Headsticks – Kept In The Dark

If packaging decided best of year choices UK quartet Headsticks will have top honour sealed with new album Kept In The Dark. The surround to its music is simply glorious, easily the best art and presentation seen in many a year by these hungry eyes and embracing music just as mouth-watering it all makes for one irresistibly thrilling offering.

Checking out their previous album, Feather and Flame, three years back we suggested that Headsticks had confirmed themselves “as one of Britain’s most irresistible and essential punk ‘n’ roll adventures.” Well, while assuring you that nothing has changed, the band has revealed that previous success was just the beginning of bigger things; bold triumphs now presented by its successor. Parading their folk ‘n’ punk instinctive sound in all its glory, the new release is Headsticks at their boldest and most boisterous but equally with its richer kaleidoscope of styles and flavours it has equally nurtured its most defined character and individual adventure yet for the biggest pleasure.

Emerging late 2012, Stoke on Trent hailing Headsticks had built and earned a potent reputation through a rousing live presence and acclaimed debut album Muster in 2014; success only accelerated by the following Feather and Flame. That growth will only be escalated again by Kept In The Dark; the band’s finest moment to date as their socially and politically charged songs relish another striking spurt in diversity, imagination, and dramatic adventure.

The new release opens its bumper load of songs, with no filler in sight, with When. From its first breath, the punk ferocity and infectious incursion of the track gripped ears with vocalist Andrew Tranter masterfully steering the rousing trespass. Devious hooks and manipulative rhythms do their persuasive deeds with relish within a song which has echoes of bands such as The Vibrators and Angelic Upstarts to it.

The impressive start is immediately matched by I Love You and its ska natured saunter. As mentioned variety in the Headsticks sound is enjoyably no new thing but it is certainly at its most eager, bold, and fluidly unpredictable within Kept In The Dark. With a Ruts-esque lilt to its stroll, the song had little trouble in getting under the skin and luring participation from body and voice before Peace Or War erupts in a roar of punk ‘n’ roll carousing where the forceful but virulent swings of drummer Tom Carter collude hungrily with the brooding tones of Nick Bayes’ bass as the wiry melodic tendrils of guitar from Steven Dunn align with his rapacious riffs.

The following pair of Cynical and Mushrooms reinforce the album’s instant adventure and prowess; the first a seducing of acoustic punk with irritation fuelling its breath and its successor a mischievous ska pop swinging incitement easily leading hips and vocal chords into action. Both easily got under the skin but still are eclipsed by the superb Mr ‘I’m Alright Jack’. Bred on classic fifties rock ‘n roll, the track is a lure of swerving rhythmic hips and melody enriched rockabilly chords around riveting vocal incitement.

Through the rock driven reflection of My Own War, an easily relatable declaration, and It’s a Matter of Time with its equally melancholic intimacy and Americana twang, enjoyment only built while the hard rock flavouring of Smoke and Mirrors proceeded to add further diversity to Kept In The Dark.

Both aspects continued to blossom as classic metal and street poetry respectively shape the temptation and strength of What If They’re Right and Out of Fashion before Family Tree pounced on social and political unfairness and exploitation upon a reggae borne canter and All of the Trees captivated with its acoustic/punk rock dexterity.

The final trio of The Song For Songs Sake, When the Sun Turns Black, and Baboon Shepherd close the album out as masterfully as it began. The first is a contagion of folk rock irresistible to ear and body, the second a compelling apocalyptic rumble of voice and insinuation; each as magnetic as the other leaving the third to sign off the album with its eleven minute dub infused homage to the career and life of South African footballer Sam Shabangu and the aligning times and experiences of Tranter. It is a track which brings grin and reflection amidst nostalgia across a lengthy landscape which never outstays its welcome.

Headsticks continue to be one mightily engrossing and thrilling proposition which, as Kept In The Dark proves, just get better and better.

