Albums of 2019: 10 – 1

Its Top 10 time…

10) Danko Jones – A Rock Supreme

Genre: Hard Rock | Label: Bad Taste Records

Quick Fire Summary: Mainstay of these pages and DiR.net favourite kicks off the top 10 with yet another album packed with bravado, riffs. There is definite pop focus this time out as chorus’s take centre stage. It’s groovy, it’s funky, it hits hard and most of all it’s Danko. Nobody does the Fists Up High rock smash better!

Top Track: Burn In Hell – Machine gun power chords and a damn tasty riff kick starts the rapid fire lyrical onslaught before the thumping chorus opens the throttle and drives straight down to hell…mind the cowbell though lads!

Watch: Burn In Hell

9) Rival Sons – Feral Roots

Genre: Blues/Rock | Label: Atlantic

Quick Fire Summary: Classy blues based hard rock from the now veterans of the retro scene. Not bowing to the popular riff/drum combo trend, Rival Sons have crafted a fully realised set of magnificent melodies, soulfully smooth vocals, colourful atmospheres, fuzzy feeling production, and surprising heaviness. This is the blues done big and with true homage to the greats.

Top Track: Too Bad – Showcasing their more delicate soulful side, this outstanding slow burner has plenty of raspy vocals, dizzying fuzziness, raging guitar prowess all tied up with a unifying hard hitting riff.

Watch: Too Bad

8) Marvel – Guilty Pleasures

Genre: Hard Rock | Label: So Recordings

Quick Fire Summary: Norway’s Marvel are intent in having a good time behind their superhero masks. Rollicking rock and roll done with perilous energy and expert precision this sublime ‘covers’ collection which has transformed the originals into high octane rockers will keep you bouncing off the walls till the neighbours come knockin’.

Top Track: Burning Love – Yes, Elvis owned this tune. But dang this makeover is a fun, fantastic slab of scrappy, enigmatic, galloping rock and roll.

Watch: Keep Pushin’

7) Spielbergs – This Is Not The End

Genre: Indie Rock | Label: By The Time It Gets Dark

Quick Fire Summary: A debut album from a last throw of the dice band which has come up with sixes. An enigmatic combination of tight piercing guitar licks, bombarding waves of layered noise and soaring vocal hooks all amid a deliberately Lo-Fi underdog production. Moreover it rocks hard and fast with barely controllable energy.

Top Track: We Are All Going To Die – A sprawling epic of indie which channels the supersized Trail Of Dead ethic, the utter chaos of Dananananaykroyd with the catchiness of Weezer. The closing minute crescendo of guitar onslaught is as good a moment as any in 2019!

6) Gygax – High Fantasy

Genre: Hard Rock | Label: Mascot Records

Quick Fire Summary: Time to dust off those 16 sided die ready for your next games night soundtrack. A D&D themed band who channels Thin Lizzy and Power Metal through a glorious melodic rock and roll guitar workout. Could be considered niche (?), if it wasn’t for it being so damn catchy!

Top Track: Hide Mind – A riff straight from Thin Lizzy’s trick bag and a galloping verse from the Iron Maiden vault which bludgeons you to oblivion’s with its incessant multi-melody muscle.

Listen: Hide Mind

5) Dinosaur Pile-Up – Celebrity Mansions

Genre: Rock| Label: Parlophone

Quick Fire Summary: Stepping up to a Major Label has clearly been taken in the Dino P-Up stride. The best sounding of their catalogue, it melts grunge and 00’s alt rock and throws plenty of pop and even heavier thrashes for good measure. A super fun and exuberant album of anthems that makes you want to rock out, or sing your heart out.

Top Track: Pouring Gasoline – All out punk attack dominates this hard rocking firecracker. The thumping riff has a dangerous ‘break stuff’ effect which will surely be a moshtastic addition to their live set.

Watch: Back Foot

4) The New Roses – Nothing But Wild

Genre: Hard Rock| Label: Napalm Records

Quick Fire Summary: Relatively under the radar, these German rockers have shout up from underdogs to title contenders with this album. It’s wall to wall packed with huge anthems which plough through huge riffs with a punky rebellion and don’t give a s**t mentality. Vocals are A-Class and just as dangerous. It’s hard to describe just how damn catchy these tracks are. Channeling Gun’s and Roses ambition with radio friendly 80’s hair metal they have created arguably the best Bon Jovi album for 20 years.

