By The Kirkz
Imagine label-buddies Revenge of the Psychotronic Man with a more riff-centric slant, and you'll have a good idea of what Macclesfield-based The Kirkz sound like. 'Viene La Tormenta,' 'State of Fear,' 'Zombie Nation' and 'Fuck-Up Generation' all take that rattling, DIY punk formula, and cram in the additional riffs. 'Viene La Tormenta' gallops spikily along, before churning out some bass-soaked guitar lines, while 'State of Fear' keeps launching into rapid-fire technical guitar solos. Propelled by some truly wrist-cracking drums, 'State of Fear' is a punk-rock song that emphasises the rock, without sacrificing any of that hell-raising speed.
Album highlights 'Zombie Nation' and 'Fuck-Up Generation' twist their added riffs into the sort of hooky shapes not usually associated with the genre. 'Zombie Nation' scours the listener's ears with cider-soaked riffs, racing drums and shouty gang vocals, but sweetens the deal with spasms of quirky chords that'll get lodged in your head like candy-coated shrapnel. These are two gloriously sloppy punk-rock songs, with a stylish rock flourish.
And The Kirkz keep on cramming in those riffs, with the ska-meets-rock-meets-punk of 'Get Lucky.' 'Get Lucky' is one of the more experimental 'Agroculture' tracks, dropping to a sinister bass creep before revving straight into a skank-friendly frenzy. Frontman Max Johnson revels in the opportunity to show all the extremes of his vocal range, cramming character into every line. A cider-swilling epic that takes you on a journey through punk, ska and rock, with a manic grin fixed firmly to its face throughout. An album highlight.
But, The Kirkz aren't above administering a good old fashioned dose of jackhammer riffs and shouty vocals, with the no-frills fun of 'The Revenge' and 'Panic Earth.' When 'The Revenge' isn't hammering your ears with rapid-fire chord-work, it's either buzzing like a chainsaw or lashing you with guitar solos. 'Panic Earth' follows suit, but adds an undercurrent of riffs that reverberate up through its layers of busy guitar-work, hinting at a darker side that The Kirkz explore fully on 'Enemies.' A simmering bass line and snarly backing vocals makes for yet another subtle tweaking of The Kirkz' sound. This band refuse to be hemmed in by the sometimes restrictive formula of no-frills punk rock.
The Kirkz tread water on the inoffensive 'Kickbacks'. The chorus may be alphabet simple, but it's delivered with such enthusiasm that The Kirkz hoodwink you into shouting "it's take and / it's take and / it's take and give nothing back!" like it's some incisive social statement. Elsewhere, it's a similar balancing act: the song jumps around too much, but whenever that chorus kicks in, it's smiles all around. 'Kickbacks' keeps 'Agroculture' rolling along, rather than adding much new to the album.
Album low points are 'Massive Fun with a Tommy Gun' and 'Blank Cheque.' Both suffer from the same problem: each member of The Kirkz seem to be playing an entirely different song, while frontman Johnson rants along to a tune that exists only in his head. Both have encouraging moments where all the different elements click into place, but for the most part, 'Massive Fun with a Tommy Gun' and 'Blank Cheque' throw up a wall of noise that keeps the listener out, rather than pulls them in.
'Decapitation Policy' is the most experimental 'Agroculture' track. The first half has a slicker, jazzier shimmy and is a riot to listen to, but the second half feels like it's only just managing to keep the momentum going, despite being more punk-orientated and therefore similar to the rest of the album. 'Decapitation Policy' would have been another album highlight, if the second half matched the first.
Clanking, shouty punk with a surprising melodic centre, this follows in the vein of fellow TNS band Revenge of the Psychotronic Man, only with The Kirkz you can occasionally sing along. The album to lure you into TNS' world of breakneck riffing, phlegmy vocals and sloppy, drunken sing-alongs.