let alone played together. Lesson 1 for up-and-coming bands, kids – make sure you are relatively tight as a unit before you even think of looking for gigs. As much as I poked fun at the early iterations of My Third Leg for their technical sloppiness, at least they could hold a tune together. The Total Goons were so shockingly sloppy it sounded at times like each member was playing a completely different song – each very badly. Matters were hardly helped by a singer who looked utterly comatose, and a keyboard player who had got lost at a trad jazz gig and never found his way back home. The only reason they managed two scores was the fact that their guitarist and drummer at least looked into it, although the one shred of talent in the entire band was firmly with the guitarist – imagine Clem Burke after a particularly ham-fisted frontal lobotomy and you have Collection of Dribbling Goons’ drummer. Which leads me nicely onto Lesson 2 for up-and-coming bands: if you are borrowing someone else’s equipment, avoid breaking it, as the drummer did when he managed to somehow split the skin of the bass drum with the pedal. And then Lesson 3 – don’t then use this pause in play to advertise a show you’re playing on the very same day not very far away from there. This is perhaps one of the biggest faux pas you can commit, particularly when one of the chief organisers of the show you’re currently playing (and owner of the piece of equipment you’ve just broken) happens to be standing right next to you. Fortunately, Mr Rich Harris kept his rebuke short and to the point (a barked ‘fuck off’) and the Travelling Band of Blithering Goons were allowed to leave with all of their members still in one piece. What made the incident particularly hilarious was how farcically awful they had performed – it made you wonder how on Earth they managed to get two gigs at all, let alone on the same day. Answers on a postcard please – for now, I’m calling bribery.

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that anybody could look good following on from the pile of foul-smelling shite that had opened proceedings, but having said that, I genuinely quite liked Shattered Resolutions (6.5/10). They flitted from drop-C tuned metal-y, sometimes stoner-y fuzz rock to something a bit more faster paced, but whilst certainly not reinventing the wheel, they at least showcased a bit of flash and imagination. Of particular note is how the two guitarists, Aaron Dixon and James Revell, deliberately manufactured two different sounds from their respective guitars, which when combined together created an interesting mix, using it to try and expand the songs sonically. They traded solos nicely too, and when you throw in Tyler French’s yelped vocals and the fairly dynamic rhythm section of Robby Levesley on bass and James Nesbitt (no, not the James Nesbitt) on drums, you have a group that have promise. They could’ve scored higher had their set had the energy and confidence their music deserved, but they are a young band, and have time on their side to iron these creases out.

Sadly, one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing pulled a complete no-show – The Moo Woos. In fact, a no nothing – not a phonecall, not an answering of a phone call, no appearance at all. Very frustrating, as it puts a big black mark next to their name, which their music doesn’t deserve, and I’m sure they would’ve thrived in the intimate setting and atmosphere of the venue, but hey, their loss I suppose.

So we move straight back into the backroom stage where Shattered Resolutions had performed, and we find The Plan’s Andrew Keech (complete with trademark flat-cap) and Ben Gower, but instead of their partners in crime in The Plan, instead they are backed up today by a myriad of different instruments and members. Time to welcome to proceedings Captain Bastard and the Scallywags (7.5/10), a band with not only a spectacular name, but a spectacular array of weapons in their sonic arsenal – alongside the traditional guitar/bass/drums triumvirate, we introduce an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, an accordion, and a penny whistle, just for good measure. I was told beforehand to expect folk-punk fun to rival Calico Street Riots, with perhaps some added Guinness and pirate shenanigans, and that’s a fairly accurate description. They deviated from the standard, fast-paced folk-punk template at times though, and this refreshing change of pace enabled them to make better use of the wide variety of instruments at their disposal – the mandolin in particular, played with great aplomb by Jordan Harris, was particularly prominent, and pennywhistlist (is that even a word?!) Kayla Harlow lead off one song in fine solo fashion. Just like Calico, all of their songs are infused with the bouncing energy and sense of unabashed fun that makes the genre great. Two things largely let them down – firstly, Keech’s vocals were suffering due to illness and were largely reduced to a series of barks and croaks, and secondly, the band are still a work-in-progress in terms of gelling as a unit – one song had to be abandoned and the drumming fell out in several other parts. But, as I was quick to remind Keech afterwards, they are a new band, having only played 2 shows before this, and particularly with this many instruments in the mix, it would take a little more time for things to start clicking completely smoothly. For now, they are a band easing into life on the circuit, and I look forward to seeing them progress, as there is a lot of potential laying in wait.

Next up on the Bar Stage were, from a personal perspective, the biggest surprises of the day – A Boy Named Girl (8/10). I’d seen them a couple of times beforehand, and both times had never really ‘got’ them, and I really don’t know why. Maybe I had an in-built indifference and cynicism for the largely bland, generic pap that passes for modern pop-punk nowadays which clouded my judgement of them before, but on this particular evening, I went into their set with an open mind, and I was hooked from first outrageously catchy note to last. Y’see, this is how modern pop-punk should sound – yes, there’s floppy fringes, yes, there’s half-tempo breakdowns, but they are interwoven into tunes packed with hooks and properly shimmering choruses, and a sound that avoids being hackneyed and cliched, and a stage presence that sidesteps plastic posturing and concentrates wholly on having a damn good time, which is exactly what the crowd that gathers to watch them do have. The theme of being tight as a unit has run constantly throughout this review, and I have to come back to it, because that’s one of ABNG’s biggest strengths – good pop-punk has to be razor-sharp in it’s delivery, and that’s something the five-piece pull off brilliantly. Great job, and I’ll happily admit to being wrong about them before.

I didn’t actually watch directly the next act, the Disclosure Project (6/10), so take this rating as being based on what I heard whilst having a break from the music with a beer in the bar as they performed in the backroom. All I saw directly of them was their soundcheck, which told me that they were a expansive and technical three-piece. What I heard from them in the background after that proved that pretty much right, but also told me that they somehow had a knack of making even epic rock songs by the likes of Foo Fighters and 30 Seconds to Mars sound…well, kinda boring. I don’t know why, they just didn’t grip me. Let’s put it this way – I was waiting for them to drag me away from the bar and into the backroom to watch them, but they never managed it. Every song of theirs seemed to drag it’s heels somehow, and they came across as being a bit MOR for my liking. Still, I will give them credit for being musically tight and technically very sound, with a decent depth.

