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

Gig Review :: ‘Twas The Night Before Wembley – Camden Barfly – 12/04/12

© Katie Gedling 2012

“This is the place that was going to hold five awesome acts and two-hundred Xtra Mile loyalists?”

Twas the night before Wembley and…something, something, something. I was going to try and be really clever and come up with alternative words to that classic poem to introduce this review, but I tried and it really wasn’t good. On the contrary, Twas The Night Before Wembley was pretty awesome, and a perfect way to pre-empt what is bound to go down as one of the best gigs of the year.

This was my first Barfly experience, so to say I was surprised to see the size of the place is an understatement. I mean I didn’t expect it to be huge, but this place looked like any other pub. This is the place that was going to hold five awesome acts and two-hundred Xtra Mile loyalists? We were certainly in for an intimate show then! Doors opened and the crowd flooded in, the room a’buzz with talk of who the special guest might be.

Shortly after, Ben Marwood kicked the night off and was met with a rapturous applause. Having toured with Frank Turner last year, the crowd certainly knew who Ben was, and the singalongs began immediately. Fan favourite, ‘Singalong’ seemed to go down the best, with the entire room in fine voice for Marwood’s irony-filled anthem. ‘Tell Avril Lavigne I Never Wanted To Be Her Stupid Boyfriend Anyway’ was also met with a brilliant response, but maybe that’s what you get when you throw the chorus to ‘Sk8r Boi’ into the middle of your song? He said that’d be the last time he did that…somehow I don’t think it will be.

Marwood left the stage and the crowd was suitably warmed up when Jamie Lenman announced that Dave Hause would be up next. The former Reuben frontman was a perfect master of ceremonies, cracking jokes and seemingly having a good time. Though I couldn’t help wonder how many of those crammed into the Barfly even knew who he was besides “that bloke with the tache who’s got a suit on” (yes, that’s a direct quote).

Having flown into London just a few hours before, a jetlagged-looking Dave Hause was up next. The Loved Ones frontman played a blinder, though it felt like many in the room didn’t know who he was. The majority of his set was taken from Resolutions and the crowd seemed into it, with a fair few singing along. He even threw a ‘Pretty Good Year’ – a Loved Ones song – into the mix, but even those who were singing along before didn’t seem to know what it was. So that was a shame, but Dave himself was awesome as always and in good spirits. He took time out to joke with one member of the audience, though I don’t know if they quite got it.

Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun soon followed. Hot on the heels of their new record, it seemed like the crowd was a little more into it. Hearing songs from Death in a live environment was amazing, and really helped to solidify how far that band has come since their last release. A few songs from Atlases made it into the set, and it was great to hear how well they worked in conjunction with those new tracks. They played hard and may have even won over the few that had not yet been subjected to the Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun experience.

Like I said, there was all this talk of a special guest playing the Barfly that night, and it seemed many had decided that this guest would be Frank Turner. Granted, that’s a valid assumption to make. After all, he is Xtra Mile’s biggest act. However, when you look at it logically, Turner playing a set at The Barfly was pretty unlikely given the importance of what he was due to undertake in less than twenty-four hours time. So when it was revealed that Billy Bragg was the special guest, more than a few in attendance headed for the door.

Even with a drop in attendees the room was still packed when ‘Uncle Bill’ started playing. The set was comprised mostly of hits, with ‘Scousers Never Buy The Sun’ being the only new track played the whole set. This is what people want though, and Billy knows that. ‘To Have And To Have Not’ was a definite highlight of the set, but you can’t beat ‘A New England’ when it comes to awesome set closers. The crowd shouted for an encore, and an encore we got. Bragg returned to the stage with a guest of his own. Unsurprisingly Mr Turner was in attendance, so the two of them belted out a cover of Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A Changing’, something that sent those who’d headed elsewhere in disappointment charging into the room.

