The Duel – Waging War

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On the back of their previous impressive album alone, the new full-length from UK now wave punks The Duel has been one of the most highly anticipated releases in the genre this year and the last to be honest. Its impending arrival has sparked an almost feverish excitement and on the ‘eve ‘ of its unleashing it can be revealed that all your hopes and wishes for the band’s fifth album will have fallen short of what it magnificently uncages on the ears and passions. Consisting of nineteen mentally and physically impacting and inspiring tracks, Waging War is a glorious new and inventive adventure from a band which is no stranger to pushing itself, the listener, and punk into new potent grounds. The London quintet on the evidence of their album has quite simply found a new maturity and mouthwatering enterprise to songwriting and sound which only makes the future even more exciting.

The Duel has come a long way from that first meeting between vocalist Tara Rez and keyboardist Andy Thierum, after Tara applied to an ad in Melody Maker. From the joining up creatively and the founding of the band, The Duel has unleashed a quartet of albums which have one by one increased its stature and reputation whilst forging a status as one of the most inventive, passionate, and socially vocal emerging bands in UK punk. Debut album Let’s Finish What We Started in 2007 instantly drew strong attention which Childish Behavior two years later pushed to another level, but it was the 2011 All Aboard The Crazy Train which brought a more intensive spotlight upon the band. A year later the boldly experimental but still rigorously enthralling Soundtrack To The End Of The World (Story Of Zak Splash) revealed the eagerness to really push themselves and expectations. The acclaimed release set a new benchmark for the band whilst challenging fans to evolve with their sound, which they did with rapturous passion for the main. Waging War takes those seeds planted in its predecessor to a far loftier template for band and modern punk whilst simultaneously also embracing decades of punk and its origins. The result is an album which is as addictive and infectious as anything from the seventies with barbed hooks a plenty and as melodically seductive as any pop punk /new wave triumph release from the following decade. It also simultaneously provides a scintillatingly new and experimental adventure bred in the now. It is a richly stimulating encounter which puts The Duel on the frontline of punk rock.

The first striking impact from the album is the use of poetry and prose in between many of the songs. It is a potent and highly provocative ideation which wakes and stirs up thoughts and emotions time and time again. It is not just words though as each piece is wrapped in an embrace of diverse music which colours the dramatic and enthralling canvas set by the voices. Provided by Tara and guests Angie Bowie, Segs Jennings (The Ruts/Ruts DC), Ginger Coyote, and Dennis Just Dennis, those particular tracks slip easily and perfectly between songs which add depth to the spoken narratives and vice versa. The pieces share the same titles as the songs they precede, with Breakaway starting off the album. Keys elegantly court the poetry of Tara as a portentous atmosphere spills its breath around them. As with them all it is a proposition in itself, not an intro but a companion to the song itself which emerges from a great scuzzy electro mist from Andy with rigid rhythms from Pumpy and guitar grazes from Thanos Oscar Pap. It is a less than forceful start but one soaked in dark oppressive drama caressed by the croon of Tara which captures the imagination and an immediate appetite. As the song settles in thoughts a switch is flicked and urgency and energy accelerates to an eager stride which only reinforces the exciting start to the album.

From another piano led skirting this time to an Angie Bowie brewed narrative, Feel The Same dances with raw sonic flames and agitated the duelrhythms around the throaty tones of Chris McDougall’s bass and Tara’s potent vocals. It is an absorbing slice of anthemic rock pop, keys teasing and kissing throughout as energies romp with feisty appetites. An essence of old school punk breathes across the encounter but not as loudly as in the following Gotta Hold To Love. There is a sterner rough edge to riffs and rhythms from the start which the vocals and subsequent quaint twang of keys soothe though at times certainly Tara roars as potently as the guitars. The song is in many ways epitomises The Duel, the band able to produce the most virulently addictive and contagious propositions without the blatant and obvious use of candied hooks and predictable lures.

Things continue to grow in strength and pleasure as Under The Thumb next swaggers into ears. Once more the grouchy sound of seventies punk spices up the exceptional track, a X-Ray Spex toxicity igniting imagination and passions whilst guitars sculpt a web of virulently persuasive textures and simply irresistible bait. Its glory is swiftly matched by Brotherhood which comes after another deeply registering piece of word and sound. Opening on a rich earthy bassline, the song soon wraps the senses in an epidemically alluring groove which is then itself coated in the vibrant vocals of Tara. Atmosphere and sound intensifies as the song spreads its intent, riffs and hooks as an enthralling trap within a blazing web of creative suasion which equally nets everything from ears to emotions.

