Album Review: Rise Against – Wolves

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The classification of punk music is totally subjective. What do The Ramones, The Clash and The Sex Pistols share in common? Who’s more punk out of Blink 182 or the Rage Against The Machine? To me, the two essential elements of good punk music are speed and political content.

Rise Against have both. Since discovering them in my early teens, they have long been one of my favourite bands. I’ve seen them more than any other international act (Powerstation 2009, Big Day Out 2010, Logan Campbell Centre 2011, and opening for Foo Fighters 2015), and they also take up the most space in my record collection (alongside Biffy Clyro).

But to be honest, I wasn’t so keen on their latest album. I won’t go so far as to say they sold-out, but Appeal To Reason signaled a tipping point for the band once they had signed to a major label, and since then their sound became steadily more accessible. This culminated in their last release, The Black Market, lacking the edge that the band once had.

Thankfully, album number eight, Wolves, feels more raw than the polished radio-rock that the band had churned out over the past few releases. I doubt we will ever hear a true return to their hardcore roots, but the pop sheen on this record is thankfully less noticeable. I didn’t have high hopes on first listen, having not thought much of their previous record, but thankfully Wolves proved instantly likable.

It’s the same familiar Rise Against. They’ve transcended their underground roots to create a melodic-hardcore-come-arena-rock style that has boosted them to prominence. And I do not begrudge them for their success. But I do feel that a special connection to the band has been lost since they started gaining more dominance on the airwaves.

I stated before that I think political content is a vital aspect of good punk music. Rise Against have always toed the line well in this regard – writing lyrics that allude to their personal and political values without being overt enough to ostracize their increasingly mainstream fan base. Just a handful of topics they’ve touched on in the past include treatment of animals (many of the band members are vegan), people (refugees, the LGBT community) and the fallout of war (including the impacts on both soldiers and civilians involved).

In his typical fashion, on Wolves singer Tim McIlrath cries out against injustice with a fervent fire. One could attribute inspiration to a certain orange-tinted world leader, but in reality corruption and oppression will always exist, regardless of who runs the government. Wolves features a theme of rallying the people to stand as one against ambiguous powers-that-be. Both relevant and vague enough for most people to relate to. And how can one not be drawn to that call to humanity that all of us possess?

Plus they have lots of “whoas”. “Whoas” are freaking awesome, and the perfect invitation from a band to have you sing along. Just ask The Casualties.

I find it hard to define my overall verdict. Wolves is actually great. I love Rise Against, and will always hold them dear as an important building block in my musical education. But I’m not sure that I needed another album from them. I like Wolves, but chances are high that  if I’m hoping for my Rise Against fix I will overlook it and reach for one of their older records.

 

Joseph James

Album Review: In Between – Locustvale

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Entry point: Locustvale
Personal favourite: Skin on Skin

From the opening lines this sounds promising. I’ve never heard of In Between before, two tracks into the album and I’m drawing comparisons to Rise Against and that pop influenced punk rock genre. Please note that the “pop influenced” is far from a bad thing in my opinion, more bands would do themselves favours by taking what they do and simplifying. If the song is good, it will show through.

The vocals are on point, harmonies are there when required and the screaming/yelling is tastefully done.

Production on the album is solid and unobtrusive, the songs are able to stand on their own legs without sounding manufactured or as so often happens with this style of music, it doesn’t sound like a garage demo that’s been released.

A note to any band who has the means, yet is still considering releasing less than studio quality productions: Don’t.

You’re only doing yourselves a disservice. If you don’t want to lose the raw energy of performing live or don’t want to be too polished, tell your engineer and producer that. If you’re a good live band, capturing that in the studio is easy. Listen to Rage Against the Machine‘s self titled album and tell me that it lacks energy or is too polished.

Locustvale is relatively two dimensional, but at 27 minutes that isn’t a concern – album is over before you know it.

The track Skin on Skin has a slightly slower more anthemic feel to it, which is where I get the Rise Against comparison. By slowing things down the vocals have more space to breathe and carry the track forward.

The track Locustvale (video above) is a decent summation of the rest of the album, the drums and bass drive it forward and leave plenty of space for the vocals to shine.

