Punk is a style we like to cover at Heavy Blog when we can but often times it gets a little buried or we get behind on what’s going on in that particular area of the Heavy World. So we’re going to try something new here. In this column we’ll recommend some of the best in (the broadest definition of) punk as we see it. Each month we’ll hit on some new releases, talk about the tours big and small, and, hopefully, get feedback from you, Dear Reader, if we miss something that we should feature out of the punk realm. There are a number of great places to get your fix of punk music and tour stories but we’re going to give you the Heavy Blog spin on that here with What’s Up, Punks. Enjoy!
So with that said, let’s take a quick spin around 10 albums we think you really should check out and why.
No Use for a Name – Rarities, Vol. 1: The Covers
NUFAN were one of those bands that you either loved or hated in terms of their sound but you’d have to look around very hard to find someone that didn’t at least respect them for their ability to kick pop-punk into another gear. On this compilation release from Fat Wreck Chords we get a look at their extensive back catalog of covers and one more chance to hear Tony Sly having fun, which for punks who ever met the guy, that’s worth its weight in gold. That Me First and the Gimme Gimmes would largely implement their style (and musicians) speaks to the quality and manner in which this band covered some really great songs, making them their own. Highlights include “Hybrid Moments” (the Misfits), “Enjoy the Silence” (Depeche Mode), and “Making Our Dreams Come True” (aka the Laverne and Shirley theme song).
Gogol Bordello – Seekers and Finders
The original Gypsy punks are back with their newest offering which is, essentially, more of the same catchy, shake-off-the-doldrums kind of punk influenced folk music that they’ve been doing for years. There isn’t a whole lot that is terribly new or groundbreaking but it’s fun in a way that we sorely need in these dark times. The moody, Nick Cave-inspired “Walking on the Burning Coal” is a solid reintroduction to the band after having been away for four long years but it is “Saboteur Blues” that sees the band back to their hyperkinetic ways, folding in Eugene Hutz’s trademark, seemingly nonsense, lyrics and unique delivery while heavily relying on a pulsing backbeat that beckons you to move.
Comeback Kid – Outsider
Comeback Kid are back this September with their newest release, Outsider, and if the first track released off of the album, “Surrender Control”, is any indication then we are in for a hell of a… well, comeback from these stalwarts of the hardcore scene. The song features the kind of surging, metallic hardcore the band are known for but the real beauty here is the anthemic chorus that the band excels at. Another reason to highly anticipate this one is a collaboration with Devin Townsend that will surely get tongues wagging and moshpits started on their upcoming October tour with Burn and Jesus Piece.
Metz – Strange Peace
We got an early preview of the new album from modern Wire loving heroes, Metz, and it rips. The two tracks you can preview now on their Bandcamp page hurtle forward with pulse pounding drums, a barbed guitar attack, and ironically angry vocals. This is produced by the legendary Steve Albini and it shows. There’s a lot of strange noises that really work for the band and it will be exciting to see if this catapults them back into the higher consciousness of the indie-punk world. The early signs are extremely good so if you like your punk with heavy dollops of new wave and Dischord type sounds with hints of Blood Brothers thrown in then grab this when it comes out on Sub Pop September 22nd.
No Fakie – El Sillon de Ethan
You will either love or hate this blast of VERY low-fi punk out of Mexico. This band do the early NOFX style of punk here and clearly aren’t “expert” musicians by any measure. Even if that’s the case, it’s hard not to find their commitment to this style done really well in that ramshackle, “practice, what’s that?” manner that their inspirations embodied at the start of their careers. The cover of Screeching Weasel’s “Supermarket Fantasy” is remarkably spot-on to the early versions of the original in terms of production, too, when played side by side. I would love to hear this band given a proper production, whatever that even means, but if you like punk at all and approach it with an open mind, do yourself a favor and check out No Fakie.
Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs – s/t
This album revives a lot of different styles including the kind of punk that made Stiff Little Fingers famous with a dash of early Clash while throwing in a little new wave synthesizer and adding a pinch of Vindictives snottiness on “Voicemail”. ‘70s power-pop is a major influence on the band’s sound, as well, and there’s nothing wrong with that. “Tough” is Thin Lizzy through and through right down to Coffey doing his best Phil Lynott while dropping a couple of lyrically hints back at “The Boys Are Back in Town”. “Ragnarok” lays down some serious Cheap Trick style riffage. Basically, this is a fun throwback kind of bar rock with punk attitude album.
The Slow Death – Punishers
The album is aptly titled for its rough and tumble style of punk and roll reminiscent of Red City Radio, Off With Their Heads, and the Ducky Boys. The band have a lineage extending to the Ergs and touch on some obvious colleagues in the Minneapolis punk scene. The band straddle a tough punk sound with the Midwestern heartbeat of the Replacements. The album opens with “Central Air” and rambles on through some of the best punk of this kind that’s been released recently. Their songs hint at how fun their live show must be with images of a crowd, PBR tallboys hoisted in the air, singing along with every line. It’s got the energy for the kids and the grit and guts for the dad-punk crowd. Get in on that shit.
The Moms – Songs from the Road
Though technically an EP, the raw-throated vocals over meaty hooks on the Moms. Songs from the Road, prove so irresistible that we needed to make mention of them here. There’s a strong hint of the Hold Steady happening here with a little more rasp and a bit more rawness in their kind of party-punk. “Sadly, but Surely” reeks with the air of a Replacements-Hold Steady hangover on full display so while this isn’t “punk” in its strictest sense it still hold enough of that integrity and attitude that keeps it well parked in range of its predecessors. There are even hints of Wax if you’re looking out for it. The album opener, “180 Grier on Nursery”, is much more in the direction of punkers the Loved Ones but with FYP’s snottiness. All in all, this is a pretty deep 4-track EP and well worth getting your hands on.
