There’s nothing like the news of a new Descendents album to improve a summer in advance –and, with a particularly slow start to the good weather, their short, sweet blasts of melodic punk are exactly what is needed to counteract the strangely unseasonal Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by leaving the house at least three days a week to find South London rain-drenched and storm-swept.
Hypercaffium Spazzinate, of course, would be a cause for celebration regardless of the weather; the band’s first release since 2004 sees them return to Epitaph, the label under which they recorded 1996’s ‘Everything Sucks’. Does this mean we can draw in depth stylistic comparisons between the two albums recorded under Brett Gurewitz’s label whilst at the same time contrasting them with ‘Cool To Be You’, the Fat Wreck album sandwiched between? Does it bollocks. Bill Stevenson has always had a keen eye to which side his punk rock bread is buttered on and Hypercaffium sits comfortably amongst the band’s previous efforts, offering 16 sometimes deceptively sharp blasts of what can be termed ‘pop punk’, but only once you mentally eschew the taint of saccharine awfulness which the late 90s and early 00s bought to that term.
Opener ‘Feel This’ sets the general pace at 1:14 in length, with only half the songs exceeding two minutes and a grand total of three that get past three. I found myself having to stop the album when I needed to go down and get a beer out of the fridge, in case I missed anything vital. That’s what you get with me, quality professionalism. Anyway, ‘Feel This’ drives full speed into ‘Victim Of Me’, the song which pre-hyped the album to the world and while it may not quite reach ‘Milo Goes to College’ speed, it definitely offers Karl Alvarez’s fingers a workout on a breakneck bass line on a tune which will have you skipping the needle back more than once (or moving the mouse and double clicking like the horrible nowadays bastard you are). ‘On Paper’ slows things down and brings into the mix the self-deprecating humour that Milo’s soulful, very slightly snotty, very slightly roughened voice is so perfectly suited to – the sound that so many vocalists took as a template to fall far short of.
From then on in and for 16 songs the band take the sound which they’ve perfected so well and throw in a number of variables, still keeping hold of their core formula like a control variable in one of Milo’s lab tests. ‘No Fat Burger’ harks back to the band’s earliest days musically, as Bill Stevenson’s lyrics bemoan the doctor’s orders which have stopped him scoffing whatever he wants due to health issues covered in the killer 2013 documentary ‘Filmage’. Just remember as you listen to the primal but supremely controlled beat underpinning every track that the man playing it has survived health issues which would kill five other people at once.
Elsewhere, this may not be a change in style from previous releases but that doesn’t mean that the Descendents are ploughing the same furrow in any way. On the contrary. The hooks which made the likes of ‘Bikeage’, ‘Silly Girl’ and ‘When I Get Old’ such instant classics do the same for much of Hypercaffium. Whether it’s the full pelt race of ‘Human Being’ or the mellower, hook laden likes of ‘Shameless Halo’ or ‘Comeback Kid’, the band sound like they don’t even know what the term ‘twelve year album gap’ means. Closer ‘Beyond the Music’ is a potted history of the band, a microcosm of the personal lean of their lyrics which has definitely played a massive part in them becoming such a worldwide phenomenon.
Despite having almost 40 years of history, and a major place in the history of punk music and numerous musical milestones, they are still writing songs of awkward love, caffeine obsessions and flatulence which strike a chord the world over…and long may they continue doing so.
March’s sophomore album release Golem saw Los Angeles-based Wand state their claim as a face-slapping psychedelic force to be reckoned with, inviting you on a juvenile joyride to bold, head-melting dimensions unknown across nine treacherous tracks.
Fast-forward six months and Wand are still skidding through the grimy back-streets of sludge rock and doom with gusto, yet this time around there’s even more on offer. To investigate the trio’s new-found Crazy Horse-indebted groove, we sent Yasmyn Charles down to Brighton to catch up frontman Cory Hanson and find out how, exactly, their new album 1000 Days became reality.
What was the formative process of Wand and how did it come into being?
