The Beatsteaks - Living Targets (Epitaph)
Proving that you don't have to be American or fist-in-your-face politically spoken to write great punk songs, Germany's Beatsteaks do what they do with such an air of ease, it is overpowering. "Living targets" is the follow-up to their highly praised debut, "Launched". It's a natural progression without ever sounding forced or contrived. Not as obviously political as, say, Pennywise or Agnostic Front, the message is still there, hidden just below the surface of these twelve perfectly pointed punk songs.
Beatsteaks haven't stuck by any of the old school punk formulas and they don't suffer because of it. They haven't been afraid to step outside the mould and see what happens. 'Disconnected' is a perfect example of this. A love song for a world gone bad. Stunning harmonies and perfect production mixed over what could be rusty drums and bell-like guitars proving that sometimes a whisper can be as strong as a scream. 'A-way' is all ringing chords and powerful driven guitars.
Slightly like the Offspring in the way that the chords slide upwards before bursting open with the energy and edginess of a Kerbdog song. 'Run Run' has a great chorus, one of the Beatsteaks strong points. First single and final track, 'Summer' is built on a simple start-stop guitar riff before the drums kick it into a mighty chorus that dwarves everything else on the album. A perfect exit.
Dagoba - Release the fury (Enternote)
Proof, if ever proof was needed, that stealing the best riffs from the best bands doesn't make for great listening. Dagoba sound like they sat down one day and said "right, we'll have a bit of Sepultura and EarthTone9, a drop of Machine Head, a smidgen of Fear Factory's technological experimentation and a fair old dose of Dry Kill Logic". It hasn't worked though.
'Rush' shows promise and, on subsequent listens, reveals itself to be not as piss-poor as you would have first been led to believe. 'God's forgot me', on the other hand, is just shite. What sort of a producer lets the double-bass drum come out sounding like a fucking typewriter? 'Time 2 go' sticks by the formula too strictly and you know these guys never once left the instruction book on how to make a metal album down during the entire writing process. There's no experimentation, no thought, no originality.
This is metal by numbers. Everything that Dagoba do here Sepultura did ten years ago only they did it much better (and with proper production). Ignore them and hopefully they will go away.
Less - Piano Wire Smile
This mysterious San Francisco three-piece has released what surely must be one of the greatest 'growers' this year. At first I dismissed this entirely, listening to it once before throwing it into a corner immediately afterwards. Compelled to review it, I dug it out once more, put it on and, surprise, surprise, haven't taken it off since. Musically a cross between Tool and Soundgarden, the album kicks off with the groove-fest 'It's over', an angst-ridden tale of a broken relationship - "I have these beautiful sharp teeth/I will chew my leg off/just to put a stop to this pain." Nice.
Elsewhere you have the weird and wonderful 'Lie Still', the musical equivalent of a slow-burning fire, complete with some gorgeous banjo-plucking flickering near its climax. This leads straight into 'Glad to no you', with its almost Hawkwind-ish instrumental intro. Highlight has to be the atmospheric 'Pressure Mining', a 7-minute plus vocal piece de résistance, reminding this listener of a lone, haunting Gaelic voice which will surely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand if you listen to this in the dark. It's not all atmosphere and banjos, though; Less can rock with the best of them. See 'Tar' and 'Another Rapist' for mosh-friendly bouts of violence. (You have to please the kids, right?) It will take many listens to absorb the hidden depths littering this album, but, take it from me, if you give it time you'll be pleasantly rewarded.
Pennywise - Land of the Free? (Epitaph)
Epitaph have some of the greatest punk and hardcore bands around at the moment producing records for them. They've got Agnostic Front, Rancid, Hot Water Music, Downset, NOFX and of course the mighty Pennywise. The latter's latest album, "Land of the Free?", has received some rave reviews and rightly too.
It's all present and accounted for. The angry but intelligent lyrics, the potential anthems, the straight-forward balls out guitar playing and the fist in the air shout along choruses. Check, check, check and double check. Pennywise have released here a fine album that draws attention to issues of global politics, including the wordwide WTO protests and the recent United States Presidential elections.
'Fuck Authority' is a protest anthem. Pure and simple. 'My God' is a rant against organised religion ("they open up your head/they're fucking with your mind") hidden beneath a free flowing, harmonic laden punk track with a chorus as big as an army tank ("you want to get to heaven you see it isn't free/give your money up to me/your God is a mirage/a conspiracy"). 'The World', on the other hand, has a chorus so catchy, it should come with a government health warning.
In fact this entire album probably should.
Throat - Knievel is evil (Riverman)
Now this I like. Post-hardcore for everyone sick of the whinging raps and DJ scratches of the already withering trend that is nu-metal. Petrol-fuelled vocals, scathing lyrics, raging drums and crunching guitars. Excellent. Throat should be a lot bigger than they are and that much is clear, but this album will no doubt help rectify the situation. Their hard-hitting debut combines the jagged and serrated guitars of Kerbdog ('Cleaver'), the big choruses of Jimmy Eat World ('Soho') and the sort of vastness usually only found in At The Drive-In's songs ('Circus Trick').
Ireland has struggled recently to produce really great rock bands capable of competing on the international stage. Throat has brought an end to this drought. Take one listen to 'Sonny's hired killer' and if your head doesn't nod along in agreement then go get your ears checked. Andy Cairns (Therapy?) guests on 'Gleason', which changes the pace but keeps the standard solid with its staccato riffing. 'Captain Bastard' is furiously short and sharp, while the potentially disastrous choice of a cover, 'Crazy Horses' by The Osmonds, comes out sounding like a fatally horrific car crash, to which Clutch's Neil Fallon has added barks and roars. Bloody. Brutal. Brilliant.