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

Interview :: Dave Hause

“I’m feeling tired, but blessed…” – Dave Hause

After an awesome run of shows in the UK last year on The Revival Tour, Dave Hause has been back in the UK with Dear & Departed and Alkaline Trio. I met with the singer/songwriter/Loved Ones frontman in London during the Trio’s set at their, sold out, Camden Barfly show to talk about everything from a new record, to his 7″ record project, to Laura Jane Grace. There’s also a number of cameos from the people of London, some of whom were apologetic for their interview interruptions.

Anyway, check out this interview and expect Dave to be back before 2012 is out. He seems to like it here.

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.

Songs To Cure Depression :: Ween – ‘Bananas And Blow’

“Stuck in my Cabana…”

This has been lifted straight from my blog so what does that tell us exactly?
Either I’m getting terribly lazy or the words already wrote were a perfect fit. In all honesty I think it’s both but the latter being more of a fluke then any kind of premeditated scheme. Anyway, that ugly, ugly, bastard know as depression was here biting at my nut sack again and even though the song really has fuck all with the current situation, it did briefly alleviate the grim feeling of melancholy. Here’s some additional words to go with those above.

It’s probably a good idea to do this while the adrenaline is still flowing through my body. I’m back off the drink again after falling back into it over the past week due to (or perhaps resulting in) finding myself in quite a dark place again.

But the adrenaline helps.

Even if all I want to do is sleep.

I guess I should make some kind of actual point here.

For the past few years I’ve spent my time honing a skill that has helped me throughout my days. This metaphorical tough skin that allows me to detach myself from any negative situation and just carry on with things. It prevented me from being getting bit in the arse by bad people, bad women, pretty much anything (the day I learn to use this technique to the same effect but for the bad feelings coming from within, shit, well that’ll be the day the apocalypse rears it’s slimy head and blows us all the fucking smithereens).

So who would have thought that my special ability would, in fact, bite me in the arse? Sometimes being an emotionally handicapped, socially inept, closed off freak isn’t a good thing. Especially when something (someone) good comes along and you find yourself going through the old routines of alienation and complacency instead of tearing down the self-constructed walls of reclusion and allowing yourself to be an actual damn human being and stop pretending you don’t give a crap.

It’s a scary prospect, this reintroduction into the wild.

To admit to caring.

To realise you’ll probably get broken down all over again, but giving it a shot anyway.

I’m a real fuck up and I’ll make a plethora of mistakes along the way.

But I’m willing to give it a shot.

Just gotta keep those digits crossed in hope this irrational fear of attachment hasn’t fucked it when it being fucked is the worst possible outcome.

Album Review :: OFF! – OFF!

“It just feels like they tried too hard to recreate that iconic 80’s hardcore sound.”

The First Four EPs saw, punk supergroup, OFF! come out with a bang. The songs were hard, fast, and over before you could get your mind around them. A fantastic throwback to the likes of Black Flag (of whom Keith Morris was the original vocalist) and The Minutemen, this release was unexpected and surprisingly fresh sounding. Their debut full length continues where those EPs left off. We get sixteen songs in as many minutes, all of them that little bit lacking.

Though it definitely contains all of the original hardcore punk conventions, there’s a distinctly contemporary sound to each track. Part of this comes down to certain instrumental differences – the intro of ‘King Kong Brigade’ certainly wouldn’t be at home on a typical 80’s hardcore record – and part of this comes down to the production. It’s clear that the end goal was to make the record sound more ‘raw’ and underproduced. However, this is rarely subtle and I often found myself thinking more about the production of a particular song than the song itself. That’s saying a lot when the majority of the tracks are less than a minute long.

That being said, I have very little else against this record. I mean, the lyrics can get sketchy at times and it’s often off-putting how ‘clean’ Keith’s vocals are compared to the rest of the track (like I said, the production is less than impressive), but I don’t regret taking the sixteen minutes out of my day to check this out. It just feels like they tried too hard to recreate that iconic 80’s hardcore sound.

