Sunday, October 4, 2015

Show Time!

Gorilla Biscuits
GORILLA BISCUITS - LOOKIN’ UP - WIZZ KIDS - SUPERIOR VISION - Kings Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 26 September 2015
Well, this was a band I never expected to see, and certainly not here in New Zealand. Some 25 years after the release of the classic ‘Start Today’ album, New York City upstarts, GORILLA BISCUITS get back together to sing those same youth anthems, only with the perspective of being an entire generation older. It could have been a total train wreck of tough-guy Straight Edge elitism; a jaded parade of has-beens milking a final few bucks from the sacred cow (or ape as the case might be); or, it could actually be one to remember for all the right reasons. While it wasn’t either of the former, it didn’t get off to a good start...
Auckland locals SUPERIOR VISION chugged out some lurching down-tuned crossover Metalcore riffs and instantly bored me. They were proficient at what they did, and I guess if you groove on chugga-chugga riffs and growled vocals, this is for you. The two vocalists worked OK together; one with a traditional Hardcore shout, the other with a more growled/ barked delivery. Within three songs, I’d moved back to the bar - both to avoid the sounds but also the hilarious wind-milling, karate-kicking dancing. I saw that about 15 years ago at STAMPIN’ GROUND gigs and it still makes me laugh. I’m sure they’re very sincere, but I’d rather mainline a speedball than attend another gig.
Wizz Kids
Thankfully, Hamilton band WIZZ KIDS was up next playing non-down-tuned, non-chugging Punk Rock. This four piece cranked some serious and sneering Garage Punk jams that brought to mind SHITTY LIMITS minus the artiness but with added direction, siphoned through the intensity of NEW BOMB TURKS and THE SHIRKS. A few tracks stood out, but ‘Bad Economy’ was the one that really grabbed my ears. Apparently there were a lot of new songs played, but having not heard much of the band’s material at all, it was all knew to me and very impressive. After all the posturing of the previous band, it was great to see four guys just get up there without pretention and rock, without appearing to give themselves haemorrhoids. 
Lookin Up
Next was another Auckland band, LOOKIN’ UP. While these guys had a bit of that chugging-guitar going down, they had more raging, Hardcore beats and dynamics going on than the openers. The band’s sound certainly brought to mind the brutality and intensity of the best of SICK OF IT ALL with a screamed vocal from an incredibly visual vocalist. The songs were short, the delivery intense and dynamic brutal. Unfortunately, there was also the return of the windmillers. Song titles? No idea - they went by in a blur.
And so, GORILLA BISCUITS. Naturally, the horns that open the ‘Start Today’ album blared - but before the band was on stage. Walter took control of proceedings, got them replayed and then that crunching guitar came in to herald ‘New Direction’. From there it was a run through of the band’s entire catalogue with highlights being ‘Things We Say’, ‘High Hopes’, ‘Cats And Dogs’ that was preceded by a little spiel from Civ about the pros of vegetarianism and having compassion for all living things, ‘Degradation’ that was also preceded by a spiel from Civ about violence and hatred, and, of course, set closer ‘Start Today’. One surprise in the set was a cover of the CIV track ‘Do Something’.
Walter - Gorilla Biscuits
Have to say, the band got everything pretty much spot on, be it vocalist Anthony 'Civ’ Civarelli's enthusiasm or the superb guitar work from Walter Schreifels (now sporting hair somewhat longer than in his original GB days, although still pulling all the moves and jumps) through to the stage presence and energy of the songs. Civ even managed to suggest we here in NZ live in a stunning place that we should keep secret as he marveled about his trip to a volcano and that he even saw a waterfall!! This was all compared with his apartment in Harlem, NYC.
Yep, GORILLA BISCUITS pretty much nailed it. They were better than I expected and, although they obviously looked a little older (with Civ looking a little portly in fact - unless that was staunch NYC muscle of course), they cranked those youth anthems and delivered them with aplomb.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Obituary - Bryn Merrick

