Hello friends, welcome to The Listening Booth, where I lecture people on what music I’ve been putting in my ears while occasionally working out some personal issues. I don’t think there should be too much of the latter this week, but you never know. We’re diving into some feminist post-hardcore, Italian, em, tech-hardcore? I honestly don’t know what you’d call it, and a ramble about something completely different. Enjoy.
Petrol Girls debut album, Talk Of Violence, was a twenty-eight minute lashing out at the world. It was short, sharp and violent as it raged against the system and those that keep it in place. In those minutes, it set Petrol Girls up as a political force with a lot to say, but one that perhaps hadn’t quite figured out how to channel it. While there was a shitload of potential there, you could see that there was room to grow.
And grow they fucking have. Cut & Stitch opens with Petrol Girls’ manifesto. ‘Intro’ and ‘ The Sound’ could have been one song, as they detail the power of sound, its ability to transcend borders and race, to get into people’s heads and change the way they think. It’s about taking that power and putting it in the hands of the people, using it to make a difference. If that’s not the perfect ideal on which to build an album, I don’t know what is.
Because for all that Cut & Stitch is a musical step-forward for Petrol Girls, you should not take that to mean that their feminist fury has been pulled back. They still bark at the world, channelling their frustration into the music. ‘Big Mouth’ is a rallying cry for the voiceless, a demand that they are allowed to speak up with the sneer of ‘some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think, up yours’. Elsewhere, ‘No Love For A Nation’ explores the idea of nationhood before ending on ‘God Save The Queen’ being played on a kazoo, that childish attitude after such a serious song only adding to its mocking nature.
Where the step-up comes is in the spreading out of Petrol Girls’ ideas. They feel more vulnerable on Cut & Stitch as if there is more of them in their politics and their music. ‘Monstrous’ is a lurching song, one that sees Ren Aldridge worrying about how to live up to the expectations placed on her, ‘I can’t give you what you want’. Then there is ‘Skye’, a love letter to her sadly departed dog, a piece of music that I don’t think I will ever be able to listen to without crying (it probably doesn’t help that Skye is my wee sister’s name). In among all that anger and rage, it’s a beautifully human moment – a tribute to a pet that meant the world to her.
It doesn’t matter what Ren is singing about either for she will always be incredible. Every word feels like it’s been ripped from her, seared into her soul and passed out into the world. Whether it’s the spoken word sections that are dotted throughout the album, her screams of defiance or her declaration that ‘I choose to fight’ you never once doubt that she means every word. You don’t have to spend long looking into her to realise she’s a badass inspiration, but if you were unaware of it, this album would make it pretty clear.
The day I realised that punk rock probably won’t change the world was a bit of a shit one if I’m honest. I love this stuff, it means everything to me, and I so wanted it to be the answer. Then again, I listen to this, and I wonder, why the fuck not? I’m not putting that responsibility fully on Petrol Girls, but they make intelligent, passionate music that says all the right things, and you wonder why the fuck it can’t make the world a better place. It might not change history overnight, but maybe it turns one person tomorrow, and isn’t that a start? Cut & Stitch is the kind of music we need, so more of this, please.
The idea of a push and pull effect within bands making for great music is not a new one. From Led Zeppelin to Deftones, conflicting personalities with different ideas of whatmusic should sound like, often create genius. Despite that, there are very few bands that have such a distinct blending of ideas as Destrage.
Not that I’m trying to suggest they are spending all day bickering with each other, but The Chosen One is an album that could almost have been made by two bands. Imagine The Damned Things, but rather than Scott Ian’s crunching riffs you’ve got a ridiculously technical metal band providing the backing to Keith Buckley’s vocals, and you’re at least getting close to what this album sounds like. It’s fucking mental.
Yet, it works. A song as complex and intricate as ‘Hey, Stranger!’ shouldn’t have a chorus that could fill arenas, but it does. The Chosen One is dripping in musicality, from the jabbing unsettled feel of ‘Mr. Bugman’ to the brooding electro of ‘Rage, My Alibi’ to the all-out bursts of frantic chaos on ‘Headache and Crumbs’ (those three songs follow after each other) Destrage can do it all. However, it never gets in the way of writing a good song. It’s all stripped down and pushed to the front not to show off how good they are, but to write fucking tunes.