Hang on, I’m feeling a bit of de ja vu coming on here…or should that be Dave Ja Vu, to be precise? Yes, for the second time in as many days, it was time for me to check out up-and-coming ska-punkers My Third Leg (8/10), Gravesend’s chief representatives at the show, and the penultimate band up on the Bar Stage. Having seen them only the night before I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, and so it proved, as they turned in what was not only a step up from their performance in Central London, but the best performance I’ve seen from them so far in their burgeoning career. Bizarrely enough, despite the malfunctioning drumkit (still hungover from the brutalising it got earlier on in the day), drummer Paul Smith produced his most consistent tub-thumbing performance yet, with no obvious cock-ups – I can barely believe I’m writing this! – and the rest of the band also played to the top of their strengths. Frontman Will Woodrow was all-action, a powerful mix of crashing guitar leads and strong singing, and he was ably back up by his cohorts – additional guitarist Mike Smith was a highly rhythmic sidekick in the six-string antics, and bassist Dave Ja Vu was all beaming smiles and rippling, anchorweight basslines. Their standards were all wheeled out and given a battering – the joyous singalong of ‘3470 Miles’, the skankpit-baiting ‘Going for a Drive’, and the moody ‘Time Travel’, and the rest from their Fift E.P., all present and correct and all sounding excellent in such a setting. A nice injection of ska-styled energy into an evening that was swiftly building towards an entertaining crescendo.

I had another break after this one to get another pint or so in and to conserve energy before the finale, so I missed IRIS’s set, only hearing glimpses in the background – nowhere near enough to give them an accurate rating. The odd snatches I did hear did sounded heavy, technical and pretty creative in parts, so one to watch out for for the future perhaps.

In all fairness though, anticipation was by now building with all the speed of a runaway freight train for the arrival onto the Bar Stage of the local heroes to finish off the evening in spectacular style. And so, at around 10pm in the evening, The Submission (9.5/10) arrived on the Bar Stage, briefly tuned up, and blasted headlong into action, with a furious and spectacular medley of ‘Reggae Rock Rebels’, ‘Stay in Action’ and their rendition of the unofficial rock ‘n’ roll national anthem, ‘Johnny Be Good.’ And so began a rollercoaster journey through The Submission’s personal vision of punk rock – rip-snorting energy, raucous singalongs, buzzsaw guitar riffs, hooks aplenty, and pure, uplifting power. Frontman Richard Harris was as always the absolute heart and soul of the performance, channelling the spirits of Joe Strummer, Jake Burns, Tim Armstrong and other legendary punk frontmen into his ballistic, gung-ho delivery, bellowing his vocals, headspinning, jumping around and thrashing the life out of his guitar like it was his last night on Earth – just like every Submission performance, then. That’s not to say they are a one-man operation – in fact, bassist Sadie Williams acted as the calm counterpoint, quietly grooving and locking the operation down with rock solid and neat bass work, and stayed cool and collected despite the chaos erupting around her. A lot of kudoes has to go to stand-in drummer for the evening Bernie Watts, who despite less than a handful of rehearsals with the group, slotted in with no problems at all, and was a reliable and steady hand behind the kit. Sadly, guitarist Phil Morgan was reduced to errant bystander for most of the set, as a stray beer glass caused terminal damage to his amp very early on, but in true Submission fashion, a little hiccup like this wasn’t allowed to get in the way of the chaos.

It’s a measure of their quality as songwriters that their original songs, such as the stomping ‘No Motivation’ or the blistering ‘No Tomorrow’, merged seamlessly into the setlist alongside the gamut of covers they rolled out. Tonight the covers list included the traditional brace of Rancid tunes (‘Radio’ and ‘Roots Radicals’), as well as their 100mph rendition of the classic Clash anthem ‘White Riot’, a frenzied rev-up (if it ever needed revving up in the first place) of Green Day’s ‘Maria’, and further run throughs of ‘Longview’, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ (which pushed the dancing and moshing to almost chaotic levels), blink-182’s ‘All The Small Things’, the ’80s pop hit ‘Spin Me Right Round’ and the Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Barbed Wire Love’ – all of them delivered with exactly the same hammerhead precision and relentless energy as their originals.

There was also just enough time for a mid-set interlude to finally unveil the surprise ‘guest’ band, Meat Whiplash, whom were in reality The Submission but with sadly departing landlord Stu and wife Wanda guesting on vocals and drums, respectively. As a way to bow out, guest-starring with the headline act at your own farewell gig is a pretty stylish way to go, and Stu celebrated the occasion by rolling back the years and giving as good as he got on covers of Department S’s ‘Is Vic There?’, the Dead Kennadys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, and The Jam’s ‘That’s Entertainment’. Wanda gave the drumkit a sound battering for a few numbers before allowing Bernie to re-take the hot seat and instead gave additional vocal support up front, and the Whiplash’s brief set closed with a madcap run through Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’, before they departed to allow The Submission to wrap things up in style, firstly with the aforementioned ‘Should I Stay…’ and ‘Longview’ covers before drawing the mayhem to a close with ‘It Won’t Stop’, as defiant a statement as any to end what could possibly be their last showing at this particular venue. The only things that stops me giving them a maximum score was the issues with Phil’s guitar, and the fact that the set sort of never really regained the early momentum after Meat Whiplash’s cameo appearance, although neither of which can really be attested to the band, and they were still my personal favourite band of the entire day by some way – that’s not to be disrespectful to the other bands, some of whom were excellent (okay, not Dr Goon), but that’s more a measure of just how much I enjoy watching The Submission play – they are, to my mind, a live experience like no other.

