EP & 7in round-up, May 2018

Sorry for Escalating – Losing Sleep EP / Stuck EP (Horn & Hoof / iwishicouldstay, 2018)

On the 1st June Horn & Hoof will be releasing the UK versions of the Losing Sleep and Stuck EPs by Sorry for Escalating. The EPs will be on one side each of a 12in record. The band are a four piece from Karlsruhe, south western Germany, close to the French border. The promotional blurb describes them as an emo / alternative act.

For the purposes of this review, I’ll be focussing on Losing Sleep, as that’s the new joint. To me, this puts me in mind of some of the greats from the mid-late 90s period such as Texas is the Reason and Samiam (circa Clumsy and You Are Freaking Me Out). Perhaps more interestingly, I’m also put in mind of Racquet Club (formed from members of Samiam, The Jealous Sound and Knapsack) whose s/t debut album would form a perfect companion piece to this EP.

You would perhaps suspect that this EP would run the risk of getting bogged down in emo revival nostalgia. However, standard of songwriting and musicianship demonstrated here shows that Sorry for Escalating are capable of standing on their own two (eight?) feet rather than having to rely on aping the classics.

The vocal is clear and strong and conveys the earnest, heartfelt emotional aspects of the lyrics to the listener. However, as can often be the case with bands from mainland Europe that are singing in English, the translation of lyrics isn’t always smooth and you get the odd line here and there that makes you raise an eyebrow, and the odd intonation that sounds a bit weird. When, overall, the record sounds this good, though it’s easily overlooked, and it’s easy enough to get the gist of what is being said anyways. Besides who reading this could write accurate lyrics and sing them in German? I couldn’t. That’s the UK education system of the late 80s early 90s for you, though. And as it’s me, it would come out in a Mexican accent anyway, just the same as every time I try to speak a foreign language. Yes, really. It’s embarrassing and I can’t explain it. Too much Speedy Gonzalez when I was kid? Anyways, this gets a Tony of Nurgle rating of 8/10

For copyright reasons, the Losing Sleep EP is not something Horn & Hoof are currently able to share, but as the Stuck EP is available via bandcamp, and also appears on the B-side of this 12in vinyl release, you can check that out on the player below:

You can pre-order the 12in from Horn & Hoof’s bandcamp page

Girls in Synthesis – We Might Not Make Tomorrow 7in

This 7in is the follow up to the Suburban Hell EP, released through Blank Editions last year. For the benefit of those that missed that release, the deal here is pretty similar: something of a spirit of ’77 punk aesthetic blended seamlessly with a bleak early 80s post-punk vibe as it was during the collapse of traditional local industry in Thatcherite Britain. I suppose you’d need to be a total moron to miss the parallels to the misery we exist in today.

Admittedly, on first listen I wasn’t really sold on this. As I’ve said before, post-punk isn’t my typical go to genre of the – how shall I put it? – wider punk rock banquet available to us. Nevertheless, I’ve found myself giving this a fair few spins. It seems to me that my varying mood from day to day has a huge influence on how I feel about this recording; evoking different mental images dependent on my state of mind. I feel like if I’m feeling relatively upbeat (rare, I’ll admit), then as such, it either doesn’t appeal or sends me on a minor downer. I think if I’m feeling tense, then that’s the ideal mood for this – amidst the feel of paranoid social observation and feeling trapped, this sparks my creative imagination somewhat. Realistically, I hope that Girls in Synthesis won’t take offense at the fact that my creative outlets are limited to building and painting plastic models for tabletop strategy games and bitching about music on this website.

If you like the sound of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables era Dead Kennedys meets Joy Division meets PiL meets The Jesus & Mary Chain, then you’ll be down with this. Tony of Nurgle rating 7.5/10

You can check out Tainted from the 7in on the player below.

According to their bandcamp page, this 7in has sold out on pre-orders, but that shouldn’t prevent you from seeing what the fuss is about.

One Down – I Own These Bones (Upstate Records / Nuclear Family Records, 2018)

An old mate of mine, Rob Fern, reached out to me recently to tell me about his band’s recent EP. Admittedly I’m well and truly out of the loop on metallic hardcore, but it seems Manchester’s One Down have been around since 2012, and they’ve got a raft of releases under belt already, which you can check out on their bandcamp page

I Own These Bones collects 4 songs of hard as fuck tough guy hardcore that also brings to mind influences as diverse as NYHC, old school, crossover thrash, Krishnacore and so on. The sheer belligerence of the bellowed vocals is balanced by snippets of Mancunian spoken word.