The first part of Light At The End is an instrumental with gloriously orchestrated structures which proves music itself can be as poetic as words. There is drama, mischief, and expressive endeavour to the piece which in some ways makes the song itself slightly underwhelming initially but with punchy beats and bass prods, the coaxing vocals of Tara and Andy, and the latter’s glassy keys invention the song is soon riding thoughts with relish and mesmeric enterprise. As with most tracks, its body is impressive and gripping but it is the small twists and slithers of ingenious imagination which means things evolve into something truly special, the unpredictable breaks and turns in the direction of the song and the unexpected vocal detours adding delicious extra spice as the song reaches its peak.

Colours next explores with keys which are almost Stranglers like at times as a rosy psychedelic glaze soaking the senses. With a gritty persistence from vocals and rhythms aligned to scorching sonic flames, the song is a riveting protagonist if not quite at the heights of certainly the previous pair of tracks. Both Salesman and Gimmi Your Thing are similar, the pair insatiable with strains of vintage punk simplicity courted by raw hunger of dirty rock ‘n’ roll but lacking the spark to light a major fire in the belly, though each still leaves a vigorously satisfying and compelling presence lingering in memory and emotions.

The album is back on its highest pinnacle with Urgency, an incredible anthem which lures total allegiance through a smouldering coaxing rather than all out lines of hooks and riotous bait but still achieves the same highly successful results. It is a masterful recruitment emulated to the same degree by Love Me Or You Don’t. Merging a reggae swagger with electronic discord and dub teasing, the track is a constantly twisting weave which never relaxes or lets the listener’s senses rest into one inviting premise, instead offering a magnetic and thrilling off kilter waltz which adds another inventive exciting turn in the call of the album.

Closing on the challenging incitement of War, it coming in two equally imposing and vigorously pleasing parts, Waging War is a dynamic fusion of passion induced imagination and bold invention scaling new inspirational heights for the band. The production of the release comes as its predecessor with a hollow essence which ensures everything resonates in touch as well as premise, meaning intensive cloudy essences thicken and flames find a chilled starkness and it works a treat. The Duel has been to the fore of European punk for many a year but with Waging War they are taking on the world and we for one would not bet against them after this triumph.

http://theduel.co.uk

http://www.ffruk.com

9.5/10

RingMaster 21/05/2014

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Obsessive Compulsive – Seculo Seculorum

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There has been a good buzz about Seculo Seculorum, the second album from UK punksters Obsessive Compulsive, since its release a couple of months ago but now having allowed its thrilling exploits to tease and excite our senses the record far outweighs the plenty of good responses draped upon it so far. It is an outstanding release, a collection of songs that stand toe to toe with the ears intimidating and coaxing them and all beyond into its riotous and provocative charge. Rife with feisty riffs, probing rhythms, and more hooks than to be found in an angling store, as well as the excellent spitefully seductive tones of vocalist Kelii, the album is an irrepressible temptation declaring the rock and punk fused presence of the band as one of the most exciting in the UK.

The Manchester quartet first drew attention with a couple of EPs but fired up a stronger awareness with debut album Dreams of Death and the Death of Dreams in 2010. Released on their own Vociferous Records and produced by Russ Russell (The Wildhearts/Evile/Napalm Death), the album triggered strong and eager responses as well as a wealth of underground media acclaim. Renowned for their live performances, which has seen the band share stages with the likes of Goldblade, GBH, Anthrax, The Damned Things, KMFDM, Wolfsbane, and The Japanese Voyeurs as well as igniting festivals such as Bloodstock, Hard Rock Hell, and Download Festival, Obsessive Compulsive are now poised to raise their stature to a much loftier level with the James Loughrey (Skindred/Bjork/Page & Plant) recorded Seculo Seculorum (meaning ‘forever and ever’).

