Don Blake – Tough Like Diamonds (2018)

Bolton, Greater Manchester’s Don Blake are back yet again. They are proving to be quite prolific, these guys. Tough Like Diamonds is their second proper full length, and follows July 2017’s Blake District 12in (released through Round Dog). At the time, singer / guitarist Joe Barlow felt that Blake District was a bit of a departure sound-wise from the Ramones-core / trad pop punk influenced sound of their previous releases, bringing more of an indie rock element into play. If anything, I’d say that Tough Like Diamonds seems to be more heading back into the broader territory of their earlier releases.

This record seems to have a more brash, punk feel to it. There’s a whole raft of material that has a So Long & Thanks for All the Shoes era NOFX feel to it. I think it’s the shredding and drums in tracks like How Can I Not Be Here?, I.D.S.T. and I Think We’re Alright. I almost feel like Smelly is playing that drum kit, dude. It sounds so good. Obviously as we are talking Don Blake, there’s more than one dimension to this. There’s a whole element of big, anthemic arena style emo rock ala Jimmy Eat World on the Bleed American album (or s/t as it later became known). Given how talented these guys are, and the quality of song writing and playing evidence here, I feel amazed that a label of at least moderate size and renown hasn’t picked up on them yet. And given some of the absolute turds that such labels often curl out onto the proverbial pavement with startling regularity, more fool them.

Similarly to Blake District, lyrical themes are very much centred around coping with mental health issues, introspection and relationships. Often the hallmarks of stuff that I think is great, and well, it’s universally relatable subject matter. As a closing remark I’m wondering how many hidden references there are to Marvel comics in this release… I’m guessing the title here is a reference to the skin of X-Men mainstay, Emma Frost…

It’s a Tony of Nurgle rating of 9/10 for this one. I’m particularly surprised at how big the sound on this record is, considering they’ve moved from being a 4-piece to a 3-piece since last year… But check out this beast for yourself on the player below:

Note that you can pick this up on a name your price basis from their bandcamp page but don’t be a cunt. Bung them a few quid. These are decent guys, verified.

Tony of Nurgle is a true child of the North, currently living in exile in Croydon, South East London. He used to co-run a specialist record store in Manchester (Roadkill Records), and also spent a couple of years as a promoter, and put on shows for the likes of Leatherface, the Loved Ones, Lucero, Minus The Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, Spy vs Spy, Latterman etc. He also spent several years DJing at shady rock clubs in Manchester, and started the infamous Thursday night "punk room" at Jilly's Rockworld. Also responsible for Middle Finger Response, and collaborated with a couple of friends on a monthly night called Refuse to Lose, which will still occasionally reunite the original DJ line-up - hopefully in the not too distant future. Apart from that, it's all bitterness and a jaundiced view of human nature, rarely skateboarding, often reading books with maps in the front.

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