Top Track: Down By The River – Bright major chords and a sublime chorus line evoke that spirit of days gone by when nights were long, drinks flowed free and friendships were forged. It’s a huge nostalgia trip from start to finish and is begging for a Hollywood montage storyline. Stadium sized and a gigantic chorus, this is arguably the radio rock song of the decade!!!

Watch: Down By The River

3) Bokassa – Crimson Riders

Genre: Stoner/Punk/Rock/Metal | Label: Kings Of StonerPunk Records

Quick Fire Summary: Bokassa we’re onto something with their Stoner Punk outlook. Plucked from relative obscurity they have been beeping loud on every rock fans radar after being hand picked by Metallica to support their tour. For good reason too. They play fast and fuzzy, slow and crushing. Instead of lollop, they bound through stoner riffing and cap it all off with a gruff, but clean powerhouse vocal. One for the heavys…get ready to bang your head!

Top Track: Charmed & Extremely Treacherous – About as good a descriptive song title as there has ever been. It’s a breakneck speedway of an unrelenting riff fest. Sweetened with plenty of poppy wooaaahs and a danger zone call to arms chorus.

Watch: Charmed & Extremely Treacherous

2) Moon Tooth – Crux

Genre: Progressive Metal | Label: Moon Tooth

Quick Fire Summary: On Crux, Moon Tooth have pushed the boundaries and entry barriers of prog metal into new more accessible and inventive spheres. They take instrumentation seriously and the interwoven guitar riff centric methods craft carcophanies of melodic exuberance. It’s got bags of tempo tricks, mathy tilts, hard rocking headbangers, super technical fretwork, manic trash outs and emotive atmospheric vocals. It’s a wild ride of unexpected turns which flirts with darkness and light, beauty and the beast. Undoubtably creative and captivating at every spin.

Top Track: Awe At All Angles – The most out the box winner metal single of the year. It’s complex, exhilarating, off kilter, riff heavy, incessantly melodic and impossibly catchy. All that’s amazing about the band in 4 minutes of genre bashing fisticuffs.

Watch: Awe At All Angles

1) Royal Republic – Club Majesty

Genre: Rock | Label: Arising Empire

Quick Fire Summary: Sweden’s answer to tongue in cheek rock and roll out a new glamorous spin on their latest LP. Retaining cohesive angular punchy guitars, absurd lyrics and sense of humour whilst adding a playfully camp disco vibe that’s damn fun(ky). More pop results, which is a clear step up of their vocal game. A truly fun and euphoric party record which would fill and neon light-up dance floor across the world. In a year of political gloom, Royal Republic have brought the swagger and the sequins! I’ll finish on a lyrical except which sums up perfectly “You rock harder, We shine brighter. You go faster, we go high… and you can’t fight the disco”!

Top Track: Anna-Leigh – Flashdance back to the 80’s on this most dramatic departure from RR core sound. It still manages to perfectly skew their subtly great riffs into a pop-centric lusty party tune. When the chorus exploded with colour and synths (?!), you cant help but move your feet. Just blame it on the boogie!

Watch: Anna-Leigh

That’s all for 2019. Well done to you if you got this far! A new decade awaits. Bring on the 20’s, after all it is much easier to say than the 10’s.

Albums of 2019: 20-11

Welcome to the annual retrospective of the 2019’s best albums as seen through the eyes of DoesItRock. It has been a year of great guitar rock, but one which has lacked a single standout album which towered over all others. As ever, there is plenty of variety on offer from punk to prog, metal to good old fashion rock ‘n roll.

The years big development however was the switch of streaming service. Goodbye Spotify. Hello Apple Music. Recent UI ‘like chasing’ changes were the final dismal straw in a long succession of eroding changes which have alienated those with specially curated libraries. It does mean iTunes is back (?!), but Apple Music, with its ever so smart playlists has been welcomed with open arms. The less said about its web embedding the better though…

Ramble done. Countdown start…

DoesItRock.net Albums of 2019

20) Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – And Now For The Whatchamacallit

Genre: Psychedelic Hard Rock | Label: What Reality? Records

Quick Fire Summary: Like the most epic of trips, this is a total blast of a record which rocks as hard as it progs. Bridging the divide between the smoke filled haze of acid fuelled kaleidoscope visions, 60’s pop and earthshaking riffs full of bluster and bravado.

