MENTO BURU – East Bakersfield Christmas EP

Their name might not be familiar, but California’s Mento Buru have shared stages with The Specials, Long Beach Dub All Stars, Desmond Dekker, Fishbone and The Aquabats. They’ve been affiliated with the legendary Moon Ska record label. They’ve worked hard to bring good time ska, reggae and Latin sounds to enthusiastic audiences since the early 90s and, by often sidelining the punkier elements that cut through so many of the third wave acts, as their name suggests, they’ve always sounded so much more authentic than some of their would-be peers.

The band began a hit and miss 2020 by issuing a mini album of archive recordings (‘The Skarage Days Revisited ’92-’96’) which acted as a great collection filler for the fan. In many ways, their second release of the year is of much bigger appeal, even if it has a shorter shelf-life in terms of listening opportunities. As its title suggests ‘East Bakersfield Christmas’ finds Mento Buru bringing the sunny sounds of Kingston to the Californian suburbs, contrasting various winter wonderland scenarios with music that often suggests beaches and warmth.

Although only six tracks in length – five different songs and a bonus Spanish translation – the band’s picks are absolutely classic. Their performances often bring so much life to the very familiar songs, and overall, this EP – although quite far removed from traditional festive fare – is a lot of fun.

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BLUE ÖYSTER CULT – Live At Rock Of Ages Festival, July 30th 2016

With their last studio album (‘Curse of The Hidden Mirror’) a distant memory, Blue Öyster Cult had become – to all intents and purposes – a nostalgia act by the middle of the 2010’s, tirelessly gigging up and down the United States playing their back-catalogue to the faithful. Since BÖC were always a brilliant live act and a couple of their latter day studio albums (‘Heaven Forbid’ and ‘Cult Classic’) hadn’t quite hit the mark, their desire to concentrate on playing to the masses made perfect sense. Despite never ending live shows in the US, they didn’t always venture across the Atlantic as often as you would hope, but festival appearances at the UK’s Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2015 and Germany’s Rock of Ages Festival the following year allowed European fans a couple of opportunities to get re-acquainted with their heroes.

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For those who’ve previously enjoyed either bands’ works, this split between Ohio based metal/noise rock bands Ghost:hello and Night Goat is much more than a mere collection filler. Although in some ways, the Ghost:hello material doesn’t always live up to the promise of their 2019 full length, between one genuinely great studio track and an unmissable live recording, you really couldn’t call their contribution to the release weak in any way. In fact, despite a couple of flaws, their material is more than capable of going head to head with Night Goat’s much darker aspects. …And as for Night Goat themselves, fans will surely love most of the spacious and unsettling material that lies in wait.

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2020 was a busy year for UK garage punk duo Get The Fuck Outta Dodge. A global pandemic might have decimated the music industry and all but written off live performance, but for James (bass/shouting) and Ren (drums/more shouting), no time was wasted. They began the year by recording a brilliant covers record and then kept up momentum by laying down a bunch of their own tunes which were scheduled for a full length album release later in the year. Before that recording (released as ‘Buzzkill’ in October) could reach the sweaty palms of their fanbase, however, they even found time to crank out extra tunes on an EP, ‘We Make The Future Here’. That release captured an intense hardcore punk sound and acted as an excellent primer for new listeners.

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CORRUPT MORAL ALTAR – Patiently Waiting For Wonderful Things EP

A band who’ve previously given the world songs like ‘Insect Politicians’, ‘Politics Is A Bargaining Tool Between Beggars’ and the especially chipper ‘Destroying Everything You Believe In’, Liverpool’s Corrupt Moral Altar have carved out a career out of being especially provocative. Their 2020 EP ‘Patiently Waiting For Wonderful Things’ continues their trend for musical assaults combined with razor-edged lyrical imagery.

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