STEVE STRONG | Turbo Island | ALBUM REVIEW

Steve Strong | Turbo Island | Album review

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Steve-Strong Turbo-Island

Let’s get 2019 off to a Strong start, sorry had to! Joking aside the new feature-length album from Steve Strong is anything but weak. A tour de force of musical prowess and creativity. Highly accomplished, multi-instrumentalist Steve Strong releases his new album Turbo Island.

This might be the first review I’ve done based purely on reputation, I must admit I’ve not heard his music before. Hearing nothing but praise for his live performances and his record labels past history, I instantly said yes! For those (like me) who are unfamiliar; Steve is a one-man band, and although in Steve’s case that term is possibly a red herring. The term conjures images of a stereotypical gnarly bearded guitar and kickdrum situation, which is understating plethora of equipment Steve Strong nestles behind during his live performances.

Ten tracks of sublime mellow instrumental goodness. Lovely clean guitar tones reminiscent of Toe (the Japanese band) lend themselves to some nice early morning chill vibes. It’s been my morning commuting soundtrack, a delightful air of calm emanating from my iPod, while the world rushes around me.

I absolutely adore the song titles, Deline Cion, Life After Post Rock and Sensible Skeletons all bring a smile to this curmudgeons face. Intro track Gravel Gardner also amuses and proves to be a highlight of the album with some very accomplished percussion.

From the start, I’m fully engrossed. I’ve had the record on repeat for an most of the week. 2019 is shaping up to have some rather special records, Teeth of the Sea record actually fits quite nicely side by side and there’s certainly a cross over for audiences there.

Full credit to his creative process, the songs sound like full band compositions. The amount of coordination and dexterity to perform these pieces as a solo act is nothing short of miraculous. This is his second full-length album and is certainly his strongest release to date. Turbo Island is an album of overwhelming compositions and creativity. A math-rock masterpiece.

Out tomorrow (18th Jan 2019) on Durham based Sapien Records, home to many diverse and talented acts including our much loved We Are Knuckle Dragger and Shitwife (aka Big Lad). Out! Head over to his Bandcamp page for some rather awesome looking records

JON SPENCER | Spencer Sings The Hits | ALBUM REVIEW

Jon Spencer | Spencer Sings The Hits | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

Jon Spencer | Spencer Sings The Hits | Album review

The Blues Explosion man makes his thrilling solo debut. Spencer Sings the Hits is a good old rock ‘n’ roll record, more of an amalgamation of styles showcased in his other work and bands. It’s got that unmistakable Jon Spencer sound and certainly wouldn’t feel out of place in the JSBX back catalogue.

A big movie soundtrack placement has opened a lot of new ears to the #1 band. I’ve been a fan since I was 16 years old when I first heard the scuzzy slice of perfection that is ‘Wail’, I’m not sure where I heard it, probably on a John Peel show. They may never have hit it huge, too good and too punk to be a commercial act but their output and legacy is a marvellous back catalogue. But it’s great to see them getting some attention and the time is right for this record. A big UK tour with the Melvins will surely help bring the songs to a wider audience.

One of the great things about a Spencer related release is the uncertainty of what you’ll hear. He’s a creative soul who could make banging on cardboard boxes sound utterly amazing, his impeccable showmanship ensures live shows are fantastic and I can proudly say Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is one of the best live bands I have ever seen, the Pixies used to hold that title (in my mind, there’s not an actual award for that I’m afraid). Got that instantly recognisable Spencer guitar tone.

‘Fake’ finds him commenting on the current climate of social media overload and overwhelming negativity of an overly hypercritical Trumpageddon world, that’s slowly crushing everyone. ‘Time 2 Be Bad’ is a standout track for me, with it’s Boss Hog groove and swagger. Spencer shouts “It’s a good time to be bad!”

‘Alien Humidity’ is another album highlight with its punk-blues vibe. The album closes on Cape. It’s a short record at 33 minutes, many albums these days feel bloated and padded to fill the sides but this is how rock ‘n’ roll should be, short, sweet and no bullshit. 12 magnificent songs that are a very welcome addition to my Spencer collection. I firmly believe this album ranks up there with the best of his work.

I really want to see Spencer in a Cape on the upcoming tour. I was already excited to see JS with the Melvins but on hearing this record, having a few days to digest it and replay it multiple times, I think I am now REALLY excited to hear these new songs in a live setting, as he boldly states He Got The Hits!