Kept In The Dark is out now via STP Records; available @ http://www.headsticks.co.uk/shop.html  or http://www.stprecords.co.uk/page2.htm and other online stores.

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Pete RingMaster 05/03/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

American Anymen – Flag Burner

With the outside looking open mouthed at his continuing and increasingly antagonistic and crazed tendencies and a growing portion of the US seemingly following suit, Flag Burner is the American Anymen reaction to Trump and his administration. The NYC-based anti-folk punk outfit are as renowned for their explorations of political and ethical issues as their multi-flavoured sound; a mix which has seen keen acclaim attached to many of their numerous releases including previous album Start My Centre and their last release, the Oui EP. Flag Burner is destined for the same, its wit and insight pretty much summing up a vast wealth of thoughts and its sound hitting the punk nurtured spot in us all.

The creation of singer/songwriter and guitarist Brett Sullivan, American Anymen is completed by guitarist/vocalist Jen Turner, drummer/vocalist Joey Patches, and bassist/keyboardist Scott Fragala and it is fair to say that the quartet immediately incited lust in us with the EP opener and title track. Flag Burner is sheer addiction; its eager strum and discord kissed clang is riveting and the vocal dance of Sullivan, with Turner just as expressively athletic alongside, magnetic. The persistent nagging of the track is delicious too whilst its melodic stroll is as compelling as the vocal and lyrical accusation echoing what feels like global accusation and disbelief to evolving things. With it all combined it is pretty much impossible not to get fully involved with the song and straight from its first play with lustier energy involved each and every subsequent meeting.

The following President II sees Chris Urban from New Jersey punk band Crazy and the Brains guesting. It casts its own eager stroll with a more punkish clamour surrounding the suggestion and tones of Sullivan. The persistent throb of the bass alone hits the spot as beats crisply dance on the senses, their combined rhythmic shuffle an inviting web around the lyrical invitation for the President to go surfing and find his harmonious side; though you feel if he did he would only stand before the waves King Cnut style.

The EP closes up with Late To The Party, a more restrained canter looking at wider political issues perpetually accosting the world. It is a folk ‘n’ roll infestation of body and thought with a great Celtic lilt to its melodic strains which again simply ignites ears and passions.

The track Flag Burner instantly had us draped in ardour, its companions soon following suit and together, the trio quite simply create one of the essential releases of 2017.

Flag Burner is out now @ https://americananymen.bandcamp.com/album/flag-burner as a free download.


 Pete RingMaster 27/09/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Headsticks – Feather and Flame


Whichever angle you come at Feather and Flame, the new album from UK quartet Headsticks, it is a seriously rousing incitement. Offering eleven diverse and eventful slices bred in the band’s fusion of folk and punk rock, the release gets the body bouncing, thoughts sparking, and the spirit racing. The breeding of serious pleasure is not low on successes triggered either as Feather and Flame not only reinforces the reputation already earned by the band but confirms Headsticks as one of Britain’s most irresistible and essential punk ‘n’ roll adventures.

Formed late 2012 by former members of bands like Tower Struck Down, Jugopunch, and The Clay Faces, the Stoke on Trent hailing Headsticks quickly whipped up potent interest in their sound with a debut three-track E.P in 2013. Their live presence was just as rapid in stirring up of support and fans, the band over time playing shows across the UK as well as numerous festivals whilst sharing stages with a host of well-regarded names in both the folk and punk/alternative genres. The summer of 2014 saw the release of first album Muster, a proposition highly acclaimed by fan and media alike and again backed by the band’s persistent live hunger. Now it is Feather and Flame seriously stirring up ears and attention with its socially and politically charged and challenging songs fuelled by a delicious diversity of sound and dramatic adventure.