Well, the three of us went to art school together and after we all graduated we all had a bunch of different projects and I just kind of asked everyone if they wanted to play music together… so we did. It’s a pretty unremarkable story! [Laughing]
Did you have any idea of the sound direction you wanted to take?
I was listening to a lot of 70’s German, kind of krauty music at the time and I’d been playing in a lot of Rock n Roll bands and then decided I wanted to start a more ‘arty’ rock-driven project I guess.
Do you feel you’ve kind of achieved that with Wand?
Yeah, I mean it was maybe a good choice because there are a lot of musical directions you can take at any given time. So it makes it easier to be inspired than maybe working within a more succinct genre of music that’s more defined by the traditions it’s partaking in.
Would you say that residing in LA has had a positive influence on your sound due its current and past musical history or has it had no effect at all?
Well I’m from LA and I’ve never lived anywhere else so I think it has had a huge effect on me in terms of growing up there and sort of seeing the way things have changed. LA’s an interesting city because it has these really intense moments of scene proliferation, it’s an explosion of bands then it will kind of eat itself and then it has to start over from scratch. Then there’ll be moments where LA seems so attractive then huge lulls where it’s a very unattractive place to be and everybody hates it. And right now for some reason there’s like a really big light shining on the place that I’ve lived forever and everyone is transplanting themselves into the city and it’s kind of bizarre to me.
Golem sounded far more acerbic and abrasive than Ganglion Reef and this was supposedly down to a shift in songwriting away from you to greater inclusion of the rest of the band. Has this been the same for 1000 Days?
I feel like our process is constantly evolving because we’re always trying new ideas and configurations of writing songs. With 1000 days, it was within the sort of framework for which we wanted to make the album in terms of it being a lot larger and more about having the space to make mistakes and experiment with things. Both Golem and 1000 days are very performance intensive. We spent a lot of time in a rehearsal space for like hours and hours and hours just reconfiguring songs, breaking them apart and trying to find every possible outcome that we could. The only rule that we had for 1000 days was that every single part of the process for writing a song, the song had to change dramatically. It had to be altered from one moment to the next; it could never be played the same way twice.
Is this something you recreate live as well?
Yeah, we try. I mean it’s interesting because we don’t really like to play the songs the way they are on our records. For us the records are these things we spent a lot of time making and in order to stay true to the writing process and the kind of spirit of the songs, they have to change within the structure of a performance. It’s a very different space than a recording space.
You’ve said that Golem was recorded at “not an upbeat time”. Has the atmosphere affected the output on 1000 Days the way it did with Golem?
We’ve gone through a lot of changes as a band. And personally through a lot of highs and lows in our short career that have totally influenced the way that the records are shaped and the kind of themes that get brought into the songwriting and the recordings and the way that we treat the recordings. We definitely have no intentions of making a happy record or a sad record but rather something that’s a little more true to the time we spend in the band and out of the band.
There’s definitely a sense of that on the albums. There’s no emotional guidance, you form your own emotive ideas about the music.
Yeah, I mean, we don’t really have a compass for those kinds of things or a trajectory… in most ways [Laughs].
It’s been said that the influences for your past material have been Final Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons, what have been the influences for 1000 Days?
Hmmn. Let’s see… We were listening to a lot of Crass and a lot of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle. A lot more Industrial and Anarcho-Punk bands.
There’s maybe a slightly more electronic slant on 1000 Days, is that something bore of listening to these industrial acts?
Yeah, we all have a previous relationship to these kinds of bands but the influences seemed to take on more of a character during the recording of 1000 Days. I mean we’ve had synthesizers on every record and on every record we process all of the guitars through a lot of synths. They’re very much studio records in the sense that everything is being massaged and processed and treated in a certain way. So it’s sort of an accumulation of experiences in the studio that resulted in the records sound.
So you’ve followed a very natural process with the recording sound but also appear to have a deliberate ‘mystical’ aesthetic both visually and as part of your sound. Is this intentional?
Yeah, I mean there is a curiosity/relationship to fantasy or esoteric themes but I feel that a lot of the space that’s occupied is not that. Like, if that’s the kind of outer… ‘trappings’ of the music, then the things going on inside are pretty real. [Laughs] In the sense of us being human beings it’s kind of inescapable that we’re going to have a relationship to the music that’s really intense.