Spencer Sings The Hits is out on 2nd November 2018 on the perfect home for his music; garage rock haven In The Red Records.

LITE – Cubic – ALBUM REVIEW

It’s rare when I have time to sit down, indulge myself in an album and attempt to make sense of it in word format. I just had to make the space in my schedule for this album.

As an added bonus, it’s great to stumble across a band I’d seen years ago at ArcTanGent Festival and I’d neglected to follow up and buy their albums. I blame the hazy party destroyed memory. So I am extra excited to re-discover LITE and their rich back catalogue to plunder and binge. But, I’ll restrict myself to just the new LP for now!

Lite Cubic

Anyway, I digress. LITE are a seasoned prog/tech/whizkid/instrumental band from Tokyo. As I type this, I’m on to my 5th or 6th play of the album. Each play reveals more subtle melodies, noises, blips, bobs, ufos, synths and more, layered in there for the listener to locate. It’s a record that you need to listen in stereo (who doesn’t these days?!), but stereo with the speakers placed as far apart as you can. Plonk yourself down in-between, turn the sound up, and just listen to that guitar interplay. Stunning. ‘Warp’ is a great example of this. I’m so fascinated by the compositions that it took me a few listens to even realise there are vocals on this song.

‘Square’ brings the Battles vibes, albeit without the comedy effects and samples. Recorded by none other than Keith Souza. Who captures a lush full sound, which is often missing from ‘cleaner tone’ band recordings. There’s a depth there, something that’s not quite tangible. Production-wise this is a heroic effort.  Souza along with Heba Kadry (who mastered it) nailed this one down.

‘Angled’ pops on, proving a highlight for me with it’s simple jarring hook. Perfect timing, after 5 songs the album still evolving, I want to know where this album will go next.

‘D’ is a ludicrous song. How do I describe it? Reggae, funk dance party jam and damn good fun! See for yourself.

Just when you thinking ‘they can’t top that’,  along comes ‘Prism’. Just perfection.

The album ends on ‘Zero’. This one frustrates me a little. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Or at least it doesn’t feel like the right finale. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like the track? Maybe. It’s a short album at 37 minutes, but it does feel like the correct length. Ditch the vocal and it’s actually pretty good track. 2016 the year of the instrumental. Most of my albums of the year will be sans vocals. ‘Cubic’ may nudge it’s way into the top 10.

‘Cubic’ is an eclectic mix of intriguing,  robust, , snared and drawn in, lose technical precision. Seemingly effortless playing that can only come from serious dedication to touring and practising. 14 years together, I think they may have delivered their finest work to date.

‘Cubic’ is out on Topshelf Records 16th November 2016.

REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN – Colossal Velocity – ALBUM REVIEW

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man – Colossal Velocity

I’ve not reviewed anything in a while, mainly as there’s been nothing that ‘floats my boat’ as they say. Every now and again something pops up that I can engage with. This one is filed under crank the f**k up. A good healthy dose of proper punk. How could I resist?

To keep it interesting (for me only, I suspect!) I am going to write this review as I take my second listen to it. That gives me 22 minutes to try and communicate why this album is class.

Manchester based three piece have been around for over a decade and have their craft nailed down tight. On their upcoming release ‘Colossal Velocity’ they flex their musical muscles.

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man - Colossal Velocity

Seventeen compact songs hurtle by in just over 22 minutes. ‘To Be Frank’ opens the album and entices a mad grin upon my face.

Album teaser

‘Small Minded NIMBY Prick’ is a thrashing shout along! Losing my shit to this track.

‘The Establishment’ is evidence that RPM are much more than the average a four chord punk act, some cracking compositional work, which goes beyond the punk boundaries with a nod at rock ‘n’ roll.

Barnstormer ‘I Am Absolutely Fuming’ gives a modern take on the current social media rants that have become common place. In 2016 everyone has an opinion and a platform to share their views. At least that’s my take on this track, have a listen for yourself below.

Further displays of their musical versatility on the delightfully titled ‘I Wanna Be A Spaceman’.

The production is light and compressed, I’d love to hear a bit more bottom end in the mix. That said, I think this will sound terrific on vinyl, surely far superior to the MP3 version I have.