The album hits the ground running from its first second, jangling chords and beef rhythms grabbing ears as opener What Do You Want leaps into view. Vocalist Andrew Tranter quickly has the imagination hooked as he lyrically opens up an insight into the lives of the working man and the importance of and habit for things that possibly warrant neither. It is a provocative and swiftly contagious encounter, at times a thumping canter of sound and energy with moments of sweltering funk spice which only adds to its virulent drama.

featherandflame_RingMasterReviewThe thrilling anthemic start gets swiftly matched by the evocatively aired Cold Grey English Skies. Here the rhythms of bassist Nick Bayes and drummer Tom Carter hold a touch more reserve in their framing of a similarly reined urgency shared by Steven Dunn’s guitar, but all easily cast a catchiness which has hips swaying to their movement and the descriptive prowess of Tranter. With a gloriously melodic and addictive chorus, the song has a rich hint of Flogging Molly meets Violent Femmes meets Fatima Mansions to it, further flavouring to seduce ears and appetite before Go Move Shift uncages its own individual virulence. Straight away the song infuses country-esque revelry to its quickly tenacious folk honed rock ‘n’ roll, this time around thoughts picking out Midnight Oil as a hint to the hues working away within another forcibly persuasive track. The flavouring is just another example of the great variety within the album already showing its bold face across the first trio of treats.

The excellent Old Folk Songs has feet and voice soon involved with its punchy mix of folk and punk; a blending of sound around honest appraisal in some ways carrying a scent of Paranoid Visions to it whilst its successor Foxford Town brings a Pogues like lilt to its just as inescapable infectiousness and enthralling drama. Again an array of rock strains collude to create an emotive weave of sound around similarly nurtured syllables and once more Headsticks sculpt a chorus which demands eager participation. Tranter’s harmonica charms bring further colour to the proposal as they do in the traditional folk seeded Mississippi’s Burning where, as you might expect, bodies are induced to bounce and voices inspired to call out along with the band’s rousing croon.

Pay the Price matches it in persuasion and core sound, and subsequently success whilst Tomorrow’s History offers a more rugged affair with its anthemic arousal. The first of the two is an easy coaxing with its successor adding more boisterous attitude and energy to a shared quality of temptation, it bringing a tinge of bands like The Tossers into play before the compelling Every Single Day flirts with fifties rock ‘n’ roll for its power pop/folk punk romp. All three tracks leave the breath short and an appetite for more, greedier; that want more than fed by the outstanding Burn the Sun which follows. Creating a shuffle soaked in sultry seventies funk devilry and seventies new wave devilry, the track swings and flirts like a unique mix of King Trigger and New Model Army.

The album closes with the acoustic tempting and open heart of Falling Out of Love Song, a final folk caress to hungrily embrace before pressing play on Feather and Flame all over again. The album has that addictive quality, one listen leads to another or more almost every time whilst Headsticks is a band for punks, folksters, and rock ‘n’ rollers alike; for anyone who likes being aroused and provoked in equal measure by music that just gets under the skin.

Feather and Flame is out now across most online stores and @ http://www.headsticks.co.uk/shop.html

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Pete RingMaster 11/04/2016

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Band Of Holy Joy – When a Gift is a Curse

Band Of Holy Joy  Picture 12

The first in a series of ‘libationary’ singles dedicated to the glorious and dark aspects of ‘the older person’s habitual alcohol consumption’, When a Gift is a Curse is another riveting evocative encounter from the UK’s premier folk punks Band Of Holy Joy. Paying tribute to the genius George Best and the wayward life emerging from his world enlightening talent, the single is released on the band’s own Radio Joy to coincide with their second stage headline appearance at the NME C86 festival at London’s 229 Club on June 14th. Taken from their latest and acclaimed album Easy Listening, the release is another slice of unique incitement from a band entering its fourth decade.

When a Gift is a Curse opens with a sultry swipe of guitar swiftly joined by an additional emotive caress of melodic melancholy and the Band of holyjoy When-A-Gift-Is-A-Curseever distinctly expressive vocals of Johny Brown. Opening up its heart and evocative textures, the song spreads like mist over ears and the imagination, keys accentuating the sultry breath and radiance of the song whilst the shadowed tones of bass provides a tempering air which subsequently only highlights the rich hues wrapping the lyrical and vocal potency.

