EP Review :: Frank Turner – Rock & Roll

“Who’d have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll could save us all?”

How Frank found time to make this is beyond me. The man has spent the majority of 2010 on the road (so what else is new?), touring Europe, America and even China, yet he still managed to put out a new record. This five track EP encompasses everything Frank Turner is about. It’s a perfect introduction for the uninitiated, but won’t leave the  hardcore wanting, either.

Rock & Roll is a record full of tributes. It feels like Frank’s way of letting people know how much certain people and things – past or present – mean to him. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some sappy, emo-tinged cry along. This is the Frank Turner we all know and love and these five new tracks are fantastic. The record opens with ‘I Still Believe’, Frank’s tribute to musical greats like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a song full of passion and power that can’t be ignored, helped by the fact that it’s catchy as hell too! Anyone who’s seen one Frank’s shows of late will have undoubtedly heard this and chanted along with it’s chorus.  It might take a while, but soon enough you won’t be able to get it out of your head. It’s a real feel good song that follows a tried and true formula. Such a great way to open up a record.

‘Pass It Along’ is a track some will have heard before, and it’s probably my favorite track on here. For me, the whole sentiment of the record was captured in this line: “So here’s to Ragan, and here’s to Marwood. Here’s to Tim, and Jonah too. Here’s to the ones who have to take the stage and sing the truth.” This is a shout out to people just like him. Musicians who go out there and do it, not because they have to, because they want to. It’s a more stripped down track, something that lends itself perfectly to the subject matter. Ben, Matt, Tarrant and Nigel are still there, but they provide more of a subtle backing for Frank more than anything.

Those looking for something completely stripped down will find that in ‘Rock and Roll Romance’. It’s the shortest track on the record, but maybe the most poignant. Perhaps it’s the subject matter? Perhaps it’s Frank’s hushed tones? Maybe it’s a mixture of both? What I do know is that it’s a heartfelt love story told in less than two minutes. Anyone who says Frank can’t write a love song is wrong and this should set them straight.

Considering the tone of the EP thus far, ‘To Absent Friends’ came as quite a surprise. Granted, ‘I Still Believe’ packs a punch, but this one almost knocked me out of my chair. Starting out with just Frank and an acoustic, the track builds into a fast paced crescendo that just made me want to run somewhere (with this in my headphones, of course). As the title suggests, this is about another friend of Frank’s and is a tribute anyone would be proud of. This track in particular shows just how versatile Frank and his band can be, and that fast paced rock tracks can co-exist wonderfully with the regular folk-style stuff fans have come to expect.

Closing the album is ‘The Next Round’, an ode to the bottle and those who drink from it. This is probably the closest to a typical ‘folk’ song as you’re going to get from this EP and it’s calming melody works as a great finish to the record. Simple, subtle instrumentation provides the perfect backing to Frank’s soothing vocal throughout before it, again, rises up to create the perfect feel good ending.

If this is a teaser of what’s to come next from FT, then I can’t wait. Rock & Roll showcases just how great songwriting and production can come together to create a masterpiece. It shows how the range in Frank’s music has broadened, but it retains the simplicity that first drew me and many others in. Disregard Frank Turner at your peril!

EP Review :: Under Stars & Gutters – Soundtrack To This City

After a successful tour with The Lawrence Arms, Irish punk band, Under Stars & Gutters have released, their first EP, Soundtrack To This City, just in time for a forthcoming tour of the American East Coast.

Starting out with ‘We Want Control’ US&G reveal their punk side with both with its title and lyrics. The band set a high standard for the rest of the EP and establish a blend of guitar, bass and drums to call their own. Whilst the chaotic intro wasn’t all that amazing, when it slows down the track starts to really shine. Short instrumentals and better sounding vocals are what really make this song worth listening to. ‘3167’ – a love song with a fast heavy beat – works well. Definitely one of the better songs on the EP.  ‘Just Like A Movie’ is a real highlight of this record. The instrumental half way through is brilliant in it’s own right, and helps break up and redefine US&G’s sound. Of all the songs included, ‘If You Met Drama’ stands out the most and, in my opinion is, the best here. A catchy chorus helps this song shine out above the rest. ‘This City’ sounds lacking compared to the others and, for me, is the most average song here.

Overall ‘Soundtrack to this city’ is a solid first release. Despite some songs seeming a little average, it definitely has some songs that you’ll have on repeat time and time again.  The EP is available to download here for free.