So, here comes the part where I try and condense down everything into a handful of easily digestible sentence nuggets to summarise the entire review. Not easy, but I’ll give it a go anyway: as a gig, it was sometimes inconsistent, although fortunately gradually improved to a spectacular zenith at the conclusion after a dreadful start, but as an experience, it was a fantastic day and evening which will last in the memory for a long time – long after I had departed Walmer on the first train back home, and long after I’ve even finished writing this very review. Congratulations to everybody involved in setting up and organising this great show, and I’d like to wish Stu and Wanda all the best in their new pursuits – if this is to be the last time rock ‘n’ roll comes to The Railway Pub in this fashion, then it’s safe to say it went out in style.

Overall Review 9/10

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My Third Leg – The Fift E.P.

Posted: September 23, 2010 in E.P. Reviews
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As I type now, my voice is largely destroyed, and I’m exhausted due to a combination of lack of sleep and huge amount of manic dancing and singing. All of this, plus an 100-mile plus round trip to the Kent Coast and back, plus a rather large hole in my wallet, was all very much worthwhile, however, as it meant I got to experience the madness that was The Railway Pub’s send-off all-day show in all it’s blisteringly loud, beer-spilling, raucous and hella fun glory. I will get down to reviewing this show once I’ve recovered a little more, but for now, I fancy having a look at an EP by one of the bands that starred at the show in question – ascending ska-punkers My Third Leg.

Funnily enough, I’ve been seeing rather a lot of MTL over the last few days (stop sniggering at the back) – how does two shows in as many days go? And during that time I’ve really had a chance to see how far the band have come in a relatively short space of time, and how much potential is still laying in wait. It’s fair to say – and the band themselves even admit this to a degree – that in their early iterations, there was a relative lack of structure, and the feeling was that the band were often stuck on as the shits ‘n’ giggles first acts at most LSP gigs in and around Gravesend – well, wouldn’t you do the same if you ran a promotions company organising punk and ska gigs, and handily happened to be in a ska-punk band yourself? But my point being here was that it was easy to not take them all that seriously, a bit of a laugh, mucking around, regularly swapping instruments, etc etc. But as I mentioned in my review of their Comedy Pub show, they’ve quietly gone about knuckling down to work on their craft, gelling more as a unit, and honing their songwriting and technical skill, and all this has resulted in them starting to become a band to be really taken seriously as a force – all seemingly whilst I wasn’t looking. All this progress business has resulted in them recording and releasing their first E.P. of material, selling at shows and on their recently set-up merch store (I told you they were going up in the world) for the princely sum of 50p (hence the title, see?), and having procured a copy for myself on Friday, it’s time to give it a spin.

What jumps out straight away is the crispness of the production and sound quality, which is a very high quality for a DIY recording – credit must be given to the producer, none other than The Submission’s Rich Harris, who is rightly thanked in the sleeve notes. His biggest asset from a production and mixing standpoint appears to be his ability to keep all instruments balanced – even when all instruments are at full volume and intensity, the mix does well to avoid being muddy and clogged, and the vocals are nice and clear, something that characterises The Submission’s own self-produced work. This high-quality production helps the songs themselves to shine through, and guess what? That’s exactly what they do.

Some of the songs on the EP date back from the very first days of the band, but have been mercilessly honed, trimmed and refined into the catchy and addictive nuggets of ska-punk we are treated to on this disc. Two such songs combine to form a nice one-two opening salvo – ‘Going for a Drive’ and ‘3470 Miles’, both of which are growing to become signature anthems for the group, and rightly so, as both of them encapsulate the best aspects of the band’s sound – Will Woodrow’s easily recognisable vocal delivery, the trading between quiet/loud and slow/fast sections, Will and Mike Smith’s choppy guitar lines, Dave Ja Vu’s fantastic, bubbling basslines, and drummer Paul Smith’s primal skin-battering. Another MTL standard, Random Inspiration, bookends the disc, giving the record a strong start and a strong finish – something I always like to hear on records, and something that many much bigger bands seem to completely forget about.

However, don’t think for a second that they’ve put their most recognisable songs at each end of the disc and padded out the middle with some random filler they had lying around the rehearsal room – far from it. If you can look beyond the rather embarrassing (and pretty funny) story told in the lyrics, ‘Balls Deep’ is a real gem, showcasing a slight Britpop feel to the skanking mayhem. ‘Yes Please’ is catchy as hell, and the furious end section is tailor-made to be bellowed along with at the more drunken gigs they play, and ‘Time Travel’ is quite possibly the best song they’ve written so far overall. It’s actually quite a dour song, but they use this downbeat tone to their advantage – some delicate, echoey guitar lines flit in and out, Will’s vocals are mournful and wistful without becoming mawkish and dreary, and though it does speed up at parts, it doesn’t go completely balls-out at any stage, instead emphasising the slow-burning atmosphere of the lyrics.

This issue of restraint is probably my main criticism of other parts of the record – there is a feeling that they try to cram too much into certain songs. ‘Random Inspiration’ is the worst offender, as it seems to drag it’s heels near the end, and ends up being about a minute too long, which dilutes the energy and punch of the song. I mean, I know bassist Dave Ja Vu’s good, but do we need to hear his little bass solo another few times than we already do in the song? Personally, I reckon the final instrumental section would be better served in another song altogether, and trim this one down to keep it more succinct. This is the only song where it’s really noticeable, and otherwise the mixing of different tempos and dynamics works very well, and is a core part of their sound, so I suppose all I’m saying is be careful of that problem rearing it’s head again when writing new songs in the future. Perhaps Paul’s drum work is still a bit slack, but considering how it was before, it’s best to be grateful that he’s made it this far.

In fact, any more criticism is needless nit-picking, because I really can’t find anything else to moan about. What we have here is six strong songs that form a nice blueprint of My Third Leg’s sound as of right now, but also where they could go from here, and perhaps that’s the most exciting part – there’s still a sense that there’s more ascending to come from the band, as they continue to tighten up as a unit and gig relentlessly, and this E.P. is a good snapshot of where they are right now, and what to expect for the future.

