Robyn’s Top 10 Valentine’s Tracks for 2015

I normally do an ‘anti-Valentines’ playlist every year. I try to be witty, and pick songs that are all about death and hate and horror. ‘Last Caress’ by the Misfits has topped my list virtually every year since I was 18. But this year, I decided that I should actually take the spirit of the season properly and come up with a list of songs that are actually about love and mushy stuff and all that stuff… kind of.

10) Millencolin – Fox

Okay, okay, so I’ve got to get a joke song in there at some point, and I figured I’d get it over and done with first thing. Millencolin’s heartfelt punk rock love letter to their car is brilliant. A perfect example of how great Pennybridge Pioneers is, it’s a fun-filled ride from start to finish.

9) Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – See Her On The Weekend

The whole AM In The Wilderness record is incredible, but there are certain songs in particular that left an impression on me. I’ve found that the older I get, the less I want to hear about your stereotypical adolescent romance, and I want to hear about something real. See Her On The Weekend is one of those such songs – just simple musings about life and the love that comes with it.

8) AFI – End Transmission

Davey Havok’s Bonnie and Clyde-esque tale about running away into the sunset is probably the best thing about Crash Love. The first verse is hopelessly romantic, and even if there aren’t any of signs of Davey’s signature ‘oh!’, it’s still pretty fantastic.

7) Lanterns – Happiness Pt 3

To be honest, I could have picked any of the ‘Happiness’ trio, but Pt 3 just is this perfect exaltation of love. I’d be loathe to say you need romantic love to be happy in life, but ‘Happiness Pt 3’ explains just how happy someone else can make you feel. Plus, it has an absolutely gorgeous build-up towards the end.

6) The Lawrence Arms – Fireflies

‘Fireflies’ is a tale of love long lost, but it’s definitely earned its place on this list. It’s one of the best songs on The Greatest Story Ever Told, and it’s probably the smartest in this bunch. If you don’t totally fall head over heels for Chris’ vocals, then you’re probably soulless.

5) Sugarcult – Lost In You

I adored this record when I was a kid, and I thought that ‘Lost In You’ was the prettiest little thing. Lots of the record was typical pop-punk fare, but ‘Lost In You’ was something deeper. It’s a catchy track, and it made me want to have the kind of love that led to that kind of heartbreak.

4) Descendents – Talking

The Descendents always keep it real. ‘Talking’ is all about frustrating long distance relationships and trying to keep it all together over the phone. In typical Descendents style, it’s as honest as it comes. It’s hard not to fall in love with Stephen Egerton’s infectious riffs, and the line ‘Maybe we’ll fall in love when I get home’ will get stuck in your head for days.

3) Say Anything – Crush’d

Out of all of Max Bemis’ proclamations of love, Crush’d is by far my favourite. Branded with the typical Say Anything wittiness, it’s a gem of a track, lurking on their oft-forgotten self-titled record. It’s a total love letter to his wife Sherri, and it’s bloody wonderful.

2) Candy Hearts – I Miss You

‘I Miss You’ is just lovely, earnest pop-punk joy. If a red velvet cupcake could be a song, then this would be it with sprinkles on top. But it’s also totally real – Mariel’s lyrics indicate a fear of handing yourself over completely to one person, but at the same time, there’s a great sense of excitement about being so in love.

1) Brand New – Soco Amaretto Lime

Do I even need to explain anything? Brand New’s anthem about the end of adolescence is the sweetest love song of all time.

Robyn’s Top 10 Records of 2014

Another year is over, and what a bloody great one it’s been for music. This year has seen records that I know will stand the test of time. Records that are innovative, playful, punk-as-fuck and just plain catchy. Normally, this list is comprised of just albums – I tend to find I sink my teeth into those much more readily – but this year, I’ve had to alter my expectations and a few EPs can be found here too. Here’s my snapshot of 2014 – grab a cuppa and get stuck in.

Leaving is Bristolian punk rock at its finest. Brutally honest, charmingly melodic and just damn good. The perfect antidote to blustery winter days, Leaving is truly quite wonderful, and the kind of record that finds itself clinging on hard to your stereo. As it’s an EP, it’s not that long, and inevitably ends up leaving you craving more. It also happens to be the finest record that Caves have done to date – check out our review for more.

