Sum 41 – Out For Blood
As easy as it would be to be cynical and say that Sum 41’s 13 Voices only received the praise it did out of obligation given what Deryck Whibley had gone through prior, it would also be largely untrue. That album felt like as necessary and complete of a cathartic vehicle as it should have, and that generally paid off on an album that mightn’t have stuck around all that much, but is still perfectly enjoyable. But it was always going to be the next step that was brought into question, and in typically inconsistent Sum 41 fashion, Out For Blood doesn’t have much of an answer. The scrappier, thrashier vibe that they’ve always been able to pull off well is still good, but there’s an odd thinness to the track that makes it feel even more threadbare, especially when the guitars can feel so low in the mix at certain spots and there’s very little stability in Whibley’s vocal modulation. As ever, the technicality that separates them from most other punk or pop-punk is here, most present in the impressive soloing that feels like where the metal influence fully crystallises, but that can feel like part of the problem, in that this feels like everything that Sum 41 regularly do crammed together into one track and attempted to fashion something workable, and that doesn’t really happen. It’s hardly awful, but this lacks the force that this band have so often been great at pulling off, and trying to feign that in whatever way possible doesn’t amount to much that really sticks.
Rammstein – Radio
Rammstein’s new album campaign seems to be moving remarkably quickly, though that’s hardly a bad thing. They’ve been away for so long at this point that anything new is going to be positively received at least somewhat, and with the whole self-titled effort just a few weeks away, it would appear that things are going to pick up even more soon. Until then though, Radio arrives in quick succession after Deutschland, albeit without the boon of controversy that gave that song an even more exceptional platform for exposure than it already had. And it’s telling that Radio does feel like the weaker track, replacing the monstrous Teutonic stomp with something more conventionally alt-metal in chugging guitars and a big sense of melody, only really made distinguishable as a Rammstein song with occasional electronic beeps that, even then, don’t have their usual industrial weight or presence. It can feel disappointingly slight at points, and while something more direct like this is already primed to be the stadium fodder that their live shows demand, as a purely recorded track, there’s not a great deal here to really dig into. It’s not precisely bad, but for a band like Rammstein for whom the presence and the spectacle is their greatest asset, shaving the majority of all of that away does them no favours.
Petrol Girls – Big Mouth
It’s been said numerous times before, but in their embrace of the classic ethos of empowering the marginalised and rising against the world’s ills, Petrol Girls are amongst the most vital punk bands around. Even in a sound that isn’t always the most boundary-pushing, they always find a way to really grab the attention with an iron grip, and Big Mouth is no exception, standing up for silenced women and pushing with force to show how powerful having a voice can be. And of course, it’s all amplified by how lean and striking the angular guitar work is, and how much of a firebrand Ren Aldridge is behind the microphone. Hers is such an unavoidably commanding presence, adopting a barbed shout that never drops into the limitations that such a style often can, and with an interpolation of X-Ray Spex’s Oh Bondage Up Yours!, the callbacks in her performance to how much of an electrifying artist as Poly Styrene was feel clearer than ever. Of course, that’s far from a bad thing, and as Big Mouth provides yet another piece of unwavering evidence for why Petrol Girls are one of the most exciting bands around, that next album’s arrival feels all the more tantalising.
Vukovi – Behave
After C.L.A.U.D.I.A, it was always going to be interesting to see where Vukovi would go next, especially given how much that track refined their supercharged pop-rock to arguably its tightest and most direct form to date. As such, Behave feels more like an extension of that rather than an evolution, though that’s no bad thing; this is a band who know how to absolutely fly with what they’ve got, and while it may be simple, Behave really does work for what it is. The scrappier, thrashier guitars feel like the perfect fit, especially when coated with the electronic tics that have always given Vukovi a quirkiness that never feels obnoxious, and Janine Shilstone remains a perfectly malleable and charismatic vocalist, particularly when thrust into a more pop-adjacent context like this. To nitpick, her vocals could perhaps do with a bit more power to match just how full-force the production can be, especially for a pop-rock song, but on the whole, this feels like another great step forward for a band who only continue to reiterate how much of a worthwhile presence in the modern Britrock scene that they are.