Rating: 7.5/10
Standout Tracks: ‘Going for a Drive’, ‘3470 Miles’, ‘Time Travel’

Of all the fantastic bands on display at the recent ska-punk all-dayer, 7-Day Conspiracy were one of the very few bands I unfortunately missed. Which is a shame, as I did catch literally 30 seconds of their set, and that 30-second sampler was very promising – fast and hard skate-punk stylings with real bite and vigour. Which is why when a friend offered me the chance to have a listen to their EP, I jumped at the opportunity, and I’ve been busy catching up on what I missed, which is, it seems, something quite impressive. 

‘The Man Who Stole The World’ is a bit of a curve-ball opening to the record, being as it is a lovely slice of atmospheric and catchy street-reggae, accented by some classy harmonica and with vocalist Dirty’sgritty tones cutting through the mix, it is a real belter, topped off with some subtle distorted guitar licks not that far removed from Paul Fox’s guitar work on The Ruts’ ‘Jah War’.The rest of the record is packed with belting, lightning-fast punk, almost verging on the hardcore end of punk in some places, especially on the machine-gun bursts of ‘Kicked to Death’ and ‘Go Back to Sleep’ which both pass by in under a minute of aural mayhem. The mix is rough and messy, with the vocals often segueing into the chaos and sometimes being difficult to hear, but this doesn’t detract hugely from the impact this will have being blasted out of your stereo. If you look for immediatecomparisons, then I would say it sounds like a mix of early Oi! punk, several early NOFX cuts, mixed in with very early Bad Religion and Rise Against.The record’s sure-fire standout is the fantastic ‘Open Your Eyes’, which, alongside ‘The Man…’ makes this record worth buying on it’s own. It’s not as fast as their other onslaughts, but it works in their favour here, as they take the chance to throw some nice reggae-style interludes into the verses and pre-choruses to augment the furiously catchy chorus and driving rhythms.This is all very promising stuff, and points towards a great future for theSittingborne quartet – all that lets this particular offering down is a slight lack of cohesion caused by a rough, low-fi mix on most of the tracks bar ‘The Man…’, but this is nothing that can’t be sorted on future discs. Apart from that, there is great potential here, and I wait with baited breath for future releases and live appearances.
Rating: 8/10.
Standout tracks: The Man Who Stole The World, Open Your Eyes.

Torn Out – S/T E.P.

Posted: September 12, 2009 in E.P. Reviews

Usually, when you see a bloke touting an acoustic guitar, it’s a prelude to some plodding, achingly earnest dirge. There are a few exceptions, but certainly you would never put acoustic instruments and raging punk rock together. It appears acoustic duo Ben Smith and Steve Knight, AKA Torn Out, have never read this particular rulebook on the do’s and don’ts of punk, and they head into battle armed only with a couple of battered acoustic guitars. Even I will admit at first that I was slightly skeptical, but I’m happy to report that such conceptions are quickly ripped apart when you hear them for the first time. For me, that was a 2-track EP loaned from a friend, then a live appearance at a certain local all-day event, and now we arrive at this 9-track EP, freely distributed at the event in a full CD case with inlay card and lyric sheet, as well as nicely designed album cover.

First track ‘Filthy Hands and Fluro Ink’ is introduced courtesy of a lightning-fast bassline, with the guitar joining swiftly afterwards, and Ben’s shouted vocals soon after that. And really, this opening track sets the tone for the entire record – it’s fast, catchy, and confrontational, with Ben hollering for all his worth throughout. It quickly gives way to band anthem ‘Chasing Lost Nights’ which sums everything that Torn Out are all about up in two and a half minutes – energetic and hummable guitar lines, augmented by slick bass runs and backing vocals barked with gusto from Steve and topped off with Ben’s aggressive vocals.

The lyrics really are an ace up Torn Out’s proverbial sleeve – heartfelt, gritty and emotional without a hint of angst or cliched whining. It also has a powerful, street-level realism to it all – when Ben shouts ‘these split bin bags and pissed stained streets are not the life of which we dreamed’, people can nod along in agreement – having lived in Swanley for nigh-on the past decade or so, I can certainly relate to such statements as that. Such angry and disillusioned vibes run through the entire album, reaching their apex on ‘Soul of these Streets’, where Ben proudly declares ‘We are the soul of these streets/we are the heart that beats/underneath all the chain pubs/we’re the flesh and blood that’s capable of love’. A strong anti-commercialist vibe permeates on the aforementioned ‘Filthy Hands…’ and album closer ’10 Steps to Great Abs’, a furious finale where Ben cries ‘Let’s stop buying what they’re selling/we’ll deal with our insecurities together/then we’ll see we’re all the same/not a manipulated image on a glossy page!’

The music has a fantastic renegade vibe to it, and they successfully achieve what many people would think was impossible – acoustic guitar music with more soul, passion, power and energy than most bands twice their size with more instruments and amplifiers. For them to pull this off is a tremendous achievement, and they should be congratulated for doing so. They successfully tap into the mundane and soulless vibe of many inner-cities and satellite towns without a hint of cliche or posturing; when they sing ‘Together there’s nothing stopping us/leaving this life we never owned’, you feel duty bound to join them in their escape. Uplifting and anthemic in equal measure, Torn Out really are a hidden gem. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10
Standout tracks: ‘Chasing Lost Nights’, ‘Matilda & Me’, ‘Soul of These Streets’.

I don’t want to sound too righteous, but honestly, so many people who claim to be deeply into punk rock don’t have a clue about it. I’m talking about the countless NME journalists and keyboard warriors on YouTube who constantly argue about what exactly ‘is’ punk and what ‘isn’t’, and they’ve mostly been miles off the mark. NME are particularly guilty, along with many UK music publications, as they have been busy, in the past few years especially, championing the likes of Gallows as the ‘saviours of punk rock’. Firstly, who decided that punk rock as a genre needed ‘saving’? And secondly, whenever I listen to any of their tracks, all I hear is a messy, tuneless barrage of almost white noise, with the only lyrics being distinguishable being the odd expletive here and there amongst the sound of what seems to be Frank Carter trying to puke up his vocal chords. They certainly aren’t ‘saving’ punk rock. I don’t like the term ‘saviors of (insert genre here)’, but if you’re gonna bandy it around, then I’d be very inclined to take it from Frank Carter and co and slap it emphatically on the backs of Richard Harris, Sadie Williams, Phil Morgan and Stuart Cavell, known collectively as The Submission.

