Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
Can we all just agree now that Jake Bugg was never any good? When he released his self-titled debut in 2012 as an ill-fitting pastiche of Bob Dylan or a Gallagher, it felt like the sort of inauthentic boomer-bait riding on praise of being ‘real music’ rather than having anything substantially good about itself. The writing might’ve been a slight cut above, but an utterly boring instrumental palette and Bugg’s honking voice being as humourless as it was felt horrendously unappealing across the board. It makes sense that his momentum was cratered with any subsequent releases then, to where Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is his fifth album, and fourth that’s felt as though it’s constantly treading water to stay afloat. Bugg just about squeaks by on name recognition these days, but he’s by no means the draw that even felt bizarre to classify him as nearly a decade ago, a spent force in all senses made all the more obvious by a pretty shameless pop pivot on this new album. Well, kind of, because it’s plugged into his usual indie-folk-rock sound, which only serves to emphasises the weaknesses that both elements have, and causes Saturday Night, Sunday Morning to feel chronically weakened as a result. For a start, there’s a notable murkiness to the production that’s incredibly unappealing; sharp, synthetic beats will try and peak through to give the album a smoother, pop-ready feel, but it’s so awkward when the grubby, runny sound of everything else is so distracting around it. At least Lonely Hours and Screaming understand where workable pop-rock grooves come from, which can’t be said about how limply the likes of About Last Night or Rabbit Hole are draped over their skeletons. For what’s ostensibly a pop album, the whole thing feels so joyless and workmanlike, where any sort of real, impactful tautness is reserved for Lost on its own, in what only feels like a fluke hit in its own right. That’s because Saturday Night, Sunday Morning suffers deeply from how awkward some of compositional choices are, in the swamp-coloured indie guitars trying to be more lithe and agile, where the bright and dank tones will try and be made to rub shoulders but end up clashing and ricocheting wildly.
Of course, it’s not like Bugg himself isn’t a problem on top of that, something which the new format of this album also does a good job in bringing to the fore. At the best of times, he never sounds like he’s having any fun, and when placed against an intended vivacity that comes from making kinetic pop music, it couldn’t feel more like a label-mandated concession. His voice hasn’t improved either, only this time it’ll contort and thin itself out to sound more bleating and less appealing, for the relative opulence of All I Need to leave him feeling monumentally lost within its creative directions. To compound on that, there’s a nonchalance to his delivery that’ll regularly slip into perceivable carelessness; this is already a pretty brief album, and when Bugg himself delivers no solid indication of stakes within it, the whole thing comes across as being throwaway. Admittedly the writing can still punch it up a bit—for all the regular semantic fields of indie he’s trudging through, he’s at least canny enough to eke out some more evocative lyrics—but even that doesn’t mean much when so few of these songs will stick. Despite its pop masquerade, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is perfectly in line with the rest of B-tier indie music, festival-ready in scope and vision but liable to crumble wholeheartedly in any other setting, like as an album. It’s pretty miraculous that Bugg has managed to avoid outright nosediving for this long, even with his rapidly waning profile, and though he’s generally able to stay in flight here, he’s by no means on the up. This is still perfectly in line with the impressively mediocre fare his career has been built on, only now with a different colour of paint in places to try and cover up some of the dings. The thing is, it only draws more attention to them and makes the whole thing feel even shoddier. • LN
For fans of: Liam Gallagher, Miles Kane, The Vaccines
‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ by Jake Bugg is out now on Sony Music Entertainment.
There’s really no telling what’s in store for Grayscale moving forward, which mightn’t be the blessing of freedom that could be read as. Their rise within the emo-touched pop-punk of the 2010s was well documented with Adornment’s acclaim and status within that wave, but the general nonchalance felt towards its follow-up Nella Vita in 2019 was remarkably noteworthy. Despite it still being a great album, it just didn’t catch on in any way, presumably because its cleaner, more outwardly tones could be seen as such an unassailable contrast to what had previously been rooted in earnestness and reality. The truth is that both sides can coexist, but applying that to Grayscale can be difficult when it seems that so few people even care anymore. And yet rather than the classic backslide into easy fan-favouritism (think a Wake Up, Sunshine compared to a Last Young Renegade, for instance) doubling down for full-on alt-pop says a lot about Grayscale’s creative mindset here. They clearly have bigger goals than their humbler earlier works suggested, and while it would be great to say they’ve achieved them with flying colours, Umbra just isn’t that. It’s not terrible by any means, but there’s a certain degree of identifiability that’s been shaved off in favour of making those bigger swings. It’s akin to Seaway’s Big Vibe in a sense, but that same degree of charm doesn’t really show up here, where lyrics about bolting towards freedom and liberation can ride on their own whooshing air currents, while the nagging feeling that Grayscale can do more is rarely ever out of frame. At least a song like Motown can live up to a forceful, lovestruck surge forward, which is more than can be said for the songs that try and replicate a similar magic but wind up falling short. Having that broad mindset as a constant canvas is fine, but some application needs to be there to work; Dirty Bombs and Dreamcatcher have that to a degree, but conversely, the likes of Without You and Babylon (Say It To My Face) will try for something more bitter and have it tamped back by the music around them. It’s an issue with balance that Grayscale had a hold of on their last album, but have let slip as they’ve moved further and further into an alt-pop direction.
To that degree, there’s something at least noble about the vigour with which Grayscale have picked up their new guise. In terms of tone, there’s very little to distinguish this band’s particular palette from anyone else’s—the synths and thinned-out guitars still pop and shimmer with the usual neon colour selection—but Umbra can definitely make use of the catchiness that’s become one of Grayscale’s key assets in their poppier moments. There’s a great aptitude for hooks at Grayscale’s disposal, and when the music onus of the entire album is laser-focused on that aspect, it’s as tight and precise as alt-pop should be by default. Add onto that Collin Walsh’s comparatively rougher vocal tone that ensures the human element hasn’t been completely scrubbed out, and if nothing else, Umbra has the dexterity and infectiousness to hold its own across a pretty tight runtime. But so does a lot of other alt-pop in this vein, and each subsequent listen makes it apparent that Grayscale haven’t found something to call their own within this space. Being purely catchy is one thing, but what’ll make it stick is bringing an interesting instrumental twist to augment that, or a production style that might bright out new colours or shades that other examples in the scene mightn’t. The furthest that Umbra gets, though, is maybe brushing against it sometimes; carrying over some bulkier pop-punk guitars make it seem as though an effort has been made, but then there’s the gated percussion and abandoned bass presence that swings on back to the alt-pop well, leaving Grayscale feeling more anonymous than they’ve ever been. It’s more disappointing than anything, as a band who once felt like such a spark of life in their scene is reduced to a bland mid-tier entity, even if the intentions were ultimately good. Call it a misstep or something blatantly transitional, but Umbra doesn’t stand out within Grayscale’s catalogue in any major way, instead just falling to the wayside with little more to hang onto than the bare minimum of alt-pop catchiness. • LN
For fans of: All Time Low, Seaway, Chapel
‘Umbra’ by Grayscale is released on 27th August on Fearless Records.
It can really be baffling to see how much some metal fans will hype up Jinjer. After all, this is a demographic who are notoriously difficult to please (read: close-minded) when it comes to newer bands, and yet there’s some unwritten rule that Jinjer are the one for whom it’s okay to really become invested in. It becomes even stranger upon listening to them, when Jinjer come across as little more than just another tech-metal band, albeit one with a very talented vocalist in Tatiana Shmayluk. Four albums in, and the source of the adoration affixed to Jinjer has never come through too strongly, something which shows next to no signs of changing on Wallflowers, another helping of the usual that finds it near-impossible to do more than be proficient yet utterly unimpactful. And really, it’s all the same points that can applied to myriad tech-metal bands in the same lane, chiefly that Jinjer have musical chops but no real songs to show it off in. Nothing about Wallflowers really sticks outside of odd moments, where the locked-in djent formula might show some brief signs of wiggling free, only to become fixed in place before it has chance to hit. It’s frustrating too, especially when Jinjer are definitely talented, primarily in Shmayluk up front and how vast her range for both singing and screaming is. There’s also a bit more of a humanistic aspect to the writing which is good—the last thing tech-metal needs is another retread of stock themes dressed up to be ‘futuristic’—but it’s still not memorable or interesting enough to give Jinjer an edge ahead.