The guitar tone is deep and the riffs are crunchy ala classics from Strife or NYHC stalwarts Biohazard. There’s some awesome bouncy, moshy parts like you’d expect from the likes of Turnstile or classic Snapcase. You’ve also got your faster crossover thrash influenced parts which bring to mind the Cro-Mags and Suicidal Tendencies. Whilst we are talking guitars and Suicidal Tendencies, there are some sweet melodic lead lines weaving over all this that yet again call to mind Turnstile also.

The back section seems to have things nailed down pretty tight, and it sounds like the drummer hits hard. If you’re gonna be a drummer, there’s no point in using love-taps, know what I’m saying? Of course you do. Check it below:

There’s more than enough to keep me interested here, which in a way is kind of strange as I typically don’t spend too much time with this sort of thing, but when it’s done as well as this is, you know I’m totally down. Tony of Nurgle rating 8.5/10

Resuscitators – The River / A Record Of My Own Self Doubt (demo) (self-released, 2018)

Matt Barnwell from the Resuscitators hit me up the other day to tell me about their new demo. Basically, it’s two songs that will form part of a full length album to be released this summer. This 2 track demo and their previous 2 EPs are available on their bandcamp page so be sure to go and take a look.

Resuscitators describe themselves thus: “Hyperactive, anthemic skate punk from London”. The tracks here have (for me) a distinctly emotive British melodic punk (rather than skate punk) sound that’s reminiscent of early Vanilla Pod and The Leif Ericsson. The music has balls and exudes vigour and enthusiasm, and I’m quite looking forward to hearing the LP when it’s finished. The tracks here are certainly rather promising, and I’d definitely like to hear more. As a reference point for younger readers who have no idea who Vanilla Pod or The Leif Ericsson were, this sounds kinda like The Flatliners would if they weren’t shit. There’s also a similarity to the Bouncing Souls from the time when they could be relied upon to drop decent records…

Anyways, have a quick look yourselves and get ahead of the game:

Tony of Nurgle rating 8/10

Era Bleak – Demo Tape (Dirt Cult, 2018)

Era Bleak are from Portland, Oregon. True story, a few years back I was in Portland, Maine wondering where the hell all the hipsters were. “That’s the OTHER Portland, man”. Anyway. Era Bleak is formed from members of Dark/Light and Piss Test, and this 7 track demo is their debut. As far as demo tapes go, this doesn’t feel or sound all that demo. It sounds pretty fucking good really, and I love how high up in the mix the bass is.

Era Bleak are a female fronted four piece unit, and without wanting to sound too obvious, put me in mind of a more frantic Bikini Kill, only with East Coast hardcore style dirty skank parts and the snotty-as-shit attitude of very early Dillinger Four. There’s also hints of the jagged, barely chained violence of bands like the Nerve Agents and F-Minus tempered by an almost vintage pop-punk edge ala Crimpshrine.

My cuts of choice here are Tinderbox and the closer, Night of the Curse. I’m very much looking forward to this lot dropping some new material. Tony of Nurgle rating: 8/10

You can check this one out on the player below:

You can get this one from Dirt Cult on tape from their bandcamp page. It comes with a digital download

Pushing Daisies – Take Me Back to the Light EP (self-released, 2018)

Pushing Daisies are described as an emo-punk quartet, and they are from Bristol. Take Me Back to the Light is the follow-up to 2016’s Stay Sad EP. Seems they’ve been getting a bit of attention, with a track from this EP getting some airplay via Kerrang!.

I suppose I’d describe this as ‘turn of the century style emo’. Obviously, I’m not saying this has a late Victorian feel, I’m talking the more recent turn of the century, when bands like Taking Back Sunday and a zillion other bands were releasing records through the high marketability /generally low credibility imprint, Victory Records. The kind of stuff I tend to associate with the term “fake emo”, MTV2, Scuzz TV and that horrid fashion for black-dyed fringes that overstayed it’s welcome even more than that dosser mate that everyone had living on their couch at one time or another.

However this is better than that. I’d place this somewhere in the region of maybe Keepsake and Thursday circa Full Collapse (Yeah yeah, Full Collapse came out on Victory, but I thought it was actually alright, it had much more to it than whatever their label contemporaries were doing). It also kind of reminds me of that Julianna Theory album, Emotion Is Dead (which I totally accept was the guiltiest of pleasures at the time and is still one of the wettest, most contrived things ever). At its best it even puts me in mind of Jimmy Eat World at the height of their powers.

