By The Shadowcops
It seems a prerequisite that any band on Manchester-based independent record label TNS Records' roster, will specialise in shouty, snotty, DIY punk rock played at quadruple speed, and The Shadowcops are no exception. If you're partial to any band on the TNS catalogue, then prepare to have the time of your life listening to 'A Big Pot Of Hot.'
First up, are a clutch of songs that are typical TNS material. 'Vehement Subterfuge,' 'Putsch' and 'Vaulted Sky.'
'Vehement Subterfuge' may have a title that's so oldschool punk rock, it's almost cliche, but it also does exactly what it says on the tin. A headlong plunge with lashings of euphoric "whoa-oh-oh!" backing vocals to help crank up the velocity, 'Vehement Subterfuge' is nasty, sneery punk, although the screechy guitar solo is something of a surprise, and hints at a more eclectic sound that The Shadowcops explore later on in the album.
'Putsch' made its first appearance on TNS's 'Music By People Who Drink Cider In The Gutter' compilation, and its swirly riffs, ricocheting dual vocals and flat-out drumming has lost none of its edge. However, like 'Vehement Subterfuge,' 'Putsch' shrugs off punk's usual need for speed, with a lurching, tin-man-esque instrumental. While 'Putsch's two-hundred-miles-an-hour racket is a refreshing blast of no-nonsense noise, it's this added extra that'll get the song stuck in your head. 'Putsch' is more than just a punk track to play when you want to vent, it's also surprisingly catchy and enjoyable.
'Vaulted Sky' is another blast of raw, rushing noise with a catchy flipside. A secondary guitar threads through the racket, gathering to a sharp, screechy peak. The sinuous vocals emphasise this guitar's neat twists and turns, making this one punk song that has appeal beyond sweaty DIY shows and angry moods. You'll want to listen to 'Vaulted Sky' for its great hooks, too.
So far, so typical TNS, although with slightly more hooks than you'd expect. However, following the first three songs, The Shadowcops begin to deviate from their DIY punk roots and dabble with a range of influences. The first, is good old fashioned rock and roll, most prominent in the riff-heavy 'The Sleeper Awakes.' The introduction, where big, walloping riffs fall like hammer blows, will have you wondering whether you're still listening to the same band. There are bursts of spiky punk 'n roll, but, for the most part, 'The Sleeper Awakes' is chuggy, riff-packed rock and roll.
'Recurrent Blockades' also has a classier, more rock-orientated take on The Shadowcops, with an intro of wailing guitars, and a technical guitar solo. While the rest of the song doesn't quite demonstrate the same restraint, there's a tight underlying groove running throughout the whole of this punk 'n roll stomp, and the instrumental of booming tub-thumping and chuggy guitars, is guaranteed to get the adrenaline flowing.
'A Big Pot Of Hot' also experiments with a more melodic sound, in the form of 'Folie 'a Deux' and 'Calling Out The Elders,' where their energy is more exuberant than angry. 'Folie 'a Deux's long, winding riffs, sparkly chords and bouncing drumbeats, is almost mainstream punk, while the co-frontmen try out their singing - as oppose to their 'shouting' - voices. The big, fun, group shout-along of 'Calling Out The Elders' is even more accessible. It's a brisk, clattering, no-nonsense track you can start singing along to halfway through the first listen. It's impossible not to enjoy lending your voice to 'Calling Out The Elders' and, by injecting 'Folie 'a Deux' with a shot of melody, The Shadowcops bring their chosen genre more up to date, without going all pop-punk on us.
But, if you like your punk rougher around the edges, than The Shadowcops offer a trio of hardcore-influenced tracks. 'Take Yours Dave' is a nasty, splintery-edged combination of crackle-coated vocals, under-produced riffs and furious drumming. 'Fulgura Frango' has a darker, bass-heavy slant. It's as close to dropping the ball as The Shadowcops ever come, occasionally sounding a little all over the place. But, The Shadowcops always thread one hook through the racket, meaning that it may take a few listens to find a way into 'Fulgura Frango's busy world, but it's well worth that initial effort.
The third of the hardcore-influenced tracks, is album highlight 'The Age Of Common Sense.' Its walloping, bass-heavy hardcore-punk unexpectedly opens into a sing-along chorus. Built on a simple-but-effective, one-two drum-wallop, 'The Age Of Common Sense' is as headbang-friendly as it is suitable for the mass sing along. This is one song that will go down a storm live.
Perhaps the most unexpected inclusion on 'A Big Pot Of Hot' is the taunt, controlled instrumental 'Mana.' This brooding, bass-dense instrumental feels a million miles removed from the band who bashed out 'Putsch' and 'Vehement Subterfuge.' It may not be as invigorating as The Shadowcops at their most raucous, but it shows another facet to this multi-dimensional album, and will help you to see The Shadowcops as musicians, rather than noise-makers.
Album-closer 'Natura Naturans' combines the single-minded drive of punk rock with an epic sweep, to come up with something that sounds far bigger than you'd initially expect from The Shadowcops. From the slow, brooding creep of the introduction, 'Natura Naturans' is clearly out to impress. The Shadowcops' shouty, punkish vocals don't jar against this gallop-infused, epic rock, quite as much as you'd expect, which is a pleasant surprise. With 'Natura Naturans' The Shadowcops are clearly out to make people reassess their preconceptions of punk rock.
'A Big Pot Of Hot' kicks off with the uncomplicated, sweat-soaked DIY punk of 'Putsch' and 'Vehement Subterfuge' before The Shadowcops break out the rock and roll riffs for the swaggering 'The Sleeper Awakes,' dabble in hardcore ('Fulgura Frango') and melodic sing alongs ('Calling Out The Elders' and 'Folie 'a Deux') and, finally, treat us to the towering 'Natura Naturans.'
'A Big Pot Of Hot' ticks all of the boxes for those who are ardent followers of TNS Records' current roster (Revenge of The Psychotronic Man; Sounds of Swami etc.) but that isn't where the story ends. There's a range of extra dimensions hidden away in 'A Big Pot Of Hot's clatter, meaning that this is one old school punk album you can enjoy inbetween your local DIY gigs.