I’m well aware of how bold a claim that statement is, but I stick by it. And that comes after witnessing just one frenzied half-hour set in a small club in Gravesend. And now we arrive at this 5-track EP, purchased for the princely sum of £2, presented as it is in a plastic wallet with the cover being what looks like an intense mosh pit. As visual embodiments of a band’s sound go, this one is very effective. And I will say this right off the bat, I enjoyed this EP almost as much as I enjoyed seeing them live.

In terms of production, I’ve been warned by Rich that the quality isn’t too great, but to be honest I had no problems with it. Sure, it’s scratchy stuff, with the backing vocals not quite meshing with each other, and overall this is the polar opposite of the highly-polished, high-budget affairs many of us are more used to, but I wouldn’t say it affects the quality of the music, and it may actually add something to it – it gives the music a slightly rawer edge which I think actually compliments it. Think along the lines of The Offspring and Green Day’s respective pre-major label records, ‘Ignition’ and ‘Kerplunk’, and you have a fairly accurate picture.

The five tracks on here consist of three originals and two covers, and while the two covers – hugely enjoyable punk remixes of the ’80s pop song ‘Spin Me Right Round’ and the rock ‘n’ roll classic ‘Johnny B Goode’ – are entertaining listens, the three originals are the songs that really merit praise here. It’s easy enough to say that they are simple blasts of pure punk rock joy, but what makes them such entertaining listens is that they aren’t just standard three-chords-and-that’s-your-lot – every individual member injects extra life into the mayhem to take it up to another level. Rich hollers his vocals with wild abandon, but instead of just tuneless larynx-shredding, it meshes into the high-octane rhythms very well. He and fellow guitarist Phil intersperse the fast-paced riffs with thrilling and angular guitar breaks and solos to make the likes of Captain Sensible of The Damned or Brian Baker of Bad Religion proud, particularly on standout track ‘You Just Don’t Know’. Drummer Stuart drives things forward all the time, throwing in rolls and helter-skelter fills only where appropriate, and bassist Sadie augments the six-stringers’ assault with some neat bass lines which bring to mind such famous punk bassmen as Mike Dirnt of Green Day or Paul Simonon of The Clash – hardly the centre of attention, more the glue which musically holds everything together.

Lyrically, do not look at the sniggery, blink-182-esque toilet humour of the title track as a guide, although it is funny in places. Instead, look at the aforementioned YJDK and the ‘Reggae Rock Rebels’ with it’s fantastic skanking verses, as better guides for themes, the former being a powerful rant against those who look down their noses at others not quite like them, with Rich taking great pride in declaring: “I don’t wanna ever be like you!” and the latter acting as a counterpoint, rallying the troops in emphatic style to break out of whatever humdrum town they may be stuck in (quite a common situation for many in towns across Kent), and when all four bellow the lines ‘Jump up!/Shout out!/You’re reggae rock rebels’ with a ferocity that distorts the microphone, you can’t help but want to join them.

Of course, this is hardly original stuff – the title track nabs a vocal line from the Stiff Little Fingers back catalogue, YJDK runs like a medley of all the best songs from the Clash’s debut album, and RRR bounces along on a very much Rancid-style vibe. But at no point does it feel like blatant re-hashing of some dated concepts – the tracks all buzz with their own electricity and intensity, and are laden with hooks which are all their own, no matter how many nods to past legends they may make. And, ironically for a band who sing ‘I don’t think it really matters/whether you are, punk or not’, The Submission are the best pure, 100% punk rock band I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in a long time, and one listen of this handful of tracks will leave you desperate for more.

If you can, go and see them live, and enjoy The Submission in their element. But if they don’t happen to be playing anywhere near you tonight, then this little disc is a very enjoyable listen, and serves as a fascinating taste of things to come.

Rating: 8/10
Standout tracks: You Just Don’t Know, Reggae Rock Rebels.

For some reason or another, I didn’t expect this all-day event to be a tremendous occasion, probably because I had become so disillusioned with local-band gatherings after a trip to a recent YOG gig in my home town of Swanley. I also hadn’t heard of many of the bands performing – only the Moo Woos, who I had seen twice before, and Jaya the Cat, who I had been given a folder worth of tracks by one of the promoters, were acts I recognised. The location didn’t appear to be anything special either – a small club strapped onto the side of a relatively small boozer tucked down a backstreet in the middle of shipping warehouses and factories in one corner of Gravesend, with a smoking courtyard and tiny outdoor stage out the back. When I finally arrived at around 45 minutes past the scheduled start of the show, some very bizarre noises were emanating from the outside stage (I’m pretty sure it was The Cripples) and the first band inside were still sound checking. Still nothing yet to persuade me that this would be an amazing day out.

Then the band in question completed their sound check, turned to face stage front and let rip with what can only be described as a sonic punch in the face.

The band were The Submission (10/10), and they proceeded in the next half-hour to remind me why I fell in love with punk rock in the first place. They played hard, fast (think Ramones-type tempo), anthemic, buzzsaw punk rock of the purest kind, and matched the energy of the songs with a furious delivery, led by talismanic frontman Richard Harris, who jumped, hollered, headspan, and not so much as strummed his guitar as beat it to within an inch of it’s life. The rest of the band followed his lead and played to the top of their strengths – drummer Stu Cavell was a powerhouse at the back, guitarist Phil Morgan augmented the guitar assault nicely, and bassist Sadie Williams anchored it all with a bass performance that put me in mind of the likes of the Clash’s Paul Simonon or Ali McMordie from Stiff Little Fingers – hardly flashy, but solid and impressive, and she was never in any danger of being drowned out in the mayhem, as some punk bassists can be. As for the songs? Again, comparisons to punk legends such as the ‘Fingers and the Clash are inevitable – indeed, band anthem ‘You Just Don’t Know’ sounded like it could have been lifted from The Clash’s self-titled debut LP, which is high praise indeed. When they gave the rock ‘n’ roll national anthem, Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’ a 100mph remix, I was sold. And when they finished with a rip-roaring version of the legendary ‘White Riot’, my mind was made up – The Submission are my new favourite band. They successfully tapped into the original spirit of punk rock much better than 90% of more successful ‘punk’ bands around today, and I certainly had no qualms in spending the princely sum of £2 on their 5-track E.P, which I shall be reviewing soon.