As immediately evident on the album, Obsessive Compulsive reaps the finest essences of punk, alternative rock, and a multi-flavoured OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERArock rawness which combines to create a confrontation which leaves you breathless and gripped by a hunger for more. Imagine The Distillers and The Duel tied down and milked for their antagonistic charms whilst Karn8 stands astride adding their wantonness and you get a sniff of what the album offers. There is also a melodic fire and bite which harkens back to the late seventies with both The Photos and Penetration coming to mind at times. The moment opener Sick Sick Sick bursts into a blaze of hypnotic riffs laced with a contagious groove and commanding rhythms, there is a cage around the passions sparking them into life especially as Kelii brawls into the ear with sexy intimidation. There is a sense of US rockers Mongrel about the song too when it flares up in pissed off crescendos around its virulent infectious call. It is a scintillating start that lingers around for a long time inside though it is soon matched by the brilliant Regurgitate.

The second song on the album initiates the strongest lure just by the instant firm stroking of guitar and vocals, the combination a temptation which seems to know there is no escaping its toxicity. Into its stride once again the suasion is immense and impossible to resist, the roguish roam of the riffs framed by crisp beats seemingly seeded in old school punk rock whilst Kelii provides a Pauline Murray like snarl and melodic craft to her delivery. It is another instant pinnacle which alongside its predecessor puts the rest of the album under pressure.

Both the inventively unpredictable Stamp Your Own Path and the smouldering Jardim Gramacho put up massively satisfying efforts to grip the same heights whilst Nail In My Coffin stands shoulder to shoulder with the openers with its scything riffs and barracking rhythms egged on by the continuing to impress vocals. The track engages full thrusters in the energetic chorus to rampage as melodic flames hang on to its wind, though they are later allowed to settle and bewitch the listener with skilled and inventive narratives either side of the storm. The track again shows the variety in sound and imagination already on the album, the diversity brought with invention and an array of ingenious barbs which are never too much or allowed to get too complicated.

Float idles up next with bass and deep toned guitar edging the sultry tones of Kelii as the track unveils a slightly chilling and menacing beauty to its expansive breath, keys bringing an enveloping atmosphere which almost haunts the ear whilst shards of hot guitar coals light the skies. Drawing up its sinews and malevolent passion the song builds into a rapacious fire before settling down again into the initial smoulder. It is another slice of brilliance helping to propel the album into classic areas, the evidence of that status cemented further by the twin glories of Soul Sucker and Things Clean And Unclean, the first very much a Karn8 type inducement with elements of Hole and Hitchcock Blonde to it and its successor a gritty slice of dirty punk with L7 whispers to its stunning suasion, the steely bass bait a greedy temptress. It should be noted though for all the references mentioned the Obsessive Compulsive sound is still as distinct as you would hope.

After the metallically honed triumph Fight Or Flight the album unleashes its finest moment in the punk fury of No Logo. The track is pure venom and belligerence, a blistering X-Ray Spex like piece of contentious savagery which squalls and scowls with no mercy shown or considered. It is a bruising fight which accentuates the beauty of closing song Swallow The Sound all the more, the song a compelling rock ballad with a melodic heat that frames the vocals perfectly.

Obsessive Compulsive is a band which leaves only the richest appetite and urgency for their creativity in play, and Seculo Seculorum an album which seriously threatens the best UK rock album claims for the year. A must listen release.

http://www.obsessivecompulsiveband.com/

9/10

RingMaster 23/08/2013

 

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Forgery Lit – Onamacritus

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Listening to Onamacritus, the new EP from UK band Forgery Lit, the overriding feeling is that tingle you get when you feel like you are in on the beginning of something rather special, an awareness which not many others have had the taste of yet, though it would be a real shock if the trio from Bristol were not echoing around the senses of a great many in the very near future. Their four track release is simply scintillating, an inspired and imaginative temptation bred from distinct invention and unique aural mischief. Sounding like the tantalising offspring from an orgy between Blood Red Shoes, Breeders, and Penetration with the Au Pairs and Spinnerette offering their juices, and yet sounding something completely different, Forgery Lit is a fire waiting to happen, and their new release we suggest the irresistible spark.