Four down and one to go. So far the night had been a massive success, now it was time for Crazy Arm. As a massive fan of these guys I know they can tear the roof off a venue like The Barfly with ease. And they did. But like Dave Hause’s set, it seemed the crowd really wasn’t into it. After a night of folk punk and acoustic tunes, many seemed to think Crazy Arm were a little too much. The atmosphere was less intense, but the band were not. They were as tight as ever and absolutely killed it. It was nice to hear ‘Little Boats’ being thrown into the set again after a long absence and some of their older songs sound amazing with the additional instrumentation. The band closed the set with a cover of Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’. And though it seemed to get the crowd going a bit, the intensity of a Crazy Arm headline show just wasn’t there.

With that I headed back downstairs, unable to speak having completely blown my voice out shouting along with Crazy Arm. All in all it was a great night, and a fantastic way for Xtra Mile to showcase the talent they have on their label. I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for Wembley either.

Album Review :: Lucero – Women & Work

“They seem content in sticking with usual topics such as, well, women, work and whiskey…”

This review should have come out a good few days earlier, but, in true Lucero style, I spent my time drinking as much as humanly possible, and watching a lot of good live music. Perhaps not the most professional approach, but I’m sure the boys would understand. Women & Work is the ninth (if you include The Attic Tapes) full length album from, Memphis’ heavy drinking Southern Punks, Lucero, and it’s arguably their best yet.

The first thing I noticed, when I took to some nearby woodland areas to walk around and listen to this album, was just how goddamn incredible the production is. Once again, Ted Hutt was behind the desk during the whole process and he has brought the best out of the band. Whether it be the crisp acoustic guitars on ‘Who You Waiting On?’ (a song which, kind of strangely, is reminiscent of a Jack Johnson track. Ya know, if JJ drank bourbon and scotch daily and wasn’t a massive pansy) or how he brings forward the bass on ‘I Can’t Stand To Leave You’ (a real old school sounding Lucero song) and utilizes the E.Q to perfection, giving the bass a full chunky sound which echoes the sombre subject matter.

With that said, Women & Work doesn’t do much really in terms of progression in this sense. They seem content in sticking with usual topics such as, well, women, work and whiskey, but Lucero tackle these points so well it’d seem insane to waste their talent on anything else.

To say Ben Nichols’ vocals were in any way mellifluous probably wouldn’t be apt, but with each release he progresses significantly and, arguably, has done so more with W&W than ever before. He’s taken a much more soulful approach to his tonality, whilst still maintaining the synonymous whiskey soaked, gravely tones that make him one of the most open and genuine singers in the ‘punk’ scene.

Musically the band seem to have let the country elements to their music fall by the way side a little, with the exception of certain songs such as ‘When I Was Young’. Instead, they have adopted more of a R n’ B/Rock n’ Roll feel, employing these influences to create a much more upbeat Lucero sound.

Lucero used to be the band I’d turn to in hard times of depression, locking myself away, sitting in the darkness, whilst working through a bottle of cheap whiskey. Now they’re the band that push me to unlock my doors, get out into the light…whilst still drinking a shit load of whiskey.

Album Review :: Ani DiFranco – ¿Which Side Are You On?

“…just the correct amount of “right-on” politics, sung soothingly through her Buffalo accent and delivered in a heavily poetical style”

It must have been about 2001, I was thirteen and reading an interview with Alkaline Trio’s guitarist Matt Skiba who was mentioning music that inspired him, one of those acts was Ani DiFranco. A few years later a friend of mine downloaded (illegally) the track Gratitude and I fell in love instantly with the stripped down folk sound and intensely emotive lyrical content. I’d heard one song and I was hooked so I headed to the nearest record shop, which was unfortunately HMV, and thankfully found a copy of 2005’s album Reprieve. The album did not disappoint and as soon as I worked out how the hell to order stuff offline I bought every album by DiFranco I could and have eagerly anticipated every release since.

