Review: Boxkite – s/t [7″]

Plymouth punk upstarts Boxkite formed in 2013 to play sad hardcore, apparently. This first release showcases this young band’s first forays into the recording studio, with mixed results.

Opening with ‘Struggles’, Boxkite put forward their sonic manifesto in 70 concise seconds, beginning calmly with sinister and brooding picked guitar chords before going blast-beat crazy for probably only about 15 seconds before settling into a grinding, sludgy Melvins riff. As an intro it works really well – it’s reminiscent of Mike Patton’s Fantomas project and is similarly entertaining.

This transitions seamlessly into ‘Cycles’, the collection’s first proper song. It opens with a high-paced bass riff and some incredible chops being displayed on the drums but unfortunately, there aren’t any real hooks to speak of. The next song, ‘Red Skies’, is more or less identical and both tunes descend into a feedback-laden sludgy breakdown towards the end. There isn’t a great deal that sets these two songs apart.

The next couple of tracks have a combined run time of less than two minutes and where it’s fine to have a short song, these tunes don’t feel like they get a chance to develop – ‘Groom Lake’ in particular feels like it could have been something special if only they’d given it legs.

Over all, there are some really great moments on show from this young band here. It feels like they would be a hell of a spectacle to witness live with extra special props going to the absolute octopus of a drummer they have behind the kit. On record, they’re not quite there yet but you feel like it’s only a matter of time.

2.5 out of 5 high fives!

Review: Not Scientists – Destroy to Rebuild

You don’t often here of punk from France. Maybe France isn’t a very punk place. Maybe the British as a people aren’t as open to French punk as we are American punk or Scandinavian metal. Maybe we just haven’t noticed we’ve been listening to French punk for years. Not Scientists are a punk band from France, and had they not started their press release with this titbit of information, I would have been none the wiser. Destroy to Rebuild is their first album and it showcases a band with plenty of potential, and a few excellent tunes to back it up.

The LP begins with ‘Window’, which slowly builds with layer upon layer of distorted, reverb drenched guitars before a huge drum fill brings the whole band in. It has a summery feel and catchy vocal refrains. The whole thing is punctuated with woah-oh’s and comes across like a lo-fi Foo Fighters. Lo-Fighters maybe?

Next up is ‘I’m Brain Washing You’ which firstly, has a great title, and secondly sounds like a fantastic, previously unheard Against Me! jam. It is a pretty standard pop-punk tune but what really lifts it is the weaving, melodic guitar solo.

This is an album which is not afraid to where it’s influences readily upon its sleeve. There are touches of Bad Religion in ‘Broken Pieces’, Rise Against-style vocals in ‘These Heads Have No Faces’ and the aforementioned Against Me! in the album highlight ‘Disconnect The Dots’. The album’s closing salvo, ‘Barricade’, comes down somewhere between At The Drive-In and Blink 182, which is a weird crossover you didn’t know you wanted to hear, but it works and it is impressive.

Overall, Destroy to Rebuild contains some really cool moments but some of the tunes are a little too carbon-copy-close to this band’s inspirations to really stand up on their own. When Not Scientists do something a little bit out of the ordinary, as on the reggae-flavoured ‘Wait’, it all comes together, and this band show they can be phenomenal. What Destroy to Rebuild offers is a whistle-stop tour of modern punk without a convincing identity of its own. There are glimpses of something interesting here though, and this is a band who will only get better.

3 out of 5 high fives!

Review: Atlas Losing Grip – Currents

Ambition is not a bad thing. If it weren’t for ambition would At The Drive-In have made Relationship of Command? Would Iggy Pop have gone solo? Would Nirvana have made Nevermind? That said, at times on Atlas Losing Grip’s second LP Currents, there is perhaps a little bit too much going on. This is the sound of a band exploring – no, exhausting – every single idea they have, with a mixed bag of results.

Currents opens with a big, moody two minute Metallica-esque instrumental before finally breaking into a rattling barnstormer of a verse in track one, ‘Sinking Ship’. Make no mistake, this is not punk: this is pure, neck breaking thrash metal. You have big galloping riffs, rapid-fire drums and a touch of cheese in the big anthemic chorus. There are twisty sections and it is difficult to keep up with the amount of ideas being thrown at this piece of music. Could this be a pioneering release in an oxymoronic new genre? Is this the birth of prog-punk?

Next up is the slightly less head spinning ‘The Curse’. This tune is much more accessible and mid paced, with another one of those massive choruses slotted in for good measure. It sounds a little bit like The Wildhearts. The album follows this formula, with a mix of thrash metal and anthemic punk; imagine Bad Religion covering Iron Maiden and you’re close. There’s some good stuff here. ‘Unknown Waters’ and ‘Cynosure’ showcase a band confidently going about doing what they do best. ‘Downwind’ is a particular album highlight, rumbling as it does at a high rate of knots with some brilliant Thin Lizzy like swirls of twin lead guitar.

Confusingly though, despite making no mention of Satanism or the devil anywhere throughout the album, Atlas Losing Grip made a big deal in the press about their new album lasting 66 minutes and 6 seconds. Now, first of all, as a pedant I know that 66:06 is not the number of the beast, and secondly, because of the length of the album, there is a lot of filler here. You get the overly sentimental acoustic work out of ‘Closure’, six minutes of ‘Kings and Fools’ that meander away but don’t ever really go anywhere, and ‘Ithaka’ which – excuse my language – is 11 minutes long for fuck’s sake. There’s a big embarrassing chorus that sounds like it was ripped directly out of a Dragonforce song and about 2 and a half minutes of sea noises. The album may well be 66 minutes and 6 seconds long but some of those minutes are a total waste.