To be honest the song does not make a startling impact or impression initially though there is plenty to intrigue and entice the senses and imagination. This maybe makes not the most incisive temptation for newcomers to their album and its might but given time the song permeates and seduces for another provocative hymn from Band Of Holy Joy which is impossible to ignore or resist…pretty much like the band itself since those early days in the mid-eighties.

When a Gift is a Curse is released digitally on June 16th through Radio Joy.



RingMaster 15/06/2014

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Interview with Matt of Smokey Bastard

Halloween saw the release of possibly the year’s most fun, energy and deliriously addictive album in the shape of Tales From The Wasteland from UK punk folksters Smokey Bastard. Bursting with 13 tracks of essential raucousness that come with an intoxicating mix of traditional folk, real punk, and deeply infectious enthusiasm, the album from the Reading band is frenzied and irresistible. Currently deep into a tour supporting the release guitarist Matt spared time to talk to us about the band and album.

A big welcome and many thanks for taking time during your busy tour to talk to us here at The RingMaster Review.

Firstly please give us a breakdown of the members and their roles within Smokey Bastard.

Currently, Macca plays the face, guitars and mandolin, Mike vomits gravel and plays the bass and Aled plays all the stuff that’s too hard. Buttons plays the drums, apparently. I (Matt) do some guitars most of the time.  We swap instruments a lot. There’s some mad woman called Lottie playing accordion at the moment. I don’t know. The line-up changes a lot and it’s hard to keep track. I’m fairly certain that there are between five and nine of us…

The band started in 2007? Give us some idea of those initial years for the band.

We just played for fun and as a hobby. We’ve never really aimed for success or anything but little opportunities would occasionally pop up. I think if you’re aim is to ‘make it’ you’ll probably end up compromising musically and failing anyway, so we try and avoid thinking like that and have fun with it.

How has the band evolved from then over the four years to this point in time?

It’s got better. We’re pretty embarrassed by a lot of our old material; it’s too generic and derivative. The new album feels a lot more progressive and unique to us. If The Dreadnoughts have taught us anything (and they’ve taught us lots of things…,) it’s that there’s still life in the genre of folk punk provided that you’re dedicated to avoiding complacency and formulaic song writing… that, and how to open a wine bottle with a shoe.

Your new album Tales From The Wasteland has just been released in the past few days, the excitement must be overwhelming?  

Must be.

Would you say the album fully encapsulates your thoughts going into recording it or went further and maybe surprised you a little?

It’s much closer to what we wanted it to be; certainly compared to the first album. The first album never really sounded the way it was intended and we were sick of it before we even had the hard copies. The new album sounds how I’d hoped and imagined it would in my head. And the item itself – the artwork, the packaging, it’s just a beautiful thing. I want one.

Who and where do most of the songs come from and what is the writing process leading to their final version?

Mike and I tend to write a song and then we all get together and flesh it out. Aled describes the process thusly; “Matt or Mike bring in a lyrical potato and the rest of us bring a selection of different eyes, eyebrows, noses, mouths, ears, facial hair, hats and feet to make it into a delightful Mr. Potato Head. We then change things until it looks like Jeff Goldbum. That’s how we like it”.

Your sound has obvious influences in the likes of Flogging Molly, The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys but is there something further that inspired the folk side of your sound?

Yeah. Folk music. The Transatlantic Sessions are a goldmine. If you can find Arthur McBride and the Sergeant by Paul Brady then go and listen to that; it’s a prime example of the power of folk music to tell enthralling and immersive stories. We’re also big on Americana for the same reason – The Boss and Tom Waits and the like. They write mythical songs that make you feel like you’ve watched a whole movie in four minutes.

Lyrically you are not as openly forceful as the likes of Dropkick Murphys and infuse great humour to your intent, is this deliberate or simply a natural thing form the personalities involved?