The musicianship is absolute class throughout the record. It makes me want to see the band live, that energy and precision is bloody great. Thankfully they’ll be playing Gateshead next month, 30th July at the Black Bull, where I’m sure they’ll go down a storm.

20 minutes in to my second play and my time is nearly up! To sum up the record; ‘Colossal Velocity’ is a relentless barrage of masterful punk, fucking brilliant! Very refreshing to here this proper hardcore/thrash punk in a sea of pitiful bland pop punk dross. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it should be!

I’m going back in for a few more listens, I need to get my head around the lyrics, interesting themes and social commentary that I’d like to explore and try to digest. Punk rock for 2016. Modern, thrashy, intense and bloody refreshing.

Out on TNSrecords soon. Have a punt, you won’t regret it! ‘Share if you agree’

Pre-orders up on Bandcamp now

JUJU (self titled album) – REVIEW

Review by Graeme J. Baty

A new act called JuJu popped up on my radar, 2016 seems to be experiencing a healthy/welcome resurgence for prog/Krautrock type music. I tentatively listened, unsure what I was in store for but found myself drawn in. Pleasantly catchy and soothing with a solid beat. This is interesting I thought. Intrigued by what I’d heard, I sat myself down in front of the hifi, turned the volume up and popped their self titled debut on.

The band name doesn’t really give a hint at what is to come, the album cover is rather captivating and it enticed me to give them a play. Their sound delightfully defies pigeonholing. There’s likely to be some comparisons to Broken Social Scene, Can, Sonic Jesus, flecks of later period Mercury Rev and even some British Sea Power. It’s a fair mixing pot of styles, the sound really does take on it’s own persona.

juju

They’re a band comprising of other musical projects (Herself and Lay Llamas). It’s a concept album of sorts, the blurb which accompanies the album states “Through the music, JuJu tells the legend of a continuing exodus from Africa that more often than not ends in ignored tragedies at sea, ‘a total defeat for humanity’.” Forming a soundtrack to a deep meaningful story of crisis. Musically the album captivates me, but I wish I could find out more about the stories behind the songs.

Samael‘ opens the album with an infectious fuzz groove, proving to be a highlight of the album, a very wise choice for a debut single. ‘We Spit On Yer Grave‘ changes the pace with a soft piano repetition, it lulls you in as it grows and grows, catchy as hell. It possesses a lovely Broken Social Scene-esque dance vibe. This is great!! Three songs in and ‘Stars and Sea‘ is where I’m really hooked, lovely acoustic based song. The mood is slowed for next track ‘Dance with the Fish’ . It’s a lush instrumental piece reminiscent of Mercury Rev, which winds down the 1st half of the record perfectly. ‘Sunrise Ocean‘ is a long exponentially growing looping hook that sucks you in as it evolves in front of you. ‘Lost‘ is the penultimate track, scattershot rhythms and marvellous entwining riffs.

The last track ‘Bring ’em War‘ feels somewhat out of place, with it’s sea shanty time signature it fits the theme but it is a bit of an anticlimax. It just doesn’t seem to click for me and at eight minutes it’s a slight chore. I’ve listened to the record four or five times now and each time I keep getting the urge to skip this one. However I do think this track will go down very well in a live setting. Here it feels a little out of place, the square peg in a round hole. That said I’d love to see this whole album performed live.

The word ‘delightful’ keeps popping in my head as I listen and write this. I think that is the perfect way to summarise this record. Delightful.

Their debut is due out 6th May 2016 via Sunrise Ocean Bender Records.

DEXTRO – In the crossing – REVIEW

Review by Graeme J. Baty

I stumbled on Dextro via a recommendation from a fellow music enthusiast. Curious to find out more I headed to their website and paid a humble fee of £4 to buy the download. Worth a punt I thought, comparatively what else can you get for £4 these days? A pint, a sandwich, a posh coffee with all the sickly trimmings? It’s a tiny amount and I happily invested in this album.

