EP Review :: Spraynard – Exton Square

“…the band and their sound is maturing in real time, but holding onto what made them great in the first place.”

With their debut album, Funtitled, Spraynard – an American trio who can be best described as fusing the careful intricacies and passion of 90’s emo with all that is carefree and great about traditional pop-punk – cast me back to being 14 and listening to Weezer’s Blue Album.

That record is a collection of fast-paced upbeat songs about comic books, video games, generally lacking direction and being totally fine with the fact. This best summed up on their own words – in a line delivered as well as it is written – “Today I will prove that I’m more than a collection of comic books or a high score on the screen”. It’s an incredibly uplifting record that I could (and quite possibly should) go on about at length, alas this is a review of the new EP, sorry!

Exton Square opens with ‘Can I Borrow A Feeling?’, and for the first 78 seconds you might wonder if you’ve indeed put on a Spraynard record. It leads in with a slow and somewhat sensitive opening, something which many who were expecting the EP to simply be an extension of their debut would never have expected. This is quite quickly put to bed and the song continues in much more the fashion we’ve come to expect. This theme however is quite consistent throughout, and its one of the things I enjoy most about the EP. It’s definitely a Spraynard record, they’ve kept a lot of what made their earlier stuff great but they’ve also been able to develop their sound with fantastic results.

Listened to along side the previous release it really feels like a natural progression for the band. In the same way that Funtitled reminded me of youthful times of optimism, Exton Square reminds me of looking back on those times with a sense of nostalgia, and perhaps feeling the ill effects of growing up. It suggests that the band and their sound is maturing in real time, but holding onto what made them great in the first place. (It might be contradictory at this point to mention that my favourite tracking “Trembling” is probably the most closely matched to the style of their earlier records, but I don’t care.)

The style, structure and feeling of the new EP is so intriguing, the evolution of the sound leads to something of a cliffhanger as to what’s to come next. Sadly this sense of intrigue meant that I found it to be a little short, there are only 4 tracks and from a band that writes predominantly concise songs, it almost feels over too soon. This could perhaps be a very clever marketing ploy for a new full length release, but seeing as I didn’t see J. J. Abrams name in the album production credits I doubt it and so I was left feeling that perhaps there could have been a bit more content.

That said, there’s nothing to stop me putting it on again, and I think that’s what I’ll do.

– John Dykes

Album Review :: Matt Skiba & The Sekrets – Babylon

“…it’s standard Matt Skiba fare with an emphasis on the emotional, the morose and the morbid.”

Having already got one new side-project under his belt for 2012, it was surprising to see Matt Skiba announce that he’d be releasing a full length with, new band, The Sekrets. Though considered a “solo-ish” outing from the Alkaline Trio vocalist/guitarist, Skiba enlisted Hunter Burgan (AFI) and Jarrod Alexander (My Chemical Romance) to help him out with this latest foray into the world of post-punk.

I say it’s a post-punk record, but it still contains a lot of the elements that endeared Skiba to punk fans for the past fifteen-plus years. Unlike his previous effort with Heavens, the record is a lot more upbeat and will sound familiar to fans of his work with The Trio. The addition of a synth and some light vocal effects – mainstays of that late 70s/early 80s post-punk sound – stand out as the the biggest difference between Babylon and newer recorded material. This is no bad thing, and there were times I felt that some of Agony & Irony and This Addiction may have been better served as part of this project.

Lyrically, it’s standard Matt Skiba fare with an emphasis on the emotional, the morose and the morbid, which fit well with the haunting synth tracks that lurk in the background of each song. Though even Skiba can’t be spot on all the time. ‘Luciferian Blues’ and ‘Falling Like Rain’ are the two weakest lyrical efforts on the album, with the latter definitely being the worst track on the record. There’s just a bit too much of that synth and it sounds like a bad 90s dance track.

At it’s worst it’s pretty bad, but there’s a lot to love here. ‘Voices’ and ‘All Fall Down’ make for a great opening to the record and ‘How The Hell Did We Get Here’ is absolutely fantastic. It’s tracks like these that combine the pop, punk, electro and post-punk influences the best and justify the reason for this record’s existence. With that said, despite of its post-punk roots and the clear influence of Joy Division and New Order, it’s not all that downbeat. Skiba still has a knack for making you want to sing along with him, even when it comes to the darkest of subjects.

