Album review- Reuben: In Nothing We Trust.

In the early 00’s, British underground rock music enjoyed a bit of a renaissance, bands the likes of Hundred Reasons, Hell Is For Heroes, Million Dead, they all started to profit from years of hard work and toil to be recognised. Also amongst their number was a Surrey 3 piece who went by the name Reuben. I first heard this album upon its release and about a year after I really got into the music of Reuben who disbanded not long after this albums completion. As the years rolled on I came to realise more and more just how much I loved the bands back catalogue and just how sorely they are missed from the landscape of British alternative music. Let me get this one out in the open now, I don’t believe Reuben will ever reform and I don’t completely believe that they should ever do so anyway because in the space of 3 albums they made an indelible mark on the underground musical landscape, a legacy any band should be proud of when that last curtain call comes. Their swan song was the amazing In Nothing We Trust. This album clearly shows a band evolving and refining their sound to almost perfection. The previous 2 albums, the astounding debut ‘Racecar Is Racecar Backwards’ & their equally excellent sophomore effort ‘Very Fast Very Dangerous’ showed a band changing and growing in confidence into something very special and in their last full length release they delivered a record to be very proud of.

Reuben was Jamie Lenman’s band, that’s not to detract from the input of bassist Jon Pearce and drummer Guy Davis but it was very much Jamie’s baby, he wrote all of their songs and practically instructed the other members on their part to play. Some maintain this is partly the reason Reuben died but with such a sure hand steering the ship, I personally can’t judge that creative decision on Jamie’s part. From the subdued opening riff of Cities On Fire blasting into a ferocious beast during its verses to change once more with a beautiful, melodic chorus almost feeling like the most fitting of eulogies for Reuben. One of the 3 singles generated on this collection, it’s a hell of a statement of intent to open an album with. Over the course of the next 10 tracks we get the almost certainly self-referential power-pop assault of Deadly Lethal Ninja Assassin with guest vocals from Frank Turner from Million Dead at that time and Paul Townsend of Hundred Reasons. There is a searing attack on the music industry in Crushed Under The Weight Of The Enormous Bullshit which from any lesser band may have felt bitter, here is feels vehemently righteous, a blistering indictment of manufactured pop & MOR rock. It is clear even to those listening to In Nothing We Trust for the first time that this album is the sound of a band at the height of their powers and possibly with bittersweet hindsight, with nothing left to lose.

In Nothing We Trust rounds up a body of work that could well be some of the most underrated and overlooked in alternative music in the early 21st century. It is an angry, incisive, at times funny and always brutality honest record that wears its damaged heart on its sleeve for all to see, very much like the man who penned it.

Reuben’s In Nothing We Trust is currently available to stream via most digital services and will be released on vinyl for the first time mid-July via Big Scary Monsters.


Gig Review: The King Blues, The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton, 04/05/17

I am a fan but have never seen The King Blues live, I never got the opportunity. First hearing the band at the end of their promotional run for the Punk & Poetry album and finding out I had just missed out on that albums tour, ‘Next time’ I thought to myself, ‘Next time’. Within a year, The King Blues were no more, torn asunder by infighting and acrimony with the imminent release of their 4th album Long Live The Struggle, I believed I’d never get the chance to experience them in a live setting, that was until their impromptu reformation in 2016. Finally, here’s my chance. On the tail of the release of their 5th full length album The Gospel Truth, will The King Blues live up to their sterling live reputation?

Upon entering the main room, frontman Johnny ‘Itch’ Fox is already on hand manning the merch stall and greeting, handshaking, hugging and chatting to all and sundry with a genuine warmth and likability, this is something he will do all through the support sets, right up until he has to take the stage when any other frontman would probably be ensconced backstage, he’ll also do the same mere minutes after leaving the stage tonight also. This is a guy who obviously loves what he does and truly appreciates the people who come to see his band. When the time comes for the show to start, Itch has made his way stageward and launches straight into an impassioned and updated What If Punk Never Happened to an enraptured audience, When the rest of the band take to the stage and burst into the fan favourites Let’s Hang The Landlord, Set The World On Fire & I Want You, the room is bouncing from this perfectly measured opening salvo.