Dextro is a Scottish instrumental solo project, weaving a magical and immersing musical experience. I am late ‘to the show’ as they say, this being Dextro’s third LP. But better late than never. After about 4 songs into my first play of the album I was completely engrossed. I even uttered the words ‘this is f**king awesome!’ out loud. Since then I’ve spent a fair bit of time dissecting and living with the music. Here’s what I made of it…

‘Evacuate’ opens with a phasing synth riff that Shitwife would be proud of, which left me unsure as to where this musical journey will go. It’s a pleasant almost ‘dance’ like track. The synths make way for a soothing bass repetition, which is where it really locks in. The opening track feels like a bit of a curveball, the rest of the album is less ‘upbeat’ for want of a better word. This is not my usual cup of tea (although many will know of my love of instrumental and post rock) but this music transcends genre pigeonholing and I am eager to soldier on.

‘Amor fati’ is a mellow piano theme with drone. Winding it’s way into a delicious guitar arpeggio. This is where the album becomes much more intriguing than I had initially anticipated.

Three tracks in and ‘Break off’ hugely raises the bar, at this point I’m utterly hooked. With it’s jarring pulsating tones. It’s a standout track on the record for me. Stunning.

The pace changes again for next song ‘Clearing’. Soothing piano tones lull me into a mellow mood.  Gorgeous and organic sounding reverb.

‘Silent’ with its sweeping synths opens side B. It feels like a deep breath before the plunge into the second half. It also has the albums only hint of vocals. ‘The passage’ has a great striding beat lifting the tone away from the previous sombre tracks.

‘Sum poly’ was the track that enticed me to buy the album in the first place. Winding, looping, lush guitar motif. It clicked instantly when I initially heard it.

I am growing weary that the end of the record is coming. Time seems irrelevant at this point, I don’t want the music to stop. ‘Occupy’ closes the album with a beautiful piano motif, which rumbles and fades to the end.

I immediately put it on again. The length feels right at 42 minutes, not too long and not too short, however I do want more!

The songs are sonically well paced, and placed in an an order that traps you, you aren’t going anywhere until you’ve heard every last note on the record.

I’m glad I obtained a physical copy too, the artwork plays a big part of the vibe. It’s a musical journey which the album cover acts as a metaphor. The winding road through huge soundscapes in a barren but starkly beautiful landscape. As a photographer by trade, it’s music I can really visualise. It is begging to be made into a short feature or even a movie soundtrack.

Everything feels and sounds well thought out, planned and perfectly executed. I just want to disappear into a world of my own, in the middle of nowhere and play this as my soundtrack to a nomadic life. It really does feel like you’ve been on a journey listening to this album. A calm isolated journey of reflection and self analysing.

Equally it works in a busy world (I’m writing this staring out of a window in rainy Newcastle). I can vision myself sitting back and watching the modern world buzz past like flies while I indulge purely in the music. This is truly visionary music. I wonder if that’s why it appeals to me so much? Music is after all an escape from the day to day dredge of 9 to 5. Like a warm blanket on a bleak winters day. There is comfort to be found. Turn it up and tune out from the day to day bullshit of life.

There are a whole host of amazing artists around Scotland at the moment (and throughout the years) I anticipate Dextro will gain a lot of respect among his peers, this is a truly remarkable body of work. His talent on display is enviable. A quick chat with Ewan via email revealed a modest and enthusiastic character. 

I adore this album and I hope my ramblings inspire a few people to listen. Although it’s only just turned March, I am positive this will be one of my albums of the year, and I’ll be listening for years to come. A masterpiece. My next move is purchasing and devouring his back catalogue.

TEENAGE TIME KILLERS – Greatest Hits Volume 1 – REVIEW

Greatest Hits Volume 1 – Teenage Time Killers

Review by Graeme J. Baty

The word ‘supergroup’ is usually met with a disdain, thanks to a slew of self-indulgent drivel that often results from such projects. This is a Probot-esque project with some rather big names involved. Delivering a range of heavy styles; classic trash metal, punk-rock, with lots of interesting detours along the way.

teenage time killers

The album was conceived and co-produced by Reed Mullin, Mick Murphy & John “Lou” Lousteau. Mick played guitar on all tracks (except Barrio + Son of an Immigrant) which he played bass on and Reed Mullin played drums on all tracks except Big Money, Exploder + Teenage Time Killers. Despite that,  I suspect Mr Dave Grohl will hijack the limelight. It seems he can do no wrong in the eyes of fans and the media. So will this project continue the trend? Here he plays bass on many of the songs.

Let’s see where this 20 track dose of metal takes me. Yes that’s right 20 songs, this is a full on double dose of rock, so many songs it really feels like a binge but what the hell, if I could assemble a supergroup I’d want all my heroes to play on it!