A glorious return from the queen of punk, Diploid Love is a far more mature record than any of Brody’s previous outings. Main single ‘Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy’, featuring Shirley Manson, is probably good enough to enter this list itself, but there’s plenty of fantastic moments threaded throughout. Even the bizarre Casio keyboard. There’s a definite QOTSA influence cropping up in the guitar tones, but that just serves to make Diploid Love even sharper and cleverer. We headed down to the Birmingham show earlier this year and had our minds blown.

NFG’s eighth record, and their first without founding member Steve Klein, is an absolute banger. A fantastic return to form, this record proves exactly why pop-punk isn’t dead. I’ve been a huge NFG fan for years, but it’s not all been plain sailing. However, Resurrection harks back to those early days, with songs reminiscent of the incredible Sticks and Stones, but with a much older and wiser feel. It’s still all about girls and staying posi, but it’s damn catchy. It also makes it impossible to forget who really invented the pop-punk beatdown.

Have The Lawrence Arms ever brought out a bad record? The answer, is of course, ‘no’. Another solid entry to the discography, Metropole has a more down-to-earth feel than some of the band’s earlier records, but it still has that same great storytelling capacity that The Lawrence Arms are famed for. It’s also crazy that this is the first full album since Oh! Calcutta! in 2006, but it was more than worth the wait, if only for ‘Drunk Tweets’ alone.

Imagine if Justin Timberlake and Architects got together and jammed. Got that ridiculous notion in your head? You know, if that ever happened, you’d probably end up with the debut album from Issues. IT’S METALCORE MIXED WITH R&B. The how and why are so far past being relevant right now, you just need to know that it exists and that it’s brilliant. Tyler Carter’s vocals are sublime, the songwriting is surprisingly intricate, and truth be told, I’ve never had so much fun listening to a metal record.

Bangers had the mental idea that they were going to write and record a whole bunch of songs in 48 hours, then put whatever they came up with onto a tape. And you know what? It turned out more than okay. Mysterious Ways is classic Bangers, through and through, but it’s also a lot more spontaneous, as one might expect, and it ends up being a whole lot of fun. If you missed out on purchasing this, just try and find a YouTube upload of ‘Mosquito’ somewhere. Totally worth it.

Hebrews is bizarre. Not content with the usual guitar-bending, synth-melding pop-rock bonanza that usually forms a Say Anything record, Max Bemis decided to enlist a string orchestra and went analogue, baby. Even so, half of the riffs on here (coming from violins) are still some of the punkest sounding things I’ve heard in a long time. Also, in true Say Anything style, Max pulls in all of his buddies to guest star, with some pretty surprising results. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but Hebrews is one of the most mind-blowing records of the year.

Andrew McMahon’s first ‘solo’ album proper is one of the most beautiful pop records you’ll hear this decade. After deciding that it was time to move on from Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew decided to travel from studio to studio, practice space to practice space, and came up with ten incredible tracks. Each song has its own personality and identity in a way that most major pop artists struggle to achieve, and the record as a whole is a perfect example of highly emotionally intelligent songwriting. We were lucky enough to interview him earlier this year, and that’s possibly the coolest thing I’ve done with this zine.

Nervous Like Me totally knocked me for six. I’ve been following Cayetana since their first demo was released and they got picked up by Tiny Engines, but I didn’t expect an album that was so clever, so raw and yet so polished, and ultimately, so incredible. The Philly trio have become masters of melody in just a short time, having formed in 2011 while hardly ever having touched an instrument in their lives. We gave this 5 out of 5 earlier in the year, and wouldn’t hesitate to give that score all over again.

Bold. Brave. Beautiful. That’s what Transgender Dysphoria Blues is. There probably wasn’t any other way an Against Me! record could have gone, after Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender, but the result was a cathartic, vitriolic and ultimately enthralling record. Laura’s always been one of the best songwriters in the business, and the sheer variance of sound and style on Transgender Dysphoria Blues, while still sounding like a coherent whole, is testament to that. Everything sounds so good. Even if you can only really sing along to the line ‘you’ve got no cunt in your strut’ in the car on your own. Is it the best Against Me! record? To be honest, I’m going to hazard a yes – no other Against Me! record has ever felt this free, and it’s glorious.