On Saturday 12 September 2015, Bryn Merrick, former bassist of THE DAMNED, passed away at Llandough Hospital close to Cardiff, after a battle with cancer. He was aged 56.
Born in Barry, Glamorgan, Wales on 12 October 1958, Merrick first came to note in the late-70s Cardiff-based Punk band, VICTIMIZE, a band that also featured his future DAMNED guitarist, Roman Jugg. The band was renowned in Wales, mainly due to the ferocity of some its followers, which included several of Cardiff’s infamous football hooligans and the fact they supported Punk notables such as THE SKIDS, GANG OF FOUR and THE DAMNED. Two singles were released, both released on Cardiff label, I.M.E.
After the band split up, Merrick and Jugg continued to play in bands including MISSING MEN that supported THE RUTS and THE DAMNED at the London Lyceum. He also spent a brief spell in the Metal band, Storm Queen.
In 1983, he joined THE DAMNED replacing former bassist Paul Gray (who, ironically and sadly, Merrick met on the same cancer ward in 2014 some three decades since their previous meeting). His first recording with THE DAMNED was on the minor-classic ‘Thanks For The Night’ EP, the b-side of which was ‘Nasty’ that saw Merrick and THE DAMNED play on the then iconic Young Ones TV show.
During his tenure in the band, which continued through to 1989, he featured on what became the band’s most successful period playing on both the top-selling ‘Phantasmagoria’ and ‘Anything’ albums, plus the ‘Eloise’ single that peaked at no. 3 in the UK charts. He also participated on the band’s side project NAZ NOMAD AND THE NIGHTMARES playing on the 1984 album ‘Give Daddy The Knife, Cindy’.
As THE DAMNED went on a long-term hiatus, Merrick along with Jugg hooked up with the band’s vocalist, Dave Vanian, in his project DAVE VANIAN AND THE PHANTOM CHORDS which performed from 1990 through to 1995.
From 2000, he played in THE SHAMONES (under the moniker of BeeBee Shamone), a RAMONES tribute band that played in the UK for five years, which also featured former VICTIMIZE band-mate Andy Johnson.
DAMNED legend, Captain Sensible posted on Facebook stating: "I didn't see as much of him as my colleagues but I've heard many funny stories about the lovable rogue over the years... like the time he wandered into a pub across the road from the band’s American hotel - asking if they (adopts Welsh accent..) "had any fags about the place". Of course it was a gay bar. There's loads more - involving brawling, car theft, prison spells, and all the rest of it... truly, there was NEVER a dull moment with our Mr Merrick."
I was fortunate enough to meet Bryn on two occasions, once after THE DAMNED played the Ipswich Gaumont and the other before they played London’s Town And Country Club. I can remember him as being a lively, genuine character but with some kind of humbleness about him that was reassuring and endearing. What was most apparent was the joy he seemed to express at playing in THE DAMNED.
Bryn is survived by his daughter Ella and songs, Richard and Christian.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Show Time!