EP Review :: Well Wisher

If you never thought a “Happy-go lucky” emo record would ever exist. Well it does. This is it.

Well Wisher made their Moon and Back debut in “Going Underground” and now they are back with their long awaited E.P. Four slices of dulcet post-hardcore, with heartfelt lyrics and corny song names. Truly a deadly combination.

This release doesn’t wait around, before the first second elapses on opener ‘Fill Me, Filmy’ the listener is already drawn into the tornado that is Well Wisher. Though probably not intentional, there are a lot of catchy line within this song. Vocal lines like, “I dragged the ocean, under seven leagues of shit,” will surely have a bunch of nerdy comic book reading virgins damaging their vocal chords at future Well Wisher shows.

The intensity decreases momentarily for the most part of second track ‘Pegwarmers’ (what is with these song names?) This track is more reminiscent of early 90’s “emo” which the band clearly draw from heavily for inspiration. The musicality of the band can not be shunned, the guitar riffs are intricate and draw the listener into the darker depths of the sound. As much fun as their is within the band and their music, it is clear they are not just “fucking about,” there is more talent in the art these five guys make then in any other band I have seen in the past few years.

‘Tops Off’ would probably be the single if there was one released. It is the most accessible and ‘poppy track’ on the record, but this is by no means a low point on this four track E.P. Quite the contrary. With a heavy feel of the band Cursive, the third instalment will definitely be a crowd favourite if it is not already. A great sing along track that would easily have been at the forefront of a music scene now unfortunately pushed further underground.

The E.P ends with ‘White Krunk’, a great finale which twists, turns and tickles the cochlea of any who listen. It builds into a mass insanity of beautiful noise and is the perfect end to a bloody good E.P. I was afraid the closing words of the review would be something along the lines of, “it doesn’t quite catch the atmosphere of their live shows,” how wrong I was.

Spot On.

Be sure to check out Well Wisher on MySpace. You can download this EP from their BandCamp.

Advance EP Review :: Kelly Kemp & Bangers/El Morgan & The Arteries

What happens when you combine two Southsea songstress’ with two awesome punk bands?

For many artists the split EP (or EP’s in general) are a thing of the past. Thankfully they’re still a factor in the underground music scene, helping promote new bands and introduce people to acts they otherwise might have passed by. I mean, Without Alkaline Trio’s iconic split with Hot Water Music, the sultry tones of Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard might have eluded me for even longer (cheers, Ian). That’s exactly what’s happened here.

I was introduced to El Morgan back in May when she toured with Austin Lucas and I, along with many others in that pub cellar, immediately became a fan. When I found out she was putting out some new material, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The fact that this was a collaborative effort was icing on the cake. Unlike the Trio, my love of El’s music had given me three new artists to listen to. I’d heard of everyone included on this record before, but had never really checked them out. As per usual, I find out I should’ve been listening to these guys a long time ago and feel like a fool.

This type of collaborative effort is something I’m not familiar with. Maybe I’ll sound like even more of a fool, but this combination seems rather original. Four artists – two singer/songwriters and two bands – paired up to collaborate on a record. It intrigued me to say the least, especially considering I was a fan of the El/Arteries tracks in their original form. The outcome is great.

El’s tracks have a harder edge than the acoustic originals. The main vocal is delivered with a ferocity I’m not used to hearing from her, and it took me a few listens to properly appreciate them. The addition of The Arteries turns simple, melodious, acoustic songs into fast paced punk anthems. ‘Ballroom’ is probably my favorite of El’s tracks, and a good bit slower than ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’, so I was really interested in how this would turn out. I was really impressed – as I was with all four tracks – but the way this track slowly builds before revealing it’s true punk colours made it for me. I still have a soft spot for the originals though.

Kelly’s songs are one’s I’m less familiar with and I think that made them an easier listen. I wasn’t constantly thinking about another version, like I was with the other two. The former NoComply singer really shows her range here. ‘Bridges Over Broken Hearts’ is my favorite of the four tracks. I still haven’t got it’s sing along hook out of my head. ‘The Great Fall Down’ is just as good. Both tracks have got a great 90’s punk feel to them. They’re fun, sing-a-long songs that’ll stick with you for a while. If you’re a punk fan and want something new and interesting to listen to, you won’t go wrong with this.

The EP is released on 7″ on October 11th. You can buy it at Specialist Subject Records and get the MP3s now.