Category Archives: album reviews

The Helio Sequence s/t

The Helio Sequence
The Helio Sequence
Sub Pop


Half a dozen albums. 6 whole albums. That’s what the helio Sequence have produced in their admirable life thus far. 6 records in and they’ve ran out of titles. Most bands can’t think of an album name the first time around. Either that or so reviewers can state eponymous release. But no, not good enough for the Helio Sequence. They have re-invigorated themselves and have started again.

The process behind this record is a good tale. Brandon and Benjamin, who make up the band, had an idea for a record. Rather than writing songs and rehearsing them until they are as tight as a wetsuit in the middle of the North Atlantic they decided to let things flow this time around. Turn up for work, express themselves musically as individuals and see what happened. They did this for a couple of weeks and then merged them together, see what worked. After a month they had 26 songs. For many bands this could have made up a concept triple album but the duo sent these tracks to a collection of their friends and said “hey, listen to these and rank your top ten. The result was 31 votes and Eurovision style 10 tracks won out.

I guess that’s where my interest drops out. For a two piece you may guess there are many effects and keyboards in the mix. If you were of that persuasion to make such a guess you’d be correct. If you like bands of that ilk you may enjoy this, it just doesn’t grab me. It’s clean, well produced and extremely well constructed. Electronic dream pop wrapped in and indie rock flavour. However they seem like such a nice duo I don’t want to rain on that parade. Like the wet suit in the north atlantic you will want it if you are close to the cold sea and have an affinity for the water. If you have any interest in electronic music and haven’t been tainted by punk rock protest songs then chances are this will fit you very snugly.

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Steve Drewett – Jenga Society

Steve Drewett
The Jenga Society
Cruel Binary


With a history of music between us, playing for Steve and listening for me, it is hard to be objective about this release. I wrote to Steve over three decades ago trying to get his band of the time over to Ireland to play some gigs. His band were the Newtown Neurotics and he was going to travel over with Attilla THe Stockbroker. We swapped missives but eventually he decided that the but ferry costs would beat us. I had been listening to the band since their debut Beggars Can Be Choosers album which followed a couple of great 7″s. The sound was a clash of punk and soul bits and had me hooked as a teenager. Every track carried a message, they sang of a world where the general populace were being beaten down but we weren’t gonna be beaten, no way… only short term losses by ferry prices would be contemplated

And here we are, 15 years into the 21st Century and neo-liberalism grew from the Tory roots and is flourishing but we are still not contemplating defeat. We will not be beaten down is still being sung but so are tales of love and reflection.

This is a solo record, acoustic warblings and to be honest they are not fully suited to a voice that has led protest songs for many years. I keep expecting a drum beat to kick in with bass and electric guitar. Steves acoustic has the treble turned up and unfortunately, for me, I wish it would be turned down. If I had of been a soldier in the 80’s then Steve Drewett would have been my Sergeant Major – I feel like I’m a deserter now – a traitor by not glorifying in this record.

I saw the Neurotics earlier this year and those songs still make the hairs on my neck stand up, still as majic and inspirational as ever but sometimes you need to use the weapons you are best at and these weapons should be plugged in for this man.

If you haven’t heard the Neurotics or listened to them in a while please make up for the loss by seeking them out


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Vanilla Pod – Seeing Out The Sunshine

Vanilla Pod
Seeing Out the Sunshine
TNS / Dry Heave

In 1995 Vanilla Pod started pushing their brand of hardcore on to the masses. That included a trip to ireland as they tried to woo audiences with that fast US influenced sound, harking back to New York. They seemed to pop up on so many line-ups which goes to detail how involved the band were collectively in the dit music scene in the UK in the 90’s. 5 albums later over different time spans and we ow have a new offering. Whilst the real world has played a part in each individuals life it has meant less time for touring and sleeping on floors however time has been found for Seeing Out The Sunshine and we are lucky it has.

The hardcore influence is there as strong as ever. No need to tinker too much around the edges, plenty of power and passion. 7 tuneful blasts of hardcore. Here’s to the next 20 years

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USA Nails – Sonic Moist

USA Nails
Sonic Moist
Smalltown America


10 slabs of discordant and manic noise. Cries of Drive Like Jehu or Circus Lupus, where you have screams, noise, tunes and manic playing. This is so good. They played Dublin late lat year and selfishy I can’t believe I wasn’t there. I hope you made it.

It’s full of energy, it’s frenetic with an attitude as sharp as the top of Dublins spire this St Patricks Day. I’m at home on this St Patricks day but I haven’t felt this energy since seeing the Pleasure Cell play an afternoon gig in the Underground in the mid 80s. Their sound has no similiarites but the attitude rings true. This is an exciting record, giving that feeling of excitment I had that very same afternoon. I love that people are in bands like this.


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Cigarette Crossfire s/t

Cigarette Crossfire
Cigarette Crossfire
Waterslide Records


Finland believe it or not has a great reputation for melodic hardcore. Manifesto Jukebox were my introduction to this countries capacity for playing such tunes and it has continued since with
Combat Rock Industry being the home to many Finish outfits. This is their second album and first for Waterslide Records. It hasn’t been a stable line up in that time and many bands would have decided to fold under the pressure. Founder member and drummer of the band, Hennka, passed away tragically last year, soon after this records release. Santtu has now taken the sticks and plays them in Hennka’s honour at each gig. Incredibly brave for them to continue after such a tragic accident (Hennka joined those we miss daily after a skateboarding accident).

It is Hot Water Music, Leatherface and Manifesto Jukebox but that is too simple. It is hard and heavy, we can scream along at times, we have tunes and plenty of anthems to raise our fists to.


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The Slowest Clock – Smile Futurismo! All I heard was purple

The Slowest Clock
Smile Futurismo! All I heard was purple
Eye Unseen Records


I may be in a small minority of Dublin music fans that has positive things to say about Slowest Clock. When Snuff had to withdraw from a gig they were due to play in Dublin in 1989 with US hardcore band Fugazi, Slowest Clock were ready at a heartbeat to fill in. They were always looking to play to new audiences back at a time when different genres weren’t always looking to join together.

Slowest Clock could pop up with any band at the time. Be that Something Happens to match guitarist Gerry’s psychadelic flowery shirts or A House pop sensibilities or Gorehounds psychobilly warblings. They found friends across the ocean in Australian guitar band Celibate Rifles and teamed up on many occassions, even popping up on bills with Paranoid Visions at times.

Of course some of the crowd that were expecting the hardcore fun of Snuff were disappointed with the nod to 60’s psychadelia of the Slowest Clock but many did give them the chance. 25 years later and this record sees the light of day. With no re-union to accompany it, no press sheet to accompany it, no web presence to accompany it, not even contact details on the record. Just a band with some strong songs.

How this record came to exist is a mystery to me. I was aware the four parts that made up the slowest clock were recording in Roundwood Studios in 1990 when they decided aheir day was called. It would seem most of the songs on here are from those sessions. Their post band existence is quite sparse too, only one member continued to be a fixture on the Dublin scene, guitarist Gerry Fahy went on to play in Candy Apple Red.

I recently watched a documentary on the legendary Wimbledon AFC who won the FA Cup in England in 1988. They played that final against Liverpool and most people expected the red of Liverpool to be the colours on the FA Cup when it was lifted that evening. The documentary told of the almost fairy tale journey that Wimbledon went on. Starting off on a tight budget that never really expanded the team from SOuth London fed of not being liked, thrived on being underdogs and wished to be in the minority. That all changed when they got sucess and these also rans became internationals and left to joing bigger clubs. One player, Eric Young, went on to play for Wales but he had no interest in talking about how he was part of the success story. Didn’t wish for the limelight, didn’t want to take any credit. Wanted to be left alone and let his football do the talking. Very few people know where he is now but they do have the memories of the games. The same can be said of the Slowest Clock, these songs – big hints to 60’s garage punk – are the memories and they can speak for themselves. You don’t like them? They don’t care. You want to listen to them? It seems they don’t care either


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Slice Of Life – Love and a Lampost

Slice of Life
Love and a Lampost
Overground Records
slice of life

Steve Ignorant finally gets to sing, under the studio microscope. I’ve listened to him in various formats over the years, Crass and Schwarzennegar being the main two. Steve’s vocals have always been covered by the racous noise of Crass or the electric sound of Schwarzennegar. It is now stripped bare with acoustic accompaniment.

I have seen Slice of life live a couple of times and Steves anger and passion is to the fore (and sometimes an alcohol abetted voice and attitude), however there’s nothing to hide behind here. No Deko to counteract or PA’s guitar cutting in like when he did the album with Paranoid Visions.

And it is still spoken in many parts, prose poetry and art. There’s piano, acoustic guitar, upright bass and even a trumpet.

History has put many people up on pedestals, usually with an alternative version ready to knock them down again. Since the dawn of time many garden paths have been well worn with peoples footsteps being brought up them, and left. Abandoned. Thinking, “we were nearly there”, wondering “If only”. Music and culture changed the lives of many of those troubadors. We are the vegans, vegetarians and souls that were changed. Meat Is Murder, Coal Not Dole, Red Wedge or There is No Authority But Yourself are all clarion calls from the 70’s/80’s. It is a period in history that may be remembered for revolutionary statements on vinyl. Today our cassettes are on mp3, our fanzines digitised by blogs and some people on the edges are running ethical businesses.

Many of the venues that remain open are still driven by profit and alcohol, many of the promoters are using music as a means to pay their bills and few paths are being laid. We looked to bands like Crass and Fugazi to bring us on a different route which some of us took. Slice of Life have taken that musical route. The message is strong and the sound is pleasant. Ideally this band wouldn’t be looking to the mainstream venues and we would have an alternative built over the past 30 years. That doesn’t exist as we co-exist with those we rally against.

If only eh?