In fact, it’s actually quite a fun record and feels like the natural progression of what Matt wanted to do with Heavens. Some may scoff that Matt’s not exactly stepped too far out of his comfort zone here, but that doesn’t mean him and the band haven’t made a really good record. It’s punky, poppy and morbid in equal measure, and definitely worth your time.

Podcast :: UTB #35: We’re Going On Tour With Soundgarden Too!

“If you see an old woman on the street…hit her with a crowbar” – Ian Critchley

The subject of Carol Vorderman is firmly off the table for this week’s Under The Bridge, we’re sticking to the music talk. Thank christ for that! This week Emma Hallows tells us all about her recent tour with Dave Hughes, we discuss hypothetical meetings between penguins and polar bears and are asked the question “What is Cliff Richard doing right now?”

This week’s music is provided by Great Cynics, Martha, Harker and The Menzingers. No excuse for this being late. Barlow (eds note: honestly) just forgot we’d done it. It was edited, ready to go, and everything!

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #35: We’re Going On Tour With Soundgarden Too!

Gig Review :: Brand New – Academy 1, Manchester – 09/02/12

© 2012 Tom Bailey

“…the audience calm, and cling to every word, eventually taking over singing the song like a drunken choir, and seemingly putting Lacey off his lyrics. But who cares, the mans a legend.”

As the first chords of ‘Welcome to Bangkok’ ring out, myself, and I would imagine most of the crowd, are suddenly 14 again. Taken back to that place in time we first fell for Brand New, reminded of our teen loves and broken hearts, the band being the sound track to those drunken underage parties and our disenchanted younger years. Very few bands from my teen years still appeal to me, but Brand New explain why my love for them is so strong through the course of the show.

Looking around the room as the anticipation builds I find myself as another mismatch in a room full of variety. From 14 year olds in brand new Brand New shirts, to the Wiccan odd ball in front off me, to people like myself the post-emo veterans holding on to youth with white knuckles and teary eyes.

The atmosphere was electric as the band stepped on stage and began “Welcome to Bangkok”, ploughing through to ‘The Archers Bows have Broken’, ‘Millstone’, and ‘Sowing Season’ until there was a problem with Derick Shermans guitar we the  found Jesse filling the time with talk of his day in Manchester, explaining his great “Luncheon” and the fact that they have spent all day napping, he is a very humble and seemingly shy character (hidden bellow a baggy beanie) and despite the chat only being a filler for an onstage mishap the crowd are transfixed with what he has to say. As Derrick’s guitar comes back to life, Jesse apologises for wearing the same clothes tonight as he has for the last two shows, “I smell good though” he reassures us.

As we get to the fifth song, the crowd are gripped by the throbbing bass line of ‘Vices’ and are whipped up into frenzy. Moving onto ‘Sink’ another bass heavy beast of a song we can see just how great a bassist Garret Tierney really is ripping in to his bass with endless energy.

Rolling on to ‘Sic transit Gloria… Glory Fades’ the band are joined by a riot of vocals from the audience, followed up by ‘Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ the whole first verse taken over by the audience, the band seeming stunned by this looking at each other with confussed faces. A nice reminder that the band don’t quite realise just how good they really are.

The bands stage show was perfect, understated lighting and dry ice, nothing fancy just us and them, the way a good rock show should be. Yet another reason to see them live, it’s all about the music.

As ‘Jude Law and a Semester Abroad’ got started the room erupted once more in to a fury, not a body in the place wasn’t dancing. Following up with ‘Seventy Times 7’ only added to the atmosphere. Again taking people back to 2002 with the emo anthem.

Pausing at this point to ask the crowd ‘Play Crack the Sky’ or ‘Soco Amaretto Lime?’ Jesse asks for a clap vote, ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’ being the unanimous winner, the audience calm, and cling to every word, eventually taking over singing the song like a drunken choir, and seemingly putting Lacey off his lyrics. But who cares, the mans a legend.