Do you think that that’s essentially the nature of psychedelic music in the sense that’s it’s something both real and a form of escapism?
Well…I wouldn’t say the music’s escapist, though it may flirt with those ideas, I think that in the most positive sense, escapism is a way of finding a moment of removal from the present or whatever surface problems that are accumulating in order to better understand what’s happening. It’s so that you can re-interpolate into reality or the present and become better equipped to deal with shit.
If you had to describe 1000 Days in one sentence, what would it be?
[There’s a long silence] I don’t know… I feel that the title is pretty indicative of what’s on the record. To me it feels massively contained. It’s a lot of information and a lot of music that’s selected and curated in way that despite it being the shortest record we’ve made, it feels like the biggest. And it is, for us, our biggest… kind of…
Not our magnum opus but up to this point the truest that we feel about music and about playing and making records. It’s just a more ambitious version of what we have been doing.
Even though that wasn’t a sentence it was still a pretty good answer! Has there been any anxiety with trying to follow up the success of Golem.
I have a lot of anxiety about those things! We basically started writing 1000 Days as soon as Golem was mixed and mastered and the artwork was at the plant. We were like, let’s make another record before this one comes out and we did it with the last one too. The real hurdle we’re going to have to overcome at some point is that, now we have these records and the stuff that’s been happening, we need a little time to process all of this in order to make the next one.
Would you say that all your past projects have taken a complete backseat along with your solo work?
With Pangea I haven’t been in that band for 3 years and Meatbodies 2. As for all of my other projects, they’re now just kind of happening in the leftover space… there’s no real point of even talking about them because they’re in the spectrum of ideas that are maybe materialising in some way or another.
So Wand’s your main output for material you’re truly happy with?
Yeah, at this point. I’d love to be happy with some other projects really soon, and hopefully that’ll be the case. But for now Wand is the main vehicle for my songwriting at least.
What’s next for Wand?
After this tour the record comes out then we have a US tour. Then after that we’ll start recording and writing again. We’ve established this sort of cycle of touring and recording.
There appears to be this idea of ‘if a shark stops swimming it dies’ – where you always have to be creating?
Yeah we don’t feel very comfortable taking time off because we’re not in a position where we’re making enough money to! [Laughs]. We’re still kind of struggling to make a living as musicians and artists and so there is a sense of urgency. It’s also important for us not to get ensnared in the kind of cycle that most bands get trapped in. Where you make a record…it takes 6-8 months to comes out… then you tour the record for half the year then it takes a year and a half to produce another record. We’re definitely not interested in that kind of structure, and we can’t do that because we have to keep making records.
Support Wand in their mission to keep playing and making music by ordering their new album on Drag City out on September 25th from here or order it from your local record shop. It’s a damn good one, you will not be disappointed.
Promo photos: Romain Peutat
Words and instant camera shots: Yasmyn Charles
“I’m pretty sure the label were ready to drop us when we told them the fourth time that it still wasn’t right and we’d have to give it another going over,” reveals Felix Bushe, guitarist and main man of London’s Gengahr, as he racks his brains over the trials and tribulations of their decision to co-produce their fast approaching debut, A Dream Outside.
Heralded as the finest purveyors of hazy, psychedelic pop right now, Gengahr have risen fast and high above their contemporaries, with tracks like ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’, ‘Powder’ and ‘She’s A Witch’ raining from the stereo in here on loop.
When asked about the band’s most personal lyric on the album, before we dive into his own musical psyche below, Felix cites ‘Lonely As A Shark’s verse of, “All I ask is just one more chance. If I grew horns and fins, at least I’d get to start again. And speak in tongues just like it all began. Somewhere underneath the sea are teeth the size of you and me.”
Going on to explain, “I normally try to disguise myself in the songs with fictional narrative but ‘Lonely As A Shark’ in particular is a song full of my own emotions. I wrote this at a time when I had moved to the suburbs of London and rarely saw any of my friends. I was working full time and I had tried to go back to university because I felt my life lacked direction. The song is basically about my isolation and solitude at that time.”
