VARIOUS ARTISTS – Socks On Records And Friends Volume 3

Ever since its launch as a not for profit label in 2021, Socks On Records has always conveyed a sense of community spirit. Members of Das Kapitans may well have been the instigators of Socks On and their band is the label’s most prolific act, but everyone who encounters the label becomes a member of their extended family. There’s no one-upmanship; no hierarchy – just a gathering of friends on a mission to make and share good music, DIY style.

This release really extends the Socks On ethos of sharing music in an altruistic way. It brings together over thirty tracks from various names who might not be familiar, and all monies earned from downloads will be donated to CPSL MIND, a mental health charity in Peterborough.

With regard to the most familiar names here, each band has donated a superb track. Das Kapitans’ brand new ‘Angry’ gives fans exactly what they’d hope for by opening with a huge rattling bassline and then coupling that with a relentless wall of fuzzy guitar, as per the title. As the riffs grow, the distortion grows too, and armed with a semi-punky groove and distorted vocal, the lads crank through another noisy, 90s influenced banger that sounds like a fight between early Mudhoney and S*M*A*S*H. The ever brilliant Get The Fuck Outta Dodge waste no time in bringing the noise on ‘A Hypocrisy Shared Is A Hypocrisy Halved’, a number where the bass sound is immediately recognisable. The generally crashy approach to Ren’s drumming is particularly familiar too, so it’ll immediately strike a chord with fans, despite featuring a strange vocal effect and a meter that makes James sound almost robotic in places. Once you tune in, it’s great, and once the chorus hits it’s defiantly them. There are better Dodge tunes out there, but anything new is always welcome; if nothing else, it shows how these Sheffield lads refuse to get stuck in a rut, despite their lo-fi, two man set up having its limitations. Even noisier, lo-fi punks Al Pacinos Sister serve up some old school hardcore punk on the speed driven shout along ‘Cheap Shots’. It’s a track that really shows off taut guitar riffs, and proves that a fairly formulaic approach to hardcore can often yield superb results.

One of this comp’s most established bands, Wonk Unit present an album outtake, ‘Rocky’, that’s much better than its supposed cast-off status suggests. In two minutes, their very British vocals and indie punk riffs bring a very nostalgic feel, and the mix of muted chords on its verse and massively crashy chorus parades the full range of the band’s talents. With a very direct approach to a riff, it’s the kind of recording that should make people dig a little further into their catalogue. Equally cool, Mugsmasher’s drum heavy punk sounds great throughout ‘Pewter Chalice’, a number that mixes the shoutier aspects of UK punk’s second wave with the energies of US skate punk, before pulling the rug from under their listeners and dropping into a clanky instrumental break where the odd rhythms of Cardiacs inform some rather more arty punk. In and out in about two minutes, it’s a particularly tight arrangement, which makes the demo quality recording supplied by We Punch Tigers – sequenced directly after – feel a little jarring. However, after a few bars, your ears adjust, and their homespun ska riffs capture a pleasingly DIY sound and, and the chorus of their ‘Overworked’ is a lovely homage to old school punk. Even though the recording is obviously lo-fi, the bass playing is particularly tight, and the band’s abilities to whip up a brilliantly punky sound is without question. Also cool, Dogs! Teeth! supply a strange and arty slant on noisy indie on ‘Family Fantasy’ when a crooned vocal collides with a rigid rhythm, showing off a band keen to inject a little oddness into a familiar sound.

‘Dave Grolsch’ by Good Job Kid taps into a different kind of retro by adding an emo tinge to its intro and Quicksand-ish groove, and this immediately makes the track’s opening riffs feel nostalgic. The tempo is then increased and a great punk sound emerges, reminiscent of US bands like Face To Face and Skiploader, building up to a brilliant coda that invites the listener to shout along, whilst Our Souls’ ‘Cuckoo Clock’ brings forth an amazing amount of fuzzy bass on a melodic hardcore workout that showcases another great talent from the UK punk underground. Mices unexpectedly sound like a noisy They Might Be Giants on the first verse of ‘Do Not Disturb’, before settling into a slow and brooding indie tune with a punk-ish crashiness from the upfront drum part, and elsewhere, downtempo grooves and droning keys are very much the order of the day on O’s ‘Jinny Phone Home’, a track where hazy moods, post-psych atmospheres and occasional acoustic strums sound like the result of a strange experiment from Damon Albarn.

Punk and metal are fused brilliantly on Hound’s ‘Ghost In The Grey’, a recording where rap oriented verses echo early Sonic Boom Six, before a noisier chorus shifts the balance further towards a metalcore mood, all the while hinting at a skate punk-ish tempo. It results in a track that sounds very contemporary at the time of release, certainly deserving of bringing the band a few new fans. In under three minutes, The Deadites’ ‘Feline Fine’ works a high octane barrage of indie punk riffs and a vocal that calls back to a lot of noisier fare from the 90s. Despite working very much to genre expectations, the band’s enthusiasm and energy sells a great track, and similarly, Spoilers’ ‘Peaches And Cream’ is an absolutely brilliant indie punker, where a very distinctive vocal is joined by some natural harmonies to flesh out a great chorus. It’s definitely something genre fans will love. Thinking even bigger, alternative rock band Soviet Films offer the epic ‘Tardigrades’, a sprawling mass of screamo and math metal, where the uglier aspects of Rolo Tomassi and Dillinger Escape Plan meet with a more cinematic post-rock sound where ringing guitars add some necessary melody. Dropping into a brilliant circular riff midway and overlaying that with ringing guitars and rattling drums, Soviet Films dive even deeper into post rock waters, before returning to their original noise-based remit. It’s fair to say this won’t be for everyone, but those who can get into it will absolutely love it.

So, what if punk, noisy indie and heavily guitar based material – often the Socks On stock – isn’t your bag? They’ve called upon other musicians from other musical circles to lend a hand here, too. You’ll find some rather shouty rap – like a homespun Beastie Boys – from Question Mark; there’s jangly singer songwriter sounds from Jonesy, a man who’s clinging onto the ghosts of Britpop, but mixing that familiar jangle with some hard beats, and even some reflective acoustic sounds from Georgia Bee, whose ‘Adeline’ blends an anti-folk feel with almost dream pop sensibilities. If that’s not enough, Dan The D shares some noisy blues on a “Hot Fuzz Mix” of ‘Chicken Dance’ that uses huge rhythms and distortion in a way that makes Black Keys sound like soppy lads. A tune that sounds superb with the volume cranked, he has created a perfect homage to Beck at his most obtuse. Whether that was actually his intention is a secondary concern.

It’s not all gold on this compilation, but the good firmly outweighs the bad, and for less than the price of a London pint at the time of release, you get a whole host of tunes worth exploring. You get to give monies to a charity organisation too, so it’s very obviously a win-win for everyone – even for Socks On. In their usual tradition, they’ll make no money, but this release will elevate their profile, and in turn bring some of these bands new fans along the way – and that can’t be bad.

August/September 2023