DICKIES - RUST - NOWHERE - King’s Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 26 April 2015 
I would have thought that this was quite a scoop and a sure-fire hit. Legendary LA Punks, THE DICKIES first ever visit to New Zealand, hitting all the major cities - how the fuck could it go wrong? Oddly, New Zealand decided not to attend and the band was greeted with relatively small audiences. May be it’s because the band doesn’t have any new product, and hasn’t had any for some time or may be it’s just a certain NZ apathy. Either way, those who failed to go missed a veritable Punk legend - and a legend that can still cut it. What's more - this wasn't some kinda corporate money-gathering exercise - this was promoted by the stellar Punk Rock Road Trips gang here in NZ - DIY grass-roots stuff that delivers the goods for the love of music and not the fast $$.
First up however was a newish NZ band, NOWHERE. The name may be new, but the trio of faces are familiar as the band includes ex- (and current) members of RITALIN, PCP EAGLES and FREDDY FUDD PUCKER. Have to say, I didn’t pick out any song titles bar ‘Disease’ but the band burned with the kind of intensity LEATHERFACE could muster live around ‘Mush’/’Minx’ era. The whole set left me a bit speechless, particularly one intense instrumental breakdown that highlighted Stuart’s drumming and would not have sounded out of place in a TRAGEDY set. Was good to see the guitarist use a capo on a
couple of songs too which kept the sound fresh and distinctive. There are several great bands in New Zealand right now, but, on the strength this gig, NOWHERE might just about be the best of the bunch.
Australian bootboys RUST was up next. The band seemed an odd choice to support the DICKIES, but one that several members of the crowd seemed to appreciate (especially if they had no hair and braces [not on their teeth]). While they were certainly impressive and tight at what they did, the whole Skinhead/Oi! thing isn’t my thing. That said, they rocked pretty hard and in your face, fusing a brutish ROSE TATTOO Rock ‘n’ Roll blast with a LOWER CLASS BRATS take on Punk. Had they gone on before NOWHERE, they may have had a greater impact on me, but following NOWHERE they just failed to hold the attention and sounded too pedestrian.
That left the DICKIES to do their thang. With a back catalogue filled with classics the chances of the band disappointing were virtually zero. Opening with ‘Rosemary’, the band took a few tracks to find their feet. Along with founding members, Stan Lee and Leonard Phillips, were three new faces (to me at least) including a very natty drummer who played the whole gig in a shirt and dickie-bow tie! Last time I saw the band was 12 years ago (at least!) in Brighton, UK and it’s good to see that Leonard is still as theatrical as ever, incorporating the the usual talking penis during ‘If Stuart Could Talk’, the ape mask during ‘You Drive Me Ape’ and even a white towel used as a cape during ‘Gigantor’. He also frequently knocked Stan Lee’s hat off but a roadie (may be personal assistant?) was on hand to quickly replace said Pork Pie Hat.
The set did contain a few surprises; I don’t recall hearing ‘Wagon Train’ live before nor ‘The Saga Of Jim Bowie’. I could have done without the waste-of-time ‘Communication Breakdown’ cover in the encore (ditto ‘Paranoid’ too) considering the likes of ‘My Pop The Cop’, ‘Eve Of Destruction’, ‘Cross Eyed Tammy’, ‘Pretty Please Me’ and ‘(Stuck In A Pagoda With) Tricia Toyota’ were omitted.
The set was, as per most DICKIES gigs, littered with Leonard witticisms. This time we heard him state that, despite rumours, the DICKIES is NOT a Hardcore band. Also, that the thing we knew as the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle did not originate in New York in the mid-late 70s, nor was it in London and those dastardly SEX PISTOLS boys. It was, in fact, The Monkees!!

It would be easy to think that Leonard, Stan and co are past their best - and that could well be true. But as a live experience, the band still makes for a great night’s entertainment and those who decided to stay home and watch New Zealand Does Have Talent... Well... Hang your head in shame.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Show Time!

CJ RAMONE - PCP EAGLES - FIRESHARK - King’s Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 7 February 2015Well, I thought my days of seeing a bona fide RAMONE live in concert were well and truly over. Sure, you could argue there are only three left to see - Marky and Richie (drummers) and CJ himself. What sets CJ apart though, is the fact that neither Marky nor Richie have released an album as cracking as CJ’s recent ‘Last Chance To Dance’. In fact, given Dee Dee’s patchy solo releases, it could even be argued that CJ’s latest could rival Joey’s work as the best post-RAMONES release yet. That made the promise of this gig, organised by New Zealand’s very own saviours of quality live entertainment, Punk Rock Road Trips, even more tempting. The fact that CJ’s band included the guitarists from the legendary ADOLESCENTS made the gig quite essential.
Auckland’s FIRESHARK kicked proceedings off. Never heard the band before but the trio played solid, hard-hitting Punk Rock. The band released an EP a few years ago and, more often than not, I kept hearing a nod to an old Dr. Strange band, WHATEVER... The sound was similar in the sense it was fast but not thrashy, snotty but not growled, and catchy but not pop. Drummer really impressed I have to say while the guitarist had a pretty deft array of riffs up his sleeve. One to watch!
Auckland’s finest (if not New Zealand’s at present), PCP EAGLES followed. After seeing a trio that were anchored to the spot by due to vocal duties, witnessing this five-piece with the incredibly mobile Joe on vocals was akin to a volatile blur of riff-laden, raging ferocity.