During this almost 2 hour set, The King Blues take us on a tour of their entire career, we’ll get the ska swagger of Under The Fog’s Mr Music Man right up to the Tory baiting Bullingdon Boys from the latest release The Gospel Truth. We get a band encompassing cowbell breakdown on The Streets Are Ours, some crowd participation during Underneath This Lamppost Light, Itch asking two vape wielding members of the audience to come on stage and act as a human smoke machine. There is also the inclusion of a brand new, incredibly on point song called Tory C**ts that elicited many cheers and claps from the audience, it may have been coarse but that didn’t make it any less cutting & incise. Throw in a run through of My Boulder with backing vocals from the support bands, explosive turns for I Got Love, Headbutt, Off With Their Heads to name but a few and finishing up a pretty much perfectly selected set with Save The World, Get The Girl, it has been a phenomenal night.

The crowd is drained and disheveled as the house lights come up, slowly filtering toward to the door ready for some well earned rest, not for our man Itch though, within minutes he’s back behind merch chatting and greeting his audience on their way home, myself included, with a warm handshake and a thank you for coming. It is something that isn’t seen enough in modern music, that ingrained level of connection to an audience that doesn’t fade after more than a decade of touring. Itch has clearly had a good time tonight and so has everyone else in The Slade Rooms.

The King Blues: The Gospel Truth is currently available on CD, ltd edition Vinyl and cassette and streaming services via Cooking Vinyl.

Record Store Day: The highs & lows of the annual independent sales event.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, a day originally set up to celebrate and boost commerce to the independent record stores, where releases ranging from singles box sets to picture discs to never before released film soundtracks, they can be picked up exclusively from your local independent record shop rather than your high street chain store. Sounds rather nice and positive doesn’t it? and in some ways, it is but as with most things, there is a murkier side.

On the plus side, it is a day that independent record stores can enjoy an upturn in sales and exposure, a day where eager buyers will camp from the early hours to get their hands on this years hot exclusive or snaffle that rarity that they simply must add to their collection. I myself will be queuing outside Cave Records in Shrewsbury to hopefully obtain my picks this year. Added exposure and sales for independent record stores is a wonderful thing but it does beg a question, where are these throngs of people any other day of the year? There is an adage that has become synonymous at this time of year, a record shop is for life, not just for RSD. There will be people in these queues on Saturday who never come to these stores at any other time, that may only visit them this one day in the year to grab what they can get on this independent only release day and that is where the message of RSD start to loose its lustre and the murkier side starts to rear its head.

RSD has become just as synonymous for flagrant, opportunistic profiteering by “unscrupulous carpet baggers”, as a friend of mine so eloquently put it, as much as for raising the profile of independent stores. Go on to eBay on Saturday afternoon typing in any one of the prime releases and I’m guaranteed you will be disgusted by what you find. Inflated prices, multiple copies up for sale from the same vendor, all taking sales away from the very places RSD is supposedly there to support, some vendors even selling stock at inflated price before RSD even arrives. There are of course things that can be set in place by the stores to combat against this happening, no duel purchases of records and a maximum of 2 records per customer but these opportunists I guess will always find a way.

Many people, record store owners themselves included are starting to come to the conclusion that RSD is kinda on quite a few levels, a bit of a con, that the only real winners with no negative comeback are the labels that are putting out the releases for the day, some of which have highly questionable merit. Go in to any participating RSD store and you will find amongst the decent releases, tacky picture discs, even re-releases of current albums with a few b-side tacked on, destined to loiter in the racks long after the day has passed. The more exposure the day starts to receive, the less certain labels seem to care about what they are putting out. Not wanting to put too much of a downer on it but it does kinda suck when a lack of thought is put into releases but as long as it is putting money in the tills of the independently run record stores and not in the pockets of chancers, who am I to argue. 

