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

Album Review :: Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – Death

“It takes what was there and improves on it but, at the same time, it doesn’t lose any of what made you fall in love with the band in the first place.”

I was first introduced to Jim Lockey & The Solemn sun a few years back at Lexapalooza, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Their, self proclaimed, “country without the ‘O'” tunes have been a constant for me since that fateful day, so I was pretty excited to finally get my hands on the lads’ latest effort. And I was right to be excited, because Death is absolutely awesome (wow, that was a weird sentence to write), albeit a bit of a departure from what they’ve done before.

Granted, it starts off pretty similar, the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar and Jim’s soothing vocals opening up the album on ‘England’s Dead’. This softness last’s about a minute before being pushed aside by the wail of an electric guitar and the crash of cymbals, a force that continues throughout. It’s a more powerful record that’s for sure, with the boys edging towards quite a punk sound on occasion. Shit, they’ve even got a twenty-second song in ‘Sail Me Down The River’ – it doesn’t get much more punk than that!

This new found power has made The Solemn Sun even more integral when it comes to how this record sounds. I’m not saying they didn’t play a key role on Atlases, but those songs always felt lead by Jim’s acoustic and that the band were there just to provide subtle backing. On Death the band is vital. Without the band (in one form or another) some of these songs just wouldn’t be the same. In a way it reminds me of, label mate, Frank Turner’s Poetry Of The Deed: There are still tracks like those found on the last record – ‘Our Fathers’ stands out as the perfect example of Jim really carrying a song (and doing it well, I might add) – but for the most part, the band is really an integral part of the listening experience. That comes as no surprise, when you find out who was sat behind the desk.

Producer extraordinaire, Pete Miles really knows how to bring the best out of an already great band. The man has produced some of the best records in ‘alternative’ music (to use a catch all term) in recent years – including, my favourite record of last year, Great Cynics’ Don’t Need Much and, the absolutely amazing, Born To Ruin by Crazy Arm – so having him work with guys as talented as this feels like a match made in musical heaven. It’s really paid off too as, not only does it sound powerful, it sounds slick too. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get a little rough in spots, but it’s easy to give those a pass when the record is so good overall.

Death does everything a good second album should. It takes what was there and improves on it but, at the same time, it doesn’t lose any of what made you fall in love with the band in the first place. It still feels like a folk record, albeit one that comes out and hits you in the face, the lyrics are still poignant and the songs are as good as, if not better than, those that came before.

Trust me, you can expect big things from these guys in the future.

Moon & Back Session :: Beans On Toast

“I’m gonna change the name of that song to ‘Egg Free Mayonnaise'” – Beans On Toast

If you’re not familiar already, Beans On Toast is a folk singer/songwriter from Essex, and he might be one of the only artists in recent memory worthy of the ‘folk’ label. His songs are filled with comedy, tales of woe and are as ‘true to life’ as I’ve ever heard come out of any singer/songwriters mouth. Beans was in Manchester for a show, so we decided to record a little session. A session featuring two brand new songs, no less!

The session was recorded at V Revolution – a newly opened punk/hardcore record/vegan lifestyle shop on Oldham Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – a place that every music in Manchester should get behind. It’s not often you get someone trying something like this and, they’ll tell you themselves, it’s a bit of risk. Massive thanks to those dudes for helping us out with this one. It’s really hard to record sessions in bad light!

As always, enjoy the session and if you’ve got anyone you’d like to see performing for Moon & Back drop us a comment.

‘Protest Song’

‘Beer & A Burger’

Video :: Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – ‘A Song About Death’

It’s looking like 2012 is going to be a big year for Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun. The Cheltenham-based band are hotly tipped to do well this year and, with tracks like this one, you can see why. ‘A Song About Death’ is the second (?) single to be taken from the folk-punkers Xtra Mile Recordings debut, and is more than enough to tell you what this band is all about.

‘A Song About Death’ is released today (Feb. 14th) and is taken from the band’s forthcoming album Death, set to be released in April by Xtra Mile Recordings.

Moon & Back Session :: Chris T-T

“Is it alright if I do a cover?” – Chris T-T

Earlier this month, Chris T-T embarked on a tour of the UK with Franz Nicolay. Whilst in York, we caught up with him and he played us a couple of songs for a Moon & Back Session. A stalwart of the UK folk scene, T-T recently released an album comprised of A.A. Milne poetry having had a fantastic reception at this year’s Edinburgh festival. For his session he performed ‘Halfway Down’ – a song from the Milne record – and a cover of Sebadoh’s ‘Willing To Wait’.

Chris’ session is the final session of 2011, but we’ll be back in the new year and are hoping to continue where we left off. If there’s anyone you’d like to see us have ‘in session’, please leave a comment below, message us on Twitter or post on our Facebook.

Enjoy!

‘Halfway Down’

‘Willing To Wait’ (Sebadoh Cover)

Interview :: Andrew Seward (Against Me!)

“…This band has been criticised for everything” – Andrew Seward (Against Me!)

Against Me! have been one of the most successful and revered punk bands in recent years. Having just come off a UK headline tour, the band took to the road with Frank Turner. Before the show we chatted to, bass player, Andrew Seward about the band’s transition from major label to self distribution, how the band had taken to Turner’s crowds and the possibility of re-recording Vivida Vis.

Interview :: The Sleeping Souls

“…Does Frank consider himself the English Springsteen?” – Ben Lloyd (The Sleeping Souls/Dive Dive)

You might know them better as ‘Frank’s Band’, but those four guys bringing that extra bit of umph to every Frank Turner show are The Sleeping Souls. Nigel, Matt, Tarrant and Ben have been touring and recording with England’s favourite singer/songwriter for years. We sat down with them to chat about the ever lasting tour, playing bigger venues and firework displays.