In my opinion this genre works best when the instruments drop in and out to add dynamics and contrast to the music, when albums are comprised of songs that aren’t all the same kick-snare-kick-kick-snare pattern at the same tempo.

Locustvale has the songs for those days of driving with the windows down on a hot summer road trip. Fans of this genre should find plenty on this album to enjoy.

– Murray


This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site  Relative Silence

Interview: Audio Impulse

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What is the story behind your band?

Hey guys its Barry, lead singer and rhythm guitarist from Audio Impulse. I met Nate back in college through our bassist Pat. We quickly became friends and always discussed writing music together. We ended up living around the corner from each other and found ourselves without bands and a lot of free time. I went through a break-up and ended up moving about 45 minutes away from Nate. He came over twice a week to write music and keep me sane. Eventually when we had several songs written we decided to make it a full line-up and asked Pat to join as our bassist. The search for a drummer was a little tricky, we ended up placing an ad on Craigslist and Freeman answered it. He was the first and only try-out we had. The first night he played with us it all gelled perfectly.

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound is somewhat unique but still accessible. Most people say it’s hard to pin us directly in one specific genre but overall we identify as Punk Rock. We have heavy Pop Punk influences that mesh with our love for 90s era grunge. We all have specific bands that we pull our influences from but the common ones across the board would be Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Rise Against, Incubus, Nirvana, Wonder Years, and Thrice.

What song or album do you recommend for first time listeners?

I would actually recommend our EP that we just released in March called “Straight Shot”. It’s four songs that will definitely get you up and moving. My personal favourite from the EP would be “For The Road” which we are getting ready to release a music video for!

What lessons did you learn from your previous bands that you brought with you to this band?

There are more lessons than I care to list here but there are several main points that we all agree on. Everything we do is done as a team, we either sink or swim together. A good work ethic when it comes to practicing on a regular basis. We don’t ever play a song in the studio or live unless we know it like the back of our hands. Practice makes perfect and we make sure we hold true to that mentality especially in reference to our live shows. We take pride in being able to put on a great live show every time and we can only do that if we are well rehearsed together.

A lot of your vocals remind me of Fat Wreck signed punk bands. Would these acts be counted among your influences?

Absolutely! I grew up listening to NOFX, and Lagwagon is one of my all-time favourite punk bands. Rise Against has already been listed as a main influence in our sound, and they sit in high regard along with No Use for a Name, Less Than Jake, None More Black, Nerf Herder, and the Real McKenzies. All of those bands have definitely influenced my singing style over the years just from constantly singing along to their albums in my car! I always find it pretty cool when people can pick up on musical influences in our songs. It shines the light on how influential music can really be in somebody’s life.

What are some key themes and messages that you cover with your music?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask us. All four of us have experienced moments in our lives that had completely wrecked us emotionally. When we were at our worst, there was one constant that kept us sane, and that was music. We each have an album that we define as “the album that saved me” and picked us up from the ashes to grow stronger. Our main goal is to create that album that helps somebody get through life. We understand the therapeutic principals that are within music and do our best to create a safe haven for the fans. Whether we are playing a show to one person or one million people, if somebody walks away feeling better about life then we’ve done our job. Our songs reflect that by portraying the message of you are not alone in a hopeful and sympathetic manner.

What format do you use the most when listening to music? [vinyl, cd, streaming etc..]

Honestly that depends on the day. I usually end up streaming my music when I’m on the computer or driving, but when I have the time to sit down and appreciate the music, I will rifle through my dad’s old vinyl collection and see what I can find.

Tell us your best tour story.

Well we haven’t been on a tour yet, but we just booked our first one for the month of September this year. We will be heading down south with the Extreme Tour and we couldn’t be more excited about it. I will definitely get back to you with some stories when you interview us again!

What is your band’s greatest achievement to date?

We’ve gotten a few but our biggest accomplishments have been three things. First we opened for Alien Ant Farm and Hed PE and sold out the bill! Then we won the greatest Alternative Hard Rock album in the country in November 2015 by the Akademia Music Awards. Lastly our most recent accomplishment was selling out our EP release show in March at Connie’s Ric Rac in South Philly!

Who would you most love to tour or collaborate with?

I can safely say that the entire band would be tickled pink if we could tour with Foo Fighters! Dave Grohl seems like such a fun guy and collaborating with him would be hysterical and educational all at the same time.

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What plans do you have for the near future?

We have a busy schedule ahead of us! We are playing several festivals this summer along with local shows. Then we will be going on tour in September for most of the month. We also will be releasing a new music video for our latest single off of “Straight Shot” called “For the Road” in which we got to work with a great director named Scott Hoon. Then we plan on releasing a single sometime in August or September that we recorded with Shane Garland from Hunger Before Greed Productions. After all of that we are planning on releasing a new album sometime in the next year.

Here’s your chance to say anything that we haven’t covered.

Outside of the music we are all big gamers. In fact, we got our name from one of the greatest RPGs ever made. There was a game released for the Super Nintendo called Chrono Trigger and it has been rated as one of the best games of all time. There is a move in the game called “arc impulse”, after some research, we found out that name was already taken. So we ended up deciding on Audio Impulse after some short deliberation. It was a name that as soon as we heard it, we knew that was it.


Links:

AudioImpulseMusic.com

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

YouTube

 

Joseph James

 

Live Review: Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion

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Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion plus hits

w/ Night Gaunts and PEARS

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 1 April 2016

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Strung Out. Jake Kiley (L), Jason Cruz (R)

Albany act Night Gaunts started the night off with their upbeat high-pitched ska. They bounced around and got the small crowd grooving along to dub styled offbeat strumming, complemented by saxophone. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but they were far more polished than I expected. Their chirpy happy-go-lucky sound didn’t quite match the tone on the other two bands of the night, but they played well nonetheless.

PEARS have been through a lot on this tour, so we were lucky to even have them. Their bassist had dropped out of the tour mere days before the tour, leaving them scrambling to find players to fill in. Hayden from Night Gaunts obliged for most of their set, with super-smiley Strung Out  bassist Chris Aiken taking over for the last few songs.

Vocalist Zach Quinn had recently bust his fist PUNCHING THE STAGE on the Australian leg of the tour, resulting in pricey hospital bills and leaving him in a wrist brace/cast that you can see in the picture below. I recently broke a few bones in my wrist and I can tell you straight away that there is no way I would have been attempting half the stuff Quinn was doing on stage. He threw himself about with abandon, like violent interpretive dance. He jumped down into the audience and walked around – you know, just because – before climbing back onstage and writhing around on the floor.

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PEARS vocalist Zach Quinn, with Jarrett Nathan behind him on drums.

When bands have members like this it always makes for a captivating show. It was so unpredictable. I don’t think the band members themselves even know quite what to expect.Guitarist Brian Pretus played front man, and rather than just rattling off obligatory nonsense to fill time between songs, he actually was worth paying attention to. He told stories, cracked jokes, and had the crowd chanting.

The date actually coincided with the release of the second PEARS album, Green Star, which meant that the band were in good spirits. I guess that this, combined with the show being the last of the tour, meant that the band really wanted to give their all. This was great to watch, with the performance being super high energy and frantic. As chaotic and wild as it seemed, there was still evidence of talent beneath the whirlwind. Quinn and Pretus shared some great vocal harmonies when they weren’t launching about the stage. Pretus displayed great abilities and drummer Jarrett Nathan kept them on their toes with his lightning beats. It looked like loads of punters were already loyal fans of the band and there were singalongs aplenty, especially when PEARS covered The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk”.

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Jake Kiley (L), Chris Aiken (R)

As always, when bands play an entire album you know what to expect [examples: Nas performing Illmatic, Jimmy Eat World playing Futures], but also hope to hear handful of hits from other albums as well. Strung Out have been playing a selection of their albums start to finish over this Australasian tour. Last night was Twisted by Design in Auckland, and tonight they played Exile in Oblivion.

After a sound check the band kept us in suspense by playing a handful of old jazz numbers through the public address system, knowing that we were expecting one such song to be the intro to”Analog”, to first track of Exile. When said track finally played everyone cheered, knowing that this signaled the start of a brilliant set to complete an already-great night.

They’re tight, and play rippingly fast. And you can tell that they’re on top of their game. Exile came out 11 years ago, and they were able to play it through without a hitch. And on top of that, they’ve been playing many of their other albums in their entirety at other stops on their tour, showing that they are exceptionally rehearsed. They ripped through Exile, and followed up with half a dozen tracks from the rest of their catalogue.

Sweat dripped and the audience swarmed as fans rocked out and sang along to favourite tunes from one of their most beloved bands. Strung Out reciprocated, clearly appreciative that their fans enable them to play music for a living. Singer Jason Cruz told about how the band got a bit tired and jaded when they were first touring Exile on Warped Tour in 2005, until a crew member had told them to suck it up and take a reality check. This made an impact on them, and it is clear that they make the most of their opportunities and give back to the fans who support them to get where they are now.

This was the last night of the tour, and you could tell the PEARS and Strung Out had built a special camaraderie over the course of their time together. Throughout both sets, band members and crew from side of stage would throw bananas and potato chips at the band playing. During the last song – a cover of “Soulmate” by late No Use For a Name singer Tony Sly – members of PEARS and the crew started stealing away pieces of the drum kit one by one, making drummer Jordan Burns work extra hard as he tried to improvise with less equipment at his disposal. Somehow, by the end of the song the drum kit was scattered around the stage, with Strung Out singer Cruz stuck underneath a pile of the drums.

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Chris Aiken on bass


Although  we have had punk bands like GBH and The Buzzcocks come recently, it is a rare treat to have more modern international punk acts make their way to Wellington. Thanks to Chicks That Scream for organising shows like these. For me personally, gigs like this one are often key highlights of my year.

Special mention to Jordan Burns’ mother, who passed away three years ago. This show was dedicated to her.

Joseph James

Album Review: Ignite – A War Against You

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This album caught me off guard at first listen. I thought that Ignite were punk, bordering on melodic hardcore. But the first song “Begin Again” is straight up glam metal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. It was just unexpected. Throughout A War Against You We hear soaring harmonies and bombastic riffs that are fun and infectious. Like a more epic Pennywise with searing guitar solos, which makes sense, seeing as vocalist Zoli Téglás also fronted Pennywise for a few years.

It’s been a decade since Ignite released Our Darkest Days (2006)so it is understandable that Ignite would have changed their sound since we heard them last. That said, it isn’t a complete departure from the Ignite we know. They have the speed and urgency of punk, crossed with the listenability  of stadium rock.

The band borrows from a range of genres to fuel their political charge. “This Is A War” commences with an intro riff that has filthy grungy guitar tone, before breaking into a fast gallop. “Oh No Not Again” musically gives a nod to Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” whilst delivering a message of unrest. Téglás’ vocals are as much power metal as they are punk rock. There is even a bit of a European flair brought into the OC punk band’s mix, with the album closing ballad “Work”, first sung in English, and later repeated in what I presume is Téglás’ native tongue of Hungarian.

Thematically, A War Against You is a war cry against war. Téglás addresses the very topical plight of refugees worldwide, something personally relevant to him and his family, who immigrated to America in the early 1960’s. There is also a definite eco-warrior buzz going on. Despite the serious topics, the music is still positive and uplifting, thanks to the vocal delivery style.

A War Against You is anthemic Cali-punk with both blistering attitude and soaring harmonies. And as odd as that sounds, it works.

For fans of: Rise Against, Nations Afire, Pennywise, H2O, Strike Anywhere

Joseph James

 

LIVE REVIEW: THE MENZINGERS AND MEWITHOUTYOU AT NEUMOS, SEATTLE

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The Menzingers (Scranton, PA, USA)
mewithoutYou (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Pianos Become The Teeth (Baltimore, MD, USA)
Restorations (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

Neumos, Seattle, WA, USA
Saturday November 14th, 2015

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It had been a very long time since my last live show experience.  I’ve been to plenty of local shows over the past few years but I’m not even sure I can recall the last time I attended a live show where the sound check happened before the doors opened, people were actually at the venue on time, and the first band actually took the stage precisely at the time stated on the flier.  I’m sure very few paid attention to these details.  But for me, being reminded how professional bands operate at professionally run venues, like Neumos, was a breath of fresh air.  Obviously, I need to get out more.