In fact, over the second half of the album, it really loses its way as Atlas Losing Grip saw fit to really run with their ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ philosophy. There really is no need for the two bars of electronic drum samples in ‘Through The Distance’ and I’d have given the album an extra high 5 had they not bothered recording ‘Cold Dirt’ which is within touching distance of being a straight up Bon Jovi piano ballad.

Currents then, is a frustrating listen. There is probably a full album’s worth of cracking stuff here; it’s just bolstered by a lot of really bad stuff. Not one person in the studio ever stopped and said “maybe this is a bit too much lads.” Not one person said “are you sure this is necessary?” As a result, Atlas Losing Grip sound like a band wrestling with their identity, who have made an album that is all at sea.

2 out of 5 high fives!

Review: The Kut – Make Up [EP]

Before writing my first review of an all-girl combo for a music site which was originally launched as a feminist zine, I wrestled with a little trepidation with regards to how it should be tackled. In the end I came to the conclusion that fuck it, its 2014 and women being in bands shouldn’t even be something that is seen as out of the ordinary anymore. Music – and punk in particular – prides itself on being inclusionary – and everybody has a right to get involved, whether you wear a dress or have an impressive Fu Manchu moustache. Or both. Music should be judged on its own merits and not on who is making it. The Kut hail from London and describe their sound as ‘basement rock’. Make Up is the most stark game of two halves going; in equal parts compelling and frustrating.

The EP begins with ‘No Trace’, which is a brooding, slow burning number, with menacingly fuzzed up guitars. For a band touting themselves as basement rock, there is an impressive amount of ambition on show here with keys and backing vocals giving the chorus something of an epic tone. This is the sort of crossover jam aimed squarely at huge arenas. The EP’s title track follows a similar formula, with an incredibly metal guitar solo and maybe a bit more of a straight up indie feel. On both of these songs you feel that The Kut are holding something back. The vocals are clean and controlled, everything has its correct place in the mix and to be honest, a giant, scuzzy snarling Distillers chorus wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Something changes with ‘Mario’, the third track on the EP, though. Gone are the high production values and studio glimmer and in their place a gloriously dirty guitar riff. Comparisons to Hole and L7 will no doubt be levelled at The Kut but really, ‘Mario’ has more in common with grunge nearly-men Mudhoney. Despite its dirt and grit, ‘Mario’ is the hookiest work out on offer here, with the drums taking a serious beating. Suddenly, the first two songs seem even weaker and more sterile.

The EPs two final cuts are even less produced and all the better for it. Closure is more considered with plenty of space for the sinister guitar lines to wind through. The heaviness is allowed to build rather than being laid out from the very beginning. DMA closes the collection with a slinky Gang of Four bass line and an absolute monster of a chorus.

For The Kut, it seems like less is certainly more. Make Up seems like a band still trying to work out whether they want to make a brilliantly hideous racket or make an attempt on the mainstream. Either way, there is plenty of potential on show here.

3 out of 5 high fives!

Review: ICOSA – The Skies Are Ours [EP]

ICOSA are a band that may at first seem a little outside of the remit of a blog/zine such as TwoBeatsOff. Theirs is a sound that leans towards the heavier edge of the spectrum, and dare I say it, even includes elements of prog. But then you could make the case that the sound ICOSA make is so dense, complicated and varied that they exist well and truly outside of the remit of any blog. Blink 182 this certainly is not. On their debut EP The Skies Are Ours, ICOSA get to showcasing their madly ambitious and endlessly technical noise.

It has to be said; this is not a release for the faint hearted. It opens with ‘Emangulatr’, a piece which gets close to nudging the seven minute mark. Mostly instrumental, ‘Emangulatr’ refuses to sit on one idea for any significant portion of the songs epic run time, taking a dizzying tour through icy, atmospheric synths to Russian Circles-style post-rock riffing and into Dillinger Escape Plan-esque math rock. There are sharp turns everywhere and like the most complex Tool songs, it is completely impossible to follow or find a single hook to latch on to on the first few listens. This is a sound which is so complex and convoluted that it bares – no, demands – repeated plays. There is a wealth of content in here to discover which slowly reveals itself play by play.

Next up is the first part of the EP’s title track which, if ‘Emangulatr’ made your head spin, will probably do away with the pleasantries and tear it straight off the end of your neck. There is a disorientating amount going on here and it is easily the most incomprehensible of the lot, being the kind of impenetrable math noise that would not be out of place on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. The intro riff isn’t a million miles away from something that might have appeared on Ginger Wildheart’s Mutation’s Error 500 album, and just like that style, it then descends into a mind blowing brain-melter of a tune. It’s either true genius or a total mess. After some delay-drenched guitars signalling a moment of calm, part two of the title track is a slightly more conventional piece. If you like your riffs to be totally punishing and relentless, this one is for you.

The final track on the EP, ‘Trepidation’, ends the collection on perhaps its most conventional note. Slow and lumbering, Trepidation takes its cues from bands like Baroness and Mastodon more than the technical post-rock and math influences previously hinted at. However, that’s not to say that ‘Trepidation’ is any less imaginative than the other songs; there is still mutation halfway through where the track lurches into a full-on thrash metal attack.

With this EP, ICOSA have marked themselves out as a band with plenty of skill and no end of ideas to boot. This is a record which makes absolutely zero sense upon first listen, but give it time and The Skies Are Ours will reveal itself to you –and the rewards are impressive and plentiful.

4 out of 5 high fives!