Album Review :: Beans On Toast – Trying To Tell The Truth

“…offers up something clever and comedic in equal measure, with very few dull moments.”

Folk music has always been about telling stories. Well, it used to be. Today anyone armed with an acoustic guitar is pigeon-holed as being ‘folk’ and, whilst there’s plenty of valid examples out there, there’s few that do the definition of folk music justice like Beans On Toast. Trying To Tell The Truth follows on from Beans’ previous two efforts, and it’s here that he’s managed to perfect his craft.

Whilst, his debut, Standing On A Chair was rough and ready, it had a lot of charm (a lot like the man himself). It’s these songs that endeared him and his music to the people. Last year saw the release of Writing On The Wall and whilst it was a better produced, more scaled back, effort, it lacked that little something that made the first batch of tracks so great. With this record, Beans has managed to split the difference – creating a polished collection of twelve, very British, folk songs. Just don’t go in expecting something all rose tinted glasses.

Granted, there’s a few on here that try to paint a perfect picture – ‘Peter Pan’s Playground’ says “Hi!” – but, for the most part, Trying To Tell The Truth is a really honest record. Not only that, but Beans manages to cover a range of topics that some would choose to ignore, including: buying new shoes, over population and blowjobs. Each song offers up something clever and comedic in equal measure, with very few dull moments. Despite this, my favourite track covers something a little more traditional. ‘My New Number One’ is a simple, catchy, love song about “Lizzie B” – presumably Beans’ other half – which everyone should be able to relate to.

Beans On Toast might not have the best voice in the world, or masses of technical skill, but his songs are honest and simple, and that’s what makes them great.

EP Review :: The Xcerts – Slackerpop

“The four stripped down tracks are worth the price of admission alone…”

This year has been a big one for The Xcerts. They’ve played to crowds across the UK and Europe, which included a tour in support of Charlie Simpson. With Charlie taking a crack at acoustic stuff, it only seemed fair that the Xcerts boys do the same. They couldn’t exactly blow the roof off the venue before Charlie came on, armed only with a six string, could they?.

Of course not everyone (that includes yours truly) got to see these ‘alternative’ versions, so it’s great to have a few of them here on this re-release of ‘Slackerpop’. These ‘alternative’ versions make up the majority of the EP and, whilst they all sound cleaner and softer than the originals, they all work really well. ‘He Sinks, He Sleeps’ really stands out: Not only does it sound so different to the Scatterbrain original, but it’s got this really eerie quality to it that had me hitting play again and again.

The four stripped down tracks are worth the price of admission alone, but let’s not forget that ‘Slackerpop’ is still one hell of a tune. It’s one of my favourite tracks off Scatterbrain and I can’t help but be reminded of, Xtra Mile alumni, Reuben (RIP) every time I hear it. Aside from that, everything here is a brand new listening experience. You might have heard the originals, but that doesn’t mean you should pass on this EP. If you saw them in the summer, you already know you’re in for a treat!

Album Review :: Crazy Arm – Union City Breath

“…Passion-filled, politically-driven, and unlike anything I’ve heard out of the UK punk scene”

Whilst most bands struggle with that ‘difficult second album’, with a debut like Born To Ruin, it was always going to be that much harder for Crazy Arm. Just how do you follow up one of the best records released in years? Union City Breath, that’s how.

Opening with a wave of guitar that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Mastodon record, I wondered what I might be in for, but It wasn’t long before the slow, heavy, distorted, riff gave way and the slight notion of doubt disappeared. It became clear the guys had started where they left off and, as the album progressed, the fast paced guitars, fantastic vocals, and relentless pounding of drums worked in unison to create a sound that was unmistakably Crazy Arm. Not only that, but they’ve managed to improve on it, introducing more instrumentation and a second vocalist in the form of Vicky Butterfield. Resting on their laurels is something this band just don’t do.

Having kicked off with all the intensity of one of their live shows, it looked like a case of whiplash might be on the cards for anyone who dared listen to the record. That wasn’t to be as, like its predecessor, Union City Breath doesn’t need to go at a hundred miles an hour to be intense. Sure, the frantic guitars and crashing of cymbals help, but the lyrics play as big a role in this record’s power as how hard the band play. How do they do that? Let’s just say, if you don’t like your music with a political agenda, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.

Attacks on right wing politics are a staple Union City Breath, but that’s not to say that the messages aren’t, for the most part, subtle. Like on Born To Ruin, the lyrics are fairly nuanced, with the majority of the band’s beliefs being expressed through clever use of metaphor. Though they’re not afraid of ruffling a few feathers either, and openly attack their opposition on a number of occasions. Though ‘The Right Wing Never Sleeps’ is one that sticks out  immediately, ‘Song Of Choice’ is where the message comes to the forefront. The slightly updated version of the Peggy Seeger original, makes mention of the British National Party (and leader Nick Griffin) and the English Defence League in this impassioned song against racism – “Nazi scumbags must never take command/the BNP will never get to rule my land” is a line that particularly stands out, and there’s no message clearer than that.

Union City Breath is passion-filled, politically-driven, and unlike anything I’ve heard out of the UK punk scene since their last outing. What these guys do is so different from the majority of bands out there, and not just on a lyrical level. There’s no band out there, to my knowledge, that can go from doing a fast-paced punk song, to a folk song and then combine the two genres seamlessly. That’s not to say that the band, or this album, is perfect. There were times when some of the stuff on here fell a little flat and the lyrics might not have been up to scratch (the opening of ‘Charnel House Blues’ in particular). Whilst it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Union City Breath is one of the most interesting thought provoking albums of 2011, and one of my personal favourites.