NE’ER DO WELL – Fun Days EP

Described as Motley Crue meets Fall Out Boy, Ne’er Do Well is a project helmed by singer/songwriter Bryan Rolli. This debut EP is a superb showcase of a versatile one man band, dropping massive chorus hooks against a variety of equally massive riffs, on a short rollercoaster journey that never sells the listener short when it comes to excitement. Granted, a lot of Rolli’s influences are laid on with a trowel, but it’s what he does with those that counts, and this release makes a lot of familiar sounds feel really sparky. What’s more, it’s always clear that the performer really believes in the material.

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OFF! – Free LSD

OFF!’s self titled debut album is a punk essential. On that record, the hardcore supergroup – then featuring ex-Black Flag/Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris, Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald and Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coates – captured a pure sound that served up the energy of Circle Jerks’ ‘Group Sex’ LP mixed with a mounting anger, packing seventeen songs into as many minutes. Hardcore was alive and well in 2012, and Morris, especially, showed how he’d lost absolutely none of the fury that powered his formative years, despite later Circle Jerks albums suggesting otherwise. That album’s follow up, 2014’s ‘Wasted Years’ stretched the formula to allow for a few extended instrumental sections without sacrificing any of the band’s genuine fire, further proving that OFF! were one of the greatest hardcore bands of their era, before they seemed to disappear. It’s unsurprising, really; a band honestly can’t present themselves so intensely for long without reaching burnout.

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NICK SHANE – Live At Blend Coffee House, Dundee

Nick Shane is one of those musicians who deserves to be better known. The Dundee based singer songwriter has been giving the world some rather solid mod-inflected pop/rock since the release of his ‘An Introspection of Now Here’ album in 2014, but hasn’t really reached household name status – at least outside of Scotland. Even 2019’s ‘Come Under Cover’ – with Nick falling back on the time honoured covers album to attract new ears – didn’t really gain the kind of traction it so warranted, and at the point where 2022 seemed ready to pull to a close, his Discogs page remained strangely incomplete. Nevertheless, the hard working musician isn’t without his share of fans, and at Scotland’s very first Rainbow Awards in 2015, Nick received an award for “Outstanding Contribution to Music & LGBT Rights”. For most, the road to stardom isn’t taken overnight, but quite why Nick isn’t thought of with the same reverence as Miles Kane is a mystery.

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GNASH – Shared Nightmares EP

Newcomers to the sludge metal scene for 2022, Gnash make a brilliant noise on their debut release ‘Shared Nightmares’. Its four songs are devastatingly heavy, and right from the opening bars of ‘The Darker Half’, there’s a sense of absolute commitment to conveying weight via those riffs, since bassist Ethan Martin wields a tone that sounds like he’s playing back an old Melvins riff at half speed. Even when the guitars make a slightly later arrival, Gnash sound like a band wading through a musical swamp, and the layer of distortion that covers a massive doom riff only serves their purpose greater, and in less than a minute, they seem set to win over a whole raft of doom and sludge devotees even before this release is barely off the ground.

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BABY GOT BACK TALK – Existential Shred EP

On their second release, 2018’s ‘Up In Open Arms’, New York’s Baby Got Back Talk showed themselves as being smarter than your average pop punk band. By trading in the usual juvenile humour for a socially conscious lyrical output and applying their messages to a musical backdrop that mixed the punky elements with a dose of emo, pop and occasional ska inflected basslines, the release covered a lot of ground in a very short time, and in a very mature way. Its use of vocal filters wouldn’t have suited everyone, but in terms of riffs and hooks, it was clear that this young band had a lot going in their favour.

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