Junior – JuniorLand review

JUNIORCOVERWales is growing in prominence in the pop punk world – Junior are the latest band of many to emerge from the country. The Cardiff based trio consist of members with more than ordinary careers – a professional wrestler, a children’s book author and a head of a non-profit organisation – who bonded over their common love of music. Just like their professions, the members have promised that their sophomore release JuniorLand is far from the usual themes of pop punk music, with the lads not just absorbed by ‘girls and skateboards’.

Whilst openings for other pop punk records I have recently reviewed begin with an in your face introduction, Junior ensure they run things differently from the get go – the first thirty seconds of A House That’s Not Quite A Home instead opts for a stirring quote courtesy of what sounds like an old sample – ‘discouraged, disgruntled, heck no, they’re glad to be here, remember!’. Another difference from the typical opening track is the mellow instrumental that greeted me after the sample – more chilled sounds are reminiscent of circa 2000 Blink 182 and New Found Glory, and I was glad that Junior have been brave enough to venture outside the box. Although in the first half of the song I felt that the lyrics lacked depth, A House That’s Not Quite A Home improves substantially towards the end with powerful rousing repeats of the chorus. Despite the strident, catchy guitar instrumental for second track Maria, dreary lyrics ultimately let the song down. Persuading protagonist Maria to come outside and play with them feels a bit too bland for my personal likening.

That Pretty Dress is a very pretty song and significantly better – there is a step up in the sophistication of the lyricism, complete with an unpredictable guitar rhythm changing from slow to choppy chords, with time for a sweet solo. It is an earnest track that holds its head up on JuniorLand, and captured my attention the whole way through not sticking to expected sounds from a pop punk track. The acoustic feel of Lakeside is enchanting, and it is again exciting to witness Junior try out another new sound, which makes a pleasant easy-listening experience, with passionate meaning behind it.

What remains of JuniorLand is just as spirited as previous songs – barely lasting long enough for you to catch your breath, If I Had the Time I’d Tell You I’m not Sorry is exhilarating through enthralling drum beats provided by Si Martin, and continues with the clever mix of two main vocalists in Matt Attard and Mark Andrews, with their diverse vocals bouncing of each other well. Leading single Anywhere but Here is another gem and was perfect to release as its summery vibe ensures it is memorable. Winding proceedings up, violin invigorated Epilogue (We Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay) concludes with another inspiration and powerful quote.

Junior, I am delighted to say I mostly very much enjoyed my stay listening to your mini album.

JuniorLand will be released on the 16th October on Ambition Records.
You can listen to Anywhere But Here below.

False Advertising – Self titled review

FALSEADVERTISINGWhen someone mentions ‘Manchester’, iconic ground-breaking bands including The Stone Roses, Oasis, The Chemical Brothers, and arguably alternative music founders The Smiths pop into your head. Now False Advertising want to join the list of credible groups originating from the city, and join the list of bands that people will remember by the next generation. Forming two years ago, the group’s members have kept a low profile, working hard to produce their debut. Since finally unveiling songs online three months ago, Manchester has held its breath in anticipation for a full album, and the wait is almost over, with their self-titled effort scheduled for release on the 4th September.

Unfortunately, the first two tracks of False Advertising, although not necessarily weak songs by no means, are in my eyes a poor decision to open a debut with. First track Breaker does deliver a dark brooding mysterious sound, but vocal, from Jen Hingley, and instrumental alike create a sound all too commonly afflicted with the grunge genre, and ultimately it falls more into the mould of album filler rather than a lead track. Similar words can be expressed about Another Mention – the addition of distortion experimentation works, but overall the track is relatively limpid and I wasn’t wooed by it either.

Don’t let an average beginning put you off the rest of the album; third track Wasted Away turns the fortune of False Advertising’s debut around, and ensures that listening to it isn’t a waste of your time. With a chord sequence almost identical to Lived A Lie by You Me At Six, the riff is catchy, and to new listeners is the perfect introduction to the band. Wasted Away is a leading album track that should have been. Dozer awakens you to a riotous sound which is perfect chaos – screeching guitars and a sneering whip of “it’s not your fault” provides one of the highlights of the album, and hails similar to striking songs from growing grunge prowess Wolf Alice. Following track I Don’t Know again incorporates distortion into Chris Warr’s vocals as he for the first time take command of lead vocals, a smart move which proves far from rebarbative.