Gig Review: Creeper: The Electric Ballroom, Camden, London, 30/03/17

It is a balmy spring day in the capitol and I’m heading on the tube to Camden and can already see Creeper T-shirts and patches amongst the throng of people going about their daily business, actually I can see a lot of them. To say that Creepers fan base is devoted is an understatement, ‘The Callous Heart’ as they refer to themselves are as fervently an enraptured fan base as I have ever personally encountered. Clad almost exclusively in black with a sea of Callous Heart patches on the backs of their jackets. Even if you’d hate the music, It’s hard not to tip the hat to Creeper, they know exactly the image, mystique, attitude and message to capture a generation of fans, a tried and tested formula of appealing to teenage angst but backed by exceptional pop influenced melodic rock to suit all ages that could very well go worldwide with the right push from their label. Today, at The Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, it really does look like a gang has descended on Northern London.

I don’t think I have ever been to a gig in recent memory where the crowd were quite so hyped for the band they are about to watch, when Creeper are about to take the stage the entire room crackles with an electricity as bright as the purple glowing crosses flanking the stage. The intro to Black Rain begins and the feeling of an entire room about to lose their collective minds descends over the ballrooms audience and sure enough, as the band take the stage, the roar in the venue is deafening. And we’re off, sure enough the crowd are tearing up the floor of the Ballroom, bodies swaying and clashing in unison as the band pound out their album opener to a rapturous reception, the crowd singing back every word of the infectious chorus. The band move straight into the albums 2nd track, Poison Pens, teasing that this might be an album run through, Creeper however are not that predictable launching next into EP tracks and fan faves Black Mass & Honeymoon Suite. It becomes quite obvious from this point that this isn’t just some promo run for their newly released album Eternity In Your Arms, this is a tour of their career up to now, stopping by each of the bands 3 EP’s and tracks from EIYA, a fan pleasing plough that has this modestly sized room in north London losing their collective minds.

After a energetic blast through of album track Susanne, We get showings from We Had A Pact, Lie Awake & Valentine to sate the old school fans in attendance tonight who almost certainly would have been crestfallen with their omittance, the roars of approval when each song begins certainly indicates this. The highlight of the set, for me personally anyway as it is also my favourite track off EIYA, comes as all the band, minus Keyboard player Hannah and Guitarist Ian, vacate the stage and the duo give a virtuoso performance of Crickets. I did wonder just how well this song would translate from record to stage, would it lose any of it power? Absolutely not, utterly sublime, The pairs voices complimenting each other perfectly. The band reconvene for Hiding With Boys and a very welcome Astral Projection before reaching the end of the set with the inevitable performance of I Choose To Live, a song that didn’t really grab me on record but took me seeing it performed live to truly ‘get it’, It was as spine tingling a moment as the earlier Cricket performance to hear the room sing in unison. There is the obligatory brief pause before the encore until the band come back out to performances of VCR and a singalong rendition of Misery to round the evening off.

A band has to be pretty special for me to get evangelical about them and the litmus test is usually once I have experienced them in a live setting. I can confidently say that I am astounded by the polish and professionalism of a band that have only been around 3 years but perform like they have been doing this for decades. The Electric Ballroom gig was a gig that felt special, that felt as if it was marking a turning point, the point of no return. Creeper are going to be huge and this may be amongst the final times they’ll be seen in a venue of this size.

Creeper: Eternity In Your Arms album review.