Typically, the reason you attend a show and subsequently write a live review is to highlight the headliner, or in this case, the headliners.  And while The Menzingers and mewithoutYou put on a great show, I didn’t necessarily find anything too remarkable about their sets.  Honestly, this was my first experience with The Menzingers so, to be fair, I can’t really say much about them as I know very little about them (shame on me, I know).  As I like to say, “they were fine”, meaning they did their thing and people enjoyed it and I appreciated what they did.  Enough said.

mewithoutYou on Audiotree Live

mewithoutYou has always been one of my favorite bands.  They are fantastic at writing catchy music that is capable of hitting the heart strings of whatever emotion you’re in the mood to meddle with.  Ever since [A->B] Life came out in 2002 I’ve been quite comfortable keeping their music in my arsenal.  Frontman Aaron Weiss has a unique lyrical style that absolutely works for me.  While others may struggle digesting his lyrics, I am continually impressed with anyone that can work “pumpernickel bread” into their writing.

Restorations opened the night and did a great job setting the vibe for the evening.  I hadn’t really heard much from these guys prior to the show but they are definitely headed in the right direction.  Their stage presence was enjoyable to watch and kept a newbie, like me, entranced for their full set.  Like Restorations, mewithoutYou and The Menzingers held the attention of the venue for the entirety of their sets and I would definitely see them again.

This brings me to Pianos Become The Teeth.  While I had every intention of writing this review on mewithoutYou, it was Pianos Become The Teeth that absolutely stole the show for me.  And it was absolutely for reasons I did not expect.

Pianos Become The Teeth live @ The Underworld, London

Like most bands I come to discover, Pianos Become The Teeth have been around for a while.  They formed in 2006 and have honed their sound over the past nine years moving from an aggressive, post-hardcore band to masters of gloomy, emotionally packed, post-rock.  For those of you who have yet to indulge in their newest record, Keep You, I highly recommend you do so.  If you need an enticing comparison, this album is very reminiscent of Oceana’s Clean Head from 2010.

While the other three bands put on visually stimulating performances, Pianos Become The Teeth struck me in a different way.  I was lucky enough to get to the venue early enough to grab one of the few spots on the balcony that gave me a great view of both the band and the crowd.  Pianos Become The Teeth were steady, energetic at times, but the way they moved the crowd was absolutely stunning.  The movement I witnessed was not physical by any means.  In fact, the crowd was absolutely motionless, aside from a bit of head-banging here and there.  Being fairly in tune with my mushy side, the emotional grip that pushed and pulled throughout the crowd was mesmerizing.

I think I spent most of my time watching one specific kid in the crowd.  By appearance alone, he was completely out of place.  If I would have seen him walking on the street prior to the show there was no way I would have thought he and I were headed to the same destination.  But this kid knew absolutely every word to absolutely every song Pianos Become The Teeth played.

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Pianos Become The Teeth from the balcony @ Neumos

For those who are familiar with frontman Kyle Durfey’s lyrics, you know they are very sad and tend to center around the loss of his father in 2010.  Like many lyricists, Durfey’s lyrics are dark and contemplative.  But unlike some, Durfey is surrounded by an exceptional band that is able to add deep dimension to his words.  The coupling of his lyrics with the desolate tones of his band’s music is nearly heartbreaking.  To me, it’s the cohesion of these two elements that make my eyes well up with tears and send chills down my arms.  I’m sure we all experience these phenomenons in our own way, but experiencing Pianos Become The Teeth live was the pinnacle of emotional overflow for me.

The kid three rows back, belting Durfey’s lyrics will forever be seared into my musical memories.  It was a profoundly powerful moment for me.  It left me wondering how this out of place kid related to Durfey’s lyrics.  What was it that moved him by this band.  Being witness to the connection between the writer and the listener added a totally new experience for me.  Usually you only get to see the back of everyone’s head at a show, but my balcony vantage point let me see things in a new light.  It was truly an honor for me to be in the same place at the same time with five guys in a band, the kid in the third row, a few friends, and a room full of strangers.

