Rubella Ballet – Planet Punk

RB

It is probably fair to say that most punks know the history of, impact, and importance to the genre UK’s Rubella Ballet has made since forming at a Crass gig in 1979. Built around the nucleus of Sid Truelove and Zillah Minx the band brought intensive colour musically and visually to an anarcho/gothic punk scene. Their subsequent course saw the band perform two John Peel sessions and release from the first dramatic Ballet Bag cassette only unleashing of 1981, a trio of albums, and a mass of singles and 12” encounters as well as numerous collections. Live the band toured and supported the likes of Crass, Death Cult, and the Poison Girls amongst a great many whilst helping upcoming bands such as Ritual, Sex Gang Children, Ausgang, and Skeletal Family. As said most know the background to Rubella Ballet and their presence, the band summed up recently as, “They were the band who bridged the gaps between The Sex Pistols, X Ray Spex, and Crass.”

That is history though, important but belongs to the past. What is relevant to the now is the release of their new album Planet Punk, the first release of new material since 1986’s album If, an album declared by the majority as their finest moment. That was until the uncaging of Planet Punk, a quite extraordinary and fascinating provocation which sits boldly on the frontline of the pinnacle of punk releases in recent years. A release which provokes thought, passions, and feet like an ingenious puppeteer; a sonic devil which sits on the shoulder inciting and teasing until it has wormed under the skin and is riding the psyche in an irrepressibly diverse punk rodeo. Sid Truelove and Zillah Minx have conjured one of the most riveting and invigorating rebellions to sit alongside the likes of the recent Steve Ignorant with Paranoid Visions album When…? and the new Waging War full-length from The Duel as important propositions within punk rock.

From the opening title track the London band and release strikes at the heart of world and social wrongs, the like of banks, the illuminate, RB coverand the Hillsborough Stadium disaster amongst many things under a spotlight in the fifteen track creative tempest. The songs never preach and shove opinions down the throat though, just inform, inspire, and give their own premise. The first song instantly takes the listener and imagination back to the band’s early days, its old school stomp and breath a pervading suasion entwined with middle finger bred grooves and combative vocals which have a modern day eyeballing maturity. With sharp hooks and fiery dynamics, the song is a glorious spark to set Planet Punk off, its title track an instant trigger to the agonist dormant in us all.

The excellent start is swiftly matched and pushed to a new plateau by both All Potential Terrorists and Run Run. The first, spawned by 9/11, thrusts angry riffs and rapacious rhythms at the ear as the magnetic tones of Minx ripple with intensity and antagonism. Clad in contagious resourceful sounds, the track rampages irresistibly but then twists the scenery into a delicious darker incitement as Truelove adds his vocal suasion into a mix now coursing with warnings and sirens as well as startling enterprise. It is hard uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll at its best, guitars flaming with a reserved yet bright flame within the imposing scenario. Its successor stalks and prowls around its victims, the banks. Again samples as in the previous pair colour the landscape, their information courted by throaty basslines and predatory riffs which Minx manipulates further with her vocal confrontations. There is a raw air to the song; every aspect ablaze with a caustic glaze which only adds to the narrative whilst within the unrelenting menace the essences of bands like Fatal Microbes and The Molesters only enhances the pleasure.

The album continues to get stronger and more dramatically thrilling as each track infests senses and imagination, the next up Killuminati climbing another step with its voracious heavily weighted riffs which ooze ravenous hunger. The rhythms are just as full of rabidity but as ears succumb to their pressure the band suddenly explodes with a kaleidoscope of invention and ingenuity, the imposing Truelove vocal lead joined by soaring flumes of Minx’s symphonic seduction. At its core the track is an antagonistic brawl but with all the riveting twists of invention now at play equally soaked in the predation which drives the song from the start, the encounter is one of those moments you can only use the word classic for.

