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Clowns – Nature/Nurture

Known for causing an uproar and all sorts of trouble across the live scene, Clowns are back with their fourth album, Nature/Nurture and it’s all kinds of hectic.

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Known for causing an uproar and all sorts of trouble across the live scene, Clowns are back with their fourth album, Nature/Nurture and it’s all kinds of hectic. This album seems to blend tones of their older material with that of their more recent albums, along with sounds totally new to the band.

“Soul For Sale” turns on a more beach rock sound, reminding me something of a mix between Nirvana and modern beachy garage. It doesn’t take long for the drums to kick in though, and it’s not long until we’re back to classic Clowns hardcore punk sounds and rolling riffs. What’s nice I find that really decorates the whole album is the occasional addition of female vocals, which balances nicely with the dominating harsh punk scuzz, adding melody and edge.

“Freezing in the Sun” is pumping with adrenaline from the start and you can’t help but want to get up and jump around. Complimented also with female overtones, this track is like earlier Clowns, edged with a clear sense of development and sophistication.

I must say, Clowns is certainly on the heavier spectrum of the music I’d typically listen to, but with great variation and creativity, I was finding myself enjoying it more and more as the tracks rolled out.

Right in full skate punk swing now, “Nature” kicks off with strong drums. The word nature wouldn’t typically come to mind listening to this song but there’s just something about it that suits so well. Cluttered with screaming vocals and the rolling sounds of electric guitar, “Nature” is one of the more catchier tracks on the album, introducing more psychedelic sounds, integrating guitar isolation and fuzzy feedback.

“I Wanna Feel Again” takes a step back with a more peaceful intro and a sweetly composed guitar melody. With darker, emotional lyrics, I heard a side of Clowns that was unfamiliar to me. My sense of surprise doesn’t last long though, with the chorus speeding straight back up and we’re headbanging again.

At this point, I find the album takes a turn into more fuzzy, psychedelia – just what I like! “I Shaved My Legs For You” gives a sense of impending doom, filled with feedback and power chords. It’s nearly unsettling. This feeling for me carries right through until their last track, “May I Be Exhumed”, which is like some futuristic robot caught within an amplifier. As the track waves goodbye to its listeners, tapered sounds from other worlds embellish the rough and unruly clatters of Nature/Nurture, tying off the album with class.

It was refreshing to see classic punk rockers take on a more experimental project with this album and there’s no doubt they have certainly progressed technically and creatively. I find a lot of punk albums often struggle to create a new and fresh sound above all the screams and ruckus but I think Clowns just may have achieved this perfectly. I’d give this one a 7/10. 

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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