Top Track: Bill’s Mandolin – Floaty, Jaunty, Kazoo-esque Fuzzy pop with inescapable catchiness that needs its own trampoline park to bounce around in.

Watch: Bill’s Mandolin

19) Massive – Rebuild Destroy

Genre: Hard Rock | Label: Off Ya Rocka Records

Quick Fire Summary: The tag line says it all…Beer Drinking, Foot Stomping, Hell Raining, Rock ‘n Roll. This Aussie hard rock outfit are keen on destruction. It’s got exuberance and a wild sleaziness which in the high moments evokes Guns’n’Roses stadium sound. No half measures in this Massive party of a record.

Top Track: Roses – A proper old school riff first nosedive into a mosh pit of hard rocking, machismo that’s not afraid to show its pop side.

18) Puppy – The Goat

Genre: Rock | Label: Spinefarm

Quick Fire Summary: Whilst maybe not the Greatest Of All Time as billed, but still a damn impressive major label debut from this London trio that isn’t afraid to pump out polished power chords. It’s melodic but sneakingly heavy pop leaning hard rock that has a Ghost like vocal quality to add that air of intrigue.

Top Track: Vengeance – Kicking drums, a pick scrape and big grungy riffs set the tone of this high flying alternative anthem full of reckless, but well dressed carnage.

Watch: Black Hole

17) Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound

Genre: Hard Rock | Label: Vertigo Berlin

Quick Fire Summary: Arguably the biggest band on the countdown are still putting out top notch quality hard rock. Their boogie first, metal infused head banging pop anthems are knockouts. They have pushed both extremes here with more radio friendly pop ditties, countered by crushingly heavy thrash too. These Danish heavyweights are still a real knockout.

Top Track: Die To Live – A combination made in rock heaven, Clutch Frontman Neil Fallon lends his gravel toned pipes to a supercharged bluesy shuffle meets rock and roll classic! Let loose to the furious keys and punchy power chords!

Watch: Die To Live

16) Thank You Scientist – Terraformer

Genre: Prog/Post-Hardcore/Metal | Label: Evil Ink Records

Quick Fire Summary: Genre bending is always fun and Thank You Scientist has ripped up the rule book. Their extremely technical, intricate and dazzling guitar work is matched with extended orchestral compositional strength. All that remains are the trumpets, strings, jazz phrases, pop punk vocals and complex revelatory prog melodies.

Top Track: Fxmldr – An explosion of colourful complex guitar lines collide in a brassy kaleidoscope of wonder. It’s highly melodic and doesn’t overdo on technicality, balancing perfectly with a flying pop-punk chorus.

WatchFxmlder (Fox Mulder)

15) Airbourne – Boneshaker

Genre: Hard Rock | Label: Spinefarm

Quick Fire Summary: Australia’s finest, beer drinking, hard rockin’ export is still firing on all cylinders on their latest firecracker album. The usual riffs and big chorus’ are here as standard. But it’s the superb production which give this a real energy and captures some of their live performance danger and drive.

Top Track: Backseat Boogie – Big riff, bluesy beats, tension building bridge, flaring solos, catchy vocals…it’s all Airbourne’s signatures in just over 3 minutes.

14) Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood

Genre: Rock | Label: Frontiers Records

Quick Fire Summary: 30+ years on from their heyday, nothing prepared us for how good the latest Whitesnake was. Far from the melodic AOR of old this is a rejuvenated, heavy and debaucherous banger. Could this really kickstart a new dawn for pop/hair metal?

Top Track: Trouble In Your Middle Name – Wailing sirens aptly opens this dangerous tune which crashes metallic riffs against a knockout hook heavy chorus whilst melodic solos’s fire in all directions. Sleazy and breezy!