Check out Felix’s nine most personal albums below, but first hear their eerie new cover rendition of Fugazi’s ‘I’m So Tired’. Not many have managed to pull off covering one of the finest band’s in history.
My gateway album is…
The Argument – Fugazi
Whenever you put on a Fugazi record it just makes you feel cool, and that’s a big part of being at college and school.
The album my fans might not expect me to like is…
Mechanical Animals – Marylin Manson
I love this album, I swapped it for a Slipknot album with a friend at school and even now if I put it on it still sounds great. Some dope tunes on this one.
When I’m angry at the world, this album fires me up!
Around The Fur – Deftones
If it wasn’t Fugazi then I was probably listening to Deftones as the backing music to my school days.
A record I absolutely despise is…
Any album by Ed Sheeran.
He has no soul!
An album for Sunday chilling is…
Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter
These guys are maybe my favorite band and I could have named any of their albums really but this is one I’ve been listening to most recently.
An album to dance your ass off to is…
Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
These guys bridge the gap between rock, hip hop and dance so effortlessly. I was blown away by the Beastie Boys during the whole MTV2 years.
The album I’d like to see live, in its entirety, back to back is…
3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul
I feel like I don’t get to see enough Hip Hop music when we are playing festivals or whatever but this album would be amazing to see in it’s entirety.
The album that evokes a specific memory is…
Devotion – Beach House
This record reminds me of my first flat after moving out from mum and dad. My flat mate used to play it all the time and its a really beautiful record.
If the world was ending, the last album I’d want to hear is…
Transformer – Lou Reed
One of my all time favourite albums. Featuring two of my all time favourite guys, Lou Reed and David Bowie. This is maybe the closet thing to a perfect record in my eyes so it’s fitting that it would be the last thing I ever hear.
Poison Idea have history right in the centre of London. All of their 90s appearances in the capital exploded in the centre; from that first incendiary performance with the Hard Ons at ULU in ’91, to the legendary Marquee and Astoria gigs, tonight Poison Idea returned to hit the centre dead-on again at The Borderline. With pretty much all of the rock n’ roll now flattened and demolished in Central London, the heart ripped out of it, it’s fitting to have Jerry A and his kings of punk return to the ruins and re-charge it once again with their vital metallically-charged hardcore punk.
As we climb down the stairs into the pit of punks crammed in to The Borderline, the first thing that hits you is the stench of puke and sweat, the deathly aroma of punk. The room is buzzing (and gagging on the smell) with anticipation for the return of Portland’s legendary Poison Idea who are very much back. Their new album ‘Confuse & Conquer’ is the best they’ve recorded since 1992’s ‘Blank Blackout Vacant’ and Jerry finally has a line-up that is committed, settled and does the music justice. Currently three-quarters through the longest and most gruelling tour they’ve done in many years, Jerry’s punished voice may be raw and ripped but from the moment the band hit the stage, they are bone-tight and packed full of power. With ’87 era-guitarist Eric ‘The Vegetable’ Olsen back in the band and stick-thin drummer Nathan Richardson pounding the skins with more power than his appearance might suggest, Poison Idea kill it tonight.
Yes, it takes a few songs for Jerry’s voice to settle in but once it does, it’s as snarled and powerful as it ever was. “This one’s for Nigel Farage,” he says as the band steam into ‘Discontent’ (“listen Nazi, never again,”) and the entire room detonates into a flurry of limbs and sweat. And the hits just keep on coming. They play pretty much every essential song you could want to hear – ‘Just To Get Away’, ‘Getting The Fear’, ‘Punish Me’, ‘Taken By Surprise’ and ‘Give It Up’ , all of which square up well with the sprinkling of new ‘Confuse & Conquer’ tracks the band play tonight.
At the end a woman’s boot is thrown onstage. Jerry picks it up, empties half a bottle of cider into the bottom of it and swills the contents into his mouth. “Tastes like a size 6,” his says before the band wind the set up with a double stab of Johnny Thunders and Avengers covers. A perfect punk rock night. We’re so fucking glad Poison Idea are still here.
