Bad Religion – The Profane Rights Of Man
It’s not too surprising for a band like Bad Religion to show some signs of flagging, especially now when they’re sixteen albums deep into a career that many consider to contain multiple classics. But punk bands of their vintage have a tendency to slip up, and given the mixed response to their last single The Kids Are Alt-Right, you could easily assume this to be a band falling into the holding patterns of old punks running out of interesting ways to say what they want. Thankfully, The Profane Rights Of Man appears to be the exact course correction they needed, with the sort of lightning-fast, deeply incisive execution that’s been a staple of this band for so long. Sure, Greg Gaffin is hardly a vocal powerhouse anymore (and you can tell that studio work is putting in some of the heavy lifting in that area), but standing firmly for the rights of all remains a pertinent subject delivered with gusto, especially when that’s a topic that only seems to be getting more and more dicey. As for the instrumentation, it’s nothing truly groundbreaking, but there’s enough speed and guitar crunch to suggest that age isn’t catching up with them just yet, and that Bad Religion are still capable of delivering some firepower when necessary. It’s by no means their best work, but for a band that could so easily be phoning it in right now, The Profane Rights Of Man goes for broke in a way that’s definitely encouraging.
Bring Me The Horizon ft. Dani Filth – Wonderful Life
Off the back of Mantra and the assertions that amo would be the midpoint between Sempiternal and That’s The Spirit, it’s rather easy to predict where Bring Me The Horizon’s upcoming tracks will land. That’s not to say there won’t be any surprises at all; the fact that Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Filth appears to lend some blackened, creaking vocals certainly comes out of left field, as do the layers of horns to bring this track to a much grander conclusion fitting of the enormous arena-rock that Bring Me The Horizon now put their name to. Other than that though, Wonderful Life ends up feeling rather predictable compared to the drastic turns this band have taken in the past, and while it’s not necessarily bad – it’s definitely good to hear low-slung, carving riffs as presumably the norm again, and Oli Sykes is definitely becoming a stronger singer – it fits into a very particular mould that’s kind of expected at this point. There’s not a great amount of wiggle room with this brand of hard rock that can end up feeling a bit too much like Mantra Pt. 2, a fact not helped by the typical gloom and pessimism that colour Sykes’ lyrics. Again, this certainly isn’t bad, and as an attempt to win over those alienated by That’s The Spirit, good strides are being made, but that experimentation and innovation that Bring Me The Horizon have become known for is only really here in spots, and that can be a bit disappointing.
Babymetal – Starlight
The rift that forms whenever Babymetal are even so much as mentioned will likely never be patched up, especially when there are still metalheads who wouldn’t dare be caught listening to something as ridiculous as this, and are much more content with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the like – y’know, serious bands like that. But regardless of how they formed, Babymetal have been putting in some serious work to get the overall acceptance within the metal community that they have, and it’s tracks like Starlight that prove why. Granted, as far as singles go, this isn’t their best – it’s going to be hard to top Karate no matter what they do – but with the enormous walls of guitars that contrast against the girls’ sugary-sweet vocals, it’s everything that this band have become known for honed to a fine point. If anything, this is among the most natural the metal / J-pop fusion has ever sounded, with the glossy production that gives such a fine, impenetrable finish over everything, but it undoubtedly works. It’s another step for Babymetal becoming the genuine global superstars that they’re so capable of being, and while they’ll have to give it that extra push as a vocal duo now, they’ll easily be able to do it. Songs like this are a perfect example of that.
The 1975 – It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)
Somewhat boldly, It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) has been described by Matty Healy as “the 1975-iest song” since their debut, and considering how much of a scattered mess the preview tracks from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships have been, that’s at least a good start. And indeed, this definitely sounds like The 1975 at a more likable juncture, once again breaking down the foppish posturing they’ve become synonymous with in favour of a simple but endearing love song set to glistening ‘80s synths and gospel vocals that feel like a band really hitting their stride at making a great pop song. Perhaps the best thing about it is how small-scale this all is, showing a human side to Healy that these singles have tended to flit back and forth between, but landing at the point of down-to-earth humanity that surpasses so much of what’s come before it. And yes, it is “the 1975-iest song” in a long time, in the sense that it’s a great little track that’s definitely a bit tentative and unsure of itself, but carries a lot of charm with it. It’s not making the bigger picture of that upcoming album any clearer, mind, but it’s certainly giving the impression of it being an interesting one to dive into.
