Hot Press Book Review:The Road Most Traveled

25 02 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the Road Most Traveled that ran in Hot Press.


Chuck Ragan/The Camaraderie Collective

Milner Crest Publishing


Compiled by Hot Water Music member and bona fide solo folk punk icon Chuck Ragan, The Road Most Traveled is a collection of war stories courtesy of a battalion of contributors whose weapon of choice is music. Featuring cautionary, occasionally humourous tales from the likes of Brian Fallon from the Gaslight Anthem, Jim Wood from At the Drive-In, Dennis Casey from Flogging Molly, Frank Turner and many more, the book is part survival guide for the touring life, part heartfelt love letter to the road and it’s all fueled by shed-loads of blood, sweat, tears and beers. Eschewing the salacious in favour of a more measured, almost philosophical style of writing, the Camaraderie Collective’s reflections are a must read for both fans of D.I.Y. culture and punk, folk and rock music and provides a good insight on what being on the road is really like.


Hot Press Album Review: The Evens

22 02 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Evens record that ran in Hot Press a few issues ago.


The Odds (Dischord)

Four Stars

Key Track: ‘Warble Factor’


In the world of outsider music, few figures loom larger than Ian MacKaye. After defining the American hardcore punk rock scene with the legendary Minor Threat (and giving birth to the Straight Edge sub-culture), the musician then formed the utterly seminal Fugazi in 1987 and up until their “indefinite hiatus” in 2003 he was pretty much the poster boy for D.I.Y. culture. As well as all that, he even co-created what was considered “real” emo in the late 80s with his band Embrace (two decades before the term was perverted in the press by lazy journalists who used the word to describe manscara-ed screamy pretty boys) and also offered a guiding hand to the riot grrrl scene too. In short, no-one would blame MacKaye if packed it all in tomorrow to live in a cabin in the woods as his legacy is assured.


But that was never his way and this issue he continues to reinvent himself with the help of former member of the Warmers Amy Farina under the Evens moniker. The Odds is their third LP and it carries on in a similar vein as their previous two records, with the real life couple trading vocal duties which are scored by Ian’s baritone guitar and Amy’s drums. A relatively restrained and melodic release (by their standards anyway), the lyrics deal with what it’s like to be a middle aged punk and Farina’s vocals are especially good on the album, calling to mind early Polly Harvey mixed with the spiky-ness of Sleater Kinney (‘Warble Factor’). There are plenty of highlights on the record and the likes of the almost poppy, hook-laden ‘King Of Kings’ and the (slightly) jazzy ‘Competing With The Till’ are definite stand-outs and the latter is a welcome walk on the weird side.


While there’s no doubt that some will miss the righteous fury of old, MacKaye fanatics and general fans of lo-fi folk rock will adore the latest installment in what has been a fascinating career to date.


Hot Press Live Review: Damien Dempsey At The Empire,Belfast

20 02 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the Damien Dempsey gig from last Christmas that ran in Hot Press.


The Empire Music Hall, Belfast

It may be as miserable as Morrissey in a McDonald’s outside on the streets of Belfast tonight, but you’d never know it inside the cosy confines of the Empire Music Hall as the great unwashed gathered here this evening are positively cockahoop at the prospect of Damien Dempsey gracing the stage. In fact, for the thirty minutes before the singer/songwriter performs his first song there are raucous chants of “DAMO! DAMO!” ringing out around the hall and when he finally does appear, the venue is a veritable sea of excitement and adoration.


“How ya Belfast, ready for a sing-song?” he asks in his thick Donaghmede accent (which sounds positively exotic round these parts) and that’s exactly what he provides for the guts of the next two hours. Opening with ‘Sing All Your Cares Away,’ the Empire feels like a football terrace as the crowd croon along to every single word. We may only be one tune in, but tonight already feels like it’s something special and we’ve got goose bumps on top of our goose bumps. “Doctors recommend singing to help with depression-just call me Dr Damo. I’ll examine you all later,” he jokes before launching into the sublime title track from his sixth record Almighty Love.


Despite the album only coming out a matter of weeks ago, the audience know every last syllable and nuance of the new stuff and it’s a testament to Dempsey’s talent for crafting powerful melodies. ‘Chris And Stevie,’ a song which the singer penned for his friends who committed suicide, is a particular highlight and it’s a beautiful lament which sounds all the more potent when his voice cracks slightly with emotion during the chorus and the reggae-infused ‘Your Pretty Smile’ (his “one happy tune”) is a touching love song delivered with honesty and sincerity.


While some might say playing the politically-charged ‘Colony’ may have been a gamble in a city which will continue to feel the effects of “those glorious days of rule” for decades to come, for this writer it was Dempsey’s performance of the night and it sounded all the more mesmerizing due to its setting (the venue was a church in its previous life). On the other hand, his version of ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’ fell a little flat to these ears, but with the likes of ‘Community’ et all in his canon and a band of truly talented musicians backing him, it was only a small blip in what was a life-affirming gig. Our next appointment with Dr Damo can’t come soon enough.


Metal Hammer Album Review: Car Bomb

18 02 2013

Here’s a reprint of a review of the amazing Car Bomb album that ran in Metal Hammer recently.




After an ill-fated dalliance with Relapse Records, New York mathcore bruisers Car Bomb return with an explosive, self-released opus which they’ve bafflingly dubbed W^W^^W^W. A record that features multiple moments of extreme mayhem peppered with sweet melodic pay-offs (The Seconds, Spirit of Poison) the whole experience feels a little like being repeatedly beaten over the head by the Hulk then going for a beer with Thor afterwards. The guitars and drums are locked together tighter than a hangman’s noose throughout all 12 tracks and highlights include the 49second-long hardcore influenced Auto-named and the heroic Lower The Blade, which boasts a Chino Moreno-esque vocal hook that’ll stay embedded in your brain-case for moons. There are also flashes of the late, great Dimebag (at his most experimental) on the likes of Gurrucha (string squeaks and all) shades of IDM on Magic Bullet and Gorija’s Joe Duplantier provides some welcome guest vocals on Third Revelation. Clocking in at 50-ish minutes, W^W^^W^W is the sound of a band at the peak of their powers and fans of Meshuggah should pick it up. [8]


No Holds Barred

15 02 2013

Yes,yes, I know. I’ve sucked at updating ye olde blog(ge?) so far this year,but next week I’ll rectify that.Promise.

In the meantime though, bathe your eyeballs in the righteous video from Valient Thorr.All hail the Fabulous Freebirds.

Maiden England

12 02 2013