Life Under The Gun
If you’re going into Life Under The Gun and taking any branding of ‘punk’ or ‘hardcore’ as gospel, you’re likely setting yourself up for a fall. It creates expectations that, quite simply, Militarie Gun aren’t equipped or willing to deliver on. They’re far more comfortable under the wider, stylistically inclusive umbrella those scenes have fostered recently; among cycles of Turnstile going full Jane’s Addiction or Scowl fully embracing an indie-rock backbone, that’s where you’ll find Militarie Gun on here.
And considering this is where most of the free-and-fun punk has lived lately, they’re a welcome addition to the neighbourhood—a band for whom the simple embrace of melody isn’t enough, when you can just as easily wring out every drop of the good stuff out instead. Far from a novelty in principle, of course, but the way Militarie Gun pull it off is brimming with appeal. A song like Think Less exemplifies it the best, with what could pass as your typical hardcore rager if it weren’t for a notably lighter, almost power-pop tone to the playing. The central framework of Life Under The Gun comes from practices just like that, taking the ethos of something harder and rounding it out to bring out more shine. Therefore, the indie jangle of Very High and the rough-but-not-quite grunge-pop of Return Policy and Sway Too come bearing plenty of punk hallmarks, without sacrificing some unbelievable richness.
On top of that, a sub-half-hour runtime is pretty much the perfect way for Militarie Gun to be. They aren’t a band swollen with variety—their stylistic pivots often have very similar genealogies anyway—so keeping it straight and streamlined ends up being a smart move. Add onto that Ian Shelton as your frontman with unbeatable human gravity to fill out his technical shortcomings, and Militarie Gun assimilate among their current field nicely. And they do still stand out, too; there’s no one with a roundabout visibility doing exactly what they’re doing, in what amounts to basically a fusion of punk and Britpop that tries to hit the dead centre of the two. Looseness and maximalism combines with a lean streak all the way down, and it all crystallises surprisingly well and surprisingly quickly.
Not to say that there were expectations for Militarie Gun to fail or anything, but this kind of direction within hardcore and punk has felt ripe for a breakdown, where someone pushes it a bit too far and the wheels fall off entirely. Militarie Gun are not that band, and instead, Life Under The Gun paints yet another fresh dimension on a movement that’s quickly proving itself to be equally resilient and pliable. Between its hooks and instrumental tones, and a hardiness on display that’s never drowned out among its breadth, it’s not hard to see some real legs with this one that take Militarie Gun pretty far indeed. The album’s own uniform solidness just speaks for itself that loudly.
For fans of: Drug Church, High Vis, Fiddlehead
‘Life Under The Gun’ by Militarie Gun is released on 23rd June on Loma Vista Recordings.
It All Returns To Nothing
Actual filth, this debut from Burner is. In a positive way, mind, as is always the case when you’re talking about albums like this. See, there’s a certain semantic tell you can use to determine how equally heavy and good an album is, that being how likely it is to put someone off who isn’t in the know about this sort of thing. Of course, with Burner, there are even more obvious signs. For one, they’re among Church Road’s cadre of acts that stands among the most consistent there is within heavy music, full stop, not to mention boasting a mix of hardcore and death-metal with flecks of black-metal and mathcore to really sweeten the deal.
And that’s basically it; that’s Burner in a nutshell. So, do you need to know anything else? Not really; you can gauge just from a description like that how much It All Returns To Nothing will do for you. It’s not going to be the one that converts even a single soul to the cause, but if you’re that way inclined already, Burner prove to be exceptionally good at what they do. They’re chronically caustic and ferocious, with exceptionally few moments of calm or dead air to distract from the firestorm. Even when it’s there on An Affirming Flame—the remarkably bold penultimate moment that finds Burner reaching way further than they need to across seven-and-a-half minutes—it’s all totally natural as a means of blending suites of distinctly-styled heaviness.