So a fantastic start to the day, and the band charged with continuing where The Submission left off were A Boy Named Girl (7/10), who hit the outside stage about 5 minutes after The Submission finished. ABNG were advertised on the fliers as pop-punk, but the phrase pop-punk puts me in mind of bubblegum acts such as New Found Glory. ABNG put me more in mind of the slightly heavier pop-rocking of acts such as Kids in Glass Houses, and even maybe Lostprophets circa Liberation Transmission. Certainly singer Phil was doing his best Ian Watkins impression throughout the set, or however good he could get, as the band were quite tightly crammed onto the small outdoor stage. The songs lacked the immediacy of other acts, and maybe that’s what let them down a little, as their songs are the kind that may take repeated listens to get used to. I will admit that it wasn’t particularly my type of thing, but I still give them good credit for putting on an energetic show, and to be honest, anybody who was given the task of trying to follow The Submission were having a lot asked of them. Also, their choice of cover was inspired – Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ – and it certainly got people dancing and singing in the smokey courtyard. Full credit to them for that.

Back inside, and I was eagerly awaiting the start of The Moo Woos (9/10) set, having seen them twice before – once at a battle of the bands in Bluewater, where they performed last and blew away every band that had followed them, and another supporting the legendary Stiff Little Fingers. Once again, they didn’t disappoint, with another energetic and powerful set of anthems, including the catchy ‘Chelsea Girl’ and ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’. Just as before, they let loose their cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ to a rapturous reception from the audience, and the finale to their set was inspired – a combined circle pit and singalong, if you can call it that, to their anti-chav anthem ‘Fuck Drum ‘n’ Bass’ with the crowd joining on the Neg-style ‘Whoop Whoop’s of the chorus. Great fun.

Another thing that hit me about the event came when Submission singer Richie ended up standing right next to me during the Moo Woos set. When I got talking to him, he was friendly and very knowledgeable about punk, and the same was true for the rest of his band – there was not a hint of arrogance or ‘I’m in a band’ aloofness about any of them, and the same was true for the other band members who I chatted to throughout the day. Nothing much in that you may think, but that was one of the great things about the day – there was never an ‘us and them’ divide between bands and fans; they all mingled and drank together as one. It made it something special – you could see a band rip it up on stage, then be sitting having a beer with them after the set.

Up next on the outside stage were acoustic two-piece Torn Out (8/10). All I had heard by them was a rough two-track demo loaned to me by the same promoter who sent me the Jaya the Cat stuff, and I was quite impressed by the way they managed to craft energetic and soulful songs with only two guitars and singer Ben Smith’s gravelly voice. They kept that same feeling of gritty soul throughout their set, and while obviously they were never going to match the other bands on the bill in terms of energy and sonic bombast, they still managed to win over the crowd with a great set. Bassist Steve Knight added an extra dimension to what would have essentially been a solo singer/songwriter project with his clever bass runs and additional shouted backing vocals, but the aspect of Torn Out which sticks out for me is the honest of the lyrics – when Ben sings emphatically ‘We spend our lives chasing lost nights, and we won’t go home until, we know, that, Saturday’s dead to us’ on crowd favourite and set closer ‘Chasing Lost Nights’, you know that it’s coming from somewhere genuine, and it’s not being put on as some kind of act. Much respect.

Back inside, and it was time for the one-off reunion of local scene heroes Drop the Pop (8/10). I’d heard a lot about them but never actually heard a note, so I count myself glad that I managed to catch them for this last-ever show, as I was able to bare witness to their impressive live show. The songs themselves were sometimes difficult to keep up with, veering as they did through several different tempos and time-signatures, but they still proved very entertaining, loaded as they were with plenty of energy and danceability. What also helped was the high technical skill of the three members – singer Jak was a powerhouse singer and let loose many angry noises from his guitar throughout the set, bassist Joe Josland provided neat backing vocals and skillful bass playing, and drummer Josh proved the famous Strummer-ism ‘You’re only as good as your drummer’ 100% correct by flipping between beats and tempos with ease. What also helped was the laugh-out-loud funny stage banter between songs, showing that there appeared to be an easy chemistry between the three members. It is a genuine shame that this is the last we may hear of DTP, as they struck me as a tight and powerful trio capable of great things. Still, as send-offs go, they well and truly head out on a high.

I’m pretty sure I remember The Constant Gs (6/10) featuring next outside, although I may have got them and Torn Out mixed up. Either way, the Gs took to the stage despite missing 2 regular members – guitarist Dan Woodrow and bassist Andy Cherry. The stand-in guitarist, Dave Joseph, had apparently a single day to learn the set, while stand-in bassist Sam Van Leer had all of – wait for it – 20 minutes to do the same thing. Alongside this, drummer Paul Smith had a massive hand in organising the entire all-day event itself. I could easily rip into the Gs, but all factors considered, they actually did a good job. Technically they were sloppy, with the occasional falling out of time here and there, but really, it was the kind of day where you could forgive slip-ups like this, and the band still gave it their all nonetheless, with Paul in particular looking like he was trying to do damage to his kit rather than play it, and they still received a hearty round of applause at the end of their set.

From here until Tyrannosaurus Alan my memory of events is a little hazy, probably because I was looking after a friend outside who was a little worse for wear, and also sharing some drinks with the Submission and friends outside, but I do remember catching a little bit of 7 Day Conspiracy, and thinking that they were very powerful and punky. I’ve defiantly made a note to catch them again sometime, as the little bit I saw of them was certainly promising. I also remember catching a little bit of Beng Beng Cocktail on the outside stage, and thinking ‘what on Earth is that bizarre noise from the stage?’ Again, another band to check out properly sometime in the future. I also missed The Sketch/Call Off the Search, but happily I did manage to pick up one of their free 3-track EPs that were being given out, so I’ll give that a listen and get back to you on that.