Dead Cross – Dead Cross
You can read our in-depth review of this album here but suffice to say, it shredded so much when it dropped in July, it’s still worth reminding folks that it’s out there. This might be the most “metal” release we have on the list this month but the Lombardo-Patton-Crain-Perason “super group” delve deeply into a twisted kind of hardcore fused with the oddity that only the guys who were the backbones of The Locust and Fantomas (among others) could produce. The hyper-freakout thrashcore on display on more traditional tracks like “Obedience School” and “Shillelagh” are balanced with the weirdness of tracks such as “Gag Reflex” and “Church of the Motherfuckers”. Essentially, if you didn’t get it yet, you should grab it now.
Downtown Boys – Cost of Living
Saving arguably the best for last on this month’s list is the new album from Providence’s Downtown Boys. The band were recently featured on Pitchfork’s list for the Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs and rightfully so. Cost of Living is produced by Guy Piccioto of Fugazi fame so it’s unsurprising to hear ample references to the kind of angular guitar playing that he (re)pioneered in the ‘90s throughout but it’s the huge personality of lead singer, Victoria Ruiz, and her reimagining Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex) for a new generation that proves compelling here. Standout tracks here are “I’m Enough (I Want More)”, “Promissory Note”, and “It Can’t Wait” on an album chock full of fine examples of what punk is still capable of being, both danceable and dangerous.
The Jukebox portion of WUP will serve to tip a bunch of songs that we checked out and dug whether they’re from up and coming bands or established hands, this is your singles section, so give these songs a listen and be ahead of the curve when the albums come out.
The Armstrongs – “If There Was Ever A Time” sees the East Bay Armstrong tandem of Tim and Billy Joe join their gargantuan punk powers to give us a tidy little ditty about unity. Go figure. There are literally no unexpected notes on this song but it’s still noteworthy because it brings these two together as they create something that harkens back to the heyday of troubled Bay Area punk label, Lookout! And the early days of 924 Gilman St.
Hot Water Music – “Vultures” is the latest tease released ahead of September’s release of the band’s first new album in 5 years, Light It Up. The sound is something so atypical for HWM that you’d be forgiven for wondering if this wasn’t some obscure cover. The track doesn’t have the same fire of earlier tease, “Never Going Back”, but it’s more from a band that fans have been starved of in recent years.
Four Year Strong – “Nice to Know” shows once again that FYS just breathes nice, punk inflected pop at this stage of their career. Check out the semi-Tears for Fears phrasing in the guitar throughout the track. Underneath the typical emo vocals from the band, we get a little bit of a curveball on this tease for the new album.
Across the Atlantic – “Sundress Funeral” starts out with a bit of ukelele which veers dangerously close to Imagine Dragons territory before taking a sharp swerve into A Day to Remember-style pop-punk. If you’re down with catchy melodies and super poppy punk then this is for you.
Anti-Flag – “Racists” is the band’s response to the events of Charlottesville and more than that it’s another catchy gem from the band. Be sure to check out the video.
The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die – “Dillon and Her Son” sees TWIABP serve up a nice chunk of bass and synth driven indie-punk. There’s a lot of evocation of both the Anniversary and Reggie and the Full Effect here so grab it if that’s your bag. If you don’t know those bands, check this one out anyway for a taste of something a little different in your earholes.
This Wild Life – “Break Me” is a track from way back in June but we liked it so much that it merited mention in this edition of the juke particularly for its nice update to the kind of sounds fans of Kevin Devine and City and Colour are into. There are some nice production bits here that are reminiscent of Bon Iver as well. This duo are onto something and it will be interesting to see where they go after last year’s Low Tides.
Stand Atlantic – “Mess I Made” features the band in full-on Paramore-esque glory with a bit of the radio friendliness that we got from old Sum 41. This band are releasing a new EP (Sidewinder) in September. Out of Australia, they’re a pop-punk gem that should resonate with a pretty wide swath of fans.
Propagandhi – “Victory Lap” is the initial salvo from the return of these erstwhile politi-punks from Winnipeg in the face of rapidly changing world. Though repetitive, the song is really meant to be an announcement that the outspoken band aren’t going to sit back while their neighbors south of the border burn the whole world down.
Burn – “Ill Together” sees the return of NYHC legends, Burn, returning with their trademark sound that stuck out like a sore thumb from their contemporaries in the ‘90s and does so even more strikingly now with that, dare we call it “progressive hardcore”, sound that bands like Quicksand would hone in later years.
Hitching a Ride
Obviously, Warped Tour was the biggest traveling show in punk and Riot Fest is starting to stir on the horizon but there are some great, well-known (and not so) bands out there on their own runs right now. The biggest of these is the Rancid/Dropkick Murphys combo with the Bouncing Souls and Jake Burns in support. This is a ridiculous lineup for any punk but, if you go, expect your dad to ask for a ride.
In the meantime, we have the monstrous tour to kill all tours as Converge went out with Neurosis, or is it the other way around? On the back of two recently released songs, the Massachusetts band are ready to release a new album after killing it nightly as part of this dream pairing. If you went, tell us what you thought! (photo)
On the smaller stages and concert halls you’ve got Anti-Flag, PEARS, and Teenage Bottlerocket who all wrapped up European runs through mid-August (largely thanks to the bigger European punk festivals, particularly Paris Punk Rock Summer), Useless I.D. heading out on their own European jaunt, and a plethora of acts getting ready for Riot Fest.
And by the time you read this, this year’s Afro-Punk Festival will have come and gone so we will hopefully have some more info on what happened out of that considering they have an awesome lineup as well as a wrap-up from the aforementioned monster festival happening in Chicago. That’s it for this month’s edition. Until next month, send us feedback on what you think we should be on the lookout for in the world of punk music!