If you’re a fan of old school hardcore punk, you could certainly pick worse when it comes to checking out a new band. Just be mindful of the fact that, despite the people involved, this isn’t going to sound the same as all those older bands you love.

Album Review :: Tim Barry – 40 Miler

“Is Tim Barry the Larry David of the punk scene?”

When the punks go ‘acoustic’, it seems they head down one pre-defined path – they play punk music with an acoustic guitar. Now I’ve no problem with that, but they really stand out when they do something a little more unexpected. For me, Tim Barry is one of the few that veered off the beaten track. The former Avail frontman, swapped the harshness of punk for a, more mellow, country sound. Though he’s certainly not ‘gone soft’.

Well known for his story-telling style, Barry enchants the listener with tales of small towns, friends and adventure. Some of these you might have heard of – references to a couple of characters named Frank and Brian make up the opening to the title track, and there’s even a whole song about, Lucero’s, Todd Beene – and others you won’t. Still, he makes you feel like you’re right there alongside him throughout and you experience a lot and run the emotional gamut when you’re riding with Tim. Driver Pull’ – a song about dealing with life and all its inherent problems – showcases a much sombre side of the Virginia native, whereas ‘Amen’ will have you singing along in no time.

Similarly, ‘Fine Foods Market’ shows Barry at his most satirical. The entire song is a comment on the current ‘scene’, with a particular focus on the falseness of hipsters. It worked as a perfect palette cleanser for all of the more downbeat tracks on the album, and might actually be my favourite. Again it draws on Barry’s own experiences, as he looks back on his life and compares it to what he sees in the youth of today. Though it could come across as slightly curmudgeonly, it is delivered with such style and humor that you can’t help but love it. Is Tim Barry the Larry David of the punk scene?

Such quick changes in tone did tend to stop the record from flowing quite as well as it could have, but this is a minor gripe when you take the quality of the songs into account. The switch from acoustic to electric and back again had a similar effect, but the changes in instrumentation certainly make for a more interesting sonic experience.

Still, there’s no doubt in my mind that 40 Miler is Tim Barry’s best release to date. As with everything he’s put out, the songs are steeped in truth and adventure and provide a fantastic look into the world of a very interesting man. Not only that, but songs like ‘Hobo Lullaby’ have helped establish, in my mind at least, that Barry is one of the best songwriters around today. Though there’s a little bit of filler here and there, on the whole, it’s a pretty fantastic record. It can bring you down, but never fails to pull you back up again. If you like sober thoughts and singalongs, this is the record for you.

Don’t Panic :: Two Days with Daddy

“Drinking it down tasted like sucking off an angel and, finally, the world seemed right.”

It was the fourth day I hadn’t drank after an almost day to day two (or maybe three?) month binge, so insomnia was in full force. Yesterday the shakes had set in and I’d spent the past, at least 72 hours petering on the edge of a full scale panic catastrophe. But fuck all that, the brink of oblivion could wait because, tonight, I was off to Leeds to watch Dr. FeelGood famed, Wilko Johnson.

We drove down and, after much trouble, found the venue after parking in what looked like a U.S. Ghetto (the housing was poor, this is not a racial statement) and staggered around in the heavy rain until we (quite accidentally) rounded a corner and was slap bang outside the damn place. We entered, my father and I, giving our names to the burly security and being given AAA guestlist passes. Finally, I thought, some goddamn recognition. The name on the pass wasn’t right and it was my actions or position as a maniacal journalist that had got us these passes, but still…recognition. My father was an old friend of Wilko and the band and had booked a full week off work to drive about the various locations and watch some shows, it was a good week for old-time rock and roll.

We headed backstage and I still hadn’t had a drink. There was a bar, I had some money, but I was determined to stay sober. The fear of the reaper had crept back upon me and, though the drink was a short term solution for the dark demonic hand of depression and anxiety, I was going to try to fight this in the long term, not the short. The backstage area was a tiny room, more a corridor, filled with old cinema chairs. For a group of artists with as much musical history as these three (with both bass player Norman and drummer Dylan having played in the Blockheads, among others) I was surprised to see such squalid conditions.