Realistically, I’m not the target audience here (as a 40 year old bald bloke with a penchant for hard and fast music), but I think this is actually alright for what it is. You can check out the whole EP on the player below:

Tony of Nurgle rating 6.5/10

Wolf Culture – The Devil’s Work for Idle Hands (Common Ground Records, 2018)

Wolf Culture are from Brighton, and according to Punktastic, play “pop rock” a genre I associate with Paramore for some reason, a band that I have never given a fuck about because I’m not a 13 year old girl. Not that I take anything I read on Punktastic seriously. For that matter, I don’t read Punktastic if I can help it (for no particular reason – I’m just trying to be cool and mysterious, mate), but whatever.

This EP as it turns out is not as bad as I feared. Admittedly, I’m more than old enough to be these kids’ dad or whatever, which would be another reason for me to be sceptical… Anyway, this would I suppose sit at the more acceptable end of what many young people like to call “pop punk”, and probably sits more comfortably somewhere within the “easycore” bracket, ala all those bands that New Found Glory and their ilk spawned like a particularly irritating and increasingly unappealing self-replicating plague.

There’s another element to this that rests more to the indie rock side of the fence. It’s relatively charming I suppose. I’m looking here to the likes of Martha and Happy Accidents and so on, as there is a small element of similarity. However it feels a bit kind of entry level (without wanting to sound offensive); I mean by this that I can see them being something of a gateway band for kids that start looking for something a bit more challenging. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Every generation has bands of that type that are typically pretty successful by virtue of appealing to a wider demographic. I’m talking here about your Nirvanas, your Green Days, your Blink 182s, your Gaslight Anthems and so on.

Having said all this, I’d be interested to see what these guys are capable of in the future, when perhaps they’ve become a bit ground down by life and are a bit more worldly wise. There seems to be some steady foundations there to be built on, and I’ll say they are “one to watch”. Christ, that makes me feel fucking old. Anyway, it’s a Tony of Nurgle rating of 5.5/10

Layover – Your Laughter Never Leaves (Fox Records, 2018)

Layover are a quartet from Birmingham that take influence from the likes of Tiger’s Jaw, Tiny Moving Parts and The Wonder Years. Yet again, I’m clearly old enough to be their dad. Fuxache. It makes me feel tragic every time I type it. Before I drag myself off to the vets to be euthanized, I suppose I’d better get on with the review…

I suppose this is another EP that fits somewhere in the easycore bracket. Admittedly, it’s a subgenre that doesn’t really do much for me, however, I feel like there’s something more to this lot. There seems to be a certain bitterness to these songs that goes beyond the youthful wistfulness of the Wolf Culture EP. Similarly there seems to be a bit of fence straddling going on here to; one leg seems to be firmly planted in The Movielife side of things, and the other seems to be reaching for the imitation post-hardcore sound of some of those UK bands that were popular in the mid-2000s like Hundred Reasons, Hell is For Heroes and Million Dead (a.k.a. At The Drive In Lite mk1, mk2 and mk3).

At least it’s a bit different, and it’s inoffensive enough. The younger end of the scene will no doubt love this, but to me it just seems I dunno, too young for me? Tony of Nurgle rating of 5/10

Check it out on the player below:

You can buy this on CD or 12in here

Screech Bats – Wish You Were Her EP (self-released)

Screech Bats apparently began their existence as a band as a side-project of Hearts Under Fire, and consider themselves to have a riot grrl ethos. The line-up is all female, which whilst obviously not unheard of, is still something of a rarity in the punk scene. The promotional blurb cites Alkaline Trio, Jimmy Eat World and Against Me! as influences.

To be honest, I can’t really hear any of those bands in the sound here. This more reminds me musically of a watered down version of when AFI used to be particularly good (around Black Sails… and The Art of Drowning) meets the classic riot grrl meets proto grunge of early L7. Unfortunately there are also some parts that remind me of AFI when they became extremely bad (i.e. everything after the aforementioned records) and the perpetually dreadful and contrived Avenged Sevenfold whose brand of gothy proto-metalcore goes cockrock is enjoyed by nobody with good taste in music ever. I do feel like the playing is somewhat restrained for some reason; as if the musicians are capable of playing faster, meaner and harder, and that they maybe want to do so but won’t allow themselves to…

The vocal really sits at odds here. Something a bit more course and uncouth would have been far more appropriate. Vocalist Esme Baker sounds too plummy and posh to be at all believable, particularly as it’s not managing to convey the feelings of betrayal and pain expressed in the lyrics. Combined with music that seems to be holding itself back, the whole thing feels somewhat inauthentic. I only wish this lot had felt able to truly let themselves go and fully unleash the beast of visceral fucking rage – the outcome could have been much better. Tony of Nurgle rating: 4/10

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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