Working through ‘Limousine’ to ‘Jesus’ we again find the crowd taking over the show to the bands delight. “Jesus Christ that’s a pretty face” bellowing from the moving mass of bodies.
As the show draws to a close we get ‘Degausser’ and finally ‘You Won’t Know’. With a towel over his head Lacey is an ominous presence on stage, considering the haunting Echo and the Bunny Men style to the tune, the tone drops and once again we are all hypnotised by Lacey’s presence. As the bass and drums pick up we are once more consumed with the need to dance, and we do, en masse! The whole room once again and for the last time turbulent and exhaustedly dancing like it is the last night on earth. As the song trails off the rest band quietly leave stage leaving Jesse behind to drop to his knees for the final solo then knock the mic stand over and throw his guitar through the drum kit.

A quick nervous “We will see you next year” and mention of a new album coming up excites the crowd and, with that, Jesse leaves the stage. The house lights suddenly blind us all and we quickly realise there will be no encore, a little disappointing given how good a show it has been. A large knot in my chest had me hoping in vane that they might come back with an acoustic and bring us to climax with ‘I Will play my Game Beneath the Spin Light’ or ‘Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot’. Missing ‘Guernica’ also left a few people disappointed but what will be will be, despite the lack of encore and a missing favourite the crowd leave sweaty and entirely satisfied, already buzzing with talk of next years gig.

Glory Fades… but not for Brand New, I am exited and refreshed, looking forward to what lies ahead for the talented gents from Long Island.

– Nick Matthew

Songs To Cure Depression :: Sum 41 – ‘Rhythms’

“Since You Found Me Out.”

I’d hit rock bottom again, after a Saturday to Tuesday binge which totalled around 90 hours of drinking (with six for sleep) I’d awoke with a headache that felt like a pneumatic drill to the temple and a pain in my stomach that mimicked how I imagine the pain of a flesh eating virus would feel. I spent the next few days lay almost-comatose, feeling sorry for myself and vowing that I would, from now on, sober the hell up, work harder on my writing, and pull myself out of the pit oblivion that is, depression. But thinking, or even saying these things out loud, doesn’t necessarily make them happen and this is where music often steps in.

But what music would pull me out of the dark and make me start smiling again? It was all so obvious, cheesy pop punk from Canada. They’re upbeat, fun, good to dance to, and they also have a shit hot drummer. Sum 41 are a band, and even though (in this writers opinion) they’ve deteriorated musically recently with their new adult approach to the pop punk fix, All Killer No Filler still stands out as one of the greatest pop punk albums of the 20th century. Rhythms is a crucial song in clarifying all of the above points, with a great drum track, fun catchy vocal rhythms and all in all, a damn fine feel good vibe throughout the almost 3 minutes of three quarter length punk inspired pop.
I also thought it might be nice to make this a bit of a Spanish lesson as there was no official video for this track.

Podcast :: Under The Bridge #33: Check My Kurt Cobain Cover

“Me and Oli Wood will punch each other in the face and punk rock will end” – Ian Critchley

The latest Under The Bridge has everything you could possibly want from a podcast. Well maybe not everything, but it’s pretty much all there. We’ve attempted to be funny, we dragged Emma Hallows in to be our guest again and we’re playing new tunes from the likes of theHell, Sharks and Above Them. As per usual it’s not for the faint hearted, but I doubt there’s many out there that can resist the charms of Moon & Back’s dynamic duo.

Alongside the new music and general offensiveness, we also answer some questions from the community and have really ‘deep’ discussions on a number of topics including predicting how punk rock will end! Do you know what you’re looking forward to in 2012? Neither do we! We had a go at trying to hype some stuff up though. Tell us if it worked by emailing us at utbcast [at] gmail [dot] com, or by messaging us on Facebook and Twitter.

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #33: Check My Kurt Cobain Cover

Moon & Back Session :: Into It. Over It.

Ladies and gentlemen…Into It. Over It.

The idea of having artists do “sessions” for Moon & Back is an idea we’ve been throwing around for a while. Today, that idea comes to fruition. Into It. Over It. performed in Manchester last night, so we asked Evan if he’d be kind enough to record a couple of songs for us. He obliged and completely blew us away.

First up, he performs a fantastic version of, his own, ‘Augusta, GA’ (taken from the album Twelve Towns). He followed that with a brilliant cover of Iron Chic’s ‘Bustin’ (Makes Me Feel Good). Be sure to let us know who you’d like to see do a ‘Moon & Back Session’ and, if they’re on tour somewhere near us, we’ll do our best to track them down. I hope you enjoy this. We’ve got a few more lined up and would love to keep bringing these to you on a semi-regular basis.