The bewitching Pandora’s Box has its designs on that mantel too, and achieves it with a sirenesque portentous hymn. It is a song which seduces and slowly swarms all over senses and passions, a mix of Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Duel, but as in all cases any references are just a hint to the startling originality. The album’s greatest offering, the track is as sinister and compelling as the science it is prowling, Minx at her glorious whilst the songwriting and invention of the band could be best described in literary terms as Frankenstein meets Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Both the equally chilling and ominously glazed Anonymous and the insatiable Hellbilly Heroin fire up body and emotions next, the first a captivating slice of bleak cyber punk and its successor, a track seemingly looking at Truelove’s own health problems and issues with drugs, their effect and ownership, is a honest and uncomplicated punk rock roar which pulls no punches. Both songs without matching the previous tracks, a level always going to be hard to maintain, easily ignite another wave of hunger in the appetite for the album which Bio Hazard instantly reinforces with its accusing web of sonic enterprise aligned to the temptress tones of Minx, its bait and lyrical canvas enthralling.

Through the absorbing stark infectious lure of Silver Or Lead, a song with aspects of calling All Astronauts to its presence, and the heavy rock smog of Wonderful Life, the album continues to find new impressive ways to light the passions, the second of the pair an incitement thick in intensity and robustly smothering sound which is speared and lit with the oppression tempering croon of Minx. It is a mouthwatering intimidating mix which is equalled in success by the coarse pop punk vivacity of You’ll Be Sorry and then the crunchy charred sound of Sedition. Both tracks in their unique ways embroil sounds of the late seventies and modern multi-flavoured punk into an irresistible uncompromising proposition. It is fair to say that the album is not as strong in its latter stages as its blisteringly inventive start, the songs at this point, more direct and straightforward then strikingly dramatic but still wholly addictive.

The final trio of songs are a mixed bag starting off with the outstanding Victory For The Victims. The imposing heavy bass within seconds flicks the switch to return the imagination to the heights which opened the album, quickly contradicting our just mentioned thought at that point. It is a minimalistic song in many ways looking at Hillsborough, but stunningly effective as it enslaves and invigorates thoughts and emotions. Its triumph is then matched by the brilliant Vampire Wedding, a dark gothic waltz equipped with Sister Of Mercy like rhythmic seduction and Sunglasses After Dark shadows which is then transformed further with bloodlusting angelic charm and vocal imagination.

The album concludes with Starship Transporter, a spatial flight of acidic colour and celestial sonic weaves narrated by Minx. It is a decent enough song but fails to come anywhere near the other tracks on the album though admittedly it still makes a provocative and skilfully sculpted end to an exceptionally tantalising and thrilling release. There may be a vast amount of time between new material but Rubella Ballet has not been resting on laurels instead designing and honing an evolution of presence and sound which in so many ways sets a new template for punk bands and fans to been inspired by. Planet Punk is the band’s best release with ease and a definite album of the year contender.

Planet Punk is available via Overground Records on all formats now!

https://www.facebook.com/rubellaballet

9.5/10

RingMaster 26/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Johnny Kowalski and The Sexy Weirdos – Kill The Beast

JK cover

How best to describe the sound of Johnny Kowalski and The Sexy Weirdos which runs virulently threw the veins of new album Kill The Beast. Well if you take a fusion of Tankus The Henge and Gogol Bordello and spice it up with healthy doses of Les Négresses Vertes, The Pogues and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, you get a fair flavouring of the fun found within the band’s second full-length. The ten track release is a magnetic energetic party of varied sounds and flavours brewed into the band’s own riveting “carnival punk” proposition, it one rigorously exciting and enjoyable encounter. Essences of gypsy punk, ska, swing, and straight forward punk also add to the irrepressibly captivating mix, the result a wonderful deranged waltz of unpredictable adventure.

Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos spent their early years honing and shaping their sound on the live arena before unveiling debut album Victory for the Monsters in the October of 2012. Acclaimed the release was followed by the band striking out on tour across France, Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic, again to strong and eager responses. Returning to Europe again last year, the Birmingham based band courted the passion of countries such as Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg in the course of their next tour, whilst appearances at festival such as Boomtown, Y Not, Tramlines, Nozstock, Wychwood, and Swingamajig as well as a third European excursion has only strengthened their presence and reputation, breeding strong anticipation for their new album. Produced by Gavin Monaghan (Editors, The Destroyers, Robert Plant), Kill the Beast seizes attention from its first breath refusing to release its hold until the final note of the last song. It is a release which like all punk bred incitements, which it really is in so many ways, the album challenges and thrills with mischief and antagonistic wantonness, rewarding with a feel good factor other bands can only imagine.