Although False Advertising falter on track All Of The Above due to its feckless sound that as a consequence leaves its fate no more than album filler, the album ensures a swift recovery with tracks Cold Shoulder and No Good, laced with dramatic bass from the brainchild of Josh Sellers that draws you into the songs. Jen unleashes rueful emotion on Only Way, vocals that craft a sincere grunge ballad. Finish Line, ironically named as it is actually only the penultimate song, instantly reminded me of a criminally underrated song you find pre-installed on new smartphones, and becomes your own little musical highlight secret. Eventually the finish line is reached with closing track Something Better – with an infectious chorus and enticing guitar melody, it’s a song which is the best possible the album could end by.

Despite a slow start and occasional stumbles, in the end False Advertising is a grunge victory, and ends on a high. It may not propel them to the heights of Manchester’s finest just yet, but it will win them a league of fans.

You can stream the album below.
False Advertising by False Advertising

WSTR – SKRWD review

When a group is signed to a major record label based on one EP, you can immediately deduce something about them – they have an awful lot of potential to make a heavy impact in the music industry. You would be correct to suss this out about WSTR – the pop punk outfit have mastered making promising first impressions, as No Sleep Records has eagerly snapped them up on just the basis of upcoming EP SKRWD.

The band open their EP with South Drive, which if it happens to be the first song a listener has the privilege of hearing by them, it will become infectious listening. With its incredibly catchy hook, I guarantee the track will remain in your head all day. A fun opening catchy song, it carries a boisterous bright spark which gives a promising start to the EP.

Fair Weather doesn’t allow itself to drop in quality; another ridiculously fun song, intricate chord changes by guitarists Danny Swift and Kieren Alder give it shape and added dimension. Although I liked all of the track’s lyrics, one line in particular defined the song for me: ‘my friends are dicks, but I would never have it any other way’. We all have people we talk to who are slightly mad and we do not know why we bother with them, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t want them to ever change, and this sentimentally of friendship adds passion to Fair Weather. My only critique is the band could have added another round of the chorus at the end, only as I felt the song ended too suddenly.

A shift in tonality of third track Graveyard Shift from the two preceding tracks ensures the EP doesn’t sound completely the same and therefore safe. Vocalist Sammy Clifford provides poignant reflective lyrics describing the low point of life when it becomes stuck in a rut, but the slightly more negative literate tone is cleverly wrapped in energetic pop guitar melodies.

There is a danger for any band that the second half of an EP or album fades out with quality, but this is not an issue for WSTR, who manage to keep the momentum going with their final three songs, thanks to the contributions of bassist Alex Tobijanski and Kieran McVeigh on drums. Brainsick is laced with summery guitar licks and pays homage beautifully to bands from pop punk’s golden years Sum 41 and Blink 182. Despite its title, penultimate track Aint Great unsurprisingly is very great, with witty and angst-ridden lyrics building a rousing song explaining a situation which clearly the band are a bit miffed off about. Finally, to end the EP on a high, Devils N Demons is an exciting concluding song that will make you wish SKRWD was actually a full album.

WSTR definitely have over-whelming talent and their EP proves this – it is a tribute to all the best parts of pop punk over the last couple of decades. The group deserve SKRWD to be the step that puts them on the path to success that recent pop-punk groups such as Neck Deep have achieved.

SKRWD is due to released on the 4th September on No Sleep Records.

You can watch the video for Fair Weather below.

Earl Grey – Passing Time review

EARLGREYEPCOVERPop punk music has dramatically risen in popularity in the UK – the highlight being All Time Low’s well deserved Number 1 album earlier in the year with Future Hearts – but in Germany it is still a section of alternative music that makes a quieter impact on people compared to the long-time established hardcore scene. Alas, change may be on the horizon; Earl Grey have been giving hardcore music a 21st Century kick in the backside, by combining both this and pop punk sounds together. The crossover quintet have had a busy year so far – in the spring the group released debut EP Ready to Leave, produced sophomore EP Passing Time, with the next step now being a September/October tour around their home country and the UK.

Before I pressed play on Passing Time, I was curious and very uncertain as to whether the set up of pop punk and hardcore would work, having never encountered music of the sort previously. After finishing listening to first track named after the EP’s title, I was still very uncertain. An intense track from the get go, its loud searing guitar riffs are pretty much present from beginning to end, and instrumental wise it is clear Earl Grey are influenced by pop punk flavours reminiscent of As It Is and Set It Off. Even after the opening chords I knew I would be gripped tightly on a glorious punk roller-coaster from beginning to end.

So far, so good – however where Passing Time is severely lacking is the mismatch of heavy bass and drums with vocals. The band say that their second EP increases the amount of energy and passion they have put into their songs, and indeed I could sense the heartfelt devotion vocalist Malte ‘Pedro’ Unnasch puts into every syllable he screams. Regardless of this, I struggled to make out a significant proportion of lyrics in the track, and personally for me that is one of the most crucial parts of connecting to a song. My critique is precisely the same for following track Headstrong; I felt it was more or less an exact replica of Passing Time, and the song is far too short at 1:23 minutes to really feel like it was heading somewhere enthralling.