Top 10 Punk Rock Beards – The Band Edition

It’s time. Our punk rock beard list finally returns. Some of you may or may not remember a piece that I wrote in 2008, compiling some of my favourite dudes and their super rad beards. I didn’t expect it to be a big thing, but somehow now, when you search ‘punk beard’, we’re the first thing on Google. It’s been a big year for facial hair, so it’s time to get serious. Get ready for the band edition.

DISCLAIMER: this might just be a list of sweet bands who have a couple of members with beards, either currently or just ‘tour beards’. But who gives a shit, there’s beards involved!

10) Summerslam 88
Summerslam 88 very rarely have facial hair but when they do, they look like skeezy 80s dudes. They also do sweet skatepunk that sounds like the Offspring when they were good.

9) North Lincoln
Beard punk. What a genre. Were North Lincoln ever really ‘beard punk’? Probably not, but they were kind of brilliant. And look at that full beardage going on there.

8) Fights and Fires
Worcester ‘geekcore’ lads like sitting on cannons, apparently. They also like beards a lot because their current logo is a guy with a massive beard. And most of them have one in some way or another!

7) Every Time I Die
Do you remember that time when all of Every Time I Die thought ‘fuck it, we’re all gonna grow beards and look kinda dirty?’ I sure as hell do. It was awesome. And if nothing else, Andy Williams has enough beard for everyone.

6) The Menzingers
Quintessentially rugged and responsible for some of the finest punk records of the 21st Century. You know it.

5) The Lawrence Arms
I don’t care if they’re not real moustaches. Nobody cares if they’re not real moustaches. And now these dudes have signed to Epitaph, which is not the home of the beard, but, along with another band further down on our list, they’re making it a classier place.

4) Darko
Darko’s beards were unexpected and highly surprising. But excellent. Skatepunk probably shouldn’t involve beards but I’m very glad it does.

3) Bike Tuff
We did a feature on these guys a few months ago, and while Into Shore is probably my favourite emo-revival-esque record right now (and possibly forever), these dudes all have pretty sweet beards.

2) letlive.
Jason Aalon Butler’s beard is a thing of beauty. Furious, furious beauty. Nothing else needs to be said.

1) Arliss Nancy
LOOK AT THE MAJESTY OF THOSE BEARDS. Arliss Nancy probably couldn’t function without said beards. Americana blended with punk aesthetic to create something kind of beautiful, Wild American Runners is deep and heartfelt with a touch of jaded gruffness that can only come from beards that excellent.

Honorable mention: Enter Shikari
Can one class Shikari as punk? I suppose that imposing trance on post-hardcore and trying to make people more aware of the broken society we live in through their lyrics is pretty punk. Not usually known for the beard, this new video reveals a different side to them…

Live: The Lawrence Arms – O2 Academy Birmingham 3, 27/3/10

Despite knowing about and liking this band for a relative while, I never caught them on any of their previous dates in the UK. Most likely because I was still on my Fueled By Ramen kick which we will never discuss in detail. However, as soon as I discovered that The Lawrence Arms would be winging their way back to dear old Blighty, I snapped up a couple of tickets and braved a horrendous two hour train journey in order to catch them.

Starting out were Birmingham regulars Kyoto Drive. Pop-punk to the max, with the Alex Gaskarth-esque singer to boot. All in all, not really my thing. Trying to engage the crowd just did not work for these guys, and this is a classic case of what happens when you book the wrong support band. It says a lot when the headline act can’t even remember their names, despite borrowing a guitar head off them. Their songs were far too saccharine for my liking, and although their set improved towards the end, I just couldn’t be doing with the singer’s false American accent. This is one of my main complaints in music these days – British singers who put on an American accent, even when they do it well, and Kyoto Drive’s singer was no exception. Grating as hell. I’ll admit they did put the effort in, even going around the crowd trying to flog their CDs. However, not personally recommended.

