By Various Artists
'Music By People Who Drink Cider In The Gutter,' the mammoth twenty song, twenty band round-up of punk bands from in and around the Manchester area, kicks off with 'Midnight Scene' from The Dangerfields. It's pretty standard punk fair, offering up shouty vocals, triumphantly barked gang vocals, and riffs and drums played at triple speed. It gets this TNS compilation off to a fittingly fast and furious start, although The Dangerfields do go a little heavy on the galloping drumbeats, and consequently they tend to overwhelm the song slightly.
Revenge of The Psychotronic Man fair much better with the brilliantly-titled 'Get Pissed, Talk Shit, Dance Like An Idiot.' This rowdy party anthem whips along at a frightening pace, as squealy chords flutter around a tight central beat, and disorderly gang vocals chant the no-brainer mantra "get pissed, talk shit, dance like an idiot!" It's ridiculously good fun, and will make you wish you were dancing to this live, rather than just listening to it on CD.
Next up are The Kirkz, who aren't a million miles away from R.O.T.P.M, as twitchy riffs and raucous gang vocals make for another good time anthem. It's also surprisingly catchy, with verses of toe-tapping riffs and brisk vocal patter, and choruses of call-to-arm lyrics sang over driving punk rhythms.
'Putsch' by The Shadowcops bumps energy levels even higher, with an initial showing of hammering drums, dizzying riffs and shouty, hoarse-throated vocals. The second half adopts a cock-rock swagger and a slight polish, as The Shadowcops crack out the massive riffs and shout-along vocals for a hugely entertaining end-section. If you like your punk to be all about having a good time, then you couldn't do much better than the triple whammy of 'Get Pissed...' 'Ratz' and 'Putsch.'
Buzzkill's offering, 'Broken Picture' has a slicker sound than much of this compilation, largely thanks to liberal helpings of saxophone and trumpet that perfectly echo the patterns of Matt's vocals.
'Broken Picture' is an irresistibly bouncy ska-punk track that ricochets between twitchy, self-consciously cool verses and hard-partying ska-punk choruses. This is one song you'll struggle to sit still to.
In stark contrast, 'One Day' is steady punk-rock with classy guitar solos and vocals you can actually sing along to. After the immediacy and liveliness of the first five tracks, The Great St Louis' offering feels like a definite step downwards in terms of tempo. However, it does boast a longer-lasting sound, and their frontman has an unusual, hoarse timbre to his voice that's surprisingly addictive. A definite grower.
Even on a compilation of serious up-and-coming talent, Dog Toffee's 'NME Darling' really stands out from the crowd. You'll need a crowbar to remove that near-perfect chorus from your frontal lobe, as frontman BH alternates between soaring, life-affirming high notes and likeably grim low notes. While it sounds as though BH's stood about four foot away from the microphone, and his vocals are crying out for some extra 'oomph,' 'NME Darling' is just so catchy and well-pitched, that you'll forgive BH for not belting out those lyrics. A must-hear.
Just Panic's contribution, 'Crime' is a jittery light-punk tune that's guaranteed to get your feet tapping. The interestingly folkish anti-war lyrics benefit from a smoother, less abrasive delivery, which not only means you can appreciate Just Panic's socially-charged lyrics, but you can also sing along, which you will, as this nervy, hyperactive tune has some serious sing along appeal.
Harijan frontman Mike doesn't have the nicest of voices, especially when it's pushed to the forefront of 'Curriculum Vitae's groovily stripped-down verses, exposing it to more intense scrutiny than it can comfortably withstand.
Thankfully, things pick up on the choruses, with chugging chords bouncing off guttural, but oddly catchy, growls. The bridge section is a further improvement, as serrated chords grind against a jangly backdrop. However, Harijan then lurch back into that jazzy, Mediterranean-tinged groove that really doesn't suit Mike's voice, and sees this song expire on a low note despite its addictive chorus.
The Fractions offer up a dose of upbeat ska-punk that occasionally feels messy around the edges. This is especially true of the verses, where Joe's snotty vocals sit awkwardly against the piping trombone and angular, stop-start riffs. The Fractions also sign off with a sprawling instrumental where everyone in the band seems to be playing a completely different tune. That said, it all comes together on the chorus, as The Fractions hit a slightly soberer note with a gradual plod of fuzzy-edged riffs and downbeat lyrics.