Nailbiter starts things off and is instantly throwing its body through ears, revelling in its boisterous energy as brass inflames the air and rhythms march resourcefully over the senses. Eventually settling into a more controlled yet still rebellious stride with a sultry mystique to its evolving sound, the song seduces and incites the imagination with the violin of John-Joe Murray a potent lure within the strong rhythmic frame provided by drummer Matthew Osborne and bassist Chris Yates. A devious swagger breaks out from within the captivating stomp, the guitar of Kowalski stirring things up before his raw vocals add to the striking dance. There is a fairground barker drama to his delivery, expelling forcibly the narrative as strings and brass colour the scenery further, the trombone croon of Ellie Chambers and trumpeting pouts of Simon Noons rich hues to immerse within. Building up to an explosive crescendo which wickedly never materialises, the track is a glorious start to the album setting a high bar for the other songs to match.

The following When the Time Comes makes a worthy attempt, growing potently from its reserved opening stroll with flumes of brass warming a rhythmic scattering and the more reserved delivery of Kowalski. It is a spicy romp, which like a smouldering temptress sways and swerves with melodic curves and energetic tendencies over the senses, teasing with its seductive nature. It does not match its predecessor’s heights but still leaves emotions and ears enraptured as the Tequila Song stands poised to inflame their ardour once again. As you can probably imagine from the title the song is a festival in the ear; liquor kissed revelry which stomps with rhythmic knees high and infectious melodies bordering on salaciousness. The brass again almost taunts with their evocative blasts, adding to the mischief breeding every note and syllable uncaged by Kowalski and the backing shouts of Osbourne and Murray.

Next up Question the Answers strides with a rhythmic tantalising courted by a great throaty bass lure and punctuated by again fiery stabs of brass. There is a sense of unrest to the sound and feel of the song, a troubled sigh locking onto the rigid contagious press of rhythms. As vocals and subsequently violin bring their unique flavours to the developing evocative landscape, the track absorbs attention and appetite, twists of guitar and acidic stringed invention spearing the enveloping premise. The track is more restrained and arguably straight forward than the earlier tempests of adventure but no less gripping, much like Same Mistakes which swiftly adds its bold canter to the terrain of the release. Again it is a more reined in protagonist but with plenty to engage the ears if without sparking the same strength of fire in the passions as certainly the first and third song.

The excellent folk/gypsy vaunt of Raggle-Taggle Gypsy comes next to bring a traditional treat with a sense of the Pogues to its exhaustive imagination infesting polka before making way for the instrumental ‘shanty’ of What Shall We Do With a Blonde?, another track which lifts spirits and feet like a maniacal puppeteer for the fullest of pleasures. The album sees the additional dark charm of the tuba from David Yates across its body, and here he is at his exhilarating best perfectly matched by the mouthwatering skill of Murray.

     Another major treat comes with the carnival-esque sortie of That’s the One, brass and violin casting a picture of circus swing which the expressive vocals and gypsy punk spawned heart of rhythms and guitar paint in their own rich textures. In its full stride the song is an addictive tempting which as others steals control of feet and soul but it is not maintained throughout to the same potent effect leaving the listener feeling the song missed an indefinable trick somewhere. It is still a vivaciously pleasing track which the punkish The Good Shark builds from. Like The Clash meets Mano Negro in many ways, the song is a feverish provocateur which impresses and excites even more when from its fire flailing romp it hits a vein of dub/ska haunting sparking that Strummer and Co reference and thoughts of Ruts too. Finishing on the same brash and vigorous exploit it started with, the track is a wonderful slab of fun.