It doesn’t help that the sonic parity between them and so much other tech-metal stands as so blatant on this album. There are moments that do work better, like how Disclosure! feels more indebted to grunge and ‘90s alt-rock, or how Wallflower has a bit more intricate, crescendoing elegance, but otherwise, it’s exactly what you’d expect going into an album like this, yet again. But even among that crowd, it’s not even like Jinjer can suitably go toe-to-toe with their contemporaries, not with production that can woefully inconsistent where, at its worse, Vlad Ulasevich sounds like he’s drumming on Tupperware containers on a song like Vortex. There’s not the same weight or thunderous, quasi-industrial finish that at least gives most djent presence, coupled with the overall unremarkability that Jinjer show off at almost every turn. If it wasn’t for the vocals, they’d be a far less noteworthy band than they are now, and even that’s stretching it when they aren’t even that interesting to begin with. It circles back to the initial question of why Jinjer have become engulfed in such fervent hype, and how there still isn’t a clear answer when they’re not moving forward, or at least not at a rate than eclipse their peers, both better and worse than themselves. At the end of the day, there just isn’t much to say regarding Jinjer and their befuddling popularity, not when the recorded output doesn’t give much to go on. It’s fine if you’re into this sort of thing, but if you are, you’re almost guaranteed to have heard a superior variant of this exact sound somewhere else. • LN
For fans of: Monuments, After The Burial, Periphery
‘Wallflowers’ by Jinjer is released on 27th August on Napalm Records.
Swim Out Past The Breakers
It truly is heartwarming to see new music from Telethon. They’ve easily established themselves now as one of the most fun bands to come from the DIY scene, with a wryness and spark that an ever-effervescent blend of power-pop, pop-rock and indie-punk only helps to elevate. Especially when Hard Pop was such an unequivocal gem in 2019, Telethon have really only continued to stick out tremendously, and for all the right reasons. It’s made the teasing of this album feel all the more exciting, where the secrecy of its lead-up and relatively quick drop time could’ve been causes for concern in a lesser band’s hands, but there’s such a boyishness and rambunctiousness to Telethon that it makes a lot of sense. But with Swim Out Past The Breakers in full, it just doesn’t quite strike the same way. It’s not disappointing—that’s far too strong a term—but more a case of the unassailable highs of its predecessor just being out of reach, especially on a more sprawling album like this where its great moments not being as concentrated can do a bit more damage. Though really, to say there’s a lot of ‘damage’ here is overstating it on what’s still a really strong album, overflowing with the Telethon-isms that make them such a standout band. The tangled lyrical threads are detailled and filled with imagery, though never get too caught in their own way, with a brand of doomsaying and comfort in riding out the oncoming apocalypse that’s too deftly woven to even feel glib or nihilistic. Pulling from that branch of wordy power-pop has always served Telethon well and here it’s no exception, and Kevin Tully’s warm, pronounced pop-punk vocal just hits in all the right places for this sort of thing to work.
And it goes without saying that the melodies are great, especially when such vaunted influences as Motion City Soundtrack and Fountains Of Wayne are brought so far forward as they are here. Maybe if there was something to tweak, it’d be putting more emphasis on the collaborative aspect of the album; the cast list of names from the DIY scene is extensive, but a lot don’t tend to pop out on their respective tracks, more serving as garnish for the maximalism that Swim Out Past The Breakers holds firm on. This is a bold, huge-sounding album looking to tear asunder any notion of DIY asceticism, and doing so right from the opening couple of tracks; Shit (Jansport) takes as much from lilting klezmer and circus music as it does from pop-punk, while the strings and buzzy synths that adorn Selfstarter A.E. hark back to power-pop opulence in such an effective way. Even boiled down to their core rock band fundamentals, Telethon just have a way of fostering that great, melodic attitude, where songs like Masterationalizer and Marlinspike work perfectly find as surging pop-rock tracks, even without the bells and whistles. That’s a sign of a good band in itself, where they’re not shaped around their set dressing, and even though Telethon are long past the point of doubt in that regard, they do hit some really strong moments on this album that feel impressive even in their extensive catalogue. That in itself is a pretty great achievement by anyone’s standard, and the fact that Telethon are remaining at this high grade without sacrificing anything that makes them special—hell, they’re piling it on in most cases—makes them feel so underrated. No, Swim Out Past The Breakers isn’t quite to the level of their last couple of releases, but that’s nothing to sniff at when it’s still handily better than a good chunk of power-pop, indie-punk and whatever else you want to throw in there. Telethon just continue to impress and appeal, most of all, and that’s just something to be happy about. • LN
For fans of: Motion City Soundtrack, Dollar Signs, Future Teens
‘Swim Out Past The Breakers’ by Telethon is out now on Take This To Heart Records.
How Not To Be Happy
For a while now, Gloo’s underrated status has been fairly apparent, as the sort of scrappy, go-for-the-throat punk band that’s never going to shift huge units, but could easily find favour within their underground community. That’s been the case for a good few years, and they’ve always had a lot of confidence in approaching their particular brand of punk. And to an extent, that confidence informs a lot of the choices made on this second album; the switch to embracing slacker-rock and indie tones isn’t something that’s being tiptoed into, and Gloo’s looser creative philosophy does result in a markedly different listen. Whether it’s better is a different matter though, given how holistically the indie lens has been placed in front of this album’s line of sight, and to a degree, it feels less cutting or quick-witted as a result. The nihilistic streak on tracks like Work So Hard and No One Gives A Fuck doesn’t feel compatible with supposed overall theme of letting loose and finding liberation, and even beyond that, the precision that was such a great asset of Gloo can feel dulled here. The commentary on a song like Big Smoke aims and fires with not enough accuracy to hit deeply, and that can be an issue with How Not To Be Happy as a whole. The energy that Gloo have got stays the same, but it’s not as refined or sharp in what it wants to do. It’s not to a degree where this is throwaway or weightless, but pulling in some of the bad habits of indie-rock and indie-punk writing is noticeable for a band like this who can so easily avoid them.
It’s the approach to sound that’s easier to translate, where Gloo mightn’t be quite as raucous (see the rather spare composition and overall sound design of Permanent), but they can still factor that into something pleasantly raw and ragged. That’s hard to escape with Thomas Harfield’s vocals, the sort of burly bellow that’s cracking at the seams in what feels like an apt microcosm of Gloo’s entire punk ethos, and that does still cross over to How Not To Happy musically. It’s akin to the jump made by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes from Blossom to Modern Ruin, in the guitars that feel sharper but still choppy, and the pulsing, prominent rhythm section that gives an almost psychedelic coating to a track like Swimming In Your Sea. The indie tones refer to a bit more emphasis on brightness for Ride or Work So Hard, and how decidedly no-frills the album as a whole can be. That’s probably the biggest and most appealing constant that’s carried over on How Not To Be Happy, where there’s not even a drop of self-indulgence anywhere to be found, and where the leanness of an album like this is excellently prioritised. There’s no wasted energy even if Gloo could perhaps push themselves a bit further, and that’s always a good thing to keep in mind. Even with the streamlining and pared-back elements that can make this a lighter listen overall, this is by no means a bad album, and Gloo’s status as a strong DIY presence remains uninhibited even with those changes. It’s more of a lateral move in terms of philosophy more so than quality; their debut remains stronger and more substantive, but Gloo are in no danger of losing their edge, and getting the freedom to do more with what they’ve got will only benefit them in the long run. Hopefully they’ll just strike a bit harder with it next time. • LN
For fans of: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Kid Kapichi, Gender Roles
‘How Not To Be Happy’ by Gloo is released on 27th August on Hassle Records.
Kat Von D
Love Made Me Do It
Love Made Me Do It may be a somewhat unexpected release to those who only know Kat Von D through her tattooing work. The album is a haunting offering revealing a raw and emotional side to Kat. From the slow ‘80s synthwave through to ethereal orchestral elements, the album has it all. The intro track heavily focuses on electronics and the synthwave aspect of her sound. Diving into Vanish felt somewhat unexpected as the instrumentation explores a beautiful piano and dynamic orchestral instruments. Kat Von D’s vocals fit wonderfully alongside this instrumentation, adding an intense, raw sound that also has a powerful side to it. The gradually addition of electronics elevate this track further. As the album progresses more tracks take on a faster pace with more upbeat rhythms and abundant ‘80s elements. Enough and Fear You both deliver dynamic sounds and catchy chorus hooks.