Maybe it’s a stretch to call Burner more adventurous than some of their contemporaries, but you can’t exactly chastise them for doing what they’re doing either. If you want blackened, monstrous, unrelentingly heavy music, It All Returns To Nothing isn’t something you’d pass up on in a hurry, not when Burner have it so deeply in their pocket. Obviously the guitars are completely seismic, whether standardly crushingly or appointing an insidious tremolo style; obviously Harry Notts is a feral man-thing on the vocals; and obviously the writing is basically illegible apart from its own bloody-minded carnivorousness. But would you have it any other way? For the sort of music they’re making, Burner are leaving any spaces empty or ground uncovered. They’ve got that abject brutality and visceral pitch-blackness of it all on lock, exactly as it should be.
Maybe that doesn’t make for the most elucidating analysis, but albums like this don’t tend to open themselves up for that anyway. It’s all about the blood splattered, the burns scorched and the flesh ripped off, and It All Returns To Nothing bring all of that in ample quality. And yeah, no wheels are being reinvented, but when something is so self-evidently fit-for-purpose as this, it’s fine to cut it a break. It’s not like it’ll harm Burner at all, not when their fixation on grisly, gargantuan heaviness already turns out results as mean as this.
For fans of: Trap Them, Gatecreeper, Converge
‘It All Returns To Nothing’ by Burner is released on 23rd June on Church Road Records.
Toodles & The Hectic Pity
Hold Onto Happiness With Both Hands
In the grand tradition of UK alt- / folk-punk bands going tragically undervalued, here are Toodles & The Hectic Pity to carry that particular baton for a bit. Not exactly a flattering role to play, granted, but their slew of predecessors would suggest that it’s indicative of a high bar set. Even as a fairly newer band (they formed in 2017 but have only had a couple of EPs between this full-length), Toodles & The Hectic Pity already seem well-equipped to meeting their particular status, such is the grip that Hold Onto Happiness With Both Hands has. It mightn’t be as streamlined as most, but that’s not stopping it from squeezing and tugging every necessary heartstring.
That’s kind of a noteworthy thing to bring up first, seeing as the differences between Toodles and the alt-punk vanguard begin fairly immediately. The style is a big component of that, opting for the knotted, literary writing of indie-rock in the vein of AJJ or the Mountain Goats, and giving Callum McAllister a less forward vocal presence to presumably match his spasmodic yelps and jolts. It’s to the point where the more traditionally driving fare of this style is more marginalised—tracks like Emotionally Unclean are clearly the minority—but there’s also a bit more going for it too. There are layers and instability given to an otherwise straightforward narrative about reclaiming self-worth, where the yarns spun on tracks like Sitting Down In The Shower or “The Enemies Of Happiness Are Not Napping!” can offer something much more emotionally potent. You’re not getting a lyric as simultaneously overwritten but emotionally stellar as “I wanna be kissed so hard that I no longer feel your tongue in my mouth” from many others.
It’s a similar case with music, too. The tones and textures are largely the same, only dominated by acoustic guitars heaped with distortion in a way that kind of mirrors certain branches of emo if you squint at it. Allegedly electric guitars were only used to produce a single note on this album, leaving them de-emphasised to form a rougher, calloused skin overall. There’s a nice rattle and roll that comes from it, on Solitary, Or So It Seems or Religious Experience On The Bristol-Bath Railway Path that’s more toned-down from the gallop and bombast of alt-punk regularly. Even when that does occur like on Re:Surfacing, Toodles’ sawdust exterior is enough to separate them; at no point on this album do they succumb to stylistic interchangeability, and that’s tremendously commendable.
Saying that, it’s always nice to have an enormous, rollicking hook to fall back on, and Toodles’ naturally higher barrier to entry means that isn’t always possible. They aren’t in the very top tier for reasons like that which can hold them back. But that’s also easy to look past when considering what Toodles are doing—a more contemplative, unspooling version of the sound designed to require more active attention, and rewarding greatly when it’s given. Maybe it’s just how supremely easy it is to like these tones; maybe it’s the fact that there’s real creative muscle and intelligence on the go at all times. More likely, it’s a combination of both, held in high esteem across the board.
For fans of: AJJ, the Mountain Goats, American Football
‘Hold Onto Happiness With Both Hands’ by Toodles & The Hectic Pity is released on 23rd June on Specialist Subject Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall