Following 2014’s full-length ‘The Tide Is Turning’, Colt 45 embarked on a series of live dates which saw them become festival favourites as well as sharing stages with mighty punk ‘n’ roll/soul punk revivalists The Computers. For the Cumbrian based alt rock/punk outfit, busy certainly became the watchword. In the build up to the release of their 2016 EP ‘Snakes & Ladders’, the band continued to receive strong press notices and build their following farther. On hearing ‘Snakes & Ladders’ – assuming Colt 45 had previously slipped under your radar – it should be obvious why they’ve received such a cult buzz, especially since the lead track ‘All Hell Broke Loose’ (issued as a single and YouTube video prior to the EP) is perhaps one of the best exponents of its style since Deaf Havana hit with the furiously infectious ’22’.
Going straight in with some of their most aggressive sounds, ‘I Can Forgive But I Won’t Forget’ comes across like the souped up bastard child of S*M*A*S*H and earliest Therapy?, especially in the way that an angst-filled vocal spends time trying to escape from a suffocating mix dominated by guitars. Those guitars, meanwhile, power through with a real anger, creating a striking and repetitive tune that immediately suggests Colt 45 aren’t a band who are going to do things half-heartedly. If you like this – the band at their most disposable – there’s every chance the rest of the EP might just floor you. The punchy but melodic ‘All Hell Broke Loose’ is an instant classic, a track so strong it makes the EP worth investigating on its own. The vocals retain some of the rawness from the opener, but the arrangement is far more thoughtful. Ringing guitars join a strong voice to create the basis of a great rocker, but it’s the presence of a superb bassline and extremely catchy hook that takes everything to the next level. In short, this track is a three minute blast of good times – an honest, blue collar affair designed to catch the ears of alt-rock lovers everywhere.
‘Lost For Words’ makes a much bigger feature of the earlier great bass sound, as well as proving Colt 45’s knack for a chorus wasn’t merely a one-off deal. Throughout the track, the bass dances effortlessly, oblivious to the fact that a wall of guitars seem intent on crushing everything which stands in their way, while a slightly gravelly vocal takes the bulk of the melody, chews and spits it back with a confidence necessitated by such a good tune. The collision of raw edges and deliberately crafted accessible melodies, again, makes this a great track; the tougher answer to the more commercial Gaslight Anthem – the only down side being that it seems rather short and comes to an abrupt end, but it’s great while it lasts. ‘Square One’, meanwhile, kicks back into more of the band’s faster, punkier style as evidenced throughout the opener. While spiky and fairly basic, the feeling of melody cutting through the centre often seems so reminiscent of Stiff Little Fingers, and with that, it marks it’s place as another EP highlight – a two minute belter that has an almost timeless appeal.
Dropping back into the obviously melodic, ‘What You See Is What You Get’ makes a superb feature of a rattling bassline and melodic noodling guitar counterpoint before hitting the listener square on with another chorus straight from the ‘Old Souls’ era Deaf Havana handbook. Factor in a slightly shoutier bridge and brief solo of louder guitar sounds and this has a little of everything that would make it an alternative rock radio hit. Last up, ‘Two Steps Back’ brings a little more of the jangly punk the band have already demonstrated in an effortlessly cool way and fuses it with a loud, almost power pop chorus, as if My Cruel Goro had collaborated with Ginger Wildheart. While neither track shows too much of an obvious deviation from Colt 45’s core sounds, both tracks make for great listening, rounding off an excellent EP.
There is no filler to be found within these six numbers. Here is a band who are more than adept at placing a great riff with a suitably catchy hook while demonstrating tight musicianship throughout. Whether sounding like Gaslight Anthem, Deaf Havana or an older, slightly more traditional punk band, Colt 45 manage to dish up the goods with class and style, sounding like peers instead of mere copyists. It may be short, but ‘Snakes & Ladders’ is broad in appeal; a listen where the feelings of good times aren’t too quickly burnt out after repeat plays. Highly recommended.