Throughout the range of styles, on overarching gothic edge remains present across the tracks. There’s a dark mood to the atmosphere that prevails. Easier Sung Than Said is performed with a sense of personal emotional from Kat Von D. It’s raw and effectively done whilst still including an upbeat rhythm. Love Made Me Do It is a haunting journey of raw emotion explored through a number of music styles and soundscapes. It’s clearly the work of Kat Von D with her personality shining through. From the orchestral through to the electronic, the sound is incredibly well produced resulting in a powerful record. • HR
For fans of: Lana Del Rey, Night Club, Halsey
‘Love Made Me Do It’ by Kat Von D is released on 27th August.
Chubby And The Gang
The Mutt’s Nuts
There’s a degree of apprehension that comes about when first going into Chubby And The Gang, in what can be described as the easy possibility of falling into the same camp as a band like Slaves. It’s always a danger when new bands model themselves after such an old variant of punk, where the ragged, rabble-rousing aesthetic will take precedence and the music itself will barely leave a mark when it hits. With Chubby And The Gang, they give off shades of bands like Sham 69 and Cockney Rejects in that almost proto-hardcore mould, to where they end up more like Idles than anyone else, as a very loud, vocal band whose take on modern-classic punk is commendable, if not slightly cut short. There’s less of the sloganeering, but the broad, street-level polemics remain fairly similar, with the occasional brighter spot like the specificity on White Rags coming a bit less frequently, in all honesty. There’s also something of a roughneck attitude that’s carried by the band that doesn’t have the greatest resonance; Charlie Manning Walker has the garbled Cockney barks that fit into the mould of those old punk bands, but its main purpose seems to be to foster that mindset, rather than advance that approach. It feels as though it comes from the same place of artifice as Slaves, particularly on a song like I Hate The Radio where his singing voice strikes as so deliberately bad, and it leads to something of a disconnect in how ‘natural’ this all is. It’s nowhere near as bad as Slaves, that must be stressed, but it doesn’t amount to much in a similar fashion.
At least the sound is pretty good, where the sharper elements of the current post-punk wave are crossbred with rougher classic punk, in a way that isn’t concerned with striking new ground as much as occupying that rowdy headspace. That’s rather clear when they slow down and ease back on Take Me Home To London and Life’s Lemons for some pretty underwhelming detours (even when the latter effectively jacks the melody from Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love), but sticking to a purer strain of punk and grimier bruising proves a lot more effective. They replicate the urgency and bashed-out nature of the sound really well on tracks like Pressure and Overachiever, where there’s a buzzsaw tone to the guitars that still has a notable looseness to it, while Joe McMahon is a standout presence behind the drumkit in just how battering his contributions are. It’s the sort of thing that would really get its legs live, though Chubby And The Gang still convey a decent level of ferocity purely on recorded output, where that makes up for a relative dearth of standout hooks and flair. In that lane, there’s White Rags with its trudging, heavy lurch, which is honestly a direction this band could explore further in future. They’re definitely good at it, and all around, it’s the album’s most striking turn, something which The Mutt’s Nuts could do with more of to really hit harder. As it stands, Chubby And The Gang are making solid strides in the lane they’ve entrenched themselves in, but the touts of ‘UK punk’s next big thing’ don’t feel as though they’ve been fully realised, at least not on this album. In general, it’s better than Slaves but not up to the level of Idles at their best, so draw your own conclusions there. • LN
For fans of: Sham 69, Idles, The Damned
‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ by Chubby And The Gang is released on 27th August on Partisan Records.
The Live Long After
Going back to Sugar Horse’s Drugs EP now, one of the major takeaways is how what they were doing could’ve used the space of a full album to properly shine. A combination of prog, doom and hardcore actively designed to be as slow and cavernous as possible needs space that the limitations of an EP don’t offer, something which The Live Long After seems to have swiftly rectified, simply by having the space to open itself out. Well, perhaps ‘swiftly’ is the wrong word; seven of these nine tracks fall between five and ten minutes in Sugar Horse’s deep, heavy prog approach, but there isn’t really a moment where things drag or feel too extended to work. There hasn’t really been any tremendous retooling to make that so either, outside of noticeable retooling that still isn’t significantly reshaping anything here. More so, it’s a case of feeling more liberated with what they can do, where the melodic aspects of Phil Spector In Hell and The Great British Death Cult can soar in a more pronounced way, or where Fat Dracula can shudder and deliberately crumble under the weight of its own fragmented visage. For an album about the unknown and the fear of what could be lurking within, The Live Long After captures both the dread and the uncertain excitement that such a concept fosters, and even in the oblique lyrical style, Sugar Horse will toe the line of empowered grandeur and pulverising bleakness so easily.