And, there is a chance that fans of their earlier work will be disappointed by that. I’ve heard at least one review that lamented the death of the uncontrolled vibe of Are You Kidding Me? No, but I have to respectfully disagree. The Chosen One is that perfect bridging point between chaos and a chorus. I liked that album too, it’s sitting on my shelf, and that disorder is a whole load of fun. What Destrage have done, though, is find a way to take that chaos and mould it to their liking. It’s still there. They’ve just wrapped it up in a rock and roll bow to bestow a lovely wee present on the world. Enjoy it, folks.
Slam Dunk, Leeds
Hey, that’s not an album! No, you’re right, it’s not. However, I had a wee jaunt down to Leeds last Saturday and saw a shitload of bands, so I’m going to write about them instead. Fingers crossed you enjoy it.
The day kicked off bright and early with Milk Teeth on the Dickies Stage, which was my first time seeing them in their new power-trio form. Well, power-trio Milk Teeth might be peak Milk Teeth because they were fantastic. Em (of Nervus fame) brings with her some stunning guitar work and the perfect unclean vocals to back-up Becky. There was a time when I was worried about this band and what their future might hold, but judging by this and their latest single, ‘Stain’, I am worried no more.
After that, I sat on the grass near Anti-Flag, but I’d be lying if I said I paid attention. Lots of people seemed to be having fun, so that was nice. Instead, I wandered back to the same stage for Tiny Moving Parts who were ready to scratch my technical emo itch. I struggle not to sound pretentious when writing about this shit, but this isn’t the kind of emo your Taking Back Sunday’s fans will recognise. It’s old-school and has more than a touch of math rock in there. Either way, they provided that perfect mix of misery and fun, which is what you need sometimes.
One band that brings all the fun and none of the misery is The Interrupters. I don’t know what else I can say about them. It’s pure joy bottled up and injected into your veins and more than made up for the fact that I had to slip out of Turnstile a bit early to catch their whole set. That decision was made because I will be seeing Turnstile at least once more this summer, but when the time came to leave I was very tempted not to bother. It was 2000 Trees when I last caught them, and while they were fantastic then, they have somehow got better in the year since. The thirty-odd minutes I saw at Slam Dunk made them look like superstars, and I am very excited about where that band go next.
What followed was a run of hardcore joy as Cancer Bats, The Bronx and Gallows all got a chance to do their thing. What needs to be said about those bands? I could genuinely claim every single one of them as my favourite live band of all time, and I don’t think you could ever catch me in a lie. Bats and Bronx never let you down, and both sets were perfect for that festival environment. I want to focus in on Gallows, though, who are returning from an extended hiatus. They sounded ferocious, stripped back and lean with Wade McNeil a force of nature. That band’s history sometimes outweighs its present, but do not write them off. Plus, who can say no to a set that sees Liam Cormier (Cancer Bats) join them to sing Last June and Em jump on the mic too? Fucking brilliant.
I’m ashamed to say that in among those bands I also ended up watching Atreyu and Saves The Day as rain saw us hunker down in the tent. I have nothing to say about them. The same can be said for the small snippet I caught of NOFX and Bullet For My Valentine in the headline slots. ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ was fun, and while I have loved Fat Mike’s lot in the past, I was not bothered about walking away from them when my friend’s patience died.
That meant my de-facto headliners were The Menzingers and I was more than happy with that. It was a choice between them and Glassjaw which is a tough fight, but at the end of a long day of drinking in a field, what you need are some songs about falling in love with waitresses. Their set was packed with banger after banger as I’m pretty sure I was screaming along to at least one track I didn’t know (I only got into them on After The Party) so caught up was I in the joy of the moment. It was the perfect end to my first ever Slam Dunk and, I suspect, that if they deliver another line-up like that, I shall be back.
Click the names of the artists above to check out their websites and support them. Musicians need money to live, and Spotify is rarely enough.