By the time Tyrannosaurus Alan (9/10) hit the inside stage, it was starting to get late, and a healthy amount of drinks had been consumed by this stage, which meant that proper, full-on skanking could begin. And if the skank pit that was waiting to happen was the proverbial stick of dynamite, T-Alan were the ones to light the blue touch paper and stand well back. They packed the stage out with a healthy array of horns and saxophones, and proceeded to belt out a set of tight, high-energy ska which got everybody in the room moving. If you’re looking for immediate comparisons, Reel Big Fish come to mind, but for me they seemed to recall the sheer, almost out-of-control ska of such legends as Bad Manners, Big 5 and The Selecter, but, more refreshingly, they created a sound which was very much their own – they blended high-energy punk with ska well, and when you throw in Simon Champ’s often rapped verses, you have a truly unique combination guaranteed to whack a smile on your face and get you moving. If The Submission tapped into the original spirit of punk rock earlier on, then T-Alan certainly dug into the spirit of original ska, to the delight of the crowd (including myself).

Pity The Plan (7.5/10), the last act on the outside stage – not only did they have to follow on from T-Alan’s skankathon, they also had to act as the penultimate act of the evening and provide a warm-up to the night’s biggest act, Jaya the Cat – easier said than done. However, they managed it very nicely with a set of fast-paced ska-punk, often veering more towards the punk end of ska-punk, but still getting the crowd skanking nicely. If I did have a criticism of them, and this is only what prevents them from scoring higher, is that the songs did seem to blend together and all sound the same after a little while, and didn’t have the immediate hook of, say, T-Alan. That’s not to say they were bad songs – they certainly got the crowd moving and using up what was left of their energy, especially in one song where they encouraged a ‘skank-off’, with the winner getting a Plan T-shirt. Guitarists Tom Crabb and Andrew Keech pretty much shared frontman duties between them, and one thing the band as a whole couldn’t be faulted for was their energy – despite the late hour (it was getting on for around half past ten) they still gave a hearty and rip-snorting performance. Hats (or should that be flat-caps, in Keech’s case?) off to them for that, and I look forward to getting hold of some of their studio tracks for a listen.

The all-dayer was at last reaching it’s conclusion, and there was a real sense of excitement around the headliners – the anticipation in the room was all to see. The band in question, of course, was the legendary Jaya The Cat (10/10), and they provided the perfect end to proceedings. Everybody by this stage was tired from lots of dancing (and skanking in some cases), hoarse from shouting and singing, and in some cases pretty drunk, and Jaya provided the ideal finale with a relaxed and mesmeric set of punk-tinged reggae grooves. It’s certainly safe to say that they lived up to the hype surrounding them, and they didn’t miss a beat. Frontman Geoff Lagadec had the audience in the palm of his hand and his gravelled-throated vocals fitted the music perfectly, and he lead from the front. Particular praise must go to the rhythm section of Jeroen Kok (bass) and Dave ‘The Germ’ Germain (drums) for providing a tight yet groovy foundation for Lagadec, guitarist Jordi “Pockets” Nieuwenburg and keyboardist Jan Jaap Onverwagt to build on. Nearly everybody used whatever they had left of their voice to sing along to fan favourite ‘Thank You Reggae’ and, when they did ramp up the energy and tempo, such as on the angry anti-establishment anthem ‘Final Solution’, they did this in impressive style without even breaking sweat. However, they did seem more at home with the slower reggae and even calypso melodies, and to be honest so were the crowd, who had skanked themselves to a standstill by this stage. Also, extra credit must go to Lagadec for the moment when he saw me and a couple of my friends trying to get a whaft of the floor fan he had pointed up at him, knelt down and turned the fan around to face us so we could have a nice cooling off for a few songs. Just as had been done so many times already in the day, the barrier between performer and audience had been smashed, and despite the fact that Jaya were probably the most well-known – certainly internationally – of all the acts playing, they still never came across as aloof rock stars – they were simply a bunch of guys inviting everybody to join in with their punky reggae party, and never was that truer than on the closing track, an extended jammed version of the classic Willie Williams track ‘Armagideon Time’ which brought the event to an amazing close.

So, final thoughts on the near-10 hour marathon of music and mayhem? Fantastic. It was completely free of poseurs or anybody who was simply there because it was ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’ – it was a gathering of people all there to celebrate ska, punk and reggae, drink, dance and have a good time. And that’s exactly what they got. The original spirit of punk rock and ska was alive and well, and I cannot thank enough Local Support Promotions, and especially brothers Mike and Paul Smith, for organising and staging an awesome day’s entertainment, and one of the defining moments of this summer for me.

Same time next year, everyone?

Photos by Ben Thompson and Paul Smith.

I really don’t have to go through the whole back history of Green Day, do I? Breaking out of a small-town punk scene with Dookie, slowly fading after that until resurging with American Idiot – its a story well-trodden. For a protest rock opera, American Idiot had gone down in the charts with all the sales figures of an X-factor pop album. Though the band themselves must have enjoyed the plaudits, the indisputable financial gain and the filling of arenas worldwide it must have put them in a bit of a situation.

So, what you do when you’re a bunch of middle-aged punk rockers still hanging on to those old-skool punk protest ideals but are one of the biggest acts in the world? It appears that they played a definite gamble with the American Idiot formula, now it seems they’re gambling that they can pull it off again. Only listening to the record itself will prove whether they’ve got away with it.
I initially planned to review this as I listened to it for the first time, but that never really materialised, which is quite lucky, because in a maelstrom of nostalgia and love for the ‘Day, I was going to review it very highly. And, to spoil the review somewhat, repeated listens have downgraded my opinion of the album each time, to the point that, from thinking it was a success, I now see it simply as a stinking failure.

Let me explain. I said to myself when starting this review that I wasn’t going to judge it against past albums, but to get a full view of how much of a letdown 21st Century Breakdown is, we are forced to look back at American Idiot, and why it was so great. It wasn’t supposed to work, but it did, chiefly because it felt natural. ‘American Idiot’ crackled with stinging anger and threatened to explode under the sheer weight of venom Billie Joe and the boys were throwing at it. ‘Holiday’ was swashbuckling, ‘St. Jimmy’ the aural equivalent of a severe electric shock and ‘Letterbomb’ summed up everything about Green Day in just over four minutes – fast, loud, and powerful. The MTV favourites – ‘Boulevard…’ and ‘Wake Me Up…’ were both big ballads, packed full of emotion – the former, desolation and loneliness, the latter, sadness of loosing a loved one. The whole rock opera idea worked because there were no weak links, and everything flowed into the next. The story idea worked as well, as not only was it clear what it was about (to a degree), but once you understood what it was about, you could easily find yourself believing in the main character, the proverbial ‘Jesus of Suburbia’. People could relate to the feelings, emotions and experiences laid bare on the album – the barbed criticisms of brash, myopic patriotism in ‘…Idiot’ and ‘Holiday’ not only rang true with Americans, but with Europeans and particularly British people too – its effect was universal.

’21st Century Breakdown’ will, in terms of sales figures, probably reach similar heights as ‘American Idiot’, but I can guarantee that it will not have as much of a lasting impact, simply because it is a poor copy of ‘American Idiot’ itself. Every song appears to swell with a feeling of self-importance and grandiose splendour, but all this does is mean that, in terms of simple listenability, nearly all the songs miss the mark by miles. By trying too hard to replicate what made American Idiot great, Green Day have wound up with something that, when listened to, will not inspire emotion in people – they will simply sit there and shrug.

The warning signs were there from the first single, ‘Know Your Enemy’. Someone I know is quoted as regularly calling it ‘the most generic rock song ever written’, and, although that would be a little harsh, he would have a strong case. Whereas ‘American Idiot’ the single blasted out of speakers and radios and emphatically roused the troops simply by being furious and pulsating, KYE simply tries too hard to cajole the masses – who is the enemy that they speak of? Further regressional tendencies occur on the ‘Viva La Gloria’ duo of songs – tracks 4 and 12 respectively. ‘Viva La Gloria!’ could not try harder to be a slightly more epic and arena-sized rewrite of ‘Letterbomb’ if it tried, and ‘Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)’ recalls some of the better moments off of ‘Warning’ in the form of ‘Misery’ and ‘Blood Sex And Booze’. ’21 Guns’ has ‘Boulevard…’ written all over it, ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ is Holiday with a little more stomp, and the title track is a much watered-down version of Jesus of Suburbia. Green Day cannot expect people to judge this album on it’s own merits if it is so ingrained in the memory of it’s predecessor; it was always going to be tough for them to break out of it and make something that stood alone, nodding to it’s past but having it’s own identity, but it doesn’t even felt like they’ve tried – it’s almost as if they’re happy recycling the A.I. formula, track by track, even at times note by note, and rack up another million billion record sales. Some of the other tracks are just poor altogether – songs such as ‘Restless Heart Syndrome’ and ‘Last Night on Earth’ fail to pass muster despite the tonnes and tonnes of strings and Pro Tools trickery thrown at them.

Okay, you think, so some of the tunes aren’t really up to scratch, let’s have a read through the lyrics. But again, we are destined for disappointment. Trying to plough through 21st C.B.’s weighty lyric booklet is like trying to walk down a hallway which has been flooded with toffee and fudge – you’re bound to get dragged down, and end up scratching your head and wondering what the hell Billie Joe is on about. ‘Last of the American Girls’ is a prime example – ‘She rides her bike like a fugitive of critical mass’. Whatever kind of social observation or criticism of American life Billie Joe is trying to get across, it just falls flat on its face. Not only has the music gone up a gear in terms of aloofness and arrogance, but so has the lyrics, to such an extent that no emotional investment can be made whatsoever in any of the songs – the listener is simply left wondering what on Earth is being said, let alone whether he or she believes in it or understands it.

The criticism does not end there. Despite being the same length, roughly in minutes, as A.I., it feels overlong and weighty. As epic track after epic track comes out of the speakers, it can feel like a bombardment, a sensory overload. It wouldn’t matter too much if you had something to actually listen to, but when it’s endless stadium-rock-sized riffs and Billie Joe’s self-indulgent ranting, it just becomes a bit of a white noise. What single-handedly salvages some credibility from this album, however, is Green Day themselves. They are such good songwriters as a unit that the law of averages dictates that, even when they are writing average stuff, every so often they will produce a gem. ‘Christian’s Inferno’, ‘The Static Age’, ‘Murder City’, parts of ‘Before the Lobotomy’ (from about 1:20 to 3:30), most of ‘American Eulogy’ (despite the pretentious title) and the middle bit of the title track (from 2:13 to 4:13) are awesome, and so long as long as you largely ignore the lyrics, they manage to extract some sort of fist-pumping energy from the listener. The undisputed best track on the album, however, is ‘Peacemaker’. Fast-paced and dominated by slightly Latin-sounding acoustic guitars and a trademark Mike Dirnt bassline, the song rattles along at a great pace, and Billie Joe’s lyrics hit the mark perfectly, with it’s overriding theme of extremism and paranoia giving the song a slightly disturbing edge amidst the James Bond-sounding swishes of strings that flit in and out, and the duelling lead guitar solo at the middle eight. It’s not because it’s different to anything Green Day have done before that sets it apart on this album – it is simply because it is simple, imaginative, and provokes genuine emotion within the listener. Plus the fact that you will be humming it for the rest of the day.

The fact is that, if you discard some of the weighty ballads, trim down some of the remaining songs, and possibly throw in one of the B-sides from the Know Your Enemy single, the excellent and zippy ‘Lights Out!’ (find it if you can – it is fantastic), Green Day would have had a good album to release. Not great, and certainly not fantastic on the same level as A.I., but good. As it stands, they have what is trying so, so hard to be a fantastic record, but collapses under it’s own self-indulgent and excessive weight and ends up at around average level. And for this record to be called average signals a massive failure on Green Day’s part.

Album Details
Label: Reprise Records
Release Date: May 15th 2009
Rating: 5/10
Standout tracks: Peacemaker, The Static Age, American Eulogy.

Words by Adam Johnson