Bear Trade – Blood And Sand

Sometimes I yearn a little bit for when it was Milloy, Dauntless Elite and The Mercury League doing the rounds on the reg (or at least, semi-reg). They are all lovely people, but you’d get a bit of whiskey in your coffee with them. A bit of spit to shine your boots with.

I am not really sure at all what I’m talking about, so you’ve got absolutely no chance, but I do know that Bear Trade bring back some of that grit, some of that no-nonsense vibe, and include a reassuring amount of cynicism. You’re left under no illusion that this is take it or leave it punk rock. And you’re going to take it, because ‘Blood and Sand’ is one of the finest UK punk releases for quite some time.

I think it’s when ‘If Stoic Was Normal’ kicks in that I started getting really excited about this album. It’s ultra-melodic punk heaven with a Northern soul, gliding along like a big triumphant Hurricane fighter plane: roaring engines and a big shit-eating shark’s grin painted on the nose. All the best punk albums turn you into a kid again because it’s that feeling like your heart’s going to come out of your mouth. You used to get it every Saturday morning when you realised there was no school, and now you’re old you only get it when you hear great music.

During ‘Dolly Mixtures’ you hear how good these dudes are at harmonies. You think of ONSIND, not because they’re also from the North-East, but because they’re brilliant at harmonies, like these guys. OK, so it is a bit because they’re both from the North-East! But whatever, if you’re as good at harmonies as ONSIND you know you’re pretty damn good at them.

Lyrically, it’s just simple and earnest. No great depth or complexity is necessary here, but that’s in no way saying there is no feeling or meaning either, because there are bucket loads of both. I love this line from ‘Son of the Manse’: “Don’t lose sleep no, darling it’s all over now, this barrel has been scrapped. In twenty years this will be trivial, maybe then you’ll want me back, but darling don’t lose sleep”.

The influences are as apparent as they are varied, so it sounds like all your favourite punk bands rolled into one big wet dream of all those bands. ‘Postcards’ is like Jawbreaker reforming and featuring members of Leatherface. ‘Not Everything Makes A Noise’ is like your favourite, most emphatic, harmony-heavy Bad Religion song but with a bunch of guys who drink cask ales singing instead.

I hope I’ve made a pretty convincing argument for you to check out this record because it’s seriously well worth your time. If it helps, this band features former members of Blocko, Former Cell Mates, The Mercury League, The Mingers, Pure Graft and Ruin You! So you know they’ve got calibre, but actually forget all that because I like this more than any of those bands. And I like those bands.

This album will make you very, very happy.

– Alex Phelan

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