That said, Under Stars And Gutters, an Irish gruff punk band, were bloody fantastic. The thing with gruff punk as a genre is that you know you’ve pretty much heard it all before, but these guys did it so well. To be honest, it’s been a while since I was quite so taken with a support band, especially one I’ve never heard of before. The performance was fantastic, and lead singer Adam was utterly charming. Their songs, had I known them, would be awesome to sing along to, and I can see this band doing well. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s got a bit of an edge to it. Also, drummer Mark has a fucking amazing beard, and we all know what that means here at TBO. Good beard = good band. In fact, I’ve been listening to their songs on Myspace pretty much non stop since Saturday, so if you’re reading this, boys… any chance of telling me where I can purchase a CD?

And then The Lawrence Arms came on and just totally stormed the place. There’s one thing I absolutely adore about punk shows and that’s the amount of completely dedicated fans. Not that you don’t get that in other genres, but the sheer amount of people in one room that are singing along with every breath they have is a little less common. Perhaps it was more obvious in a room with less than two hundred people in it, but everyone was there for The Lawrence Arms and everyone was determined to have a good time. Which wasn’t hard, because The Lawrence Arms are just great live. Playing a ton of crowd favourites (in other words, every song – even stuff off Buttsweat And Tears was screamed back at them), they had us in the palm of their hands. Although, perhaps too much Oh! Calcutta, an album I’ve only picked up recently, and that’s more a personal complaint because I didn’t know the songs too well. However, there was a good mix across all their releases and everything sounded great. The simplicity of their songs works well live, sounding just as effective as on record. Brendan Kelly, perhaps one of my all time heroes, was as enigmatic as I’d expect, and the dick jokes came in plenty. Name me one other man that can mention blow jobs and Winston Churchill in the same breath and not get punched in the face. And that’s exactly the kind of atmosphere that was there – everyone was there to have fun. And they played On With The Show, so I walked away happy.

Review: The Lawrence Arms – Buttsweat and Tears EP

It’s been about three years since The Lawrence Arms released Oh! Calcutta, which was a fine, fine album. After chewing the fat at Punksoc, it was clear that yes, we missed The Larry Arms, and yes, new material was needed. Which is why it was awesome when they released their latest EP last week – Buttsweat and Tears, available as a 7inch or download. Apparently, the title Buttsweat and Tears comes from an EP they wanted to release ten years ago, and on the approach of their tenth anniversary as a band, it’s an appropriate title indeed.

I’ll just spell it out now – this EP is awesome. Honestly, I don’t have a bad thing to say about it. This will make this review somewhat uninteresting if you’re not already an established Lawrence Arms fan, or it will serve to make you love them too, whichever you prefer. Even though I’ve just spoilt everything, I’ll at least attempt to give a coherent evaluation of the EP in all its glory!

The EP itself is fairly reminiscent of later Larry Arms, which is fine, because that’s my favourite type. Opening track, Spit Shining Shit, sounds like it’d be perfectly at home on a The Falcon release, with that palm muted opening into full on punk rock melody. It’s everything you’ve come to expect from The Lawrence Arms and truly a great opening. Track number two, The Slowest Drink At the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City (try requesting that at your next club night!), fills me with absolute jealousy – as both a guitarist and a writer, I wish I’d written this song. Possibly my favourite song this year, and vocals are by Chris, making it even better. Lyrically, this song is superb and on par with anything else they’ve ever released, as is the rest of the EP. In particular, Slowest Drink evokes some rad imagery and atmosphere, especially with the chorus. Again, total jealousy. Third track, Them Angels Been Talkin’, lulls you into thinking it’ll be slow, a la Greatest Story, but no! The intro melds wonderfully into a fast paced, fast talking explosion of a song with some sweet riffs. On the download EP, which I have (shut up, I want a vinyl player but I don’t have one), there’s an extra track, which is entirely necessary. Demons is typical Larry Arms fare, a song that tells a story, and makes the EP feel more rounded and complete. Without it, I think the EP wouldn’t be as good as it is, it’d feel a bit empty. So if you do buy the vinyl, download this one song off iTunes. Final closing song, The Redness In The West is a slow affair with a country feel that keeps on building up and up until it all crashes together in a glorious mess of guitar, and Chris does his best gruff vocals to fit with it. Truly epic stuff.

I suppose I do have something slightly negative to say – it’s more of the same, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. The Lawrence Arms have been consistently good throughout their career and this EP reaffirms that well. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time until a full album is released!

5 out of 5 high fives!