The press were only sent this at the very last moment so as time is super limited I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach to my review. I’ll take this track by track and feedback my gut instinct. One hour to write and listen to this, so this is probably the worst review I’ll ever write. But who cares, let’s rock!

“Exploder”

Vocals, Reed Mullin. Pat Hoed (Bass), London May (Drums)

A punk-rock stomper with singalong chants gets the album off to an explosive start! Instantly impressed. This could be a corker of a record. Mullin’s vocals are quite impressive.

“Crowned by the Light of the Sun”

Vocals, Neil Fallon, Jim Rota (Guitar), Dave Grohl (Bass)

Slowing the pace down a bit with some big fat slow riffage. Following the tried and tested grunge template. Almost sounds like Soundgarden with Ozzy on vocals. Pleasant.

“Hung Out to Dry”

Vocals, Randy Blythe, Mike Schaefer (Guitar), Dave Grohl (Bass)

Primus meets Lamb of God! Delivering an impressive rap, if that’s the correct term. Something I haven’t heard Blythe do before. My favourite track so far. This is ace but too short! 3 songs in and this is already shaping up to be an awesome album.

“Power Outage”

Vocals, Clifford Dinsmore, Dave Grohl (Bass)

Slowing things right down with some old school metal, this track takes a bit of time to get going in the punk rock style you’d expect from Dinsmore. Seems to fall a little flat this one for me, just no magic. NEXT!

“Ode to Hannity”

Vocals, Jello Biafra, Mike Dean (Bass)

Long soundblurb intro. ‘Blah blah blah!’ croaks in the intro and takes us nicely into a super short and super fun song from ex Dead Kennedys main man, gets the party back on track.

“Barrio”

Vocals, Matt Skiba, Brian Baker (Guitar)

Pop punk yawn alert! This guy is now in Blink 182, so I’m told. Good for a bit of variation in the album but pop punk is not for me. Sounding like a super tame The Bronx, I’d rather listen to the Bronx to be honest. NEXT!

“The Dead Hand”

Vocals, Reed Mullin, Woody Weatherman (Guitar), Dave Grohl (Bass)

Ooh now here’s a riff. Chugga chugga! This is pretty much what you’d expect from Corrosion of Conformity fans will enjoy this one.

“Egobomb”

Vocals, Corey Taylor, Dave Grohl (Bass)

I’m a bit disappointed in this song if I’m honest. Fans of Stone Sour will lap up the metal-core style vocals. Personally I was hoping for a Slipknot style rampage. Oh well still a mighty fine track. The chorus has a slightly annoying repetition which sounds like the needle is stuck.

“Plank Walk”

Vocals, Pete Stahl, Greg Anderson (Guitar), Dave Grohl (Bass)

Mr Growl used to play in Pete Stahl’s old band you know. Delivering vocals in a melodic punk style that hints at Iron Maiden at points. Fun song but it feels a little unfinished and rushed.

“Time to Die”

Vocals, Mike IX Williams; Greg Anderson (Guitar)

NOLA legend Eyehategod front man brings another angle to this party. Hardcore punk this is great!

“Days of Degradation”

Vocals, Tommy Victor, Dave Grohl (Bass)

Ahhhh Prong! What a great band and this sounds exactly like what you’d expect, erm like Prong.

“Clawhoof”

Vocals, Tairrie B. Murphy, Dave Grohl (Bass)

There’s a name I recognise, Tairrie asked me to photo one of her shows last year, small world! She’s a great vocalist, a Brody Dalle type growl but with a more ferocious heavy metal slant.

“Big Money”

Vocals, Lee Ving. Pat Smear (Guitar & Bass), London May (Drums)

Crazy noise intro. Pat Smear’s name instantly makes me hope for Germs style punk. YES! Add Ving’s vocals and this is one epic punk song, very catchy.

“Devil in this House”

Vocals, Karl Agell, Dave Grohl (Bass)

Uh oh cheeseball metal time. I’m not familiar with Agell’s work, although he was in CoC for a time. Sounds like fairly generic heavy trash to me. Nothing too interesting.

“Say Goodnight to the Acolyte”

Vocals, Phil Rind, Jason Browning (Guitar), Dave Grohl (Bass)

Is this a carbon copy of the previous track? Cool guitar riff helps to redeem it!