There are certain albums from the 80s that bring back so many incredible memories that you just have to re-buy them – Raphanadosis is definitely one those. From the grinding blast beats of ‘Garden Centre Murders’ to the zombie intro of ‘Braindead’, (still one of the best intro’s to a hardcore record of all time) this 22-track masterpiece full of nightmares comes packed with super-fast, quintessentially British hardcore with humorous subject matter that will be an anthem for many.
The gritty, monstrous vocals of ‘My Brother Is A Headcase’ still sounds like a vegetarian is tied up in a basement being force-fed bacon whilst listening to ‘Henenlotter’ on repeat. The eerie build up in ‘Button Moon’ still retains a creepy cesspit of misery before you are blown into outer space.’The Kid With The Removable Face’ is still being used as a frisbee (and still making me LOL) and ‘8 Years in Office’ and ‘Extreme Noise T’ are still the best shortest songs on the album. More records should also have titles for the A and B sides too. Side ‘Insecticide’ was always followed by Side ‘Fungicide’ with this release, you could never just listen to half of it. Brilliant stuff.
I feel like ‘Wurzel Gummidge on acid’ listening to this again, a feeling most would probably avoid. Maybe that’s what Raphanadosis actually means. I never knew what it was when I was 16 listening when this was on my record player, in fact I always referenced is as SNIT which seems to have disappeared from the brilliant front cover art. It’s probably gone for a good reason that I don’t understand and that is exactly why this album is so damn brilliant. I never wanted to know who Doctor and the Crippens were really. So stoked I’ve caught Raphanadosis 26 years later.
Top marks to Boss Tuneage this month who have decided to get this classic out of the punk rock vaults and re-package it for the exploding cabbage appreciation society that followed this seminal bunch of laugh-a-minute punks.
Pick up the re-issue from here. It’s a must have double vinyl and CD package that comes with 15 extra tracks from their John Peel Show in (1989), the North Atlantic Noise Attack comp LP and Avant Gardening 12” EP. All that for £8!
Hey Colossus ‘In Black and Gold’ Rocket Recordings
Over the last 11 years, Hey Colossus have become something of an institution in the UK’s noise-rock scene. They’re absurdly prolific, this is album number nine, devoutly experimental – and heavy as a sack of spanners.
Their growing esteem and popularity likely has much to do with the band’s sharp changes in tone and style from LP to LP. Each one takes them into uncharted ground, exposing them to new audiences along the way. Recent releases have even garnered glowing reviews by broadsheets determined to assert their ‘cool’ – what more could a band so uncompromising and antisocial-sounding ask for?
Yet with ‘In Black and Gold’, the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed ‘Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo’ they’ve managed to deliver a record that pulls beauty from their copious wreckage more so than ever before.
Much of the tonal shift on this latest LP can be attributed to guitarist Jonathan Richards stepping up to provide more of the song writing than on previous outings.
A skateboarder since 1988, Richards intimates that much of his material was developed in his head while on-board: ‘The songs feature lots of banks and transitions that came directly from skating. The changes in rhythm and pace as I skated helped develop the blocks of sound that I would eventually translate to guitar when I got home.’
The result is a record that takes in a wide range of styles and moods, whilst managing to retain the trademark meditative aggression the band have developed in recent years.
Live, Hey Colossus have earned a reputation for show-stealing performances that are as unpredictable and confrontational as they are hypnotic. With a UK tour ahead to promote ‘In Black & Gold’, there’s a chance to experience the wall of sound created by this 6-man worrying proposition for yourself.
Pond share two members with Australian psych-masters Tame Impala but don’t for a second think this is some throw-away side-project there to keep the band amused in downtime. Far from it, Hobo Rocket is Pond’s fifth album and it’s a glorious rush of pop, noise psychedelia that out freaks anything Tame Impala have come up with. Opening song ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide’ sets the stall out for the album very quickly, no easing the listener in gently, it slides out of the starting block shimmering with a squelchy Flaming Lips psych-pop vibe, with a pure shot of Butthole Surfers noise running through its veins. This is modern psychedelic music at its best, breathing in fifty years of experimental sounds into their collective lungs and exhaling them all over 2013.