This album is very much an Ani DiFranco album, her style hasn’t changed massively since the 90’s and her initial self titled full length release, but this is by no means a bad thing. If the phrase “if it isn’t broke…” has ever rained true, then Ani is the case in point. That’s not to say the album hasn’t progressed at all, with an interesting use of electronic drums on the title track and the Mars Volta-esque guitar solo two thirds into Amendment, along with the bizarre deep vocal effect on the track J which makes the song sound very much like a homage to the Pennsylvania tripsters, Ween. But apart from some slightly more experimental use of production, the songs themselves feature everything expected from the Feminist virtuoso, featuring just the correct amount of “right-on” politics, sung soothingly through her Buffalo accent and delivered in a heavily poetical style, whilst dashing it all with a tantalising amount of love.
The album is not completely without fault, and the afore mentioned title track becomes a bit of a drag towards the end. Ani’s politics are in the right place but the constant repetition of the title line “Which Side are You on” makes the track sound more of a rant than a justified political statement, but this is only a minor fault on what is otherwise a superb release from Ani.
It wouldn’t be an Ani album without at least a cargo ship full of inspirational lyrics and this record is no exception. There are far too many to mention so I’ll end with what I feel it the most crucial hook in the entire of ¿Which Side Are You On? “If you’re not getting happier as you grow older, you’re fucking up.”

EP Review :: Well Wisher – Summer Gangs

“It’s like having a massive indie-pop/emo monster stumble out of the bushes, look at you, and start to charge, arms and legs flailing.”

It’s been a long time since we had a substantial release from, Manchester ‘party-emo’ pioneers, Well Wisher. Two tracks on a split with Polina, and a plethora of live shows, was just enough to tide fans over in 2011, but now we have Summer Gangs. The band’s second EP raises the bar set by their debut – their, catchy, upbeat tunes sounding more refined and polished than ever before. In short, this might well be the best thing Well Wisher have ever done.

Starting out understated with ‘Are You Crazy To Come To The Crazy Beach Party?’ (what a gem of a song title!), Summer Gangs builds into this erratic crescendo of sound by the beginning of the second track, before repeating the whole process all over again. It’s like having a massive indie-pop/emo monster stumble out of the bushes, look at you, and start to charge, arms and legs flailing. The EP is capped off with a fantastic cover of Braid’s ‘Breathe In’ – a track originally intended for a tribute to the, no longer late, 90’s emo outfit – which the band have made their own, whilst making their influences abundantly clear.

Summer Gangs shows a clear progression in Well Wisher as a band. Their older material remains fantastic, but everything here – the lyrics, the musicianship, the everything – is a step up. Not only that, but it’s the closest they’ve come to capturing the band’s intense, captivating, live experience and I couldn’t ask for more than that.

You can stream the entire EP over on their Bandcamp.

Album Review :: Attack! Vipers! – Deadweight Revival

“…takes the hardcore musicality then adds a punk rock ethos and does this with aplomb.”

There’s something immensely satisfying about slamming your feet progressively on hard concrete, while listening to music that could melt the face of a room full of eight-year-old children. This is how I spent most of my time listening to the first full length from, Southsea hardcore mentalists, Attack! Vipers! Unfortunately I learnt, that without proper running shoes, I could seriously damage my shins. I put the athletic career on hold, but it seems sprint booties will have to go on the next shopping list, as the titans of UK hardcore have released a new record.

One of the greatest things about Deadweight Revival is that, within twenty seconds of listening, it’s clear this is not just another “hardcore” album. There are no cliché beat downs, as used by so many try hard bands trapped in old conventions. They seem terrified to even slightly move away from creating an integral ambience of melodic hardcore, which often comes across as sounding like a slightly better polished, more superior, technical rendition of Will Haven’s Carpe Diem. In fact, Deadweight Revival even puts the bands previous efforts to shame, with the vocal ability of singer Joe Watson pushing forward into a more mellifluous, yet still entirely brutal, timbre, putting him on a pedestal when compared to other vocalists of the genre.

Vocals are not the only thing Deadweight Revival does to push the hardcore genre to the next level. In terms of musicality, the record shows a much more intrinsic side to A!V!, with guitars that switch between nimble licks, beastly distorted chords and andante sections so seamlessly it makes the record almost impossible to put into the “hardcore” pigeon-hole. Sometimes it sounds like hardcore, other times it sounds like power metal and, occasionally, you get a part which would probably be very much at home on a fucking Sigur Ros release.

The band’s self proclaimed style of being “somewhere between The Suicide File and Envy” is hard to deny. The similarities are there but at the same time there’s so much much to the Vipers than just that. Deadweight Revival takes the hardcore musicality then adds a punk rock ethos and does this with aplomb. In doing so, it creates an energetic sound that UK hardcore had missed dearly since the departure of, Manchester’s finest, Fill the Void.

I could say Deadweight Revival was by the far the best UK hardcore album I’d heard in a long time, but I’d be lying. It’s the best I’ve heard…EVER. Attack! Vipers! have far surpassed expectations with this record, and if any band were to be at the forefront of reviving UK hardcore – a genre what could arguably be called a dying one – then these guys are sure to be it. This record proves that.

EP Review :: theHell – Sauves Les Requins

“…harkens back to the early days of the Trio with a little of that post-punk sound that has permeated through Matt’s previous musical efforts.”

Of all the Alkaline Trio boys, Matt Skiba has been the most prolific when it comes to side-projects – he’s gone solo, released a post-punk record, and has got a new album with The Sekrets on the horizon – but he’s always managed to do something interesting with every new creative outlet. This time Skiba has teamed up with, drummer, Atom Willard (Angels & Airwaves, Rocket From The Crypt, The Offspring) to form theHell.

At it’s core Sauves Les Requins is a collection of four great punk rock songs, but did you expect anything less? The duo is showcasing what they do best, changing it up enough to make it interesting without leaving ‘die-hard’ fans of their past work disappointed. The result actually feels more like a straight up pop-punk record than a lot of the guys’ recent releases, and I for one welcome that. The polish applied to Angels And Airwaves (and the later Alkaline Trio) records is replaced by something much more raw, and yet it doesn’t feel shoddy or underproduced. Combine that with Skiba’s signature dark lyrical style and fantastic vocal, and you have something special. Something that, for me anyway, harkens back to the early days of the Trio with a little of that post-punk sound that has permeated through Matt’s previous musical efforts.

It’s that link to early Trio that makes me start this up again as soon as it’s finished and, despite not knowing what to expect coming in, I’m longing to hear more. Though there’s been nothing announced regarding a full length I, like many others, will be sorely disappointed if that doesn’t come to pass. This is exactly what I want to hear from a side project, and is sure to excite anyone looking for a fresh but familiar pop-punk sound.

Gig Review:: The Bronx/ Maricahi El Bronx

After a recommendation from my hairdresser I thought I’d go see California-based band, The Bronx at the Cambridge Junction . I had been told they had a mariachi alter- ego and so I was ready for a fun, slightly out of the ordinary evening.

On arrival at the Junction, I soon realised that they’re not just a novelty mariachi act; it was surreal to see that the audience were all fairly heavy punk fans (even if some were a bit “mature”).

When Mariachi El Bronx swaggered on stage in complete charo, Mexican outfits and  without a hint of irony; I realised that they take their somewhat imaginative, side project quite seriously. The hardcore fans, sometimes said to be a cult following, have responded well to the bands Latino rhythms and have shown, the true spirits of die-hard music fans and learned to love the Hispanic sounds. The running order pretty much twinned that of their self titled album starting first with ‘Slave Labour’ and ending with ‘My Love’ but all songs reeked of the passion and feeling they put into their music. The band played with straight up professionalism and didn’t show a trace of their hardcore punk origins.

The next band were the support, Ghost Of A Thousand. On first appearance these were an audacious band with a true punk spirit, so when singer, Tom Lacey jumped back on the stage after moshing with the crowd, it was a surprise to hear he had the speaking-voice of an I.T. guy. Although Lacey’s voice was juxtapositional it didn’t compromise the music that Ghost Of A Thousand play with that of a striking reminiscence to “Gallows”.