C.J. Blessum

 

 

Album Review: Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from folk-punk Frank Turner for his sixth album, Positive Songs For Negative People. His previous studio album, Tapedeck Heart, had some upbeat songs, but had an overall theme of heartbreak. A later B-sides collection followed suit, making me question is Turner had decided to forgo his punk heritage for a softer, folkier sound. But after he previewed a few new songs at his Wellington show on the last night of the tour earlier this year, I was satisfied that the new album would still have enough grit.

Opening track ‘The Angel Islington’ isn’t Frank Turner positive songs for negative peopleabout buying a blue property in a game of Monopoly. Instead, in his typically English style, Turner sings about cleansing himself in the river and promising to start over. He’d decided to brush himself off and push on after the melancholic previous album, with this song signalling the change in attitude. It’s an idyllic little acoustic track reminiscent of other folk songs he’s done in the past, but it’s also the least interesting song on the album. This makes the following song sound even better and louder by comparison.

‘Get Better’ is by far the best song on the album. Obviously it’s the most familiar song, having been available for many months, but that doesn’t undermine how good it is. It’s a real stomper that gets me so fired up every time I hear it. I rate it among the best he’s written.

Bad weather is used as an extended metaphor throughout the album. ‘The Next Storm’ is about getting outside and living life, rather than hunkering down and waiting the storm out. ‘The Opening Act of Spring’ covers similar themes, with less of a fighting spirit. Backed by jangly mandolin, Turner details his hope for forgiveness and a better life once the storm has passed. ‘Mittens’ is a ballad that uses the imagery of mittens and gloves to tell the story of how a relationship never quite fit right.

Fighting for quality of life is another central theme. ‘Out Of Breath’ is about outrunning Death, and it’s played at such a pace that it seems that the musicians are almost tripping over themselves. ‘Demons’ sends the message that it’s great to be alive, so fight the demons that try to drag you down.

The fighting metaphor is taken literally in the music video for ‘The Next Storm’, which shows Turner in the ring with American wrestler CM Punk.

For both “Josephine’ and ‘Silent Key’, Turner has used historic figures as a basis for the song, adding even greater depth to the lyrics. ‘Josephine’ is pretty infectious with the “woahs” and ‘Silent Key’ is catchy with the repeated lyrics, but sadly I can’t stand the guest vocals sung by Esmé Patterson.

It’s the positive messages of the album that have resonated with me more than the music. The music is great though. Obviously the singles are among the strongest tracks. Other highlights include ‘Glorious You’, ‘Demon’ and ‘Love Forty Down’, which are all rousing because of the way Turner belts out his passionate vocals. Positive Songs for Negative People contains the same style that you’ve come to expect from the previous five albums, distilled into 40 minutes of folk-punk. I prefer the heavier and more upbeat sound on this album over the somewhat depressing Tapedeck Heart.

Frank Turner (1) positive songs for negative peopleThe Sleeping Souls prove themselves once again as the perfect backing band for Turner.They rock out when they need to, and they colour the music tastefully when it pulls back. Two of the finer musical moments on the album include the cut out during the bridge of ‘Glorious You’ and the gorgeous harmonies in the outro of ‘Demons’.

There are two songs that sum up the album. ‘Glorious You’ is all about support and accepting who you are. And the most powerful is saved for last. ‘Song For Josh’ is a
tear-jerker about a friend who had committed suicide, recorded live at the venue that Josh used to run. Somber as it is, this touching tribute really emphasises the overall message of the album – that life is worth fighting for.

Positive Songs for Negative People is suitably named. The negative people are there, the weirdos and outsiders; those who are pinned down by the storms and the demons. But overall the album is affirming and rousing, shouting a message loud and clear: “I’m alive and I’m going to fight to keep it that way”.

It’s not the best Frank Turner album (England Keep My Bones still stands as my favourite), but it’s still pretty great. It has tender moments, brilliant lyrics, uplifting messages and some ripping rock music.

Joseph James