Kublai Khan TX
Lowest Form Of Animal
For bulldozing, heavy hardcore, Kublai Khan TX are always a safe bet to deliver. They have been for years, such is the reason why they’ve effectively become locked in place within that scene, never outright falling down but sticking pretty closely to their own rubric. Keeping Lowest Form Of Animal tightened up to EP length feels like a smart decision then, when they aren’t a band whose profile is remarkably high and this sort of thing tends to go down smoother in smaller bites anyway. The benefits come almost immediately too; not only can the force be felt in greater magnitude, but it gives some brighter highlights to where Kublai Khan do want to try and differentiate the work on here. That most notably encompasses the spoken samples that end each track and lend some interesting contextual buffering to the writing, in soundbites from disenfranchised, down-and-out people to bring what almost feels like an intended seediness. It’s more present in that intent and the fact they’re there above much else, though at the same time, it’s not the half-measure that a lot of bands of this stripe would see as the easy workaround. Just look at Swan Song, the track with easily the most pre-release attention for its featuring credit from Terror’s Scott Vogel—sidenote: the vocal trade-offs between him and Matt Honeycutt are so effective at bringing more dynamism onboard—and a lyrical focus on the toil and danger of sex work. Another meathead lump of mosh fodder, this is not, and while it’s seldom as piercing as that particular message can be, Kublai Khan TX can bring a thunder to keep it steamrolling forth. A lot of credit needs to go to Isaac Lamb for a drum profile that can be much more intricate than it needs to be at times, but it’s hard to fault any of them too much when they’re experience as a cohesive unit is so apparent. Even under some occasional wonky production balancing that makes these beatdowns a tad more underpowered than they should be, Kublai Khan TX strike with feral, carnivorous intent, helmed by Honeycutt’s snarl that could rip a hole in the earth on its own, and taking the pummeling forward from there. It’s tried and true and still works like a charm, and Kublai Khan TX are fully aware of that. At least it’s good though, shaved back to leave almost entirely muscle for arguably the ideal form for music like this. Probably a technique worth keeping up then; it’ll probably be more effective in the long run.
For fans of: Knocked Loose, Stray From The Path, Varials
‘Lowest Form Of Animal’ by Kublai Khan TX is released on 1st April on Rise Records.
The seeds of something excellent are present throughout Walt Disco’s Unlearning. They have been for a while, honestly, with buzzy singles and EPs laying down some different foundations within their corner of indie-pop, and the fact that this debut album carries itself with such unashamed grandeur says a lot about the band’s own point of view on themselves. As do so many of the component sonic parts, in healthy amounts of Depeche Mode embellished by Duran Duran and Adam Ant that’ll happily lean into its own obvious flamboyance. Among that as well, there are gothic undertones that add a new dimension to Weightless or Malicent; the thrumming is darker and more malevolent, and it plays well with the sonorous baritone that frontperson James can eke out of their voice. But at the same time, Unlearning doesn’t feel entirely connected to where that could work the best. It’s not hard to pick up on the fact that it’s fairly overmixed—whenever more prominence in the guitars is called for on Selfish Lover or My Dear, it’s the sound of a monolithic wall being manually sawed through—and compared to the source material, this is generally more cumbersome in some rather clear ways. It doesn’t drag, per se, but there’s less kineticism than would be preferable, especially when Walt Disco’s qualities are still able to shine through. They know their way around a hook and a melody that do pop out regardless on a song like Cut Your Hair with its definite flavourings of current-wave post-punk, and James has the exuberant, histrionic presence that a lot of those classic performers built their brand on. It gives the content a bit more life too, not necessarily the overall themes of identity and frustration that one will come to expect from a young band, but more so in the details, exacerbated by James’ coming out as non-binary during lockdown that gives these vignettes a more personal stake. As a launchpad, it’s what becomes really encouraging for Walt Disco going forward; the sound and motivation have a lot of promise, but they’re held back at the moment in a way that’s almost frustratingly easy to fix. At least that means it’ll be easy to rectify next time, which is only a good thing if it means their full potential can be realised.