The Front Bottoms – End of summer (now I know)
After Going Grey was a pretty huge misstep for them, The Front Bottoms really did get back on track with their Ann EP earlier this year, returning to their smart, ramshackle indie-rock without missing a beat. That looks to be continuing with End of summer (now I know) too, though perhaps this rests more in the middle of the two releases than anywhere else. Brian Sella’s incredibly pronounced vocals still remain the primary focal point, as does the rustling acoustic guitar, but with the squealing solo and touches of synth against the more spacious mix, it feels like The Front Bottoms’ attempt at an arena-rock song if anything, though still blessed with their typically wry wit. And if this is a direction they’re looking to continue with, it’d be a pretty good idea, especially as it condenses the best elements from their past two releases while still feeling distinctly like The Front Bottoms. Perhaps this marks the start of a bold new era, and if that’s the case, it’ll be welcome to see what comes from it.
Chase Atlantic – YOU TOO
What’s considered rock or alternative has changed a lot from even five years ago, but regardless of any minute stipulations that gives publications the necessary go-ahead to call virtually anyone alternative, Chase Atlantic do not fall anywhere under that banner. Hell, with their big, blurry trap sound, they’re closer than Post Malone than any conceivable rock band, but at least he can bring some degree of intensity and curdling anger to his material; Chase Atlantic simply rely on the ethos that an edgy, detached image makes you look cool and roll with it wholesale. Thus, it’s no surprise that with its reverb-soaked, brittle beats and general colourlessness, YOU TOO could easily be a cut from Halsey, just dubbed over Mitchel Cave’s willowy non-presence that lacks any compelling undertone or energy, and simply just drifts along with a lightweight mix whose lack of definition whatsoever already has it falling apart at the seams. Points for the saxophone interlude to stop this being totally dead on arrival, but YOU TOO simply stands as an utterly worthless song from a band of freeloaders who clearly have no idea what they’re doing.
Seaway – Just What I Needed
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that Seaway have a history of good covers, but with their rendition of The Chainsmokers and Halsey’s Closer being a lot better than it really had any right to be, there’s hope they could replicate that in the future. Sadly, it doesn’t feel like this version of The Cars’ Just What I Needed quite hits that mark, mostly in the fact that it’s a pretty barebones rendition without a lot of defining personality, largely boiling down to incredibly simple guitar lines for the most part, and only really developing some big, boisterous presence in the chorus when the gang vocals and wiry synth come in. It’s not-too-coincidentally reminiscent of Weezer’s version of the same band’s You Might Think in how the essence of the band doing the covering feels so greatly reduced to get closer to The Cars’ pared-back new wave style, and while it’s an admirable effort, it doesn’t really go very far out of the shadow of the original, especially when you consider that pop-punk and new wave aren’t that far removed from each other. It’s certainly listenable overall, but Seaway don’t exactly offer any reason why this should be listened to over The Cars’ original.
Courage My Love – Remission
Courage My Love should be far bigger than they are. That’s not just because this sort of smoldering alt-pop and indie-pop is at an all time high at the minute (though it’s definitely a factor), but because this Canadian trio have frequently been amongst the higher end of acts peddling it. It’s by no means incredible either, but at least with a track like Remission, there’s a sense of embracing a darkness that feels genuine instead of just there for perfunctory stylisation, as Mercedes Arn-Horn yearns to forget a past relationship that she’s not yet over. It’s a simple premise, sure, but in the tight beats and wiry, fine guitars to complement the misty, swirling atmosphere, Courage My Love are able to capture those emotions with the razor-edged precision they need to be compelling without leaping straight into melodrama like so many so frequently do. Even if it could do with fleshing out a bit more, especially with some details in the writing, Remission has a lot of appeal that shows just how Courage My Love have leapt over the competition, and the ease with which they’ve done so.