Consisting of Ami Amp (vocals/drums), Gareth Jones (bass/backing vocals), and Niko Mar (guitar, backing vocals), the three friends from three different parts of the world (Greece, South east and South west of England), take inspirations from the likes of Juliette and the Licks, Mogwai, No Doubt, Nirvana and more, spicing up a sound which defies tagging and stands loudly distinctive to the band. As shown by the EP, it is a fusion of indie and rock which employs breaths from many other ventures for one new thrilling experience.

As soon as Dirty Life throws a mesh of sonic dust at the ear senses are opened up and appetite wide eyed in anticipation. It is a 27934_607200582626200_832823740_nbrief scrub soon replaced by a teasing groove and strolling rhythms hand in hand with a swagger lit bassline. The vocals of Amp confidently coax and seduce with slight menace and total persuasion adding to the provocative temptation which subsequently reacts to the listener’s submission with a sonic crescendo of squalling greedy energy before going through the whole incendiary lure again to cement the deal. The drift into blues soaked tempting within a bedlamic ambience makes for an unexpected and exciting aside whilst the returning earnest tempest confirms the already incited ardour. The lead track/video from the release it makes a potent introduction to the band.

She Said has a reggae whispering walk to its opening embrace with the vocals and rhythmic enticement of Amp waving a beckoning finger at the ear before bass and guitar light up the scenic embrace with feisty passion and evocative colour. A more gentle engagement than the previous song it still grabs thoughts and emotions by the scruff of the neck and leads them into an excitable dance of discord teasing melodic blistering crafted with a post punk enterprise. It has an uncompromising invention which is hypnotic in its invigorating ingenuity but is never afraid to drench it in a surge of heart sculpted energy bleeding ferocity.

With just two songs the EP has won its case but with the remaining pair of Bicycle and Fairweather, there is nothing less than more eclectic weaves and rapture igniting quality to devour and drive those thoughts and expectations that Forgery Lit is poised to become a new force in UK rock. The first of the two stands eye to eye with the senses, a riff guided groove searing the synapses to enslave their focus before beats cage their escape and Amp lays out her narrative with a seductive wantonness.  It is with the expulsion of sky bound sonic flames with acidic melodic fuel and a deliciously broody bass assistance that the track finds another plateau of excellence. X-Ray Spex meets Karn8, it is a sizzling and beguiling confrontation and the best track on the EP, a creative devilment which says as much about the immense invention as the other three songs together.

The closing Fairweather is a slowly smouldering caress which is as gentle as it is caustic in its predatory surges, a final piece of passionate and expansive excellence setting the band up as one of the most exciting and promising bands of recent years. Recorded at AudioBeach Studios with Forbes Coleman, Onamacritus is one release all need to invite into their ears, your hearts it will find by itself soon after.

https://www.facebook.com/forgerylit

9/10

RingMaster 28/05/2013

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Trioxin Cherry: Hell To Pay EP

Trioxin Cherry

The Hell To Pay EP is a release to have every graveyard rocking and monster, mythical or real, adopting as their personal soundtrack. It is a malevolent infestation of the senses leading to a full consumption of the heart whilst igniting a furnace of passion with its horror punk glories. The release comes from Nottingham, UK band Trioxin Cherry, a band made up by a trio of insatiable ghouls who grab your soul with irresistible hooks and venom drenched riffs born of the darkest pit of punk, psychobilly, and garage. Raw and hungry, band and EP just leave one a carcass of blissful satisfaction.

Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Campbell, bassist/vocalist Pete Grady, and Ryan Murphy on drums, Trioxin Cherry go for coverthe jugular from the very first second of Hell To Pay and do not let go until they have chewed and ripped a hole out of the throat by last snarling note of the release. The title track is the first confrontation and without concern unleashes a flesh scorching groove and flurry of rising rhythmic aggression. The initial persistent hook continues as the bass riffs of Grady leers menacingly from within the bruising guitar scraping and forceful beats of Murphy. Campbell all the while is lighting up the air with her potent vocals and sounding like an English Fay Fife , front lady of Rezillos/Revillos; the first of those bands also being reminded of as the psychobilly drenched track exhilarates the senses. It is a riotous encounter brought with bruising intensity and superbly crafted intrigue conjured by skill and imagination.

