EXTRA ARMS – Up From Here

A concept record isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a band heavily influenced by Superchunk, The Replacements and various pieces from a pop-punk past. You probably wouldn’t expect a “divorce record” either – such things are often the province of the more introspective singer-songwriter – but that’s exactly where we find Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms at the close of 2019. An eight song outpouring, ‘Up From Here’ does a fabulous job of documenting Allen’s feelings and place within the world following a marriage split, but those who’ve enjoyed his previous works shouldn’t be concerned that this is too heavy going, as his thoughts are often coupled with some fabulous power pop and pop-punk arrangements.

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THE HALLINGTONS – Hexed EP

With regard to Ramonescore sounds, few bands do it as well as The Hallingtons. If you’re a pop-punk fan, they have the kind of back catalogue where you can drop in at any point and enjoyment is guaranteed, but with 2019’s ‘Hexed’ they’ve delivered a career best.

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BYZANTHIAN NECKBEARD – Extinction EP

It took Byzanthian Neckbeard five years to follow up their 2014 ‘From The Clutches of Oblivion’ long player, but for fans of that record, the three tracks that make up their 2019 EP ‘Extinction’ will certainly impress. In just fifteen minutes, Guernsey’s loudest band churn, grind and chug their way through a trio of incredibly heavy numbers, drawing influence from greats like Conan and Crowbar to help them in their quest for the ultimate riff.

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THE FALL – The Fall Sound Archives Vol 3 – 1982

Many albums get tagged with the word “seminal”, but few are more deserving of that than The Fall’s ‘Hex Enduction Hour’. Spearheading the beginning of a very prolific period for the band, ‘Hex’ is more than an album – it’s an art project. Given its subsequent influence upon on experimental underbelly of rock, punk and indie music, it’s fitting that it would eventually provide the heart of a great box set.

The third edition of Cherry Red’s Fall Sound Archives reissue series, ‘1982’ does exactly what it says on the tin. It brings together two studio albums (‘Hex Enduction Hour’ and ‘Room To Live’), various Peel Sessions and a slew of live recordings (a vastly expanded edition of ‘In A Hole’ and a harder to find live recording sourced from an Australian gig).

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MEDICINE – Scarred For Life

Covers albums can be a lazy stop gap, a contractual obligation filler or – worst of all – a pointless exercise in rehashing tunes with no imagination. When done well, they can be fantastic and make you hear things in a way you never imagined. In the hands of Los Angeles noise rock/shoegaze band Medicine – famous to UK audiences for their contribution to the soundtrack for ‘The Crow’ – 2019’s ‘Scarred For Life’ provides an opportunity to dive into the past and re-imagine various cult tracks, bringing a few of their choices to a whole new audience. Although you might expect a band like Medicine to take the easier route and fuzz up a few old gothic favourites, on this eleven track release, they give their fans lots of surprises. Taking various songs from the 60s and 70s (in addition to a couple of other detours) this is a record that, in their own words, “relieves the glory of the K-Tel architechts”. That doesn’t mean the band are about to cover the likes of ‘Yellow River’, ‘Jeans On’ and a well known Suzi Quatro hit, though. This is Medicine, after all…and their voyage through decades past often favours deeper cuts.

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