Le Butcherettes – strong/ENOUGH
As much as they may be known for various differing connections to At The Drive In, Le Butcherettes have actually proven to be a formidable force in their own right, blending a seething riot grrrl ethos with garage-rock and post-punk in a similar way to artists like Queen Kwong and building a sizable cult following despite being undeniably far from any mainstream pretensions. That’s where the appeal is though, and with the dusty sway and swing that comes from the stalking bass and squalling guitars, strong/ENOUGH carries a real sinisterness and strength that Teri Gender Bender’s swirling, ashen vocals convey. It feels even more realised in the lyrics, in breaking away from damaging relationships and establishing a core of strength that was previously stifled and broken down. Everything feels so complete and brought together in a way that fully accentuates Le Butcherettes’ powers, enough to convince anyone that their new album in February is definitely worth a look.
All That Remains – Wasteland / Everything’s Wrong
For a band like All That Remains who pretty much demand that standards of quality be lowered when going into their music, Fuck Love was at least a solid course correction to metalcore after years of dire post-grunge that did them no favours. But for a band with a track record of consistency as notoriously bad as theirs, it’s not like that was going to stay for long, and while these two new tracks are far from the worst thing they’ve ever done, they’re not exactly great. It’s a bad sign when the turgid, lumbering metalcore of Wasteland is the better of the two, but placed in context next to Everything’s Wrong, a sub-Five Finger Death Punch lament of a breakup that has Phil Labonte at his most flat over an admittedly solid metal instrumental, the appeal is definitely clearer. Then again, it’s not like any of this is that disappointing; no one really looks to All That Remains as a great paragon of quality, and it’s tracks like these that really prove why that is.
[spunge] – Liar
The thing about long-standing ska-punk bands is, no matter how irrelevant or dormant they may seem, they never really go away. For context, [spunge]’s last album was released in 2014, already way past their prime, but they’ve been knocking about here and there since, now back with a new single. And this definitely feels like a ska-punk band from the early 2000s making a comeback, with little flash and substance to make way for a bigger hook to overshadow everything else. That’s enough for some, maybe, but even with [spunge] never having a great deal of depth, this feels like going through the motions in the most obvious way possible, and moving away from horns only highlights how ephemeral this track really is without anything significant to anchor itself to. It’s hardly the worst thing ever, but you’d hope that a band who’s last piece of recorded material was almost half a decade ago would deliver something more than this.
Danny Worsnop – Angels
It’s always been surprising how competent Danny Worsnop is with slower, more introspective material, especially considering that he doesn’t get the chance to go into that territory that often with Asking Alexandria, and his solo country work has only ever briefly touched on it. But it makes sense that Angels falls into that camp, a soft, stripped-back piano ballad dedicated to his now-fiancée that’s not exactly in the top tier of power ballads, but is played with enough sincerity and genuine lovestruck charm to work all the same. Worsnop’s vocals sound really solid when downplayed in their more sensitive range – almost enough to ignore how trite the writing can be at times – and backed by delicate pianos and liquid strings, there’s a level of poise that Worsnop is able to capture and keep hold of for as long as he needs. This doesn’t necessarily feel like a direction he’s going to keep going down, especially given the circumstances of what this song is, but it’s nice to hear him try it anyway, particularly when he actually succeeds as much as he does.
The Algorithm – Binary Space
It’s honestly amazing that Rémi Gallego has reached a point where he can actually make a fourth album under his The Alogrithm moniker. The combination of punishing djent polyrhythms and acerbic techno synths isn’t exactly an easy sell for most, and while his career has mainly been spent in the underground, there’s a certain primal thrill form his material that’s always made it stand out among the swathes of tech-metal copycats. Binary Space is no different either, coated in the sleek, mechanical veneer that so much of tech-metal has adopted, but bursting out with pounding, almost chiptune-inspired synths before the walls of guitars roar to life in the final leg. It’s all so dense and compact that it barely feels its seven minutes, but the precision that’s gone into constructing something like this is what really makes it shine. The Algorithm may continue to be a fairly niche act, but that’s a niche that’s still well worth exploring.