For fans of: Adam Ant, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran
‘Unlearning’ by Walt Disco is released on 1st April on Lucky Number Records.
Gen And The Degenerates
Only Alive When In Motion
Something about the way that Gen And The Degenerates carry themselves makes them come across a lot more like a punk band than they actually are. In truth, they’re more in line with the current crop of alternative hard rock that’s seen bands like Badflower come to prominence, though even in the more charged angles that can take, the punk spirit is still noteworthy here. A lot of that can be attributed to Gen Glynn-Reeves as a frontwoman, who has the defiant, hollering voice of a classic rock singer on Wild Thing, but makes the jump to something more restless and wiry on Girl God Gun and Burn Your Pedestals in virtually seamless fashion. Similarly in the content itself, traditional rock swagger is split with an incisive modern lens, where Crying War rings out as both self-confident and empathetic, and Burn Your Pedestals acts even more directly in its cries to dethrone the status of celebrity that’ll absolve its holders of all wrongdoing. For a debut EP, it’s an assured foundation that Gen And The Degenerates have built for themselves on Only Alive When In Motion, which at least draws some attention away from a sound that could still use some fine-tuning. On Crying War and Adore Me especially—the two tracks that lean the most heavily on the classic rock end of things—the need for some more firepower doesn’t go unnoticed. The strengths elsewhere steer them away from outright roteness or clunkiness, but there isn’t a lot of drive behind them, particularly on Adore Me where Glynn-Reeves’ higher mixing will only widen the gulf in presence. Their alt-rock work proves a lot more natural by comparison; there’s more bulk and sharpness to the execution, and Burn Your Pedestals crescendos into the sort of punk riff-storm that really deserves to be utilised more often. Beyond that, the production could afford a bit more heaviness across the board, but overall, Gen And The Degenerates are stepping into something potentially cool with what they’ve got here. In a straightforward rock template that can be notoriously difficult to make engaging, they’re pulling together ideas and creative strides that could do a lot to get them there once the inevitable teething problems are sorted out. It’s worth keeping an eye on where they go with this, especially when they’re already showing an easy freedom of motion that a lot in their scene will lack.
For fans of: Badflower, Highly Suspect, Slothrust
‘Only Alive When In Motion’ by Gen And The Degenerates is out now on Marshall Records.
Best Of Beach Punk
Best Of Beach Punk reads more like a mission statement than an album title. It’s definitely informed by Reminders being a British band—ergo, the beach feel comes considerably more windy and overcast to balance out its sunnier spots—as well as how this is largely a trim, high-quality approximation of what Reminders can do. This sort of indie-pop-punk is easy to like regardless though, especially given the focus that’s piled into this album. When the first handful of tracks produces hooks with the oomph of Carousel and Picturesque, there’s definitely something there to get onboard with and stick to when it’s this consistent. Leo Dyke has a voice that’s a bit shaggier and untrained, but that fits with the appeal overall, the grounded, humble sound that’s not breaking its banks or spreading itself too thinly. It definitely fits within the Venn Records stable for that, in a homespun sound that is shy about its looser threads and develops a more approachable guise for them. The music’s also just good on top on that, as the shades of Britpop and indie-rock meld against a melodic punk backdrop that packs in a fair amount of established earworms for a debut, something that immediately stands in Reminders’ favour. The sad-sack writing style isn’t as limited as some can treat it here, in part because Dyke stands as more dynamic figure within his vignettes, and part because songs like Seaside Scampi and Victoria are simply more interesting, either conceptually or just in the visuals they’ll paint. There’s a surprising amount of richness on what’s a pretty cut-and-dry listen on its face, with a snappy enough runtime to where there’s a lot of replay value here. Even just for how sticky the melodies are, this is a remarkably solid album that hits a pretty consistent stride without letting up. With how easy this is to like, it’s definitely worth the time to try out.
For fans of: Sharks, Lovebreakers, Harker
‘Best Of Beach Punk’ by Reminders is released on 1st April on Venn Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall