Ear Nutrition Presents: 15 (Melodic) Punk Bands from the UK to Check Out in 2021
Spare time audio dietician Matt Speer compiled a snippet of what the UK punk scene has to offer.
Although the UK scene is very much a part of the greater European scene and just as much of an integral part as any of the national scenes on the continent, it is often the case that some bands are unheard of outside of the islands. The previous year of “what”, also referred to as 2020, was a year of unrivalled surprises across the board. I am of course not referring to what you perceive I am, rather the underground music scene.
My name is Matt, I own and run the UK-based zine, Ear Nutrition and I have been asked to write a list of UK-centric bands that I think those on the continent need to hear. Some of these I have written full articles on that you can peruse on my site, others I haven’t. Either way, here are 15 bands I think you NEED to know about.
1 On A Hiding To Nothing
At the time of which I am tapping the keys that are making the words you are reading, I have an article on this band in my ‘to write list’. So you may see me mention this Portsmouth band again, you never know. I digress, On A Hiding To Nothing caused somewhat of a stir in 2020.
The band surprised everyone in 2020 with their first single in three years, simply titled, Dave. The single was themed around the bitterly ironic and senseless patriotism of the British to a government that is slowly destroying the country. Dave moans about them, whinges about it all and then blindly follows. Dave is a mess and he is sardonically and sarcastically deconstructed by On A Hiding To Nothing in an insanely quotable manner. Dave is—‘Just another happy turkey voting for Christmas’.
Musically, if you take the brash, cheeky, sarcastic but earnest conviction of the British rendition of the legacy of Epi-Fat, namely Consumed and Phinius Gage and in reality countless more, you will arrive with On A Hiding To Nothing. In February 2021, Dave resurfaced again with eleven more tracks. On A Hiding To Nothing unleashed a 12-track album of fast, vintage but ultra-refined and skilful precision-cut technically-inclined skate punk, that was rife with more hooks than you can skate a punk at. The band laced all this with an intelligent commentary on the modern world and UK alike in a way that, again, just appeared and took the punk scene by a pleasure-inducing surprise. We’ll Probably Be Fine is an album you cannot afford to miss in 2021 and what makes it all the better, is that the band have a fantastic back-catalogue. The UK’s skate punk scene may be smaller but its quality is at the top of its game.
2 Discover A Fire
Norwich’s Discover A Fire are a band I have been following more or less since their inception or at least regarding their recorded work. To date, I have written about them a total of three times and watching their journey has been of great intrigue. The band’s lineage from ‘90s punk is bonafide and their high-pitched, melodic and soaring punk-rock is a fantastic example of where the UK’s skate punk scene is. I would also argue this location to be a pinnacle or at least a need-to-listen aspect of the more technical side of the contemporary genre.
The band seamlessly fall-in with contemporaries such as The Human Project, Laughing In The Face Of (who you’ll read about shortly), Captain Trips and many more. The band, akin to the above, still definitely have their own sound, however. They move from a late-No Use For A Name inclined, mid-ish career NOFX and Much The Same-orientated sound onward to the lasting influence of Mute and Belvedere but also toward modern titans such as Hit The Switch and Thousand Oaks.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that if you enjoy all things skate punk, Discover A Fire embody what made the genre successful but also that of the wildly technical and metal-infused realm of where it is now. They are not a band to ignore and recently signed to London’s Disconnect Disconnect Records.
3 All Fall Down
All Fall Down are VERY new. The band have one single at the time at which I am writing this and it’s a cleverly orchestrated slice of skate punk adjacent melodic punk-rock. It is difficult to say much more about the band other than that what they have cleverly and rather effectively achieved is a blueprint from which they can confidently charge off or simply amble along to whatever beat they choose.
The band’s debut single opens with a charge of fast, late ‘90s skate punk that is nothing new but also nowhere near anything worn-out. Take Me Back then takes a different route, All Fall Down up their melodic, anthemic and emotively poignant ante and then pursue a down-tempo drive that’s still just as jagged and echoes their heavier side but easily matches the need to escape the track embodies. In a scene where playing to a breakneck technical beat is the norm, although MORE than capable, the band chose not to and it pays off.
From where they are now, All Fall Down could continue on a skate punk-adjacent format with this inbuilt contrast, move into ultra-melodic soaring tech-punk, classic pop-punk or even mid-tempo melodic hardcore. The possibilities are there for exploration.