Watch: Trouble Is Your Middle Name

15) Russian Girlfriends – In The Parlance Of Our Times

Genre: Punk/Rock | Label: A-F Records

Quick Fire Summary: New Mexico based rockers lay claim to the DiR.net Pop Punk album of the year (vaguely). That’s despite flipping their sound from reckless visceral hardcore, to wild rock and roll all bound with a punk sense of impatience, a mouthful of verbose lyrics and a multipack can of melodic pop.

Top Track: The Antidote – Opening like the Pistols, this bright and restrained track has laser like melodic focus. Direct and urgent guitars beautifully counter balance the meander of the rapid lyrical flow.

Watch: The Antidote

12) Whiskey Myers – Whiskey Myers

Genre: Southern Rock | Label: Snakefarm

Quick Fire Summary: The 5th Album from these southern state stalwarts is a triumph of blues power, swingin’ country and soul. Showing their balance, one side has a strong muscular big rock tunes and the other slinks into softer and tender ballads. A fantastic radio friendly record with songcraft and silky but salty vocals.

Top Track: Gasoline – Blues riff make way for rough southern twanged lyrics, head banging guitars and even a stellar solo. A great chorus keeps it all rolling together as clearly ‘They need a bottle, a gun & gasoline”

Watch: Gasoline

11) Spidergawd – V

Genre: Rock | Label: Crispin Glover Records

One Line Summary: Another metronomic release from this Norwegian backwards glancing hard rockers. While it takes it cues from 70’s rock it crafts it’s own sonic path with unexpected twists, unintended crescendos, mystifying stellar chorus’s and best of all wait for it…..an amazing Saxophonist!

Top Track: Knights of C.G.D. – Not many rock tracks start with a blast from a sax, but this is no ordinary rock song. This moody intro is soon overtaken by a rapid 70’s groove whilst the raspy vocals kick in. It’s got real compact power and intent despite the undertones of prog seeping through the cracks.

Roll on the top 10!

Clutch, Graveyard & Kamchatka @ The Roundhouse

18th December 2019

Another rainy winters night in Camden, but thankfully we had some fine rock and roll in town to raise our spirits prior to the oncoming Christmas holidays.

First up were Kamchatka, the blues rock band not the Siberian Mountain range in case you were wondering (and yes I had to google that). As they journeyed riff first into their opening track the formula was clearly set. Intro, verse and bridge of each track were always nifty but never truly took flight until the solo. At which point the trilby donned Mark Rylance(alike) frontman let loose and owned his fretboard completely. In fact their image was a mixed bag containing ‘The cool’ (blues) ‘The hair’ (prog) and ‘The leather’ (metal).

However overbearing deep bass tended to drown out the already underpowered vocals. This rumbling was a constant nuisance but they did make good with a few very good knockout melody, riff and chorus combinations. A composed and non stop run through some decent bluesy and head banging hard rock numbers.

Graveyard appeared out of the darkness and quickly set about their business, the business of vintage rock and rolling. These long haired Scandinavian cave dwellers undergo a mega evolution from studio to stage. LP’s just don’t translate their deliberate, melancholic, soulful and ragged brand of psychedelic meander rock.

Here in the round(house) they sounded absolutely stunning. Going in ever decreasing melodic circles with no real destination has never sounded quite so good. They moved seamlessly from uptempo layered blues rock to super slo-mo, warm comforting burners which are their undeniable strength. The intricacy in which they craft their delicate yet gargantuan dual guitar harmonies is a genuinely rare beauty. This is doubled up with power packed gruff vocals that say everything with mere emotion, without seemingly forming an English word. A dazzling set which shows that time and space can still exist at a hard rock show much to the bemusement of a cluster of cluster of metalheads.

They also get the very special award for being the first band to sound amazing in this troublesome sonic venue.

Next into gear were Clutch, as the hard hitting, fast talking blues-mobile roared into the red. They brought their alt styled, southern rock veined hard rocking riff machine to the starting line.

Along with the opening notes of Burning Beard, a sea of humanity flooded pitwards. The sway or ebb and flow was a constant reminder of the legion of fans gathered to party. Having formed way back in 1991, this isn’t surprising. The big surprise however was their set choice which eschewed from the typical new album focus and ‘the hits’. Rather you felt they played what they wanted from the archive, old, new, rare, cover or anything in between. (Having checked setlist.fm tour stats I can confirm their set choices are massively varied). Tonight it was 2004’s Blast Tyrant which got the most coverage but some stretched even as far back as 1998 on groovy The Butterfly.

