Hello friends, welcome to the Listening Booth where, this week, we are firmly rooted in 2019. Yup, we’re not even taking a trip to Seattle as we instead focus on three albums that have been birthed into the world in the last month. From the brutality of Mastiff to the soaring anthems of Press Club, sit back and enjoy the ride.
‘Hellcircle’, ‘Brainbleed’ and ‘Torture’. That’s the kind of track listing that you don’t need to look at twice. You know within seconds of your eyes skimming down the CD that you’re in for something heavy. Well, you better be. Otherwise, it’s time to demand your money back.
Thankfully, no refunds will be required from Mastiff. ‘Hellcircle’ might open with some eerie creaking, but once that’s done it doesn’t so much fly out the traps as leap onto you, teeth bared and slobber coating your face. Jim Hodge’s barked vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to their namesake and before you can register what’s going on this band are ear fucking you with what I can only assume is a tank.
Then, halfway through the song, things shift, and we see another side of Mastiff. For alongside the smash your head against the wall hardcore they display on songs like ‘Brainbleed’, this band have the power to slow things down. To shudder and groan as well as bite and roar. ‘Bubonic’ inches forward, riffs flowing like toxic sludge as they slowly corrode all in their path. Look, I’m trying to say it’s really fucking heavy, do you get that?
Plague isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s thirty minutes of relentless hammering that ain’t letting up no matter how much you beg. If there were an aural equivalent of slowly being crushed by bricks, all nine odd minutes of closer ‘Black Death’ would be it. Except rather than it being a slow and agonising death, it’s fucking awesome. I don’t bloody know, just listen to it.
Some albums require time. A couple of weeks back I spoke about how Pedro The Lion didn’t click with me until I took it out onto the streets, wandering Edinburgh with my headphones in (which, if I’m honest, is my favourite way to listen to music). Then, there are the other albums. The ones where you hit play and know you’ve made a lifelong friend. Spielbergs were most definitely one of them.
Because there are very few things that turn me on more than loose, emo-tinged, alt-rock that is about everything and nothing all at once. There’s no subtlety to songs like ‘Bad Friend’, and yet they speak to me more than so much supposedly deep music. It works, and after one playthrough, This Is Not The End was already in place as the new soundtrack to my year.
Even more excitingly, it’s not perfect. At times it meanders a tad too much for my taste, that looseness I spoke about serving as both a strength and a weakness. ‘McDonald’s (Please Don’t Fuck up My Order)’ is over seven minutes long and could easily be trimmed down as its instrumental sections get a bit carried away. However, it’s a debut album, that kind of stuff comes with time and the core of these songs are all exceptional. If they’re this good already, imagine where they will be in two or three albums?
Love at first listen is a tricky business. It’s often lust rather than genuine affection that tickles your groin. Yet, I can’t imagine ever not falling for this music. Spielbergs have slotted into my life, and they are here to stay. It’s tempting to keep them to myself, but on this occasion, I guess I can share them with all of you.
Australia has been nailing it on the musical front recently. My favourite album from last year was the outstanding Camp Cope, Parkway Drive are ripping up arenas, and now Press Club have rocked up to the party. Their debut release, Late Teens, is an early year highlight as songs like ‘Suburbia’ instantly cement their status among the rock banger pantheon.
And much like This Is Not The End, Late Teens spoke to me without really having to try. This is an album rooted in adolescent angst, as songs like ‘Headwreck’ scream out in a way that any misfit teen will quickly recognise. I may have left my teenage years behind far too long ago (seriously, why does it keep getting longer? Is there any way I can make that stop?), but I am nothing if not still attached to that mindset. There is an honesty to Press Club’s songwriting which speaks to my soul.
Even more importantly, these are terrific songs. From the title track to ‘Let It Fall’ to opener ‘Crash’ they are the kind of earworms that wriggle their way into your head and refuse to leave. All the emotional sincerity could have come to nought (and it doesn’t), but Nat Foster belting out those choruses would still have hit the sweet spot.
In many ways, Late Teens is a simple album. It’s eleven punky rock songs that make you want to punch the air and scream along. If you can’t appreciate that, what can you appreciate?