The terrific start is flowed up by the equally compelling Children Of The Damned, a track with an enticing throaty bass lure and the sultry vocals of Campbell. Well into its stride the track unleashes a bassline which is a very close cousin to that from The B52’s track Rock Lobster. It is a mischievous but very pleasing addition to a song which leaves one drooling over its wanton presence. Vocally Campbell this time has an attitude and tone which brings to mind Lesley Woods of eighties band Au Pairs, her delivery melodic but with a bite which intimidates beautifully.

Two songs in and the release has already won the heart over to be honest, and with following triumphs in Bad Company and Sideshow Molly leaving their own distinct infection to douse the passions in further thrills, one can only wax lyrical about the release. The first of the two rising from a subdued yet threatening prowling stomp to an antagonistic storm of raucous group harmonies and vocal spite thrust on a caustic onslaught of energy, raises the temperature further, the almost anthemic brawling crescendos wonderfully acidic on the ear. The other song opens with a garage punk breath and that dark texture The Cramps spawn so long ago soaking the bass and the backing vocals of Grady. It is a contagious Lycan themed rumble with a surf wind whipping up extra wantonness to the already virulent entrapment at play.

The release closes with yet another distinct rage of sound, the band continually able to offer a different flavour and texture to every aural recip. Hit Me is a tempest of punk n roll, a compelling rockabilly growl from the bass joined by a fire of punk aggression in sound and attitude with Campbell bring a rage born of Polystyrene of X-Ray Spex. It is a quarrelling slab of contention and insatiable noise and quite delicious.

If any of the genres or artists mention make things happen which your mother would not like to know about then the Hell To Pay EP and especially Trioxin Cherry  is a must have treat to devour with greed. The release is an eclectically spiced joy and without doubt, one of the highlights of the year. Watch out for band and release on The Bone Orchard podcast.

https://www.facebook.com/trioxincherry

RingMaster 05/12/2012

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Twinkle and The Sluts: Self Titled EP

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    Having had the pleasure of reviewing their previous Sluttier Than Thou EP and playing well received tracks on the Audioburger.com radio shows, it was no surprise that there was a tingle of excitement when UK punk rockers Twinkle and The Sluts recently released its self-titled successor. As the first EP, the release is a DIY treat of enterprise and attitude from the band which like the sounds inside, takes emotions back to the refreshing early days of punk.  Consisting of five stomping tracks the new release is blessed by and suffers from the same essences as their previous record and is equally as pleasing and rewarding.

Musically the band have not exactly moved forward but then with a sound which is aural contagion whilst chewing on the senses it is hardly worth mentioning. Production  like with the first EP does throw up issues from their DIY stance, making some moments feel bare and starkly raw when a little polish is needed but again back in the late seventies when this was the norm as bands broke free, we loved it. Again the collection of songs shouts out the potential of the band ahead whilst bringing a greatly satisfying riot in the now to engage in. Twinkle and The Sluts are one of the more impressive emerging rock bands in the UK, their blend of sounds which treat like a mix of X-Ray Spex, Penetration, Distillers, L7,and Juliette and The Licks, bringing them up to the side of the likes of The Bambi Killers and The Duel.

The release opens with the snappy beats and snarling bass of Renegade, its prowling predatory glancing speared by the feisty sonic381338_508381209191309_1661638130_n gazes of guitarist Alex and antagonistic vocals of Twinkle. The song never explodes into an expected fury but switches the addictive teasing with fuller bruising crescendos leading to and around the chorus. The beats of Curlz are hypnotic as they frame and drive the song whilst bassist Ash probes and snaps at the ear with simple but rich basslines, it all combining for a tasty opening to the EP. We would be lying if we denied feeling a little short changed by the production, expecting and wanting the song to bitch slap the senses at some point but being as over demanding as ever, the song still delivers big time to our satisfaction.

Drag Me To Hell follows and sets itself up as one of the best moments on the release. It is a dirty little gem of a track with a knowing swagger and Ramones like innocence which grabs the ear from its first grooved second to its last middle finger fuelled note. It is probably one of those songs which will find a different reception with different people, its repetition and corrosive cymbal smashes not for everyone but with its infectious breath and effect teased vocals makes for a compelling and pleasing encounter.