Frontman Neil Fallon was a true force of nature, exhibiting powerful arm-o-graphy and muscular flexing of both vocal chord and biceps. His rapid fire gravelly delivery is as uncompromising as his bounding about stage. His almost preacher like stances, passion (and pointing) give him authority in his revered ‘church of rock and roll’.

Backing him up was the immense power of the humble blues riff firing from lead guitarist Tim Sult’s Gibson SG. His obvious mastery of the phaser and warp pedals were evident. Each fretboard run had its own heart and soul which forms the bedrock of their appeal.

The crowd demographics was an interesting one too. There was a huge mix of younger hip folk, middle to aging rockers through to pierced punks and patched metal heads. Their dance moves also ranged from funky struts (In Walks Barbarella), rock and roll twisting (The Mob Goes Wild) wild head banging (Mercury), mental moshing (Noble Savage) bluesy toe tappin (Sucker For The Witch) and even seductive swaying (The Face).

Throughout the energy and intensity levels were high, topping off a really superb performance. For me, it could have done with some ‘Earth Rocker’ tunes. But there lies the mystery set appeal…I already want to see them again!

Airbourne, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown & Cellar Door Moon Crow @ The Forum, Kentish Town

26th November 2019

A packed bill tonight kicked off with one of the most improbable bands of recent memory.

Cellar Door Moon Crow are a twin brother drum and guitar duo who also feel the need to have matching everything. From their flat top crops, Nike air tees, tracky bottoms right to their hipster (broom like) beards. That’s where the indentikit ran out though as they play a slapdash but unique take on Beastie Boys meets classic rock, or Slaves meet White Stripes.

Their stage presence was good, if a little overbearing with their terrace chant vocals on full shout when they weren’t rapping. Throwing in the occasion cool vintage sounding (but ultimately simple) guitar solos, leaping around to catchy (but repetitive) catchy choruses and a fair few sampled riffs meant that it was unexpectedly entertaining, even if a little cringeworthy at times. I’ll be checking out there debut for sure.

Next was Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown a band last seen on these pages in xxx supporting gnr in the gigantic london stadium. Tonight in closer quarters it was evident they had lost none of their touch. Also apparent was the striking youthful good looks of Tyler himself. Thankfully he wasn’t just a front of stage poser as the eponymous band leader showed through his soulful fretboard flaring.

Trying their best to outplay tonight’s headliners, this was a complete package performance. Twisted blues and amped up rock and roll combined to add substance as well as rockin fisticuffs. A compact set which exhibited power, control and precision musicianship.

They also don’t know how to say goodbye with their final track (seemingly) clocking in somewhere in the double figures with so many fake-out crescendos it was hard to keep count. A fantastic rootsy set full of soul which cements their place as rising stars.

The countdown was over…Airbourne were back! It’s been six years since our last encounter (also at The Forum) and I’ve still got the ringing ears to prove it.

Joel O’Keefe and his crew of hard rockin Aussies wasted no time in cranking up the amps beyond 11 to 111 and rampaged into opening number Raise The Flag. Before he did he asked rhetorically ‘Do you like rock?… coz it’s the only thing we know’.

This proved true as their hard partying, beer soaked, adrenaline pumping power rock and roll started out fast and thundered through a well rounded retrospective through their big riff, big chorus, riff rock catalogue. When Joel dedicated ‘Girls in black’ to those in the borderline in 2008, suddenly my memory was suddenly jogged and my fist shot up to the sky to salute the gesture. That show was 13 years ago and it still remains high up in the greatest ever list.

Fair to say they haven’t grown old gracefully, still full of mischief and misdemeanour throughout their showcase trick bag. Some we’ve seen before (trolly surfing through the crowd, running wild through the balcony. But the new additions add that surprise element, each time upping the level of danger to incite the chaos in which they thrive. (Although nothing will quite match them scaling the download stage!)