The Casualties – Ashes
The Casualties’ new material up to this point has been thoroughly impressive, not necessarily in how it’s pushing the boundaries of hardcore punk (because it sure as hell isn’t doing that), but because the band really sound revitalised with everything they’re doing. It’s enough to leave cynics believing that a fall is due, and while Ashes isn’t quite that, it’s probably the weakest of them all so far. It’s more due to how melodic and mid-level it is, something that really doesn’t suit David Rodriguez’s barbed screams, and while it’s thematically apt considering the lyrics about picking oneself up after a bout of self-sabotage, it can’t help but feel a bit odd in comparison to what’s come before it. Still, in terms of big, rowdy punk songs, this is still a fine effort, with a sense of crunch in the guitars that keeps that snarl plastered on its face, regardless of its more positive intent. Plus, with what’s expected of hardcore punk bands at this stage in their career, The Casualties continue to run circles around those formerly doing the same thing.
Worriers – The Saddest Little Waffle House In Eastern Pennsylvania
The main issue with Worriers’ Survival Pop was a lack of real defining features that mainly saw Lauren Denitzio fall in line with so many of the other alt- and indie-punk acts in their scene, and so it’s a bit disappointing to see that their new track is actually from the deluxe re-release of that album, rather than a new one that could see them refine and tailor their formula a bit. Thankfully, The Saddest Little Waffle House In Eastern Pennsylvania actually feels like a step up in its own right, still not necessarily breaking new ground but capturing such a tangible feeling of loneliness in Denitzio’s detached, middle-distanced vocals and the dusty rollick of the guitars that on their own create that dusty image of the middle of nowhere. It actually feels like an instance where the grungy production style that tends to come down pretty hard on indie-punk feels justified, and all the pieces thread together for perhaps the most consistently strong song that Worriers have to their name. And if this is a sign of things to come, any future releases are bound to be pretty intriguing.
J Mascis – Web So Dense
J Mascis has earned something of a reputation for his music not having a great deal of life or energy, both with Dinosaur Jr and especially in his solo work. It can’t be denied how influential as a musician he is in grunge and indie-rock circles, but it can be difficult to consistently go back to his work knowing that the greatest characterising factor will be his lazy burrs. Web So Dense is really no different either, pairing gentle acoustic guitars and faint violins with steady, muted percussion and Mascis once again drawling across a very standard – if slightly uninventive – track. To his credit, the pace does pick up towards the end for a bit more of an alt-country twang, but it’s generally gotten to a point where this sort of thing is just boring, not only in the lack of real spirit but because this is the default setting that Mascis has virtually always worked on. That all leaves Web So Dense as a pleasant enough backing track, but very little else.
All Get Out – Value
Up to now, All Get Out’s material from No Bouquet hasn’t followed the most consistent path, and for a band who’ve never really offered that much in the past, that’s not a particularly good sign. Thankfully, Value seems to be leaning back towards the good stuff again, especially by cutting away any fat and sticking to a tried-and-true emo formula that’s hardly innovative, but it works about as well as it can for them. Nathan Hussey has always been good at conveying heavy, hangdog emotions, and having him go from pensive whispers to sliding cries shows off that range excellently, and put against the more straightforward backdrop, there’s something so much more immediate and hard-hitting about this track compared to others that All Get Out have. And while it’s still hardly fantastic, the fact that they’re moving in the right direction once again is at least a good sign.