This was a much more impressive show than the last time I saw the band (which was pretty smoking too), supporting MDC. The sounds were more intense, the velocity of the songs was faster, the presence of the band was more confrontational and generally, this was just a whole shit-load more damage-inducing. Amidst the familiar tracks off the EP, there were some new tunes and less RAMONES riffs circulating. Joe spent a good portion of the gig in the crowd, stirring things up and getting a bit of movement going leaving the band to blaze on the stage. Killer stuff that left its mark on senses other than just the ears!
And so to CJ. Have to say, following PCP, he and his band looked decidedly pedestrian for a few brief. minutes. Then the tune kicked in, ‘Understand Me’ from his new album, along with its hopelessly addictive melody. Then you notice Steve Soto, the legend behind AGENT ORANGE and ADOLESCENTS. Then you have the other guitarist, Dan Root, who is Steve’s guitar-slinging partner in ADOLESCENTS. Then CJ launches into ‘Judy Is A Punk’.
It’s without a doubt that most in attendance were there to hear RAMONES songs; not surprising since the band’s only visit to NZ was back in 1980. It was a relatively predictable selection - ‘Blitzgrieg..’, ‘Rockaway..’ (which was cracking incidentally), ‘Sheena..’, ‘...Sedated’. Oddly, the only song played from CJ’s actual tenure in the band was ‘Strength To Endure’; I thought we may get ‘Scattergun’ as he wrote it. There were a few surprises - ‘She’s The One’ has always been a favourite RAMONES tune and one I had seen the band play rarely, stellar takes on ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ and, most surprisingly and certainly very welcome, ‘Baby, I Love You’.
CJ’s own stuff seemed merely tolerated due to the majority of the crowd's desire for RAMONE-o-core though. A shame too, as the new album is a stunner - ‘Pitstop’ was a real highlight as was ‘Three Angels’ from the ‘Reconquista’ album, that was dedicated to Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny. The whole gig finished with a take on MOTORHEAD’s ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S’ which, while fun, didn’t really compensate for the lack of ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, ‘Pinhead’ or the aforementioned ‘Scattergun’.
Performance wise, it surely wasn’t the perfectly primed machine that THE RAMONES were. The band was tight and convincing but much more laid back (not a bad thing) than THE RAMONES. There was no synchronised sprints to the front of the stage (not that the stage was really big enough anyway), just maximum rock ‘n’ roll from some veterans who are virtually beyond compare. There were a few calls for ADOLESCENTS songs too; I noticed Steve Soto even teased with the opening notes of ‘Kids From The Black Hole’. CJ himself was conversational, relaxed and did a fair take on Joey without trying to actually mimic him.
Without a doubt, this was a life-affirming gig; affirmation of the power of music and of Punk in particular. Hearing a certified RAMONE perform those songs live in the manner CJ did, completely confirmed my belief that those songs are magical and as much a significant part of rock ‘n’ roll’s history as anything The Beatles ever released. I’ve listened to many of those songs for over 30 years now. I saw THE RAMONES a number of times and I’m pleased to say that CJ and his band lived up to the standard set and did those songs with class, distinction and respect. AND... They also made it a shit-load of fun!! Gabba gabba...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Year-end Recommendations - 2014