Joel put up a makeshift bar onstage, poured pints of JD and coke before handing them out! Then later proceeded to play catch with the crowd by throwing out beers with inevitable consequences. A few beer showers later he finally got one to its mark, and one even up to the balcony! Less said about the one that crashed into the lights creating a beer waterfall the better! At only 13 songs long, you can see their antics were an integral part of their show.

They were at their best when slowing and extending their mighty breakneck grooves. The great air raid siren build up to ‘Live It Up’ was fantastic, ‘Too much, Too Young, Too Fast’ and it’s head banging sing-a-long plus the anthemic rabble rousing melody of ‘Ready To Rock’.

The atmosphere and crowd make tonight. The willingness for everyone here young, old, man and woman to let loose, throw away their normal lives for 90 mins of adrenaline fuelled rawk rebellion. People were flying everywhere, getting stuck into the mosh pit chasms, bounding like leaping salmon and crowd surfing to oblivion.

After 130 days on the road you’d be hard to believe they still had the stamina for a crazed Tuesday night in the capital. But sure enough the Airbourne division destroyed the venue once again.

Deservedly they stand atop of the Rock Mountain once again! Flag raised in one hand and a beer in the other!

Volbeat @ Brixton Academy

26th September 2019

A night of heavyweight Hard Rock was ahead as vast swathes of revellers swelled the Brixton Academy bars early this evening. Why? Because it was almost time for Danko Jones.

Being first up didn’t seem to matter to Danko Jones, who was his usual chatty self who lives, breathes and eats rock and roll. The size of the crowd wasn’t a surprise, as after 20+ years, the band have built a loyal (if still mainly underground) following. To their credit, dwarfed by the huge stage they attacked each riff, shot every rapid fire lyric and fired every solo like they were headliners.

Showcasing classics from the back catalogue and newbies from ‘A Rock Supreme’, they mostly up to the big arena test. However you did fell their ambition and short punchy songs about rock, girls and partying somewhat restrictive. Soaring in the basement doesn’t always equal raising the roof. Despite this it was a very positive high energy from this amazing hard rock trio that set us off strong.

Lack of scale is not something you could attribute to the next band up. Baroness came storming out the blocks with their dreamy yet heavy, proggy offerings. What shone was their melodic phrasing which interlaced between their mammoth soundscapes. Never straying into pop but also unifying bind for their Stoner Metal keeping them on a common trajectory.

Yet despite the ambition and optimism the set largely fell flat as the crowd struggled to engage with these long epics with barely a recognisable vocal hook. Vocals overall were low and inaudible which put up barriers too high for the casual onlooker. Neither did their riffs shine, too often being expansive and arty as opposed to catchy and direct. Clearly dividing, but definitively different!

As the lights centred for the headline slot, Volbeat quickly and purposefully strutted into the spotlight. Opening with a new track from their latest album ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’ this clearly set the direction of their set. Tonight, a lot of the album got a spin and the hard and heavy pop first approach had plenty of voices raised and fists high. There was no doubting though this was a true rock show with endless thundering riffs, metallic shredding and head thumping melodies.

To their credit, there was a surprising amount of variety packed in. From the out and out old school thrash metal of ‘Slayton’, to the radio pop of ‘When We Were Kids’, through to rollicking boogie blues of ‘Let It Burn’, rockabilly metal “Sad Man’s Tongue ” and anthemic hard rocker ”Let It Burn”.

Band leader Michael Poulsen was as indecryptible as ever despite perfectly forming his words, all channeling through his smooth Elvis(y) vocals chords. None of this mattered though as whatever he was singing, it sounded great!

He was even joined by some special guests, Clutch’s Neil Fallon (via sample) and none other than Danko Jones himself to spit lyrics on Black Rose. It was a winning combination and one of the highlights of an evening full of top class hard rock class.

Crobot @ Underworld

26th July 2019

One of the best hard rock bands to emerge in recent years were in town. In fact they were worldwide as tonight’s headliners were being broadcast live over the interweb.

It was an odd start to the support act. I was sure I’d never heard of Wolf Jaw before, yet I was sure I recognised their opening song. A quick bit of mid song googling led me to the realisation that I was infact watching the band formerly known as “The Bad Flowers”. These ‘Planet Rock’ pushed rock trio were very tight and played a decent set of mid tempo riff rock that clipped along nicely. Lots of nifty melodies but a lack of real headline singles left this feeling a little flat.