After G,O,A,T,  came the headline of the night as it were, The Bronx, this time lacking the trumpets. The band who were seen before as very serious had now taken off the mask and unveiled their gritty, punk , reality. Although they had been stripped  of their charo outfits they still played with the same edge of excitement and feel to their music and just like Ghost O f A Thousand’s singer, front man, Matt  Caughtrain ended up in the audience and dancing with the admiring fans. With so much going for them and the ability to laugh at themselves, the Bronx are a truly inspirational band and if ever you get the chance, go see them as it’s a night you will remember.

By Choo/Chloe Cooper

Single Review:: Imogen Heap – First Train Home

Vocal harmonies and rhythms, choppy drums and a distinct quaintness to every track is all that Imogen Heap seems2jb049 to be good at, but that might not be the worst thing in the world.

First Train Home, the opening track of her latest album, Ellipse, truthfully, sounds like a track that would probably pass you by if you didn’t pay attention to it – there’s nothing that tears you away from the gripe of daily life, the track has almost no impact or melody that you can really pick up on, and overall, it’s a relatively uninteresting song. Imogen Heap, fortunately, has never really wanted to do anything but write and enjoy music, and that’s reflected here – First Train Home is a track you can whack on your mp3 player, sit back and enjoy. It’s as simple as that, perhaps to the point where it’s actually quite bland. But still, if you like happy, cheery music, there’s no harm done here – and I can’t really think of anything else to say about this track.

The John Hopkins remix on the B-Side of the single, however, really is the track that First Train Home was meant to be. The whole thing feels so heart-wrenching – the broken pads in the introduction, the incredible vocal effects that scream subtlety. Imogen’s angelic voice is complimented with a nearly-orchestral yet simple backing – think a falling-in-love moment – softest touches, fragile, emotive. Hopkins track structure feels as if it was written solely to counteract the vocal line rather than taking to any set structure – the words almost seem irrelevant, the tone and emotion and rhythm of her voice being all that matters to the track, the instruments and Imogen working in perfect harmony. John’s remix ends with the same pads it begins with, as if the song were just one large gradient – the whole thing really is a collage rather than a painting, but that’s where the charm lies. It’s a beautiful track, and definitely one to check out.

Listen here on YouTube

Listen here on Spotify

Gig & EP Review: Tim & Sam’s Tim & The Sam Band

To put Laurie Lee’s words into music, is to present Tim & Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band. One listen to their EP, and you’ll have quenched a thirst for sounds you never knew you were thirsty for.

Tim & Sam's Tim & The Sam Band With Tim & Sam

Tim & Sam's Tim & The Sam Band With Tim & Sam

We first mentioned Tim and the Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam (…) in our review of Hafdis Huld’s Academy 3 show. I’m sorry Ms. Þrastardóttir, but these guys really did steal the evening. . Their blend of  ambient-folk instrumental sounds mixes obvious influences like Sigur Ros and Mum, but with subtler sounds more akin to Ludovicio Einaudi or even the brighter melodies of Air.

Multi-instrumentalist ‘front-man’ Tim McIver’s looped guitar-based melodies create an ideal base for the rich layers other members bring, incorporating the ambeince of clarinets, saxphones, pianos, organs; all overlain with simple, perfectly effective glockenspeil melodies. Backing this up are driving-but-not-garish percussion all helping the songs progress.

Tim & Sam’s EP is quite a find; it’s one of those, that you can’t listen to just one song: you just do not notice the journey the record takes you on until you’re at the end. It transports you away through pine-forests and hay-fields and English country lanes. domain tech info It isn’t monotonous nor repetitive, but just so perfectly executed it’s an absolute pleasure to listen to no matter what the occasion.

Out today is their new single on Static Caravan ‘Summer Solstice’ (it’s got to be done hasn’t it). We wish them all the best for the launch party today. If you like the sound of them, check out our free mp3 below, and consider their album, out October 5th. We’re confident that you will not have heard the last of these guys, and we certainly do not hope so. Definately one to check out for the future.

Tim & Sam’s MySpace | Static Caravan