We all hung around there, myself, my father, the band, along with manager Bob, and said very little to each other, which was fine. I didn’t feel much like talking anyway and it was just nice to be in the company of such talented people. Wilko spent the time reading on a kindle, Dylan warmed up banging sticks on a hit pad and Norman came in and out, occasionally heading back to the van to get high.

The opening act tore into their set and I considered being a professional, a real journalist, but instead decided sitting in this dank hole with some of the U.K’s greatest musical minds. The opening act sounded great even from back here, intrinsic melodies being churned out on guitar, bringing the old blues sound and giving it a fresh kick in the balls. It was like the best of the blues mixed with indie-rock (and I know most indie rock sucks, but believe me, this worked.) The band was called Virgil & the Accelerators and the only downfall of their set (apart from being unable to see them) was a 20minute long “slow blues” song that I thought would continue until the damn apocalypse started to commence. The vocalist thanked the audience but from my position in the backstage area this was muffled and sounded like a Elvis Presley impression coming through a supermarket P.A. “aaaaahh, thankyaverymuch.”

Wilko and band took to the stage and, beside (with the exception of the youthful looking Dylan) looking like a pensioners day trip, played with the energy of a trio of ecstasy fuelled disco teens. Wilko has the facial features of a crack-addled duck and this add tremendously to his haunting stage presence which he has perfected over the past thirty eight years of performing live (achieving this, mostly, by going bald and looking like the fucking grim-reaper.) The man who inspired bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin was now playing clubs that fit around 500 instead of 10,000. This may be a bad thing financially for the band but it’s a great pleasure for the audience who are able to stand in perspirations distance from arguably the most influential man associated with guitars since Leo Fender. But Wilko wasn’t the only one with a loyal following, it seemed a large portion of the audience were there entirely for Norman (it seemed this was proven as fact when I observed the merchandise table and noticed the two had their own custom shirts for sale. Dylan, unfortunately, didn’t.) The band played for almost an hour and a half and didn’t seem to break a damn sweat, crushing through an abundance of hits from both Dr. FeelGood’s, and Wilko’s own, back catalogue and the songs do not seem to have lost any of the intensity of when they were first played (I wasn’t alive when most were first played so I just have to go off live recordings, but still).

The band finished the set and after a brief cooling down period invited us back stage where we sat around and listened to stories from Wilko’s past. These were great and went from a story of Lew Lewis robbing the local post office to his hate for deceased bass-virtuoso, Phil Lynott. I personally love Thin Lizzy but decided to keep my mouth shut and sat there staring at a table full of beers and whiskies, fighting the urge to inhale as much as possible until someone in that cramped squat tackled me to the ground for being so damn rude.
The day after I was on my way to a suburb of Nottingham to watch another musical legend, T.V. Smith. The former adverts singing had a show booked in a what looked like the local public stink-hole and, after a picturesque drive near the Pennines, arrived in this tiny pub and was greeted by a snot-filled landlady who, with the greatest of respect, tried to converse with me but her phlegm filled sinuses made it impossible to comprehend a single damn word. I smiled, nodded politely, and felt bad that I couldn’t communicate with this snot filled woman like a normal human being.

We took out of the pub after asking about some food, “we have PORK SCRATCHINGS and PICKLED ONIONS,” and eventually found a place that served food after 4pm. I ordered some noodles and a pint of Stella, it had been five days down. Drinking it down tasted like sucking off an angel and, finally, the world seemed right. We ate our food and I finished by beer. Heading back to the venue in a mild drizzle, entering, and ordering another set of drinks at the bar, my father was driving so was on nothing but coke (-a-cola, not white powder.) We headed up the stairs into the room where the magic would be happening. The place was astonishing, what I’d expected to be nothing more than a set of floorboards with a speaker (if we were lucky,) turned out to be a capacity worthy of a king. Perhaps that was a little bit of an overstatement but the booze was back in my system and the place did look pretty swell.
We took a seat until the first act started. A group of middle aged men fronted by a dreadlocks sporting punk rocker. I’ll admit I didn’t think much of the band by looking at them but they played a good strong set. Though Pax seemed to be a typical politcal punk outfit, they put forth their opinions in an honest and convincing way. This was not just some rehashed Guardian articles with a back beat, this was genuine opinions from a group of musicians who were pissed off with the way the things were in society (and probably had been for a while by the looks of things).

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be set for the next two acts with The Reverends were nothing short of terrible. In their defence the start of their set was plagued by sound problems but even when these were amended there was very little difference. Their frontman was a brace-wearing, cliché-tattoo miserable little disgrace of a man. He sang with anger, though what exactly he was pissed off at was unsure, the vocals were barely audible and it was hard to pick up a single word, let alone an entire song topic. He looked like someone left their daughters doll of a baby too close to the fire.

The band that followed were Verbal Assault, they were better than the previous group but not by very much. Unlike Pax, the Assault’s opinions seemed half-hearted and the music wasn’t anything more than tedious. “Channel 4 said the last Big Brother had finished, the Channel 5 bought it and it’s back on our T.V’s. This song is about that!” If some goddamn shitty T.V. show was the worst of your problems, I thought, you really have nothing to be angry about, just turn the damn set off. The plethora of Mohawk donning punks sat up front nodded in approval at the subject of this tune, if these were the “non-comformists” then god helps us all. They all looked the goddamn same. The band themselves were dressed like some kind of bizarre Beatles tribute act and looked pretty ridiculous, a fitting look as their music sounded just as nonsensical. But perhaps I’m being too but am I not entitled to an opinion? They did have a healthy dose of charisma and, even though it only added to the camp atmosphere of this whole damn fiasco.
Thankfully the distaste in the air was soon cleared and, after more drinks, T.V. Smith took to the stage. Even though he was just one man with a guitar there was enough electricity in the air you soon drifted so far into the animation of T.V. that the usual sombre atmosphere of an acoustic show was transformed into a near-riot. In fact, the previously mentioned Mohawk’s pogo’d there way about in front of Smith. I couldn’t hate them, they were having a great time and so was I. One of the Mohawk’s grabbed me and pulled me into the fray, a pretty girl with a blue Mohawk.


She showed me a few times, it went, heel, toe, heel, toe, but I couldn’t get the rhythm fast enough. I could dance quite well but this was nothing but a chaos of the lower limbs. So, instead, I waited for a slightly slower tempo song and grabbed the blue Mohawk, leading into a slow dance. I hadn’t realised by this point but the girl had been with a yellow Mohawk guy and this seemed to annoy him immensely and she soon backed away.

T.V. Smith played all of his hits, his own and those of the Adverts, finishing with Gary Gilmore’s Eyes. I thought the place was going to explode.

After the show the blue Mohawk came over and spoke to me for a while, asking me to come to the next Verbal Assault show. I told her I didn’t live anywhere near here and, after being given a quixotic stare when I said “Salford,” we decided on Manchester, she took my details, and decided to have a drink sometime during the Rebellion festival later in the year (if I was even able to enter after last year’s review)

We got back into my fathers car, spending the two hour drive back hour drive navigating around blocked motorway exits and listening to Nils Lofgren’s second album, Cry Tough.

Album Review :: Fighting Fiction – Fighting Fiction

“…I found myself relieved that the words “Flip your desk and trash the fucking place” never appeared in this album, if they had then I might well be out of a job by now.”

I first came across Fighting Fiction at Reading Festival in 2011, they played at midday on The Lockup Stage on the Sunday. I was really impressed, and any band that managed to shift my hangover, aching bones and fatigue in a 30 minute set was surely worth investigating further. I returned home and I got hold of The Lesser of Two Evils E.P and that was it, I was hooked (incidentally if you get chance the EP is well worth checking out, possibly my favourite four track record since All Hallows came out in 1999). I was really excited to hear their first full length release, and I have not been disappointed.