Similarly, it goes without saying that the efforts—and subsequent successes—to remain compelling prove just as striking. Sugar Horse have a simultaneous force and skill that crystallises within their sound, where even at their most enormous and gaping, their prog edge still shines through in compositional dexterity. Admittedly it’s more prominent in those heavier moments, on a track like Shouting Judas At Bob Dylan where the sludgy guitars and bass slither around each other more resolutely and the drums have that crashing metal intensity. Compared to something like Dadcore World Cup where the glittering atmosphere is its most prominent feature, maybe even to a slightly overwhelming degree, there isn’t the same meatiness to how it plays out. At the same time though, Sugar Horse’s ability to flip between both and remain totally gripping shouldn’t go unnoticed, and The Live Long After can still pack in enough moments of raw wonder on both sides to remain easily great. In hindsight, it’s been quite a good year for prog and more experimental music, and Sugar Horse are only adding to the pile here. They feel grand and open without sacrificing a potency or edge, something that all the best progressive music seems to have in common. • LN
For fans of: Cult Of Luna, Oceansize, Deafheaven
‘The Live Long After’ by Sugar Horse is released on 27th August on Small Pond Records.
Indigo De Souza
Any Shape You Take
There’s always intrinsically more hope with artists like Indigo De Souza that they’ll find ways to stand out more. Indie-rock can really struggle to find much to elevate itself at the best of times, but through the lens of a solo artists, where the creative process is mostly without the extra hands in the pot and can be sculpted around their vision alone, that feels a lot more worthwhile. And that’s where Any Shape You Take falls for the most part, albeit shouldered with the caveat of resting within a slacker-indie set that isn’t the most thrilling pairing. That isn’t De Souza’s fault given that she works well with what the scene deigns to give her, though greatness will only flash in a handful of moments. It’s probably easy to say the album is dragged down by it, with the drawn-out guitars and drums that don’t make for particularly dynamic components, especially on a song like Late Night Crawlers which can feel so pedestrian in its execution. It’s the instances where De Souza shoots glances at a wider musical canvas that stand the strongest, where the sharper, more acute indie-pop of 17 and Hold U are more ear-catching, and the matted collages of screams that bulks up Real Pain is the sort of harrowing deviation that comes out of nowhere but is much appreciated for just how ballsy it feels. Apart from that, the odd hook or line will hold firmer than others, but from a musical perspective, there’s a bit of fatigue where Any Shape You Take takes itself.
It’s just fortunate that De Souza does a lot to make up for that, as the sort of presence at the centre of this album that’s far more engaging and incisive. She’s got a really strong voice, almost in the realm of alternative-centric Alanis Morissette at points like on Die/Cry, but always as a defined, emotive presence across her work. It’s where a lot of the writing can be buoyed up even when it’s already at a high standard, as the sort of relationship angst that doesn’t seep into melodrama, but on Bad Dream and Kill Me where the semantic choices can feel a lot more heightened, gives off that more reckless, full-throttle attitude. Admittedly it can be similar to a lot of singer-songwriter indie-rock tackling similar topics, but there’s something about De Souza that sticks more readily. Perhaps it’s a ruggedness that comes through when those in similar fields are more folk-based, but Any Shape You Take finds strength in its poetry and performer alone in a way that some albums just can’t; they’ll have the former but not the latter, and the difference is noticeable. Even so, that can be somewhat undercut by a sound that lacks engagement factor just as much, but it’s not quite as pervasive, and there’s a general momentum that makes this less outright boring. It’s a mild recommendation overall, for anyone who hasn’t been totally burned out by this brand of indie-rock; for that crowd, this’ll scratch an itch, if only on the basis of a promising talent alone. • LN
For fans of: Adult Mom, Ratboys, Girlpool
‘Any Shape You Take’ by Indigo De Souza is released on 27th August on Saddle Creek Records.