Bitch Falcon – Prime Number
Bitch Falcon are currently one of the bands on the fringes of the UK alt-rock mainstream being primed for much bigger things, and with sizable festival slots already under their belts and tour dates with fellow rising stars Haggard Cat, Drones and InTechnicolour next on the agenda, they’re making all the necessary strides as far as marketing goes. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and while Prime Number perhaps isn’t the most impressive track from a new band this year, this sort of grunge-driven post-punk has a lot of mileage behind it, especially when the tar-thick bass and misty synths create the sort of implacable atmosphere that this sound thrives on, and Lizzie Fitzpatrick proves herself as one formidable vocalist with her curdling, contorting howls. It perhaps lacks that bigger moment to really kick it up a gear like so many other upcoming alt-rock bands have, but this is a strong start regardless, particularly for a band tapping into the darker, seedier sound of alt-rock and doing it pretty well at that. It’s definitely worthy of that rising star moniker.
Scarlxrd – 0000.SICK.
It’s getting difficult to know what to say about Scarlxrd tracks now, especially when it seems that he’s used pretty much every weapon in his arsenal right now. Becoming boring is the worst thing that can happen to an artist like this, and yet 0000.SICK. is diving straight into that territory without a second thought. Sure, the warping, flute-like synth is nice, but beyond another increasingly dull permutation of cement-cracking bass, trap beat and scream-rapping about nothing of interest anymore, it’s really getting tedious to revisit these tracks now, especially when they’re as messy and sloppily constructed as they are. It’s a wonder that Scarlxrd has anything left to even say anymore, but given how repetitive these tracks have been for the most part, he’s clearly not against reusing ideas, and that burnout that was setting in weeks ago is turning into full-blown dislike in record time.
Ghouls – Might As Well Be
Ghouls seem to be impressively shaking off the shackles that their ska-punk billing has imposed upon them, mostly by upping the punk and keeping the ska as more of an accompaniment. It’s a smart move that a lot of bands have adopted, but on Might As Well Be, Ghouls seem to be embracing it more than most. At only a minute-and-a-half long, there’s not much room to experiment anyway, but with the bold, bouncy guitars and horn crescendo towards the end, there’s a lot of presence that’s packed into such a short runtime. It does mitigate how much can really be said though, and the reliance on energy above anything too distinct is noticeable. Still, that’s more of a feature than a flaw, and Ghouls are able to use it for a pretty enjoyable song regardless. It’d be nice if there was more of it, but hopefully that’ll be coming down the line sooner rather than later.
Brent Walsh – The Way You Seem
As clearly as Brent Walsh wants to establish himself as a solo presence away from his work in I The Mighty, making R&B tracks is hardly the best way to do that when every other post-hardcore and metalcore vocalist is doing the same thing. They’re doing it better too, as The Way You Seem is probably one of the most throwaway examples of this sort of thing in a long while, and it’s not for Walsh stumbling particularly hard. He sounds fine as a vocalist with a clear flow and liquidity, but when what’s supposed to be a romantic slow-jam is constructed from creaking, minimalist beats that sound really awkward as they clunk together, it’s hardly making much progress in that field. And honestly, with so many of these projects around at the minute, and Walsh doing nothing to distinguish himself from any of them, there’s no reason for this track to exist, especially when he’s so vastly and effortlessly overshadowed in almost every regard.
Antarctigo Vespucci – Freakin’ U Out
As tiresome as this very straight-laced, heartland-inspired brand of punk can be, it’s fair to say that Jeff Rosenstock and Chris Farren have the know-how between them of how to make it work, and they’ve channelled it well up to now with Antarctigo Vespucci. And Freakin’ U Out continues down that direction, with a simple yet effective setup of crunchy alt-rock guitar work, a good sense of bounce and the occasional bit of synth to knock out another great little alt-punk song without breaking the three minute mark. And sure, it’s easy to chastise bands like this for another awkward love song that follows the exact same formula as the dozens of awkward love songs that have preceded it, but with Rosenstock and Farren being the scene veterans that they are at this point, that knowledge feels well-honed here, and it’s put to good use in a track that feels a lot more direct and likable. It won’t be winning over those people who haven’t been fully converted to this sound, but as an exercise in preaching to the choir, Freakin’ U Out is difficult to fault.