4 Milo’s Planes
I’ve lived in the historical city of Bath for the last ten years. Although there is a music scene here it’s not what it was and its punk and heavy music contingent could be better. Thus, I often look to the nearby city of Bristol for my local punk fix, as well as for larger international bands coming through. Milo’s Planes are another band that have recently decided to get back to it after a period of studio silence. Although they played some live shows (which are still on hold in the UK at this time) after their last full-length, not much in the way of new music surfaced.
Although they have an excellent back catalogue of Dischord-style post-hardcore behind them, the band have recently released what I have written to be one of their best. The band, despite a formula they have stuck to for the most part, still surprise you. Their aggressive, complex and discordant distorted punk is a marvel so I’m not going to cheapen it further by going on too long.
However, what I will say, is that they are a modern-day incarnation of Fugazi via Bristol in south-west England. Change my mind.
5 Bob Vylan
Bob Vylan is the very definition of “making waves”. Although versions of Grime (a UK variant of hip-hop if you don’t know) have existed in the UK punk, ska-punk and adjacent scenes for some time, Bob Vylan’s blend of raw, riff-heavy, fast and serrated hardcore punk is something to behold. In fact, their 2020 album, We Live Here, is a historical moment for the punk scene and a rallying cry against the systemic and embedded racism against people of African descent (and otherwise) found in the UK.
In a nutshell, although around prior, Bob Vylan completely and utterly blew up in 2020. The debut full-length followed after a few years knocking around the punk scene with their band of grime-punk but the 2019-recorded, 2020-released album is utterly timeless. Since its initial release its been pressed on vinyl six-times (I actually have a 5th pressing signed), sold out on cassette tape and cascaded over the 50,000 monthly listener mark on Spotify alone. BV also recently released two bonus tracks from We Live Here on the deluxe edition and for me personally, they mark some of the best. Don’t sleep on Bob Vylan.
6 Making Friends
Making Friends only formed in 2020 but their debut release into 2021 has been one of my favourite moments of 2021. In fact, I featured them twice in a very short space of time that is almost as short as their first EP. You may think I’m joking but their debut EP is but a modest blast of unrelentingly quick skate punk in a breakneck four and a half minutes! Their second EP, although fast (I’ve heard one song thus far) is set to have songs as long as THREE WHOLE MINUTES. Surely not?!
In all seriousness, with vocalist Ryan Mansell having a history with the now-defunct UK skate punk band Fastfade and current work with his other post-hardcore/punk/emo band Maisonette, there isn’t a shortage of music coming from Brighton. Making Friends compare themselves to the likes of Captain Everything, Belvedere and No Use For A Name, although I would add Millencolin, Cigar, Adhesive and Lagwagon. Making Friends are a band with a bright and stupidly fast future ahead of them.
7 Brain Ape
Brain Ape are one of those who epitomise the existence and often struggle of the underground band. The three-piece from London have once been a four, traversed line-ups and formats more than once and yet, slowly and steadily remain. I was once at a gig where they were told that their brand of sometimes punk-fuelled stoner-grunge and desert rock was too loud. On other occasions, I’ve seen them make the room shake and reverberate simply via the band’s bassist. The band also run their own DIY label by the name of Scratch Rock Records in order to market their own work, some others and even print their own merch. DIY indeed!
Brain Ape’s back catalogue is something well-worth your time and perfect to fulfil your penchant for underground fuzzed and heavy cathartic rock outside of the punk and hardcore of this list. Brain Ape actually broke studio-silence recently with the first single ahead of a more heavy-set-brooding-stoner-grunge with clxxvi. veni vidi vici. In short, the latest single is and was the correct way to begin 2021 and a call back to their roots on the one hand and a refinement of those very roots on the other. The mighty underground three-piece formula isn’t worn out yet.
Warrington’s Hummer have been one of my favourite bands for quite some time, both live, off stage as people and on recording. Will, Joe and Matt are not only veteran musicians but exceptionally good ones at that. In fact of Hummer’s three records, each of which shows an expertly played aspect of their sound, it’s impossible to talk ill of them in any substantial way. The band’s “life-punk” cascades with ease though Hot Water Music-style post-hardcore punk-rock, the brash, the intelligent vocal interplay of the Lawrence Arms and meaders in and out of ‘90s style melodic punk and skate punk.
For a full breakdown of their latest, How Did I Get Here?’ head to this Ear Nutrition page for a full review. I wouldn’t normally peddle my own work so openly but it is the only time I have ever been able to articulate how fully brilliant Hummer indeed are.