'Kidnap and Ransom' is a little different from the rest of this EP, layering distinctly poppy vocals over a funky backing track of spring-heeled drums and pop-punk riffs. The chorus cracks out some nastier rhythms, but you'll hardly notice them beneath those crazily catchy, pop vocals. On The Turn's sunny, pop-infused punk is hardly offering anything new, but it has the instant likeability factor that music of this genre should have, and makes a nice change from the jaded vibe of much of this compilation.
Speeding Bee's oddly-titled 'Cat. Pie. Bake' features a great chorus of multi-layered vocals that you'll be dying to add your own voice to. Even better, they're sung over a brisk buzz, mixed up with plenty of jazzy overtones. The verses are equally irresistible, with their frontman contributing some nicely casual sounding vocals and giving 'Cat. Pie. Bake' plenty of laidback charisma.
Faintest Idea conforms to the harsh drumbeats, shouty vocals and breakneck riffs formula of much of this CD. However, its ska leanings give 'See You In The Gutter' that extra oomph it needs to stand out from the crowd. It also features a wonderfully dumb chorus of a single line repeated over and over again. It isn't big and it isn't clever, but it is great fun.
The Hyperjax's offering, 'English Country Garden' bounces merrily along with jack hammering drums and ricocheting main and backing vocals. A hyperactive burst of quick-footed, barndance-inspired punk, with a chorus that's custom made for dancing like an idiot to.
'Bourban' from The Medicine Bow has an underlying, finger-clickingly stylish beat that's balanced out by a whistly-edged, raw production. Frontman Stu's interestingly deep voice drips understated cool, and compliments this song's laidback vibe remarkably well. 'Bourban' rocks slickly along without ever seeming to try too hard, making for an oddly smooth, but charismatic, listen.
Mr International and the Getaway Gang's jangly drinking anthem 'Binge Drinker' follows in 'Bourban's footsteps in terms of delivering a slick listen. It also delivers impossibly bouncy, rattling drumbeats and inspired vocal work you won't be able to get out of your head. Taking 'Binge Drinker' down to its barebones, was a stroke of genius, as it's packed with more awkwardly addictive hooks than your average indie anthem.
Sounds of Swami unleash some serious anger with the ear-pummelling, metal-infused punk of 'Identity Crisis.' They cram in furiously chugging guitars and metal riffs, to create something that's brutally heavy, but driven along by galloping punk drumbeats.
'Identity Crisis' doesn't always sound coherent, as its heaviness and speed sometimes completely overtake the song, and it becomes nothing more than an ungodly racket. However, when Sounds of Swami add a classy, slightly polished metal swagger to their riffs, everything falls into place, and the speed and fury of 'Identity Crisis' is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping.
After Sounds of Swami, 'Song For The Union' by Death By Decibals offers up a more melodic take on punk, with a socially-aware, sing along chorus and a catchy backing track of fluttery riffs and perfectly placed drumbeats.
'Rise or Fall' from The Shuffle is an odd track, diligently building towards an anthemic sound with towering riffs and urgent vocals, before cutting out just as they're about to reach the heights they've been so painstakingly working towards. It's probably supposed to be edgy, but having that head rush of epic riffs ripped away from us, just as we start to get caught up in them, is actually pretty annoying. You'll find yourself wishing The Shuffle would just keep on tossing out those soaring riffs, and leave the stop-start angularness to other bands.
'Music By People Who Drink Cider In The Gutter' draws to a close with the tongue-in-cheek country and western of 'So Straight Edge I'm on Daytime TV.' It's guaranteed to raise a smile with its hilarious lyrics and name-checking of teatime-TV stars Richard and Judy. It's a great, non-serious note to end on as any listener who's successfully battled through this twenty track effort, definitely deserves a bit of light relief.
'Music By People Who Drink Cider In The Gutter' is essentially a showcase for D.I.Y punk bands who might not otherwise get exposure. It's a fantastic way to find your next favourite band, as every track on this compilation is chosen with obvious care: there isn't a single weak moment. Every last track ranges from good, to excellent, with Dog Toffee's 'NME Darling' providing the standout moment. 'Music By People...' delivers twenty different songs, by twenty different bands, and, at £4 per CD, you can't really do any better than that.