Why Everyone Left – Whiskey & Coke
Why Everyone Left’s previous material has already nestled them firmly within the less-essential bracket of modern pop-punk, so possibly the worst thing they could do is play up that ephemerality rather than actively work against it. And yet, Whiskey & Coke sees the Italians channelling their inner Zebrahead for the sort of dumb party anthem that fades away the moment that it’s finished. Even at that standard though, Zebrahead can at least dish out some good hooks or melodies; here, Why Everyone Left feel so painfully thin and undercooked, with any guitars reduced to a quiet rumble, and even on the hook, they only barely have more body to them. And of course, the lyrics have nothing to them, and vocalist Enzo’s delivery feels just as awkward as everything else to stand out in the complete wrong way. It’s pretty bad overall, and if this is what Why Everyone Left want to sell themselves with, they need to get their ambitions altered as soon as possible.
Strange Planes – Darkness Here
If Strange Planes’ last single East Berlin Comfort Zone did anything, it was hint that, beneath the messy exterior in desperate need of some refinement, there could be a pretty solid post-punk band underneath it. It mightn’t have been obvious at the time, but that track next to Darkness Here forms a much more cohesive picture of this band’s approach, and one that’s more likable at that. This time, they’ve gone in a more straight-up punk direction, but with the thicker bassline and more foreboding atmosphere, the combination of styles feels much smoother this time around, particularly in Ellis Slater’s vocals that see his bump his range up a notch to sit more comfortably within this sound. With a similar darkness in the lyrics, it’s a definitely a more ominous track, but that comes without having to forgo the speed and snappiness that they’ve pulled off so well here. It’s pretty much an improvement across the board, and if Strange Planes keep it up, there could be yet another quality punk band to slot into a scene already in the rudest of health.
Overgrow – The House You Made
The discussion on how much can really be achieved from emo anymore is one worth having, especially when the genre is at the peak of popularity currently, and the vast majority of new bands adopting the sound are simply rehashing ideas that, for the most part, have already been worn out. Overgrow aren’t exempt from that either, with an earthy yet airy guitar tone and the sort of yearning, emotional-to-the-point-of-bursting lyrics and delivery that are pretty much par for the course. And yet, with its swirling darkness and grinding, curdling tension, The House You Made has the sense of being more than just another copy of a copy that emo has become, and rather, is a track that actually has weight and depth to it. How far that’ll take Overgrow in a crowded scene remains to be seen, but when the pretenders are ultimately cut away, it’ll be bands like this that stick around.
Goldblume – We All Know Why And Who
It’s hard to really get onboard with a band like Goldblume, mostly because it feels they should be a lot better than they are. The math-rock and indie-rock combination can be a neat idea, but it needs to be executed in a way that does justice to both sides, and the trio haven’t really got there yet. We All Know Why And Who is at least closer, grounding itself in a firmer alt-rock foundation while the additional guitars jut out on top, but it’s still a bit messy overall, not least for a song about people coming and going from one’s life that could certainly be more wistful than it is. Coupled with a lack of real control in Jethro Steel’s vocals (including a particularly errant falsetto that comes out of nowhere), Goldblume seem to be aiming for a pseudo-Press To MECO territory, but where that band has tightness and insatiable hooks, they’re not really present here. And while, again, it’s not awful, Goldblume aren’t really providing much of an incentive to give their upcoming album a look.
Three Day Millionaires – The Snub
You can really tell that the members of Three Day Millionaires have been cutting their teeth around the punk circuits for a while now, given how deeply rooted in underground grime and ferocity The Sunb is. And yet, it’s still only on the fringes of “true” hardcore punk, given how distinctly melodic the buzzsaw guitar lines can be, and how Daniel Harrison’s vocals have a kick to them that’s almost reminiscent of mid-2000s Britrock, sliding between harsher rasps and an immediately likable and ground-level personality. In fact, as a whole, this would’ve done particularly well around that time, taking the ethos of the underground and dredging it up to the surface, inflating it to great sizes and piling on the positivity for Three Day Millionaires to have a real anthem on their hands. It’ll be interesting to see where this eventually takes them, because there’s a lot of promise here that really shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Words by Luke Nuttall