The title track brings the album to a strong hypnotic close with plucked violin strings around a resonating beat immediate bait and trap to devour greedily. That enticement is soon accentuated as Murray spreads the charm of his craft pushing deeper the core temptation of the song. The track as it explores its walls has a feel of Dizraeli and The Small Gods, not so much in sound but the way the song is constructed and blossomed, though the guest vocal skat of Call Me Unique itself holds some similarity to the other band’s Cate Ferris. It is a maelstrom of sound and imagination providing a final blast of fun and adventure to a tremendous album.

     Kill the Beast is a scintillating treat which even in its less lofty moments still leaves appetite and emotions raging. Johnny Kowalski and The Sexy Weirdos are the minstrels of ‘Body Snatching Carnival Punk’ and if coming to a graveside near you are well worth gripping tightly on to.

Kill The Beast is available now@ http://sexyweirdos.bandcamp.com/album/kill-the-beast-2

http://www.sexyweirdos.co.uk/

9/10

RingMaster 26/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Castor Troy – Across The Water

Castor Troy Online Promo Shot

Over the course of this review there will be a wealth of reasons supporting the whole hearted recommendation of Across The Water, the debut album from UK rockers Castor Troy, but with just one reservation which is it lacks the spark to ignite the passions. Certainly there are times where appetite drools eagerly but these are scattered moments within certainly an impressive and enjoyable yet merely simmering landscape. Undoubtedly it is a personal thing which is why we heartily suggest a b-line for the album is taken by fans of heavily boned and rigorously punchy alternative rock. As suggested there is little to throw against the nine track encounter worth a skirting around of its presence, its songs thoughtfully and skilfully composed and delivered with individual craft as vibrant as the passion which drives its heart, but there is just that one niggle that it is missing something.

Consisting of four school friends, Castor Troy began in the middle of 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne and has taken only a short time to make their presence known and eagerly followed by fans across the North of England. The quartet has drawn comparisons to bands such as Alterbridge, While She Sleeps, and Alexisonfire but for a first plus about the release, it is hard as the album fills thoughts and emotions to really find an equivalent to the band. Though their sound is not so distinct as to be shouting from the rooftops it is a proposition which leaves the band with an individual presence from the pack.

The Sam Grant produced release opens with Chapter One, an atmospheric instrumental which casts a sonic mist over ears before a Castor Troy Cover Artworkmelodic haze paints an evocative if underwhelming scenery. There are little hues like the vibrant picking of the guitar and erupting sonic flames which spark enough intrigue to have attention keen before welcoming Winter Lights which flows seamlessly from the climate of the opening piece. With bold rhythms and brash riffs courting the ear first, it is an instantly appealing suasion, one enhanced by the great lead vocals of rhythm guitarist Benn Gibson. His voice has a hint of gravel and a full wash of emotive expression which has little problem lighting ears as sounds work away on the imagination. Soaring melodies, heated passion, and a rhythmic tempting engage senses and thoughts from start to finish but epitomising the album as a whole it lacks the fuse to reap the fullest reactions and ardour it probably deserves. It is strange as raging crescendos and earnest expulsions of passion only lift the song to greater heights across its body but certainly for these ears something indefinable is smouldering rather than burning feverishly within the song.

The following Undivided though is a different beast, a major triumph on the release which almost alone reveals the potential and fire that is still to be explored within the band. Riffs from the first second have a snarl and crackle to their voice which immediately grips, a hold soon reinforced by the dark shadows offered by the bass of Joey Dryden and antagonistic rhythms from drummer Chris Gilks. Standing boldly above all of this are the vocals of Gibson whilst beneath him intensity begins to boil as those earlier riffs take on a carnivorous aspect as lead guitarist Michael Fulcher sculpts a web of sharp sonic netting. Despite its predatory intent there is plenty of room for melodic endeavour to also flame and seduce, its presence almost tempering the aggression as it eventually evolves into a rampant stroll of heavy weight rock which again twists and entwines with the many designs of the song. This is another big attribute of Castor Troy, creating songs which defy predictability and keep attention and imagination alive even if emotions have yet to find the same depth of submission.