Venues feel like an easy band to bucket in with a term as nebulous but ultimately apt as ‘modern metalcore’. It just feels natural, in the darker, dense soundscapes and big emphasis on scale that, from that potted vantage point, could just put them in line with anyone else at their level. Except on Solace, there’s something a bit more here overall, albeit enough to be noticeable without totally thriving. It’s mainly down to how that scale plays out more effectively than most, where clean vocalist Lela has almost a power-metal bent to her singing style, and when she takes over for a hook, it’ll feel a lot sharper and more focused. In fact, that power-metal slant is arguably Venues’ greatest source of definition, at least against others in their genre, where there’s more vibrancy to this music in the way that Into The Fire’s solo triumphantly roars in, or in just how any chorus feels turbo-charged to squeeze every last drop of enormity from itself. It makes Solace a lot more readily listenable than another bout of recycled breakdowns and djent flirtation, and Venues wind up more impactful for it.
That’s not to oversell this album by any means, because it’s not like Venues are pushing some bold new frontier for metalcore, instead of just beefing up what’s already there. Those stronger elements do add up, but they still have to content with a very rote metalcore production job, where the tones are practically the same in hiking up the guitar presence while leaving any bass or organic warmth out to dry. They’re a proficient band without being particularly striking for the most part, and that does hit when Solace doesn’t wind up being the huge leap forward it could otherwise have been. Coupled with lyrics that are ripped straight from the genre playbook with barely a concession made (though the pirate theming of Whydah Gally is probably the height of its creativity), and Solace as a package can hit that deep metalcore familiarity with the sole distinction of being a bit bigger at points, and very little else. Though, that can be enough, and it’s surprising to see how nobly Venues are able to roll with that, and find a point where it works for them. This isn’t a gamechanger but it’s not just another brick in the wall either; there’s some flair here that doesn’t go unrecognised, despite the genre its in having infamously little time for that. Maybe they can do more with it in the future, but for now, Venues might be worth keeping a cursory eye on. • LN
For fans of: Annisokay, As Everything Unfolds, Dream State
‘Solace’ by Venues is released on 27th August on Arising Empire.
Bad Bad Luck
The feel of Wilder. is one that’s rather accurate to what this band is, namely of a pair of musicians getting together to create an outlet that makes up in heart for what it mightn’t have in tremendous scope. And for artists like Stephen Ramos and Nick Sturz, who’ve been in bands for about a decade or so but have kept fairly under the radar in that time, there’s nothing wrong with channelling their current creative impulses into a project like this when the results are so strong. It’s actually quite a pleasant surprise how robust this debut EP is, with elements of pop-punk and emo that have a suitable grit and maturity to them, without marginalising some of the sunnier aspects. It’s no-frills, but uses that to its utmost advantage, where the guitars, bass and drums are all warm and perfectly balanced within the mix, and the slightly raspier vocals serve as the point of tension that’s necessary to keep it moving. Compositionally, there’s really not a whole lot wrong with Bad Bad Luck, in having it serve as a very thorough compendium of the pop-punks motifs that would bubble below the mainstream branches throughout the 2010s. There are elements of bands like Forever Came Calling and Major League, tipped with a down-turning emo roughness that makes the mid-paced approach as palatable as possible.
There’s definitely a side-project feel to it all, but not one that’s too distracting, or that will steer the EP in a less beneficial direction. It’s mainly found in the writing, where the emotion and angst serves its role as it’s wont to do on pretty much every release like that, and where because of that, the hooks will be good without having that spark to do more. That’s not to say that bitemytongue or the title track don’t have some earworm capabilities, but that’s more through these songs as a whole package, rather than hinging that impact on a singular slamming chorus. Though, depending on which way you look at it, that could be better for Wilder.; it makes them feel more well-rounded as a band, rather than placing one particular strength under higher scrutiny than any others. That’s a good quality to have, and feels like one of the more immediate benefits to come from a debut from ostensible veterans, where a lot of that creative experience can be merged and drawn upon in much greater stead. It’s not the meatiest thing in the world at only five tracks, but it’s the sort of appetiser that makes you want to hear more, and see where Wilder. might go further down the line. Even just for nostalgia’s sake, this is the sort of pop-punk and emo that’s really worth getting onboard with. • LN
For fans of: The Dangerous Summer, Forever Came Calling, A Loss For Words
‘Bad Bad Luck’ by Wilder. is released on 27th August on Rude Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)