Things drop to a slow stalking with Sleaze, its rock gait and well thought out layers of instrumentation quite irresistible. Like the other songs it shows off the imagination in the songwriting and individual skills nicely giving evidence that the band has more in their locker than just punk and uncomplicated rock n roll. The track nicely sets one up to a song which was the highlight of the last EP and receives a reworking this time around. Narcissism is an exceptional song, a track which ticks all the boxes and sends limbs and passions into full frenzy. It has to be said though that the new version does not match the original which is surprising and disappointing, though it still stands as an impressive and addictive joy. It is hard to say what is missing, but there is certainly a lack of the bite and intensity which came with the Sluttier Than Thou original.

The release is completed by the excellent Russian Roulette, a song which has a Siouxsie and the Banshees meets Hole feel about it. It shuffles up pace and intensity for a thrilling incursion upon the ear with expertise and with its smart hooks and skilled melodic enticements takes top honours of the release.

The Twinkle and The Sluts EP is a great piece of combat to stand toe to toe with, of course the band wins but it is great fun succumbing to their uncompromising mischief. Hopefully someone somewhere will let them loose in a full studio without trying to quell their instinctive punk independence and attitude, then watch out.

www.facebook.com/twinkleandthesluts

RingMaster 30/11/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

The Bambi Killers: The Invisible EP

Want to meet the best punk rock band in the UK? A big claim to be laid at the feet of a band for sure but using their debut EP The Invisible as evidence, that is what Welsh band The Bambi Killers is at this point in time. With the wicked wantonness of Karn8, the sexy attitude of The Objex, the mischief of Dirt Box Disco, and the snarl of The Duel and L7, the quartet from Swansea have it all to go down in punk history. Big swinging riffs, raw energy, and vocals to send tingles where tingles have no right to be, The Bambi Killers is a riot in every sense and pleasure.

The band consists of Cluffy on vocals and rhythm guitar, guitarist Pumba and bassist Muppet with both providing backing vocals, and Bom on drums. Together they are a vibrant and action packed unit which leave nothing in the locker in their songs and we are reliably informed neither in their riotous live shows. They have the heart and essence which made the likes of Vice Squad, X-Ray Spex, Ruts, and The Adicts so important back in the day but fire it up with rock n roll which is instinctive and driven by the energy of today. Combined it makes for, certainly in the case of The Invisible EP, sounds which ignite all the passions and feed all the insatiable needs of any rock heart.

The release opens with the song of the year, Don’t Be Invisible. A confrontational taunt to the apathy of gig attendees and the no risk lone easy life attitude of people as a whole, the song is simply glorious. The song immediately erupts in suggestive riffs and growling bass lines whilst Cluffy challenges with word and intent.  Persistent and combative without delving into violence the track is a prowling devil which leaves nothing in doubt and provokes a reaction in all. The voice of Cluffy is a sultry mix of Dominique Lenore Persi (Stolen Babies) and Agnete Kjølsrud (Animal Alpha, Djerv) and sits alongside Kirst of Karn8 as the sexiest voice in UK rock. The ironic thing about the track is that those it is poking a finger at will be caught up in and aiding its anthemic might, safely from their bedrooms no doubt.

The following Get Up Get Out Get Off slams into the ear with immediate energy and enthusiasm. A more directly driven track it is a storm of feisty riffs and jabbing rhythms speared by a catchy addictive chorus and scorched guitar strikes. Like many punk classics it is simple and to the point whilst igniting the deepest satisfaction. Less intricate and varied as its predecessor, the song shows that The Bambi Killers can deliver rock n roll in any form with accomplishment and passion.

The Weight Of The Morning swaggers up next with attitude to the fore and forceful sounds to back it up. Like Spinnerette meeting Bikini Kill, the song crawls all over the senses like a lustful teenager though with more restraint than they can ever find. With an almost hypnotic lure the track is a feast of thumping beats and ear stripping riffs but when it drifts into a slow seductive aside it triggers ferocious fires and it has to be said the soaring sounds of Cluffy at this point brings a sign not only to the lips.

Hmmm moving on….. the release is completed by the outstanding Lights Out to complete a four point slab of excellence. With the urgency and melodic flavouring of early Clash or Vibrators, the song is another sing-a-long treat of style and skilled energy, and like its partners in crime another which one cannot resist desecrating with their own voice.