Backstabber convinced me that perhaps hardcore and pop punk are not too different to successfully gel ultimately – the feeling of being betrayed and stabbed in the back makes most people want to scream out in horror, and this sensation is indeed both replicated in Unnasch’s vocals and described well in its lyrics. Another track which runs under two and a half minutes, I was disappointed when it ended abruptly and should have run much longer than the two tracks on the first half of Passing Tine. Final track Haven is a strong conclusion, and rounds off the end of the EP delightfully.

Are Earl Grey the spark that will change the alternative scene in Germany and start the rise of the pop punk scene? Passing Time certainly is near brilliance instrumental wise, but evidently the clarity of vocals lets it down at times, especially in the first two tracks – alas it bounces back just in time with the rest of its material. The band certainly are unique in that their releases including Passing Time will cater to those in the hardcore and pop punk scenes, in both Germany and more fans in other countries, intrigued in a new collaboration of sounds that almost fits hand in hand together to a ‘tea’.

Passing Time EP will be released on the 9th October via KROD Records.

You can watch the music video for Passing Time below.

Best Years interview

BESTYEARSCOVERRecently I reviewed the sophomore EP Drop Out from the pop punk outfit which I loved, and now you can read why they always wanted to make pop punk music, their career highlight, and if they would make music for a Christmas soundtrack…

What pushed your decision to leave ‘reality’ as mentioned in your press release, and fully focus on committing to the band?      
Every band any of us have ever been in had either not worked or run itself into the ground, we all knew that if we dropped everything and focused properly that we could make something of ourselves this time round and so far we’ve done exactly that.

Was pop punk music always the genre you wanted your music to fit in, and for future releases do you want to stay close to the sound you have developed, or explore different sounds?
When we started this was the initial idea, I would like to say “yeah this is what we’re going to do for the rest of our career and it will never change from pop punk”, but you never know what’s going to happen. For now we’re loving it and we want to make a dent in the scene by attempting to bring pop punk back to its roots instead of every band trying to sound like The Story So Far.

What has been the highlight of your band career so far?                                                                                    For me (Ed) I would say playing our first ever show at the Camden Barfly with As It Is which was completely sold out! I’ve seen plenty of bands there over the years and it was pretty surreal. Also having a chance to play with some of my favourite bands from my childhood (Man Overboard).

Where can you imagine the band in a year’s time?
I imagine us still as strong as we are now, even better friends and hopefully smashing it with our newest release… maybe even touring Europe or further. Who knows.

If you were to describe the ‘unique selling point’ of listening to Best Years, what would it be and why?
We’re not trying to be anything we’re not; it’s all natural and we intend to keep it that way. We just want to have fun ourselves and also make sure everyone else does too.

Who would be your dream collaboration?
Dream collaboration would probably be with Good Charlotte/The Madden Brothers, that would be insane and we would be blown away by it I think!

Have you as a band experienced any setbacks – if you have, then how did you learn to deal with them?
We experienced a bit of a setback with being able to afford new gear to gig with and stuff like that, and with only one of us being able to drive it kind of makes it harder to transport all of us and our gear to gigs, but it’s all fun and we have a good time in the Corsa.

If each of you was placed on a desert island, and could only take one album each with you, what would it be and what are the reasons behind your choice?
Joel – Yung Lean / Unknown Death (2002), as it is one of the most emotional albums of all time and would be perfect to listen to for the rest of my life in perfect solitude.
Holland – Transit / Young New England because it has my favourite track of all time on it and it sums my life up perfectly.
Ed – Alt J / An Awesome Wave because I don’t think I could get bored of it and it’s a very chilled and easy to listen to album.
James – Anything by the Foo Fighters they’re the kind of band that really make me think about the important things in life.
Berzins – Slipknot / self titled so I would have a good soundtrack to end my life to and I could also throw up those God damn horns – am I right?!

Would you ever consider making a Christmas-themed track, or contributing your talents to a film soundtrack?
Yeah definitely if it was for the right kind of thing and we all felt comfortable doing it – I guess that would be cool! We’ve had friends who have done some film soundtrack work and it hadn’t worked out that well for them but I guess we would try it.

If you weren’t in the band, what would your dream career be?
Joel – Film/ Multimedia Camera work.
Holland – Navy / Military / Air Force.
Ed – Touring Guitar Technician.
James – Rubix Cube factory worker.
Berzins – Ralph Lauren model.

Drop Out EP by Best Years will be released on the 28th August, and you can listen to Overrated below.