July 2014 archive

David Reviews Deathwish I: Code Orange Kids 'Love Is Love // Return To Dust'

Sometimes a record comes along that blows everything you believed about hardcore out of the water. For me, this is that record. Code Orange Kids‘ fantastic 2012 LP ‘Love Is Love // Return To Dust’ brings together elements of shoe-gaze, post-hardcore and all-out sludge metal war to bear in a 10-track, 30-minute experience that is at once compellingly complex and unbearably brutal.
Opener ‘Flowermouth (The Leech)’ begins with a low-tuned, dark bass riff that haunts Reba Meyers’ screeched vocals about emptiness and despair, guitars and drums kicking in, surrounding her voice and very nearly overshadowing it until the instrumentation is stripped back completely, leaving only Jami Morgan’s drum beat for several seconds before Meyers growls into the microphone and Morgan himself takes over the vocal, and he screams while frantically drumming away as guitars crash back in and the song climbs over sludgy riffs to reach its feedback-drenched conclusion. These kids are nineteen years old, but their lyrics smack of the kind of maturity most bands only afford after a number of albums. This is no teenage angst-ridden ‘she doesn’t love me and I hate my dad’ bullshit. This is clever. This is different.
Following on, ‘Around My Neck // On My Head’ is 68 seconds of pure, unbridled fury, showcasing incredible feats of vocal power and that brilliant fast-becoming-slow drum riff at the end, leading perfectly into the third track. Number four, the excellent ‘Liars // Trudge’ unwraps a slightly softer side to Meyers’ voice amid doom-laden, echoing guitar harmonies that sound like they were recorded in a haunted house. This all slots perfectly into track five, ‘Colours (Into Nothing)’, a track featuring members of Tigers Jaw which builds layers of instrumentation against each band member’s voice until the whole thing crashes down in a roar of cymbals and cuts out to herald the beginning of arguably the stand-out track on the album, ‘Nothing (The Rat)’, a track with an opening riff so sludgy, so downright filthy that you’ll feel in need of a shower when it’s done.
The second half of the album is definitely the more developed half. Meyers and her bandmates use this portion of the record to show off a more recognisably hardcore edge to their sound, with ‘Roots Are Certain // Sky Is Empty’ again bringing a visceral aggression which hits the listener in the face and doesn’t let up, before diving through the next track, laden with reverb and slowed-down bass menaces.
The final track, ‘Bloom (Return To Dust)’ cleverly borrows it’s opening riff from track eight and slows it right down so that it almost sounds totally different unless you’re listening hard (which you should be). As with the rest of the album, the beauty of this track is that just when you think you know where it’s going it veers off in a different direction than you expected and creeps up on you, delivering a completely different experience than you thought. Yes, the album overall has its slower, less complete moments, but it’s a sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal and consistently challenging record, and it is incredible to believe something this complex was written by teenagers. Keep a look out for this band and get on their wavelength. They’re taking hardcore and mangling it, fucking with people’s perceptions and coming up with something different than you’ve ever heard before. Whether you’re new to the genre or an established veteran, there is everything to like in this record and these people deserve your time, attention and respect.