Creeper have spent the past few years carving a reputation for themselves as a band to watch. They have released 3 well received EP’s and gained a reputation as a formidable live band. 2017 sees the release of the Southampton mob’s debut album ‘Eternity In Your Arms’. Granted that even before the albums release, almost half of the songs on the album had already been released on streaming sites, however, the anticipation for something special was high and that anticipation was not, in my opinion, misjudged. The album is slick, really, really slick. The production really does make these already remarkably crafted songs soar. Creeper are not a band who settle for the mundane road most travelled, they have lofty ambitions for their band that may be above their station at this point in their career, however it is these ambitions that will catapult them to worldwide success. There is a flare for the theatric on this album that must be applauded for the fact that bands these day don’t have the stones to try something as outlandishly OTT as some of the material on this album.

The album opens strong with Black Rain, its piano ladened spoken word opening already bristling with a filmic quality that sets the outlying theme of the record suddenly bursting into rock guitar histrionics that can’t help but raise a ‘frickin cool!’ grin, boasting one of the most singalong chorus I have heard In recent years, it’s an exceptionally positive way to kick a debut record into gear. Poison Pens bursts into Hardcore punk group vocals over buzzsaw guitars that bring to mind the work of AFI in their Nitro heydays, driving and aggressive, it kicks ass. 

We are in recognisable ground for the next four tracks as they have all previously been released prior to the record coming out. Suzanne again shows just how talented Creeper are at crafting songs with choruses to die for, hook ladened, memorable and eminently singalong in nature, I must say that I did prefer the original Don Henley inspired chorus to this song but due to apparent legal matters this has changed for the songs album release which is a shame. Hiding With Boys contains some of the most wonderfully mixed harmonies on the album with a driving beat that can’t help but provoke head nods no matter how hard you may try not to. Creeper display a talent in structuring a lot of words perfectly into the melodies of their songs, a talent they share with another influence that I noticed in the vocal delivery on this album, none other than Meatloaf of all people. Misery sounds to my ears as if it has enjoyed a re-mix and master but not re-recorded from the EP sessions (I may be wrong there), the sound of a Hammond Organ in the background of the verses complimenting the song well, it does sound larger & grander on this record for sure.

Down Bellow is perhaps one of my favourite tracks on the album, again displaying their innate ability to craft melodies and harmonies to die for, all in their debut album! It really is a impressive feat to pull off. Room 309 kicks in reminding me very much of a young My Chemical Romance around the time of their debut album, all driving beats and emotive lyricism with a nod toward hardcore punk but with a more melodic bent. Crickets is incredible and is my actual favourite track on the album which surprised me as it is the track that is most unlike anything else on the album and perhaps the most conventional song in this collection, keyboard player Hannah Greenwood takes vocal duties on this track and wow! Actual goosebumps, her vocal power is both startling and impressive, accompanied by simply a guitar and violin with subtle backing vocals, it is gorgeous. Darling is a brilliantly crafted punk track with an undeniable Alkaline Trio vibe but not enough to be accused of plagiarism. Creeper do share a lot of similarities with the bands that influence them but delivered with their own style and presence to avoid being called copyists, they are most certainly their own beast. Winona Forever is a fun slice of punky pop and playful swipe at Johnny Depps Ill advised Winona Forever tattoo. The band choose to close Eternity In Your Arms with I Choose To Live, a more subdued offering than prior tracks on the album and it’s weakest, perhaps one I wouldn’t personally have picked to close to the album but considering how strong everything preceding it has been I think that can be forgiven.

Creeper has achieved much with their debut album, it is incredibly crafted, wonderfully produced and will gain them a lot of fans. Roadrunner need to run with this band and push them with all their might as they could be huge. The preceding 3 years have given Creeper the tools they required to make this album possible, to refine their talents to the point of damn near perfection. The EP’s were the rehearsal, Eternity In You Arms is the frickin show.

Creeper’s Eternity In Your Arms is available now on Roadrunner records.

Loving You Is Killing Me: Introducing Creeper.

