Monday, 19 May 2014


I Am A Worthless Piece of Shit

Alcopop! Records
Rating: 4/5
It's hard, when dealing with a band with as impeccable credentials as Brawlers, to ever full divorce them from whatever came before.

In the case of frontman Harry Johns that's especially true; following his stint as one half of the phenomenal Old Romantic Killer Band, his next project Wingman then penned one of the best grunge songs ever written ('N64', in case you're curious). Rather than plug away at the blues-inflected grunge forever, he then took a left turn and released an incredible, intimate folk mini album, 'Post Breakdown Blues' under his own name, before quietly releasing another rock track 'End of Days' as a video.

Brawlers, as I'm sure you've sussed out by now, is his new project - and they're rather a different beast, even if they bear some surface similarities to Wingman. The tempo is fast; the drums are big, dumb pop-punk, but the riffs and chords sound like classic Johns. His vocals are maybe a bit more polished and less raw than they've been in the past, but his sense of humour and caustic honesty are still intact; this EP is called 'I Am A Worthless Piece of Shit', after all.

If you're into punk rock in the Lawrence Arms/Asian Man Records vein (as I am), you'll probably like this. It's very polished compared to a lot of that stable, but the attitude behind it certainly isn't dissimilar. If that's too mainstream for you, then perhaps check out one of Johns' previous projects as they are more similar in tone to Jeff Rosenstock's poetic catharsis with Bomb The Music Industry!.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Bo Ningen - III

Bo Ningen
Rating: 4/5

Challenging at best, completely obtuse at worst, Bo Ningen's records have always trodden a fine line between fuzzed-out psych punk genius and shredding, aimless noise. For the most part it's a divide they've stayed on the right side of, and on 'III' they deliver their most coherent listening experience yet. 

Though 'DaDaDa' kicks things off in typically heavy fashion, it doesn't set the tone for the entire album. The following four tracks - including excellent stoner rock cut 'Slider' - continue the theme, in doing so also capriciously capturing the essence and spirit of a Bo Ningen live show, so much as such a thing is possible. 

The second half of the record is a surprise, however. On 'Mukaeni Ikenai' the band toy with soundscape-rich shoegaze for nine glorious minutes. 'Maki-Modoshi' and 'Mitsume' pick up where the heavier tracks left off, but bring with them a more confident groove and rhythmic hooks. 'Ogosokana Ao' also shines, bringing the tempo back down for a gauzy electronica interlude. 

The danger with Bo Ningen is that for all their unpredictability, they nevertheless have a clearly defined sound of their own. Their challenge is making all of the elements within that work together consistently in harmony and without letting the secret formula for it all lead them to stale or facile work. The triumph therefore of 'III' is not only that the parts which sound most like Bo Ningen are as good as ever, but that they sound fresh enough to rub shoulders with the unexpected.