Drones have been around a good while and like many within the contemporary punk scene, have altered their hardware, upgraded where necessary and experimented with their poignant and emotive brand melodic but unquestionably hard-hitting punk. Drones have morphed from scrappy melodic hardcore via the metamorphosis above onward to a post-hardcore-led sound interchanging in and out of jagged, charged skate punk and more reserved but no less intense melodic punk.
Lois McDougall’s lyrics are beyond quotable, intelligent, evocative, honest and timeless. This has been the case since they joined the band and have only increased in the incredible recent effort Our Hell Is Right Here that released earlier this year after a long, long road. The band’s latest was an album that constantly had to rage against COVID. Line-up changes, Zoom practices and socially distanced recording all the while navigating the pandemic hotbed of London. The whole pandemic period has pinned the music scene up against the wall, corralled it into the corner and left it little room to flex and challenge its limited surroundings.
However, with all that said, Drones released a truly fantastic, varied and immersive modern punk record that you NEED to hear. The band are currently signed to both Lockjaw Records in the UK/EU and Thousand Islands Records in North America.
10 Ghosts Of Westbeach
I’m afraid I am cheating somewhat with this one. Ghosts Of Westbeach are another staple that epitomises the COVID period and how the music scene has earnestly endured.
Ghosts Of Westbeach are a lockdown project and one that despite their two tracks to date, deserve to be exponentially “bigger” than they are. The band are set across three separate landmasses and yet have produced two of the most seamless, addictive and anthemic modern fast-punk tracks I have heard in quite some time. I appreciate that is a bold statement to utter but I will not for an instance back down.
Ghosts Of Westbeach are comprised of one Javier Gedeón of EAT DIRT, Kris Reilly of ’90s Punks Chuck and finally Felix Jeckstadt of Soundgrind Studio, where both the band’s tracks were mixed and mastered. Chuck is based in the US, Javier in London and Felix in Germany, hence the admittance of “cheating”. Either way, the manner in which Reilly’s melodic, yet heartfelt and gruff vocals capture your attention even before his excellent songwriting slaps you in the face is incredible. Javier’s drumming is effortlessly fast and between both him and Felix, the respective axes and grounded bass are nothing but streamlined, tonally fantastic and utterly immersive.
In other words, both Someone Else and Dissolution are unambiguously indicative of what technology can achieve and how music transcends barriers. Quickly.
11 Laughing In The Face Of
Where do you even begin with Laughing In The Face Of?
Well, with the simple statement that they are a crucial part of both the UK and world scene when it comes to fast melodic punk music. North America birthed the ‘90s punk explosion and continues to hone and honour it with some deviation (particularly in Canada). South American nations twist it into rippingly fast, technical and passionate renditions and within Europe, absolutely anything goes to the highest possible quality. Metal, post-hardcore and particularly thrash ply themselves into all of these to some description but it is the sheer intricacy of many of the UK’s biggest and brightest bands that arguably leads the way with it all. As I said before, some would describe it as a pinnacle.
This is where Laughing In The Face Of come in. I initially planned to review the band but their near-impossible skill-level was utterly terrifying. In fact, the fear of even trying to approach it and the even further worry of cheapening their intrinsic and indomitable intricacy left me tapping out prior to even one word. In a rather simplistic description, there is so much going on in the band’s music that it is utterly enveloping and overpowering in the best possible way. Both their records are utterly face-melting and existential crisis-inducing but it is unequivocally the case with the 2020 Here Lies Ordinary.
I would like to point out that its power to completely alter your perception of reality and music but fast melodic punk-rock particularly, negates all negative implications of the word “crisis”. Laughing In The Face Of are one of the best bands in the game musically and when you combine that with their woe-fully en-point politics, it’s a match made in cathartic heaven.
Now, what is even more amusing about what you have just read is that Pmx are another band of the technical skate punk and melodic hardcore scene that solicit a similar reaction with their utterly effortless skill. In short-speak, they are technical, they are fast and their melodies are top-notch. The band have been a consistent part of the UK and European fast-punk scene for approaching a decade now with their ultra-harmonic, mega-melodic and emotionally evocative punk-rock. However, it is in the 2020 full-length Ctrl Alt Del that the band’s work reaches its definitive pinnacle.
Similarly to the above band, Pmx crafted an album that was at the very height of the technical skate punk game. Unlike Here Lies The Ordinary, Pmx’s 2020 release is resoundingly more inclined toward the skate punk camp, though melodic hardcore fans will enjoy it. Ctrl Alt Del matches every crooning melodic hook and anthemic line to its similarly beckoning melodic vocals and poignant lyrics.
