To look at Gabriel and The Apocalypse, you could be forgiven for thinking they’d be a band who valued style over content, especially when taking into consideration the fact that their videos have been heralded as hugely stylish, visual feasts. An image means nothing if the material isn’t good enough to back it up; there are a lot of gothy and industrial bands out there guilty of spending far too long cultivating an image and then forgetting to invest the same kind of importance into their song writing. Luckily, that doesn’t apply here: Gabriel and The Apocalypse’s 2019 LP ‘Alpha Bionic’ was a fine work. Its ten songs fused goth, metal and industrial grooves with massive choruses and served up something almost guaranteed to please old fans of Orgy and early Disturbed, as well as offering lovers of Lacuna Coil an interesting alternative. A heavy-ish cover of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’ peppered with vaguely industrial beats and retro synths added something instantly familiar to a selection of already great material.
Throughout the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown of 2020, Canadian musician Matt Ellis used his time very constructively. He recorded a series of demo quality EPs in his bathroom, showcasing lo-fi punk music that borrowed heavily from the Ramones’ back catalogue. What those EP releases lacked in sheen, they made up for with a lot of spirit, and for those concerned about their lack of audio fidelity, they served a great purpose in that all monies earned from Bandcamp sales was subsequently donated to various charities.
Those with a keen ear for underground pop music will already be aware of The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco. The Essex based musical duo featuring vocalists/multi instrumentalists Malcolm Moore and David Myers first appeared on the power pop scene with their ‘Private Jet Flashback’ album in 2013, and armed with a quirky sense of humour and a boundless love of Steely Dan, they quickly marked themselves out as champions of a retro style. Although further releases occasionally included a few rockier moments alongside weird nods to tangos and lounge music, the band’s love of all things brilliantly kitschy held firm.
Badfinger have long been considered one of the great power pop bands of the late 60s/early 70s. Scratching the surface of their career, hits like ‘No Matter What’ (covered by Jellyfish), ‘Without You’ (covered by Harry Nilsson and later turned into a monstrous hit by Mariah Carey) and the McCartney-penned ‘Come & Get It’ have helped them stay in the public consciousness. Other great, lesser heard tunes like ‘Baby Blue’ and well crafted album cuts give further examples of Badfinger’s enduring greatness for listeners who have bothered to dig a little deeper.
Since their debut album appeared in 2016, Milwaukee’s Indonesian Junk have remained quite prolific. Following that release they cranked out a new record every year – each one better than the previous – up until the release of ‘Spiderbites’ in 2019. Although still raw, ‘Spiderbites’ contained many of the band’s best songs to date; the CBGB’s inspired garage punk sound they’d been slowly cultivating reached full maturity, and they could legitimately claim to be true successors to bands like New York Dolls and the Dead Boys.
Prior to its release in March 2021, their fourth album proper (not counting the EPs and the excellent rarities comp ‘A Life of Crimes’) attracted a bit of an early buzz among the band and label’s followers. People seemed keen for a strong follow up, but more than that, the promise of a couple of guests immediately seemed to set the album in a position of strength. …And indeed, the lead single, ‘Type of A Girl’ (used wisely to open the album itself) confirmed most people’s hunches that – despite some wobbly beginnings – Indonesian Junk were in top form and had approached the new record much in the same way as ‘Spiderbites’ and that ‘Living In A Nightmare’ would be an album big on hooks.