Nineteen next brings another twist and diverse episode in the album, its semi-acoustic entrance of guitar and vocal a seducing caress where the voice of Gibson really shines. He may not be destined to be put in the list of classic vocalist but he is one of the more interesting and extremely listenable to have emerged in recent years. With floating harmonies and crystalline shards of additional melodic guitar graced by a dark throated bass line, the song from a strong first showing evolves over time into another big highlight of the album, its broad band crowded closing stretch bringing a potent finale before the piano led instrumental Infatuation engages ears. The piece is a melancholic reflection which as the first track, is masterfully crafted and presented but underwhelms a little, though it is hindered by being between its brilliant predecessor and the excellent title track. Like Undivided, the song strides purposefully across the heaviest side of the band’s sound and passion, riffs and rhythms a rapacious treat around which Fulcher colours air and the muscular canvas with evocative flames of sonic invention. For some reason, and it has to be said not for the first time on the album, Castor Troy remind of nineties rock band Skyscraper even though sound wise they are very different. Merging aggression with emotive elegance, the track is an enthralling adventure which again in itself holds all you need to know to feel that the band can be a potent and important protagonist ahead.

Both Jenny 23 and This Is Not…. impress without finding that essence which made the last song leap into ears and passions so effectively. The first is deeply passionate in sound, intensity, and delivery whilst the second is melodically tender which is emulated in the vocals and its emotionally sultry breath as well, and both are beautifully presented but neither find the same formula to excite, though to be fair the album’s penultimate song is another which grows and flourishes given time to become a compelling joy over time.

Closing with the thoroughly enjoyable and rivetingly textured The Condemned, a track which right away found a hunger for it with an opening melodic coaxing which reminded of Julian Cope’s Spacehopper before evolving into a different kind of invigorating incitement, Across The Water is an undeniably captivating and impressive introduction to Castor Troy. There is so much to praise about the album and very little to find issue with but that most important ability to excite us means it is more potential in waiting than realisation, though you can only feel that the band will be succeeding in lighting a fire in our belly at some point as they evolve and grow.

The self-released Across The Water is available now!

www.facebook.com/castortroyuk

8/10

RingMaster 26/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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High Horses – Hours

HH

Thickly evocative and richly textured, the new single from UK electronic rock duo High Horses makes our introduction to the band a striking mesmeric powerful flight which has little difficulty in making the strongest persuasion. There is arguably nothing dramatically new about Hours but it has a heart and passion, not forgetting quality, which makes it instantly magnetic and mouth-wateringly invigorating.

Hailing from Manchester, the May 2013 formed High Horses consists of Stephen (piano/synths/lead vocals) and Kieran (guitar/vocals). Creating atmospheric music lying upon cinematic like electronic rock soundscapes, the band has awoken a great deal of attention with their debut EP, also called Hours and from which the new single is taken, as well as their live performances which has seen the pair at venues such as Scruff Of The Neck records in Manchester as well as Factory and The Dublin Castle In London. The EP was the result of Forty Six Records handpicking the band to record a release and it is hard to imagine the single doing anything else than enhancing its success and their emergence whilst taking the band to new receptive ears, like ours.

Hours emerges from intermittent swipes of stark industrial bred sound, its initial touch caustic and lingering even as drama shaped keys HH ARTbring new depth and emotive colour to the expanding suasion. It is with the entry of the striking vocals that the song truly erupts in the imagination and appetite though, it soon working on the passions as the two musicians explore and flourish in glorious sound and harmonies. In full voice, the song is wrapped in deliciously compelling shadows and melancholic intrigue but also just as rampantly descriptive melodic colour and emotionally spawned hues. It is anthemic and galvanic, a tapestry of creativity and imagination which seduces on every level.

Accompanying the song on the release is an acoustic version of A Thousand Eyes, another song from the aforementioned EP, as well as a video for Hours which brings an industrial feel to a theme of the contrasting natural life cycle. It is a gripping visual provocation to match the potency of the song and provide another reason why High Horses are recruiting new fans in swift time.

The single Hours is available now!

www.facebook.com/highhorsesband 

9/10

RingMaster 26/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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