Fighting Fiction is a 4 piece band hailing from Brighton, England. They exact a dynamic and somewhat aggressive ska-infused punk rock sound, with socially motivated lyrics and almost anthemic vocal choruses.

If you’re listening to FF for the first time when you put on this record, they lay their cards quite openly on the table on the first track ‘Amazing Grace’. It’s a hard-hitting punk rock song with all the hallmarks that have formed the foundation of Fighting Fiction’s sound. It’s got great lyrics, infectious melodies and you will find yourself driven to sing along, powerful is just too meagre of a word to describe it.

The album continues with a track you may have heard before, the single ‘Rock and Roll is Dead and its Corpse is For Sale. It’s a fantastic track, there’s some really potent lines, and another chorus that you will not shift for hours (unless you skip forward a few tracks and listen to ‘Cameraphones and Choruses’). The pace doesn’t drop for a second as the third track kicks in, ‘Turning Rebellion into Money’, a brutally honest song about making profit from their music. So captivating and almost mesmerising are some of the melodies that I found myself relieved that the words “Flip your desk and trash the fucking place” never appeared in this album, if they had then I might well be out of a job by now.

Other noteable tracks include ‘Make Yourself into a Martyr’ and ‘No Room at the Inn’ (which will serve to appease listeners who are dissapointed that this record shows rather less of the ska influences than previous releases) and listeners with heart conditions will be comforted to know that this album is not all punch-in-the-face punk rock. The album also showcases a number of slower, more sensitive moments, balancing acoustic breaks with hard-hitting riffs in a delightfully structured manner, being British and a Punk Rock lover its incredibly refreshing to hear an album of this calibre in a Southern accent.

Upon first listen I found this album to die off a little towards the end (save for the revisiting of a personal favourite ‘Cameraphones…’) however the more I listen to it, the more I find myself appreciating the later songs. With most of the album being a “love at first listen” and the rest growing on me rapidly I can honestly say there’s not a song on the album that I dislike. 2012 has already been too kind to us in terms of albums, and this is just no exception (which is quite the feat if you know how much I love Cursive and The Menzingers). Fighting Fiction can be really proud of this record and I for one, cannot wait to hear more from them in the future.

– John Dykes

Moon & Back Session :: Joe Tilston (Random Hand)

“Makeup!” – Joe Tilston

During his tour with Mike Scott way back in January (woah, this has been a long time coming. Sorry Joe!) Joe Tilston was kind enough to play us a song for a ‘Moon & Back Session’. The Random Hand bassist/vocalist delighted us with one of his solo tunes, showing that, not only can the man do ska, but is a dab hand at this folk stuff too. I wonder where he gets it from?

Next week’s session comes from, self-described “acoustic ninja,” Mark McShit McCabe. After that, who knows? If you have any ideas as to who you want to see in session for Moon & Back Music drop us a comment, message us on Facebook, twat us on Twitter or just email us.

Kings Of Industry

Moon & Back Music and Dicking Around Productions would like to thank The Star & Garter (Manchester) for letting us film in the bar. Video shot and edited by Dicking Around Productions.

Moon & Back Session :: Crywank

"Crywank In Session" - © 2012 Anthony Barlow

“…nothing more than complaints from a dumb spoilt kid”

Crywank is the alter-ego of James Clayton, a singer/songwriter from Barnsley. Having garnered a lot of attention with, his first album, James Is Going To Die Soon, Crywank has become a staple of the UK’s acoustic scene. Now with Narcassist On The Verge Of A Breakdown, his latest album, out and available for download – both records are available for free online – we thought it was about time we did a session.

Crywank played two songs from the new record, and they came out awesome. Please share with your friends, like on YouTube, subscribe and all that stuff. Drop us a line in the comments if you have any ideas who we should session with next.

Nostril Tampon

You Couldn’t Teach Me Integrity

Filmed under a bridge in Manchester by Dicking Around Productions and edited in a less glamourous location.