I’m guessing by ‘forceful’ you mean we don’t put across any specific political agenda? Personally I find explicitly political song writing kind of naff. That’s just my opinion. There are probably enough punk songs about not liking Nick Griffin now. It should kind of go without saying. That being said, I once saw an Interview with Matt Kelly from Murphys saying if you want to know about politics, read a book and don’t listen to college dropouts in punk bands. I think humour in song writing is important in order to prevent you from taking yourself too seriously. Dropkicks use a lot of humour in their song writing too, after all.

What are the literal influences that have inspired the lyrical writing style of the band?

The Black Freighter storyline in Watchmen, Viz magazine… I can’t really think of any specific literary influences. We do like good prose though…and good grammar…and deliberately bad grammar, wot we find hilarious.

It probably is  wrong to single out any tracks when all are so inventive and enjoyable but please give some insight into a couple,  ‘Mongrel’ with its potent message and ‘Dear Mol’ which I have to ask did it come from someone’s personal experience?

Mike wrote Mongrel. Its message concerns the artificially constructed notion of ‘native’ Britons and the benefits of multiculturalism. Mol is loosely based on personal experiences, yes…

The art work on Tales From The Wasteland is stunning where and who did that come from?

It came from the majestic Tom McGrath. He’s an art student from Lancashire that we found on deviant art. We had an ambitious concept with regards to the album artwork so we were lucky to find someone who could actually pull it off as beautifully as he did. We wanted to make the physical copy as desirable as possible to draw people away from buying it in a digital format at 192kbs a second. As great an invention as the iPod is, I think it will probably ruin everything. It encourages people to buy individual songs rather than albums. You can’t listen to a great album on shuffle. Fuck shuffle. Fuck it

The single from the album is ‘Yuppie Dracula’ which has a great video accompanying it. Who came up with the video storyline and made it?

The song is about a guy who is a bit of a letch, but for the video we thought an actual vampire would give us more scope for visual gags. We sat in the pub and worked out the story, borrowed a chat up line from my friend Ed (Do you want to come back to my place? I have both Savage Garden albums…) and then got the awesome fellas at Pork Chop Pictures to make it happen. If you enjoyed the video go check out their web series Meat. Funny stuff.

You have just started an extensive UK tour in support of the album and we are grateful you have made time for this, what can people expect from your renowned live shows and where can they best find info on dates and places etc?

Our website is looking a little ‘under construction’ at the moment but the gig list is bang up to date. Head over to www.smokeybastard.com and while you’re at it, friend us on Facebook…

Good luck with the album and tour and again thanks for sharing time with us. Would you firstly like to end with a thought for the day?

I’m all out. Here’s one courtesy of The Reverend Kevin Eldon in the 90s:

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!” said my daughter the other day whilst giving birth. “EEEUUUUURRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS!!!!”

“Ah my poor fool” I said, “for it is written that pain in childbirth is God’s punishment to women for Eve’s betrayal of God in Eden, and therefore you deserve every scintilla of agony you are experiencing oh whorrish spawn of mine. And thus, justly chastised, did she complain more quietly…

And secondly the track Mong Some Hoof, there is really a game it was inspired from and what’s the chance of it catching on as a craze sweeping the nation? Maybe some mid set fun on your tour dates?

The game Mong Some Hoof is one of many games invented inside Mike’s university house “The Fat Handed Twat’s Crooked House”. The game itself involves partly inserting a shoe onto your favourite foot and trying to flip it, via a kick, into your own mouth without touching it with any other part of your body. A fun game, involving black eyes and frustration. A partial list of other games includes:

Can you strictly come mong some segway?
(a two player variant on Mong Some Hoof)
You probably shouldn’t engage with the dress down
(Looking up whilst standing in a doorway and jumping as high as you dare)
Where’s Merick?
(Not telling a house mate that we had the internet. This game can last up to two months)
Antigravity where’s Merick
(Hiding pictures of goats in Matt’s textbooks)
Skim the chief
(playing darts where each throw requires the dart to touch the ceiling before the board)
Stab the loaf
(A variant of skim the chief where the dart must pass through a slice of bread thrown by a second player)

