Over the past few years fans, websites, reviewers, and punk itself has eagerly and rightly so declared that the genre in the UK is in vibrant, strong, and good hands with the likes of The Duel, Dirt Box Disco, and Crashed Out to name just three, releasing outstanding albums and delivering riotous live performances, but too often the bands which started it all escape mention. Many of the original bands have continued to be a major presence or have returned to re-carve their name but equally many are just reliving old glories without forging new sounds and explorations for themselves. UK Subs is a band which has never rested on its laurels always creating new and dynamic sounds to varying success. With new album XXIV though, the band quite simply grips the reins of British punk tighter with a release which is quite sensational and easily an equal and fresh inspiration for all emerging young bucks.
Now well into their fifth decade, the band has never sounded better or hit harder. Arguably the early triumphant days when band and the Charlie Harper/ Nicky Garratt penned classic releases left punk rock fans delirious in their anthemic belligerent might be a plateau too far now but XXIV certainly challenges and inspires a rethink of those thoughts with its bumper brawl of impressive tracks and hungry energy. Continuing the mission to release one album for every letter of the alphabet, UK Subs have followed up the acclaimed Work In Progress with an album equally powerful and even more inventive. Released like its predecessor on Captain Oi!, XXIV is a bumper package of songs and quality, the album containing fourteen prime cuts of feisty rock n roll accompanied by another twelve stirring acoustic tracks. It is an outstanding release from a band which others can still learn from and be inspired by.
The album hits hard and impressively right from the start with the exhausting storm that is Implosion 77. The track is a fire of punk metal with thick sinewy riffs and effected vocal scowls laying waste on the damaged caused by the thumping rhythms of Jamie Oliver. The track is prime Subs sculpted with an enterprise which keeps the band ahead of the rest, the step into a heated atmosphere of evocative sonic caresses and melodic elegance veined by grasping whispers and an addict forming hook which would have the Dead Kennedys grinning, and not forgetting the delicious strings graced ending, pure instinctive pleasure.
The following blues provocation Coalition Government Blues is again instant joy, the harmonica flames from Harper a beacon for the emotions alongside the direct lyrical address and musical stomp. As Speed next rampages through the ear the album already is loud in its diverse musical intent, the track a hardcore courting metallic bruise of rock n roll which uses abrasion and infection as a dual irresistible invitation for the heart to join its mission.
Enlisting the already persuaded passions to an even more intense ardour and involvement both Rabid and Monkeys snarl and ravage with devious skill and anthemic flair, the first of the two a tempest of dirty rock n roll which encompasses various shades of punk rock to thrill and gets the blood racing faster around not only the ear but the whole body. It is a masterful confrontation with the guitar of Jet rifling the senses with boisterous devilment. The second of the pair brings more restraint to its gait though it ensures its force and antagonism is in full flow and impossible to hide from.
Through the likes of Black Power Salute with its metal forged riffs and compelling bass lines from Alvin Gibbs, the excellent Las Vegas Wedding which replicates the addictive lure of a Flogging Molly with its own unique melodic wantonness and contagious hooks, and the darker tones of the irresistible Stare at the Sun, the album leaves emotions boiling over in rapture and maybe surprise. UK Subs has never truly disappointed but arguably have never been this adventurous and eager to incorporate so many extra spices and sounds to their formidable invention, and it is an impressively rewarding result for all.
XXIV never drops a beat or level right through to its finish but does save its further highest pinnacles for its closing straight through the Bo Diddley does punk romp of Wreckin Ball and the closing victory Momento Mori, a ball-busting fury of merciless beats, uncompromising basslines, and corrupting riffs driven by incendiary vocal harmonies. It makes the perfect end to a magnificent album, though it does not end there as the acoustic tracks step forward to offer their impressive presences. The songs show the immense and rounded songwriting and craft of the band with more clarity than the riots before and it is another pleasing if unexpected treat on the album. Again each track is worthy of mention but for briefness personal stand-out songs come in the compelling shapes of Angel Of Eighth Avenue, a cover of an Ian Hunter penned song, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, the sizzling Souls From Hell, and The Outsider.
There is not much more you can say about UK Subs, their place in musical history is set in stone and continuing to build whilst as XXIV shows there is more than just life and bite left in the old dog.
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