Doll Skin – Mark My Words
To anyone paying attention, the buzz around Doll Skin has been pretty evident for a while now, but with their recent signing to Hopeless Records, that only looks to get even louder within the coming months. That’s a good thing too, as in terms of robust yet catchy and melodic punk, they’ve put out some quality stuff up to now. As for Mark My Words, it’s nothing too different, but it’s going down a similarly strong path, with Sydney Dolezal having just the right balance of fire and poppiness in her vocals to fit right into the Hopeless stables, and a meaty guitar presence from both her and Alex Snowden that’s fully ingrained in more traditional US punk that’s a good fit for them. The song itself can occasionally hit the beats one might expect – big, shout-along choruses with just the right amount of sneer and sass dominate overall – but that’s not a bad thing, and Doll Skin are adept enough at what they do to make this an enjoyable listen. Right now, they aren’t changing the game, but with a bit more time and opportunity to let their potential flourish, they could turn into a seriously potent force in modern punk with very little haste.
Future Teens – Emotional Bachelor
Right now, Future Teens are probably best known for organising a compilation album from last year covering Carly Rae Jepsen’s E•MO•TION in full, but to attribute nothing else to them would be doing a disservice to an emo band who’ve been pretty reliable throughout their career. That sense of reliability is something that continues on Emotional Bachelor too, taking their tried-and-true approach of downbeat but melodically sumptuous emo and running with it even further. The dual vocals of Amy Hoffman and Daniel Radin have a sense of blending that’s fantastically effective, and with guitars that twinkle but remain suitably meaty and the misty, widescreen percussion, their grassroots approach to this sound is easy to pick up on, but never feels overly rickety in a way that this stripe of emo often can. There’s enough power and passion to really gain some serious momentum, never feeling too monotone but with a sense of melancholy that’s excellently realised. Perhaps this will be the jumping-off point for Future Teens to pick up some more steam, then; they certainly deserve it.
Chamberlain – Some Other Sky
It’s easy to look at Chamberlain’s return and compare it that of Pedro The Lion, particularly with the direction they took earlier this year into wistful, aging emo that had a profound sense of the emptiness of the wilderness. And yes, that’s pretty much the same case here, except Chamberlain’s return saw them go full Americana as a means of breaking away from their post-hardcore roots, and in Some Other Sky, they look to be carrying that on to its logical extreme. It’s certainly a bold move, especially in the full embrace of low-hanging tempos and slide guitar to match David Moore’s huskier tones, but it’s hard to escape the notion that more could’ve been done with this. There’s a certain formula to alt-country in this vein, and while Chamberlain are undoubtedly good at what they’re doing in channeling the romantic timelessness of The Gaslight Anthem and Bruce Springsteen, the ease at which those touchstones come to mind do this track no favours, and it feels like just another band trying to grow old gracefully without doing much else. It’s not like Chamberlain don’t make this work, because they certainly do, but for this sound especially, a track like Some Other Sky is hardly going to be the first port of call, not when it’s been done even better so, so many times before.
The Murder Capital – Green & Blue
It really does seem like The Murder Capital are on something of an uphill battle at the moment. Not only are they trying to break through at the same time that Fontaines D.C. are monopolising Irish post-punk, but with their last single not having the staying power they would’ve wanted it to, it’s easy to believe that they’re struggling. However, Green & Blue lends a different opinion, showing a band forging forward on their own skills and trying to actively break apart the sound they’ve been so heavily tied to. It all leads to a rather ominous rumble of a track spanning six minutes that curdle under the weight of bass and percussion while James McGovern’s softer vocal delivery hides a deeper sense of malice that’s definitely always been there, but only now does it fully break through. Again, it follows the same issue that The Murder Capital have displayed before in that it can be slightly one-note, but this is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to breaking through with something new, and going off Green & Blue, that ambition could be fully realised sooner rather than later.
Words by Luke Nuttall