Pond, however, ignore the mistakes of the past and resist the temptation to become self-indulgent and drab, keeping their brand of psychedelia focused and direct. ‘Xanman’, for example, hits the freak out button hard but remains upbeat and melodic, despite the swirling cacophony of noise the envelopes the song. Next up, ‘O Dharma’ is a floating Spiritualized type ballad that twinkles like the Lips own ‘Waiting For Superman’ had it been penned in 1974 by Roger Waters. Then Pond lurch back into the evil lysergic doom of ‘Aloneaflameaflower’ that crackles with such a mischievous ‘I’m gonna fuck up your trip and freak you out’ grin, you can’t help but love it, before running away feeling a bit paranoid and scared.
This is a good time for psychedelic music. It’s good to see the freak flag still waving high.
The details of letlive.’s long-awaited album ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ have been creeping across the internet in a sort of unofficial snail trail but this is the first actual music we’ve had the fortune of hearing. And bloody hell, was it worth the wait. letlive.’s furious melding of punk and hardcore with undeniable R&B influences comes to glorious life in this music video which showcases the band’s infamous live abilities. Having said that, the skills on show here are nothing compared to what you will witness at an actual live show so make sure this is one band you catch in the flesh (at the Vans Warped Tour in the US or headlining across Europe in Sept / Oct). They will melt your face off and rip your heart in two (metaphorically speaking, of course).
‘Banshee (Ghost Fame)’ has a bass driven groove and all the vocal melody, screams and spitting you could want. Jason Butler proves himself as one of the most versatile and skilled vocalists of the genre, whilst purveying some intense lyrical content. You can bet that this is a sign of things to come with the album itself which is set for release through Epitaph Records on 8th July. The term ‘highly anticipated’ doesn’t quite cut it in reference to this record which many are hailing as one of the albums of the decade. On the strength of this introduction, we can see that they might have a point…
Despite struggling to decide whether I love or hate the bands’ name, there’s no doubting at all how I feel about ‘Set Me Back’ from Canada’s Weed. A stomping, sludgy yet strangely uplifting noise-pop track, ‘Set Me Back’ is in equal parts hazy and energetic; it’s three minutes managing to sound both restrained and powerful. Huge, fuzzing walls of guitars open the track, before the vocals alternate between an almost chanting monotone and a rasping wail – sounding somewhere between the slack trudge of Pavement and the epic shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine. Though cleaner, the production on ‘Set Me Back’, manages not to lose some of the abrasive edges showcased on their previously released ‘Gun Control’ EP.
‘Set Me Back’ is taken from Weed’s forthcoming debut album Deserve, coming out in July through Seattle’s Couple Skate Records. Here’s hoping the rest of the album hits just as hard.
There currently doesn’t seem to any plans for the band to come over to the UK, but hopefully it won’t be too long before a few dirty East London venues get them on their stages. To save you the hassle of clicking on a whole host of potentially dodgy sites when Googling their band name, find more information about Weed on their blog.
Let’s head back into 1987 when London Posse kicked off a career in Hip Hop that would last a legendary lifetime in British hip hop.
Made up of Sipho, Rodney P, Bionic and DJ Biznizz they kicked off with a self titled release on Big Life produced by a young Tim Westwood followed by the seminal ‘Money Mad’ on Westwood’s Justice Records in 1988 that put Rodney P and Bionic on the map. The Posse may have split leaving these remaining two members but they went from strength to strength to release ‘Gangster Chronicle’, one of UK hip hop’s most cherished slabs of vinyl that is scheduled for a full re-issue treatment on 17th June via Tru-Thoughts.
Keep an ear out for ‘Money Mad’ with brand new remixes coming from Drumagick and Wrongtom on 13th May and if you don’t click on the play button on this documentary you will never know your Tru roots. Support it whilst we try and find out who those skaters are in the opening frames…answers on a postcard please.