Retrospective (III): Code Orange Kids

This is another review I never actually gave to anyone. This one was just for me but I’m sharing it here. If you’ve never heard of this band, get on it quick before they get huge and sell out. (A side note: Code Orange Kids recently changed their name to Code Orange, much to the chagrin of die-hard fanboys who threw hissy fits on Twitter about the change. Get over it, guys. If everyone got this irritated by a band’s name-change, Self Defense Family – formerly End Of A Year, End Of A Year Self Defense Family, Self Defense Music, AND Self Defense – wouldn’t have any fans left.)
Code Orange Kids, The Star and Garter, Manchester, March 2014
Some school kids formed a punk band in Philadelphia, PA, they got signed by the biggest label in hardcore and became millionaires by the time they were 21. Sounds ridiculous, no? Sounds like a pipe dream you talked about with your mates in the back of a Physics lesson, doesn’t it? But it’s totally real.
Code Orange Kids formed when the band members were in middle school back in 2008. By the time they signed to Deathwish Records in 2012, their average age was just 18. Their EP ‘Cycles’ brought them to the attention of Converge’s frontman Jacob Bannon, which lead to the signing, and the band went on to release their first full-length, the excellent, shoe-gazing, intensely visceral ‘Love Is Love // Return To Dust’ in 2012, to mass critical acclaim.
Not bad going for a band who famously weren’t allowed into some of their own gigs because they weren’t old enough to enter the venues.
This year sees the release of Code Orange Kids’ sophomore LP ‘I Am King’ (September 1st) and, with the band being incredibly mysterious about what exactly fans are going to hear, I’m intrigued to see what they’re going to come out with at this gig. Drummer Jami Morgan has set up a website dedicated to the new record but the quartet has been very secretive. It has been a busy year elsewhere for the band too, with three of the members forming another band, Adventures, and Morgan teaming up with Self Defense Family’s Patrick Klindon to create Harm Reduction Records, which will release records by Drown and Torn this year.
Beginning with Cycles, the gig kicks off to a brilliantly no-holds-barred start, one kid spinning and kicking and floor-punching with excitement as the tension in the song builds and breaks. As the band dive into the vicious, filthy riff which begins the track Nothing (The Rat), a kid in a Disgrace t-shirt attempts to join in the pit and is instantly floored. There is nowhere to hide (unless you’ve been lucky enough to secure a place on a raised area next to the wall) and track after track rain down on the crowd. It’s a short set, only seven tracks long, but it’s so worth it. Vocalist Reba Meyers shows off her trademark screech for the beginning of Liars // Trudge before bringing forth her quiet, soft, almost-whispered singing for the end of the track. That she is able to replicate this change in her voice so expertly at a live show is testament to her incredible talent.
New track Slowburn is played next, and it’s the song the crowd’s been waiting for, new material to scare the neighbours with. It’s different from other Code Orange Kids material but still recognisably intense, still as captivatingly dark and burning. Finally, the closing track Flowermouth (The Leech) is played, Meyers screaming the lyrics through her veil of messy red hair. It’s been almost impossible to see her face the entire gig because she’s been masked by hair, head-banging while playing guitar and staring at the floor during the slow parts of songs.
What’s so brilliant about Code Orange Kids is, they’re not big-headed. These guys are set to become one of the biggest acts in hardcore. They’re touring with the likes of Bane and Killswitch Engage this year, and last year toured with Every Time I Die and Title Fight, and they’ve established a fan base that includes members of some of the biggest bands in the business, but they’re so humble. It’s this attitude, this passion for what they do and doing it well, that makes them such a pleasure to watch.
See the I Am King video.
Set list:
Cycles (The Days Get Longer)
Nothing (The Rat)
V (My Body Is A Well)
Liars // Trudge
Worms Fear God // God Fears Youth
Slowburn
Flowermouth (The Leech)

The Great Sabatini – Dog Years review

This review was originally hosted on and written for Manchester Rocks, and is reprinted here with permission.
Over the years, Canada has produced some absolutely brilliant punk. Propagandhi, Comeback Kid and Fucked Up have all taken the world by storm and remain some of the best-selling acts out there. There is, however, a small sub-section of the genre that, unfairly, contains bands which are not as well-known (or perhaps that should read well-received) as they ought to be. One particular example of this is Ontario noisemakers Single Mothers, who, having been refused entry to the US earlier this year and consequently having had to cancel an entire US tour just days before it started, seem set now to only ever play in Canada. Another such relatively unknown band is The Great Sabatini, a quartet of brothers from Montreal who write loud, sludgy and occasionally quite morbid punk songs.
And so, to business. Dog Years is actually the band’s seventh release (that’s basically one per year since their formation in 2007 – never accuse a punk band of being lazy), their second full-length after 2009’s Sad Parade of Yesterdays, and is easily the most unusual album I’ve heard all year. Beginning with the rip-roaring The Royal We, which cracks out of the speakers like a blister oozing metal pus, there’s a sense here that influences are so wide and varied, you could be fooled into thinking these guys are trying too hard to cram everything into one song. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. What starts like your standard Metallica-style riff quickly dissolves into all-out punk war, drumming going from standard beat-keeping to technical, complex, cymbal-bashing noise which complements the frantic screaming of the vocals perfectly, before reaching the sludgy, doom-esque, slowed-down climax of the song which sounds like it could have been written by Code Orange at their most volatile. And the brothers pull it off without a hitch.
Things carry on in much the same vein for Guest of Honour, a minute-long rumination on the social classlessness of death (‘It’s a long way down from ivory towers / You’ll be in the ground pushing up flowers’) and continue on for the next couple of tracks, so it’s only by the fifth song, Reach, that the listener realises The Great Sabatini is actually doing something very, very clever with this record. Yes, it’s punk, yes, it sounds like punk, but it’s a record that plays with people’s perceptions of what punk is. Reach is slow-burning, angry but very much different from what’s happened so far on Dog Years. It contains actual singing, and guitar solos that emanate a certain beauty. This beauty reaches further, into the song Aleka, which is a very calm, acoustic track, again containing only singing.
Of course, this still calmness lulls the listener into a false sense of security, because the next track, Munera, while adopting the sludge and slow-burning style we’ve encountered before, does so with a vicious, slowly building ferocity which remains throughout the rest of the album. The standout track, for me, is Pitchfork Pete, a song containing quite possibly some of the darkest lyrics and most bone-chilling sounds to be encountered in a piece of music, the lyrics all delivered in a drowsy, chanted monotone accompanied by chilling background screams that wouldn’t be out of place in an asylum. Brilliant.
Like every album, it has it’s flaws – there may be a touch too much reliance on the slow, doom-y breakdowns and long instrumental outros for some tracks, but overall this is a solid punk record that will grip the listener and dazzle them with a special brand of dark, unsettling music. This is intensely original and will stay with you long after the final note.
 