Again, similar to a lot of fast melodic punk and hardcore albums that have been crafted in the UK in recent years, Ctrl Alt Del is respective of the fascinating (and equally terrifying) state of British social and mainline politics within the last ten years. Ctrl Alt Del matches these themes but also dives deeper into more ”life” oriented themes such as addiction, familial loss and how we live in an age where everything can be deleted at the click of a button. Ctrl Alt Del is truly emotive stuff and will be a record you’ll spin and blast repeatedly.
13 Kibou Records
And so, I break the rules again. I’m clearly incredibly punk. Moving on!
I had initially wanted to include one band from the Kibou roster and then that became two and then the two became utterly impossible. Kibou Records is a UK based record label and disto run by one James Scott of UK Hardcore Punk staples The Domestics and many, many, many other bands and projects. The Label co-releases a wide array of underground UK (and otherwise) hardcore & punk-rock with a number of other labels across the UK, Europe and as far away as New Zealand.
Mr Domestic himself also uses the label to release his list of “many, many, many other bands and projects”. I thoroughly recommend that you indulge in his work with The Domestics but that is really only the tip of the proverbially disgruntled iceberg. Though it is statistically impossible to keep up with Kibou or Mr Domestic, I have written about some of his releases and personal bands and projects. So it is here then that I have to say that if you like your hardcore on the relentlessly fast and aggravated side, then Kibou Records is for you.
PI$$ER are a band that blend raucously wild and apocalyptic d-beat with a shockingly natural and warped saxophone without being ska. Froggy & The Ringes push playful, garage punk and hardcore, whilst KÖRD VÄRLD bring a distorted raw sound one part UK and one Sweden. Along with KÖRD VÄRLD, Tokyo Lungs is another relentless blast and finally, the latest from Zero Again is a required edition born from a legacy of underground UK Hardcore. The final three being my personal favourites of the Kibou roster.
14 Floods In Japan
Speaking of hardcore, Floods In Japan were a band debuting into 2020 playing with the medium whilst simultaneously blending it with a mix of further punk-rock and grunge. Does that sound appealing? Well, it should. I could go into a wealth of detail on the past of the band’s individual accolades but I would be here for an age. To be concise, the four humans of Floods In Japan are bonafide veterans and their 2020 Demo the product.
The band’s three tracks to date crash through the door as a heavily UK-centric blend of punk, hardcore and grunge in a way that inextricably links the three. The sludge, southern rock groove and amble of titans Cancer Bats can be heard throughout despite Floods In Japan not treading anywhere near the sheer ferocity of the legendary Canadians. That said, the band capture the earnest drive of early hardcore punk ala Black Flag and combine in with a clear penchant for latter-timeline groove-core. However, despite their punk credentials, it is the looming grunge-lacquer, attitude and sometimes down-right emulation that really lands this band in high-stead. I eagerly await what they have planned for 2021 and I’m still gutted that I couldn’t get a copy of the vinyl.
SickOnes in their various formats and styles have cut an infamous path through UKHC and especially within that of the southwest, specifically gravitating around the city of Bristol. The band that initially started as a voice, a drum kit and a lone guitar have supported the likes of Cancer Bats, the Dead Kennedys and many notable bands in the modern UK scene. Along the way, SickOnes have had quite the journey. As it stands, they are now a four-piece of drums, guitar, bass and have a different vocalist to who they started with and are simultaneously both a better and a different band for it
The band’s commitment to hardcore punk is entrenched from the frantic OG sounds of Minor Threat, energetic bludgeoning riffs of Black Flag and onward to the legacy and groove of NYC-style hardcore and more. I’ve been lucky enough to see all the incarnations of the band live and with their current format, SickOnes have become effortless.
Their most recent track “Agility” is a raucous, chugging hardcore-post-hardcore hybrid that ties in elements of all the bands work thus far. It is difficult to pick a memorable riff, bridge or refrain from the band and “Agility” makes it all the harder across its 2:52. It is also important to note that the band haven’t forgotten their roots despite their ever-evolving sound and across their material online and at live shows, they champion their own legacy and past whilst swiftly moving forward.
Matthew Speer is a Bath, England-based music writer with the objective of uncovering the best underground and alternative guitar-driven music from the UK and beyond. Follow @earnutritionnnn