The Invisible EP is stunning and its creators a band set to turn UK punk rock, if not further afield, on its head. Watch out world The Bambi Killers are coming to get you.

http://thebambikillers.com/

RingMaster 04/09/2012

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Varnish: Each To Each

here has been a ceaseless flow of bands harking back to and using revitalised flavours from the post-punk bands of the 80s for a while now. Many have impressively reinterpreted those obvious influences whilst others are open in their borrowing but a few have created an instinctive sound that would see them as a major force back then and a thrilling proposition now. One such group is Seattle band Varnish, a group that mesmerises and inflames the senses of most who come across their discordant jangly charms and striking cutting melodies.

Formed in 2007 by vocalist and lyricist Amber Bird and guitarist Jason Cope the band has collected many adoring hearts whilst winning over their hometown and in past months by flexing their darkly angelic wings further afield through channels such as the Reputation Introduces Radio Show. Varnish is completed by drummer aNdi pUzL (though the recorded tracks on the EP feature Ben Crosby) and bassist Johnny Straube whose own excellent band Post Adolescence where he caresses the ear as guitarist and vocalist, is also a leading and strongly acclaimed band in Seattles vibrant musical scene. The quartet have united to deliver a sound that is refreshing and equally nostalgic and a debut EP Each To Each, that lights up the heart with clean but dirty punk sounds and intense but undemanding energy.

In their bio the bands says their music consists of “Songs about the hopes we cling to and the regrets that cling to us. Rooted in rain-soaked cities and dry mouths, Varnish want to stand by you when the lights go out and occasionally point out the stars”.  Those two sentences sum up the music and the lyrics perfectly and gives you a clear idea of the poetic but incisive writing of Bird. The songs bring out the darker sides of life and relationships, those showed corners all have or will experience at some point but there is always a spark to turn things into a hopeful positive, if even a mere glimpse of light. Lyrically and musically there is a perfect union, the words as open and dark as the sounds and the music as lively and refreshing as the lyrics.

Each To Each in a way comes in two parts, the eight track release made up of five studio recordings and three live tracks. Recorded at the world famous London Bridge studios and produced and mixed by Mark Clem (Blanco y Negro, Post Adolescence) at his own Soul Kitchen studio the five recordings are impressive to say the least. Each song is a mini classic using upright riffs and minimalistic tones that fluctuate between urgent directness and more expansive eager crescendos. Believe It opens up the release with a probing pulsating bassline and chatty guitar riffs that taunt and tease openly. The songs sounds like a hybrid of the militant punk of Au Pairs and the sparse simplicity of Young Marble Giants, two iconic post-punk UK bands from the 80s.

Not Complaining is almost predatory in its mid paced subdued beat from Crosby and Straube, the rhythm seemingly looking and waiting for the moment to pounce. Again there are unavoidable comparisons to bands like Au Pairs and the offbeat frivolity of Martha And The Muffins but all in an extremely positive and deeply enjoyable way. Bird delivers the words with confidence and a heartfelt energy showing she is living the song as she performs not just singing some words. This is especially apparent in Bruise Me where she almost spits out the words with a keenest verging on malice and bitter venom. Musically too the track has a belligerence and spite from the grumbling menacing bassline and cutting strokes of a fuzzed up guitar.

The remaining two studio tracks carry on the impressive quality and sound. Slipping comes with a Joy Division toned sound that opens into a jangling melodic warmth with Cope meandering wonderfully behind Birds spoken parts. It is the most varied of all the tracks though not as instantly addictive but that makes it a gem of a different colour. Tied To My Chair is an attitude soaked punk song with a glorious FU bassline and dirty bleeding guitars. The song has a feel of X-Ray Spex about it especially in Birds again spiteful vocal display.

The three live tracks featuring aNdi pUzL on drums are admittedly not of the best production quality but more than show a band that is worth checking out live and songs that one is eager to hear at close quarter or from the studio. Insignificant Other and Wanna are again true punk songs with the latter showing Bird giving a Siousxie Sioux like performance.

Each To Each is an outstanding release that for the listeners of Reputation Introduces is an almost greatest hits type EP, with a few of the songs being aired eagerly on the live radio shows. If there is one complaint it is that Varnish have unleashed an EP so addictive one cannot get it off the playlist long enough to review anything else.

Get Each To Each @http://varnish.bandcamp.com/

http://www.varnishcentral.com/

RingMaster 12/12/2011

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