Tales From The Wasteland is available via Bomber Music and for details on this and the tour go to http://www.smokeybastard.com  and https://www.facebook.com/smokeybastard

Read the Tales From The Wasteland review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/smokey-bastard-tales-from-the-wasteland/

RingMaster 10/11/2011

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Smokey Bastard – Tales From The Wasteland

With more fun, energy and deliriously addictive punked up melodies than should be legally allowed comes the new album from UK punk folksters Smokey Bastard. The seven piece from Reading unleash Tales From The Wasteland via Bomber Music on October 31st bringing 13 tracks of essential raucousness from their tavern of intoxicating mix of traditional folk, real punk, and deeply infectious enthusiasm.

Since forming in early 2007 the band has whipped up a strong reputation and following for no holds live shows and a sound that brings the bands influences into a frenzied and irresistible sound of their own creating music that teases and plays upon the instinctive rebel within us all. Tales From The Wasteland the follow up to their debut album Propping Up The Floor last year, is further evidence and impressive proof that the combination of Macca (Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin), Mike Wood (Vocals, Bass), Matt (Guitars, Banjo), Nick (Accordion, Mandolin), Andy (Tin Whistle, Guitars, Banjo), Aled (Banjo, Mandolin) and Buttons (Drums), make music that excites the ear and deeper.

Smokey Bastard takes flavourings from the likes of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, though their sound is more removed from the celtic punk sound towards the earlier beginnings of folk punk. They come from a rogue punk base as brought forth in the 80’s by the likes of The Pogues, the use of mandolins, banjos and tin whistles alongside the electrified aggressive energy a mesmeric blend. The brilliant ‘Wasteland’ opens up the album and instantly tells you all you need to know about the band to want more and more of their boisterous and rousing sound. Starting with a slow and firm crawl as the gruff vocals of Macca declares this wasteland my “sweet fucking home” the track erupts into a rowdy and beckoning invite to join its anthemic charms.

Showing their skills and varied influences the melodic folk instrumental ‘Token Folkin’’ skips into view next before unleashing more infectious folk punk frenzy with ‘Eden Holme  as rasping vocals and group shouts add to the engaging melodic play. The interplay between the mandolins and bass towards the end has the foot tapping even harder than before and as with every song on the album brings the feeling of defiant celebration, ‘Mongrel’ coming up next the perfect proof with its proud, irrepressible and urgent dynamism. There is a slight ska lining to the song that brings more effortless and eager response from the senses.

Four tracks in and the album already had stated its claim for essential listening classification and album of the year nomination. Songs like ‘My Son John’ a wonderful and humorous folk acapella piece that reminded of 80’s band The Dancing Did, the exhilarating ride of instrumental ‘Mong Some Hoof’, and the mesmeric storytelling of ‘Cheer Up, Love (Worse Things Happen At Sea)’ a breathtaking tale that galvanises the senses, all continue and increase the carefree but wonderfully inspiring atmosphere. One gets the feeling the band would like to be seen as being a bunch that just turn up and play or throw things together for a laugh but their musicianship and stirring songwriting reveals all.

The single from the album ‘Yuppie Dracula’ is another excitable and appealing track though not the best on the album but with the immensely grin inducing ‘Dear Mol’ a bittersweet leaving note to an ex- lover which twists things up when she comes back with her own snarl mid song via a great female vocal, and the reflective report on past failures in the splendid punk edged ‘‘Aspirations, I Have Some‘, keeps the album at its great and impressive level.

Tales From The Wasteland is a fully satisfying release of great incessant joy, its lively and rip-roaring sounds guaranteed to brighten up any day and most of all the album again shows Smokey Bastard as one of the best and strongest rock bands in the UK.

RingMaster 11/10/2011

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