“Ignorant People”

Vocals, Tony Foresta, Greg Anderson (Guitar), Nick Oliveri (Bass)

Interesting lineup on this, Municipal Waste frontman and the notorious Oliveri providing a solid groove. Out there hardcore punk. Superb. Another highlight of the record.

“Son of an Immigrant”

Vocals, Johnny Weber, Brian Baker (Guitar)

Punk-rock time! Catchy little number, reminds me of underrated LA punk legends The Generators.

“Your Empty Soul”

Vocals, Aaron Beam

Oooooo time to slow things down. Stoner doom-metal territory. This is great, makes me want to go dig out some old Red Fang albums!

“Bleeding to Death”

Vocals, Vic Bondi, Dave Grohl (Bass)

Motorhead meets punk. This is pleasant. I’m not familiar with Bondi but I think I may come back and dig through some of his other work.

“Teenage Time Killer”

Vocals, Trenton Rogers

Greg Anderson (Guitar), Pat Hoed (Bass)

Oooooo a rather cool harmonized effect on the guitar intro, which smoothly makes way for a singalong verse.

And that’s it. It’s all over before you realise. Compact. Kickass and educational. 20 songs, it doesn’t feel like it, certainly not a chore to blast through these. Simply unadulterated rock fun. There is something on here for everyone, and I’m sure many will love some songs whilst hating others.

I think there’s a few artists on here I’ve overlooked or neglected and that’s the charm of projects like these, they can introduce you to some things you never even knew existed. Wish I had long hair to bang. Damn. I’m putting this album on again m/

NOFX – Newcastle O2 Academy – June 2015 – REVIEW

NOFX – Newcastle O2 Academy – June 2015

Local Geordie Oi! punk legends Crashed Out had landed an slot opening tonight, they were on super early and I’m sad to have missed it.

It was brutally hot in the Academy when I arrived. It was awesome to see the venue is a near a sellout. Newcastle’s punks are out in force and were battling the humidity which is playing hell with mohawks around the venue. There’s quite a mixed bag of people and ages in the crowd tonight.

NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015
NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015

I arrived just as Californian pop punk veterans Lagwagon were finishing their set, I managed to catch their last few songs. Nice west-coast melodic punk, in a similar vein to The Bronx, which I found highly enjoyable or as they put it ‘Joyful and triumphant!’

Up next were Alkaline Trio. Now here’s a ‘punk’ (melodic punk is more accurate) band I’ll admit I’ve never really got. I have listened to a few of their albums in the past but I’ve never really engaged with their music, despite many recommendations from friends with similar tastes. Too super-slick and poppy for my crude palette.

NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015
NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015

They opened the set with ‘Time to Waste’. In a live setting, the songs (I’m happy to inform) have much more impact. ‘In Vein’ has a brilliant stop-start guitar hook, impossible not to bob along to it. They burst into ‘Armageddon’ which got a great reaction from the crowd. Fans with hands in the air, singing along word for word.

They became more energetic and animated towards the end of the set, after a somewhat slow start and that’s when they began to shine. There was a sea of mobile phones in the air during the last song, much to the annoyance of people trying to watch the band with their own eyes, rather than via a phone screen.

Lovely pop punk songs. Found myself enjoying them for the most part.

NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015
NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015

NOFX are up next and are the main reason why I’m here. After 30+ years of touring and the can still pull a huge crowd, many of whom are here for a good old retro binge, reliving the music of their youth. The band didn’t even make it on the stage before a a pint of beer landed on the stage, earning the offender a middle finger from ‘Fat Mike’.

NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015
NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015

They seemed very casual and relaxed on stage, spending time wisecracking with the audience. They pointed out that a parent had brought their young son along; “Great parenting there” they quipped. After a few minutes of banter we were finally treated to some music. There was like an injection of electricity in the air as the first riff of ‘Dinosaurs Will Die’ rang out, so much energy. Here we go!

The setlist was really long with over 30 songs, which they blasted through in under and hour and a half!. We got a fair mix of old and new from their expansive back catalogue and quite a few from their breakthrough album ‘Punk in Drublic’, but the banter in-between songs helped pace things a bit for us ageing punks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many crowd surfers in the Academy!

NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015
NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015

The punk ska/reggae based songs are brought out proving that they’re not just a one trick pony. They have quite a musical dexterity and make the ska/punk combo work magnificently.

Fat Mike joked “Best Tuesday night Newcastle has ever had… this month”; I think he’s right, maybe even the best Tuesday of the year! I walked away from the evening feeling re-energised and full of life. Now that my friends is the magic of music.

NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015
NOFX Newcastle Academy June 2015

Reef | Vukovi – Newcastle Riverside April 2015 – REVIEW

Reef and Vukovi – Newcastle Riverside, 6th April 2015

Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015
Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015

Review by Graeme J. Baty

It’s Easter Sunday and also Tyne & Wear Derby day in the football. Which could mean some very rowdy punters tonight! Thankfully the audience were in great spirits and there were no drunken incidents just people out to enjoy some good old rock and roll!

Reef are a band that hold so many memories for me. Not just me, speaking to people at the venue they seem to have a warm place for the band in their hearts. My personal story involves my backpacking days and drunk dancing on tables screaming along until I lost my voice in Byron Bay to their classic hit ‘Place Your Hands’. It was a great time of my life and that song instantly takes me back to that trip. Today also marks 21 years since Kurt Cobain passed so the day has truly been a nostalgic one for me, looking back on some of the music from my mid to late teens. So yes here I am totally ready for a hit of retro guitar riffs and I’m curious to see what new material they have. Reef have split and reformed (a trend that, I must admit is becoming rather tiresome) with minor lineup changes. They feature one of the greatest and most underrated voices of the last 20 years; a timeless rock vocalist with a raw mix of blues, soul and funk. So let’s see if they’ve still got it.

Openers Vukovi from Scotland tried very hard to wake up the audience and with not much of a response. Maybe the crowd had too many shandies during the football or the shock of the first warm day of the year? Either way the audience seems a little bit uninterested, which is a shame as they played a great energetic set. Maybe they’re not quite rock enough? They remind me of Marmozets, albeit a much more radio friendly version. Four or five songs into their set they finally seem to wake people up and gain a reaction. They gathered momentum and won the audience over. Newcastle crowds can be tough to impress!

Vukovi - Newcastle April 2015
Vukovi – Newcastle April 2015

On to the main show. Classic Black Sabbath songs blast out the PA before they come on, warming me up quite nicely. By the time Reef take to the stage the venue has filled substantially, not too many that you can’t move/see, not too few that there’s no atmosphere; just the perfect balance. It looks not far off a sell-out which is impressive considering the timing of the show.

Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015
Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015

Immediately I am stunned at the power of the songs and the performance. They have indeed ‘Come Back Brighter’, or should that be come back bikers? As vocalist Gary Singer and Jack Bessant bass player now sport rather awesome beards.

They get the uber hit ‘Place Your Hands’ out of the way early in the set. I wonder if that’s a bold move. It certainly would clear out the one hit wonder fans. Pleasingly the audience appear hooked and people stay. It is so easy to label them as a one hit wonder, which is painfully inaccurate. One glance of the setlist tonight and there are many fine tracks on there from throughout their career. I Would Have Left You’,’Yer Old’, ‘Higher Vibration’ and ‘Summers in Bloom’ to name but a few. The audience are absolutely loving the show, chanting “Reef! Reef! Reef!” in-between songs.

Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015
Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015

They ended their main set the song with THAT RIFF from THAT ADVERT. It was amazing to hear that track played live even with a tuning gaff they restarted the song and stormed onwards. After a good 75 minutes on stage I was truly buzzing, I just wanted more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited seeing a band. Perhaps because I wasn’t expecting much more than another reformed act dragging out old songs? Maybe, but I am happy to say that I was very wrong. Reef just made my top 20 bands I’ve ever seen (that’s a fair achievement as I see around 200 bands per year!).

Setlist Reef - Newcastle 2015
Setlist Reef – Newcastle 2015

The sound tonight is tremendous, It is a pummelling attack of bass and guitar hooks. A huge credit is due to the sound engineers and the new PA at the Riverside. This is how a live show should sound. I shouldn’t get excited, this should be standard, sadly that has not been the case in Newcastle for a long long time. Until now we just didn’t have a large venue that can cope with anything slightly heavy. My last few shows at the Riverside have really impressed me. Rock is back on the menu in Newcastle!

Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015
Reef Newcastle Riverside April 2015