All footage was shot and edited by, our in house video team, Dicking Around Productions. Check them out here.

Augusta, GA

Bustin’ (Makes Me Feel Good)

Single Review :: Funeral For A Friend – Broken Foundation

“…a highlight of the band’s career”

Funeral For A Friend are back with the third single to be released of their latest album, the brilliant ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’. Broken Foundation is a return to form for the welsh rockers that will keep both new and older fans happy.

On the heals of ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves’, weaker and softer tunes left the band stuck in the ‘emo’ trap and competing with pop-punk bands instead of staying to their roots. Thankfully they refused to conform any longer and are back and better than ever.

Indeed this is a return to the band’s first two albums – heavy and in your face. But it’s built on the wealth of experience accumulated over the years by the post-hardcore veterans on how to create great melodies and memorable choruses. The only problem is that this track typically starts off so fast-paced that it doesn’t get the opportunity to build up into something bigger – instead staying at the same pace throughout.

That being said, the blistering guitar work combined with the blend of singing and screaming makes this a highlight of the band’s career and one of the better songs they have come up with in the recent years and an instant post-hardcore anthem.

Album Review :: Thursday – No Devolución

“Think War All The Time in a really big bath tub.”

Okay, so this album came out over a month ago, so admittedly, this review is a little belated. No Devolución is the sixth studio album from New Jersey’s finest, Thursday, and sees the band take a different step from their usual post-hardcore stylings.

Now it’s clear from the first listen the album is a completely different sound to that of their previous efforts, but it is still Thursday. As far as instrumentation goes, there are clear instances of experimentation, mainly in the workings of keyboardist Andrew Everding, though these seem to fall mainly on the introductions to most tracks, after that it’s business as usual with verses filled with arpeggiated guitars which crescendo into hard hitting choruses.

It is clear from the get go that one of two things have happened, either Thursday have fallen into the trap of the studio magic demon known as auto-tune or vocalist Geoff Rickly has been working tremendously had on his technique, I hope and believe it is the latter. No Devolución sees Rickly push past the almost cliché “emo-whine” style singing and into a full fledged front man with a great grasp on everything from complex melodies to highly effective uses of falsetto. This album, in terms of vocal skill, is Geoff Rickly’s finest.

What really makes this album unique in comparison to their previous works in the production. Instead of the usual tough, crunchy quite raw sound the band have instead vouched for a much more ambient and almost sub-bass style. This is unfortunately, the downfall of the record. Though Thursday have always had an element of the avant-garde about them, No Devolución pushed this too far and attempts to find a marriage of post-hardcore song writing and atmospheric production, à la Sigur Rós, this gives an interesting outcome in terms of experimentation but ends up playing down on factors that make Thursday the band they are. The main example of this being the vocals which, though as previously said are great in terms of technique, due to the heavy use of reverb results in a very muddy sound. Thursday have always been revered for Rickly’s intrinsic lyrical content, which deals with dark issues coated in idiosyncratic metaphors, this is no doubt the same on No Devolución but the bizarre production techniques makes it much harder for the listener to pick the lyrics out. Think War All The Time in a really big bath tub. The album as far as studio technique and use of effect goes, has a lot of similarities to that of Glassjaw’s recent E.P Coloring Book, perhaps this pairing of post-hardcore/ambient/dub elements is the inevitable future of this genre.

No Devolución is by no means Thursday’s best album, it doesn’t even compare to an album like Full Collapse, but it isn’t a bad record by all means. It boils down to what is technically referred to as a “Marmite situation.” Listeners looking for a more melodic, ambient Thursday will love it. People looking for a more raw, old school sounding album, probably won’t.

Interview :: Geoff Rickly (Thursday)

“My dream is to start a Chuck Ragan fishing show”- Geoff Rickly

Before they headed off to Belgium for the madness of Groezrock, Thursday dropped in on the UK to play three dates in support of, their new album, No Devolucion…kinda. Before the show at Manchester’s Academy 3, we chatted to, frontman, Geoff Rickly about working with Epitaph, the state of New Jersey, Chuck Ragan’s many talents and we even brought him some socks to help ease the perils of tour.