There is a long history of horror influenced, theatrically inclined bands, bands with a taste for the macabre and the ambition to push the envelope just a little further than their contemporaries. These kinds of bands have always struck a chord with me because in essence they are predominantly made up of horror nerds, outsiders with a vision and the drive to see it to fruition, more often than not they are also vilified as much as they are adored and slapped with lazy, Ill conceived monikers like ‘Emo’ or ‘Goth’ which usually bare no resemblance to the music they play. A lot of these bands hail from the other side of the pond but the latest to grab my attention comes from none other than Southampton. The band are appropriately called Creeper.

Formed in 2014, this punk sextet put out 3 EP’s in the space of 2 years, 2014’s Creeper and 2015’s The Callous Heart & The Stranger. These EP’s along with a impassioned live presence stoked an interest in the band that has gained great momentum in the past 3 years and various media outlets describing them as ‘the next big thing’, without wanting to contribute to hyperbole, there is still undoubtedly something special about this band. The influences are apparent, A love of horror movies is clear to see in their presentation, music videos and in their music itself. Listen to Creeper and you will most certainly hear the influences in their music, The Misfits, AFI, The Damned, Alkaline Trio, The Early output of My Chemical Romance, it is all very clear to spot but not so prevalent to make them a facsimile of any one of those bands, they are very much themselves.

The band has garnered a success in their first 3 years that many would hope to reach in a much longer period of time making music. There is a drive and a chemistry that makes them stand out from the pack and a sense of theatricality and verve that has been sorely missing from modern music. Their 3 EP’s and upcoming album Eternity Of Your Arms form a concept of otherworldliness and prevailing mystery surrounding their hometown and a character that can almost be seen as their mascot, The Stranger, a cloaked being with a deathly pallor that has graced many of their music videos and promo materials. It’s this level of creativity that sets them apart from the pack, that has made people take notice alongside a frankly formidable, high quality body of work for so young a band.

This month see’s the release of Eternity In Your Arms and a headline UK tour to support its release and if the reception of their prior material is anything to go by, Creeper are in for a very good year.

Set The World On Fire: Looking back at The King Blues: Punk & Poetry.

Punk and outspoken dissent have gone hand in hand since the days of The Sex Pistols, rabble-rousing odes to upsetting the established order, of pointing a finger at social injustice have been a staple of the genre since its inception but few modern bands in the scene have done so with such style and as richly constructed & worded as The King Blues.

Formed in London in 2004 The King Blues cut a niche for themselves penning catchy, socially motivated punk songs with their own distinctive style, the bravado of hip-hop mixed with the attitude of Punk, regularly mixing disparate styles together to form their tracks, it would not be out of place to find a dub breakdown or Uke lead ska riff on a King Blues track. Their debut album Under The Fog surfaced in 2006 earning them a bevy of new fans and critical praise closely followed by the incredible Save The World, Get The Girl in 2008 which gained them even more ground and cemented their position as one of the most hard working bands on the scene. Its follow up came in 2011 and was named Punk & Poetry.

The title for the third album was quite apt, spoken word poetry punctuates the album on multiple occasions fitting nicely alongside the tracks. A fan favourite from the previous year made it on to the album in the shape of Headbutt and the albums first single proper We Are F**king Angry was released on the albums announcement in January of that year. Heartfelt love songs and vicious indictments of inequality sat side by side on a record that ran from the biting social commentary of Set The World On Fire one minute to the awesome ode to women 3 Bottles Of Shampoo the next. There is a dichotomy that runs through Punk & Poetry and through much of their work, hard & soft, harsh & tender, for every angry punk song a soppy or decidedly affecting song may be just round the corner and it works wonderfully.

Punk & Poetry may stand as The King Blues most polished & accomplished album. The ground work was set beautifully with Under The Fog and Save The World, Get The Girl, it was perfected, focused and expertly refined with Punk & Poetry. It is as relevant today if not more so than on its initial release, in a post Brexit world of increased prejudice, social injustice and the rise of the alt-right, this is the album to put on your turntable, crank the volume and deliver an audible F.U.