It's been a good year record-wise.  The lists below reflect only those that I have been exposed to - lots of stuff I have no doubt missed too.
Have to give a special mention to TNS Records, a label that has released plenty of great albums but none that quite make the Top 10 albums.  That said, no other label that I know of has released a series of such consistently good records this year. Listening to the ROUGHNECK RIOT album as I type - great stuff that brings forth memories of MEN THEY COULDN'T HANG while keeping a very modern, Punk approach to matters.
Likewise, there are a few things that have appeared that would probably make the list had I got actual releases, or that appeared sooner. CJ RAMONE's solo album has been a cracker via the download I have, and TIM BARRY's latest album is great on a single listen.  Then there's the STAY CLEAN JOLENE album - a stunner.  It arrived in January, so I am sure it will be in the 2015 Top 10. 
And, that RADIO BIRDMAN boxset - be all and end all!!! 
Anyway - here goes:

1. WORLD/INFERNO FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY - This Packed Funeral {Alternative Tentacles}
2. SWHAT - s/t {DIY}
3. GAMEFACE - Now Is What Matters Now {Equal Vision}
4. TV EYE - Mythoman {Spastic Fantastic}
5. TIM BARRY - Raising Hell And Living Cheap {Chunksaah}
6 ADOLESCENTS - La Vendetta {Concrete Jungle}
7. AUTONOMADS - One Day All This Will Be Gone... {Pumpkin/ Ruin Nation}
8. PRONTO - When You're Gone {Off The Hip}
9. MORNING GLORY - War Psalms {Fat Wreck}
10 RUBELLA BALLET - Planet Punk {Overground}
Special mentions: DUNCAN REID AND THE BIGHEADS - Difficult Second Album, GENERATION DEAD - The Truth Has All Been Said... {DIY}, CASTRO - The River Need, JADED EYES - Gods And Monsters {Boss Tuneage}, STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Dial Tone {Dirtnap}, SLICE OF LIFE - Love And A Lamp Post {Overground}, OFF! - Wasted Years {Vice}, DIE! DIE! DIE! - S W I M {45rpm}, DOWN BY LAW - Revolution Time {Dry Heave}, LAGWAGON - Hang {Fat Wreck}, FUCKED UP - Glass Boys {Matador}, HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEDS - Stay Home {La Vida Es Un Mus}, FRANCEENS - Stepford Smiles, OFFICER DOWN - Dead Lands, WONK UNIT - Nervous Racehorse, DOMESTICS - Routine And Ritual, ROUGHNECK RIOT - Out Of Anger {TNS}

Singles/ EPS1. VARIOUS - A Celebration Of Punk Down Under {Sick World}
2. HDQ - When Worlds Collide {Boss Tuneage}
3. OFF! - Learn To Obey {Vice}
5. SHATTERED FAITH - Modern Convenience USA {Hostage}
6. CHANNEL 3 - History {Hostage}
7. THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES - Stratgey Two {Boss Tuneage}
9. NOFX - Stoke Extinguisher {Fat Wreck}
10. CASTRO - s/t {Boss Tuneage}
Special mentions: BREAKOUT - True Crime {Grave Mistake}, VARIOUS - Without Kibou There Is Nothing Vol 1 and 2 {Kibou}, STIV BATORS' DEAD BOYS - Last Stand 1980 EP {Ugly Pop}

Compilations/ Re-issues
1. RADIO BIRDMAN - Box Set {Citadel}
2. REALLY RED - Teaching You The Fear {Alternative Tentacles}
4. X - Aspirations/ X-Spurts {Ugly Pop}
5. TERMINUS - Going Nowhere Fast/ Back Among The Blind {Boss Tuneage}
6. INSTIGATORS - Anthology Volume 1 {PHD}
7. SUBURBAN REPTILES - Saturday Night Stay At Home {Real Groovy}
8. RIPCORD - Fast 'n' Furious: The Complete Demos {Boss Tuneage}
9. FRANTIX - My Dad's A Fuckin' Alcoholic {Alternative Tentacles}
10. DUMBSTRUCK - It's Still Broke {Boss Tuneage}
Special mentions: CHIXDIGGIT - Double Diggits {Fat Wreck}, INSTIGATORS - Anthology Vol 2, XPOZEX - Anthology {PHD}, SPELLING MISTAKES - Feel So Good {Real Groovy}