Time has moved on and it is good to hear Slice of Life bringing a sound forward. Long may that wheel move forward, open your mind and give this a chance punk.


slice of life1

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Stay Clean Jolene st LP

stay clean jolene

Stay Clean Jolene

Stay Clean Jolene

Title:  Stay Clean Jolene (BandCamp, Dead Broke Rekerds, Rad Girlfriends Records, Drunken Sailor Records, Bombed Out Records, Just Say No to Government Music RecordsiTunes)

Artist:  Stay Clean Jolene (Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp,


stay clean jolene1

I’m a sucker for Christmas, I love the whole sentimentality of it. The signs that one year is nearly complete and we can prepare for the next. OF course the cynical punk rocker in me gets pushed deep down as commercialism is to the fore in this season. Christmas gives people in the west a chance to take stock of where we are, what we have and what we have done over the past 12 months. Personally I feel like I’ve had a long sleep and we are back again. Thankfully though there’s been a good soundtrack to my sleep. That soundtracks has included some really cool UK diy punky hardcore bands. There’s a whole stream out there bashing away at their guitars , playing like their lives depend on it and holding on to some sort of hope.

As someone who gladly attends the annual Rebellion punk festival it is heartening to see old punks hanging on to what they believe in and treating each other well. Under the surface of the leather, bristles spikes and anarchy there is a movement of players who came from that punk scene but wanted their tunes to really shine through. Few of them play at Rebellion but these people are in bands like Bedford Falls, The No Marks, Southport, Bear trade, Epic Problem and Holiday. There’s a ton more, like the people around the Make That A Take scene in Scotland. If you’ve ever read this blog you’ll have seen me championing them here and on my radio show

One of the best 7″‘s in recent years came from Boltons Stay Clean Jolene, I wrote previously after being privileged to see them play this year, “soaring guitars, heartfelt tunes and an integrity that can’t be made up. We are lucky to have bands like stay clean jolene. Lucky they want to continue to play music to 100 people and lucky they feel lucky to do so. Southport the same. They are incredible. 3 people having fun playing to their friends, regardless if they know them or not. Such talent, criminally ignored but whilst it is that way we can still cling on to them.” And now they have released their album. And it’s Christmas time.

10 songs of action packed guitar tunes. It is heartfelt and has more than a nod to Husker Du and Leatherface. leaving it with thos comparisons is lazy and unfair. I’m just trying to help you. They have their own stamp. Guitars soar with tunes that leave you wanting more. They are anthems, tuneful and clear. I have listenened to this record at least 10 times in two days, it’s that good. Just like Santa Claus, if only the world could be like this all the time, I could ignore all the austerity and measures imposed on the populace.

I bet Stay Clean Jolene would be on the side of the people. A sure sign of community is the fact that so many labels have released this record. Well three have clubbed in for the vinyl and two, at least, for the cd. I only wished I wasn’t too late to the party and could have been their Irish distributor.

Do your best to check this out


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Comrades – We Got This

We Got This

Fast and full on punk rock. Blistering and angry with dual vocals and angry lyrics. Is there a correlation between anger and not caring? Comrades want to confront, they want to curse and spit and defecate if they feel like it. Or so their lyrics say.

“This town I call my home
Home is where the hate begins
At the bottom of your clean soul
Lies a little bit of sin”

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what they are getting at here. It’s snarled at you and it sounds like comrades are proud to sing and live in the gutter. New York is perfectly suited to be their home. They couldn’t do it in ireland. Paranoid visions are positively pleasant in comparison.

There’s 9 songs of such vitriol and it does start to wear a bit thin but then their power brings you back in however “don’t shop, shop lift” is one mantra for changing the world. The second half has the angry lyrics but with acoustic backing

Overall the empty anger is a bit disappointing but there’s something that makes me want to sing along when they say “I hope I get what I deserve” we all do really


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King Tuff – Black Moon Spell

Black Moon Spell
Sub Pop Records

king tuff
I pretended to be a tourist in my city last night and went on a ghostbus tour. On it we were told stories of Dracula, Dr Clossey, decadent Dublin and gravediggers. It was a fascinating two hours as I stepped from the reality of football training and logistics to sitting on a bus with gothic decor.

What has this to do with King TUff, you rightly ask. Not a lot really except Sub Pop are telling us there was paranormal activities going on when King Tuff was recording his second album. Last night I was trying to take pictures of a graveyard and twitter mysteriously appeared on my phone instead. When I turned it off my microphone switched on. Maybe King Tuff was trying to get the 30,000 Catholics buried in a pit at the end of the overgrown small plot of land rocking out. After all he is asking for you to give “your ears what they’ve been begging for all year; a heavily weird, heavenly dark, hysterically magical Rock & Roll Sexperience.” I’m not sure that is what my ears did experience.

Plenty of rock, plenty of roll, plenty of attitude and you do get the distinct feeling King Tuff is writing these songs without caring what you or I thnk. It rocks in that bluesy manner that I find hard to really get into and much like St James graveyard I am glad they exist but glad when I leave reach the exit.


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