Retrospective (II): Touché Amoré

This is another gig review from December last year which was never published. Each of the bands I go to see live are incredibly important to me, and none more so than Touché Amoré, whose 2013 record ‘Is Survived By’ tops my Album of the Year list for last year. This time there’s no set list I’m afraid, but please enjoy. Touché Amoré and Self Defense Family and Dad Punchers, Roadhouse, Manchester December 2013 It’s been a busy year for Jeremy Bolm. Hot off the back of being 2012’s main support slot for Converge’s ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ tour, the Touché Amoré frontman has launched his own record label Secret Voice, showcasing up-and-coming post-punk acts such as Single Mothers and Drug Church, as well as touring America as frontman for his other band Hesitation Wounds, and topping this off with recording arguably the most emotionally intense hardcore record of 2013 in Touché Amoré’s ‘Is Survived By’. Touché’s choice of support acts is vastly different from their own style, with opening act Dad Punchers (fronted by Touché Amoré drummer Elliot Babin, and – for this leg of the tour – featuring two of Touché’s other members in what Babin has described on Twitter as a ‘double-barrelled’ tour) bringing their own brand of often funny, occasionally thought-provoking lyrics dressed up in the kind of ear-friendly punk rock which is strangely reminiscent of early Barenaked Ladies. Main support act Self Defense Family (formerly End of a Year) brings the tone down to earth with their introspective, confessional lyrical style, songs interspersed with frontman Patrick Kindlon’s own wry, funny monologues on topics including Manchester’s musical heritage and UK Subs’ recent affiliation with neo-Nazi groups. It’s also the final night of Touché’s two-month long European tour, so you can understand why Bolm may look a little tired as he approaches the stage in Manchester’s Roadhouse. But it doesn’t stop him screaming his way through opening track Pathfinder, from 2011’s ‘Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me’, before instantly diving into the latest record’s lead single Just Exist, to the delight of the assembled crowd. Track after track follows with barely a breath between them, the crowd and the band getting more and more sweaty as the energy Bolm puts out spreads through the venue. Maybe it’s final-night release or something else, but Touché Amoré have never sounded this tight, this vital. DNA, a track about Bolm’s relationship with his father, comes before And Now It’s Happening In Mine, a track about his musical influences. There is pushing and shoving, and the final track of the main set begins; the title track from the new album, and one of the most emotionally challenging songs in their repertoire. The encore only consists of two songs, but it’s clear that Touché have reached the end of their rope. The crowd is tired, the band is tired; all that remains is to deliver these final tracks. Non-Fiction begins, a slow track about the inevitability of death which starts quietly and builds to a crashing, deafening crescendo as Bolm screams the final lyric: ‘With time, we’ll all be gone / But how you lived can live on’. Closing track Honest Sleep is a crowd favourite, and the incessant stage-diving begins, fans scrambling over each other to be a part of what has become a staple of Touché Amoré shows during this particular track. Bolm loses the microphone in the surge of crowd-surfing punk kids during the final moment of the song, in which there is no instrumentation, merely Bolm’s voice. Jeremy stands on the stage, the microphone somewhere on the floor amid the crowd of people and the look of intense, tired gratitude on his face as the lyrics are shouted back at him from the floor seems to sum up this tour: he is exhausted, and all of the band’s work has finally paid off. And that’s it. Bolm and the rest of the band have closed out the biggest tour of their career with a bang. It’s the first time they’ve been a headline act in this country, and they’ve shown that, far from living in the shadow of label-mates and hardcore legends Converge, since last year they’ve grown up and moved on, taking the genre in a fresh direction. It’s nice to know hardcore is alive and well and it is to be hoped that much more will be seen from Jeremy Bolm and his bandmates – and after the reception they received from the crowd, it’s hard to imagine them not being welcomed back with open arms.