Release date: 1st August
With influences ranging from At The Drive-In, Refused, Botch, These Arms Are Snakes, Young Legionnaire and many more bands who regularly soundtrack my early drive into work – clawing the sleep from my eyes and shaking the fuzz from my brain – or plague my ears as I’m out walking the dog, to say I was intrigued to hear what Radio Alcatraz were all about is a bit of an understatement. As soon as the CD arrived through my letterbox, in my CD player it went and that’s pretty much how it’s stayed. I think my neighbours can now even air-guitar the riffs.
The band hail from London and Brighton and have shared the stage with the likes of punk legends Anti-Flag, Godsized – who’ve toured with Black Label Society, and also smaller, hardcore, underground bands such as Palm Reader and Housefires. Even though the band have played with such loyally-followed bands, their own popularity on social media sites (the world revolves around them these days) is, to be honest, a long way off what should be expected. It’s strange, because most bands take to social media outlets as a means of gathering their early fans and for first getting their name out there, but Radio Alcatraz don’t seem bothered in the slightest. It seems like they just want their music to do all the talking which, in my mind, beats being a shit band with a massive following on social media sites. If you’re a good band, then you don’t really need to big yourself up online – let people hear your music and find out that a new band can cope without relentless plugging on their Facebook page or whatever. And with this album, the Alcatraz boys have definitely shown that’s true.
This album was recorded with the help of Chris Coulter (Arcane Roots) and it combines post-rock, alternative and post-hardcore, and even bite-sized pieces of indie, for a sound that is, at best, heart-rendering and, at worst, incredibly passionate. Thirteen tracks of melody and discord, scattered with lyrics tinged with social and political connotations make for a debut album full of hope and promise, and it’s about as arresting as being woken up at 4a.m.by a bucket-full of ice-water.
The album starts with Oxford Codes – a hypnotising down-tempo riff is blown apart by the lyrics of Swing the camera round. Capture the animal actions of the crowd and a melodic guitar coupled with a frantic, clattering drumbeat creates a chaotic, yet full sound that hides a discreet amount of anger behind the engaging harmony that the track carries. The final lyrics of Open up your eyes, something isn’t right sums up the track’s anarchic tendencies really well and hints at the band’s political ideals.
Corpus Capitaneus Learning Curve is a track filled with ambient reflections and an intimate, emotional atmosphere that conjures up images of people you’ve loved and lost, private memories that will forever be with you; and of good, but now gone, times with friends and loved ones that are now just islands moored in the ocean of your mind. Even though the track is possibly the most laid-back on offer (check out The Code Is Lotus: Burn The Room), the lyrics are anything but and there’s an underlying theme of defeat and irritation at a world that had so much to offer, but is now a stagnant ball of blue and green with a burning fire inside. The lyrics of And as we twist and swing we’ll all sing: we’re lost souls will be murmured on your lips a long time after the album’s finished.
If I Could Control Ghosts I’d Kill You In Your Sleep digresses from a slow, delicate jangle to a balls-to-the-wall track that tells a story drenched in noir spillage: In a mansion that overlooks a burial ground I wait for the telephone to sound, expecting a call from a shady lady really brings images of black-and-white detective thrillers and the music itself could soundtrack said movie in its ability to caress and lead the listener through the dingy shadows. The bass in this track is a really strong aspect – it pops and cracks and bounces all the way through, relishing in the free-reign it’s been given.
Running Through the Stitch merges guitars that eerily staccato and wind their way through the track, while the bass patters away in the background like a hungry dog stalking the lanes behind the takeaways at night. The drums clamber up through the noise made by the strings and add a satisfying, crisp rhythm to the track which really gets your head a-moving and your limbs a-shaking.
This is a superb effort for a debut album. There isn’t a track where you feel as if it doesn’t fit and has just been thrown in to make up the numbers; every track has its place. The UK underground is rich with fresh, up-and-coming and diverse bands at the moment and with this album, hopefully, before long, Radio Alcatraz will be climbing out from there and bringing their music to a bigger audience.