With the cameras rolling and the stream online, out stepped Crobot‘s glamtastic frontman Brandon Yeagley with amazing sparkly bejewelled waistcoat and launched us straight into what was to be an exhilarating and exciting evening of hard rock. His highlight statement outfit was only matched in flamboyance by his dancing was a curiously engaging and visually magnetic. He didn’t stop all night, his long sleek locks were endlessly swirled round at hypersonic speeds, his legs were wobbling to the groove and his vocals supercharged.

The heart and soul of the band is their guitar tone. It’s rugged brutality, smooth mid-range and warm crunch really rampages out of their multitude of Orange amps. Their guitar rig was simple and barely a change was made throughout, showing their commitment to perfecting their riffing craft. Those riffs were bulldozer driven and vibrant in the dynamism, as was their signature rising warping effect which is as simple as it is bloody brilliant!

One thing did bug me though. Whilst I appreciate that bands like/need to play their new material in order to sell records. At least play these songs once the album is released and don’t play them a month before its release…as was the case tonight! Bar a few singles already out, much of their set was unidentifiable even if it still sounded fantastic.

The set itself was skewered between their astounding debut and their new record, somewhat absent mindedly skipping 2013’s Welcome to Fat City. Set highlights included the crushing power of ‘Cloud Spiller’ with its headsplitting skyscraping riff, a rockin’ ramble through fantasy pop land on singalong ‘Nowhere to Hide’ and the elephantine plodding menace of ‘Plague Of The Mammoths’.

There was little in the way of stage banter, with interaction from the stage fairly brief. With a clear time limit and a global outreach you did feel thy is was an all out attack set which whilst flying at 200% effort, inherently suffered with a lack of intimacy that you can usually guarantee in The Underworld. More like a concert dvd, which I guess is expected given it was recorded!

On reflection it was an outstanding showcase performance from an outstanding and exciting hard rock band.

Finally…for once you can experience yourself rather than take my word for it…stream available here Live Stream Recorded

Justin Courtney Pierre @ The Underworld

28th May 2019

Arrived unusually early tonight for a warm up band. Having found a DJ(?) we settled into a quiet and understated Underworld to enjoy the relative calm in this otherwise crazy rock venue. Somewhat surprisingly this juxtaposition was a theme of the night full of informality, intimacy and intrigue.

With little to no fanfare, the tunes melted away, cuing a shuffle of the few feet who braved a Tuesday night gig in Camden. These brave folks were rewarded with one of the most open, honest and spirited shows we’ve been to for years.

Justin Courtney Pierre or more commonly known as the Lead Singer/Guitarist of Motion City Soundtrack, stood uneasy on stage. His nerves were clearly on edge and his body on flight (not fight) mode. Joined onstage by a long time buddy made it all just about manageable as he opened with some new tracks from his solo record. For a man on a solo tour, having been used to selling out theatres it was all very peculiar.

Sure he’s always had his band to back him up, but the shift in persona was marked. What in MCS clothes comes across as self deprecating humour, was exaggerated to vulnerability.

He needn’t have been so concerned as his output of short sharp pop ditties was totally on point. Everyone here were MCS fans, so he was already winning in our eyes. With just his road worn Telecaster on rough overdrive mode and a drum machine on repeat, he brought life and vitality to the room. Flexing from darkened pop of his new solo record on Undone, to raging indie rock of Ready Player One to the MCS styled I don’t know why she ran away, each track sounded bright and full of fragile beauty.

Between songs he’d invite us into his chaotic mind warehouse and chatted openly like this was his living room. He was refreshingly honest and mindful, yet erratic and somewhat bleak. This personality shone through as he played select MCS numbers, those he penned himself. Not surprising then they match his persona…the pop strummer Stand Too Close, heartbreaking Happy Anniversary, uplifting(ish) Broken Heart and lyrically cunning L.G.F.U.A.D.

In retrospect, it was sure to be a highlight of the year. One which brought light and brightness shining through some dark assembled clouds. A true pleasure to be there to support and a joy to be a part of.