Bunch Of Fives – Ballpeen/Onlooker | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Newcastle’s post-hardcore inspired noisemakers, Ballpeen and Hartlepool’s garage-rock outfit Onlooker have joined forces to put out a split EP courtesy of Sunderland’s Serial Bowl Records. This special edition release (limited to 40 copies) features three tracks from each band on separate CDs that are bound together with a labeled obi strip. It’s a frenetic, in-your-face release with a raw and gritty tone that will most definitely blow the cobwebs off your lockdown weary soul. 

In true split release style, we asked both bands to give us a bunch of fives each and put them into one single piece, affectionately known as a MEGA-article…

Ballpeen – Records 

Vision of Disorder – Imprint 
Rory: I first heard this while on work experience and being completely floored by it. I knew I didn’t want to work in a letting agency when I grew up and this seemed to align with that. 

Having come from listening to the usual metal and alternative stuff this to me came from a whole different angle where there was no pretence to anything, they just seemed like pretty ‘normal’ guys which at the time seemed a complete revelation because this was harder hitting than anything I’d come across up to that point. It just paved the way for finding more stuff that had that feeling about it. 

Neurosis – Through Silver In Blood 
Adam: This was a hand me down promo cd a friend bought for a quid from a local record shop (Pet Sounds) in late 1996 or early 1997. On first listen I had no idea what to make of it. The first song is over 10 minutes long and I’m not sure I lasted half of it. I was 16 or 17 at the time. 

It was the sort of record I’d come back to every couple of months too. That process, not “getting it” immediately but persevering through repeated listens stuck with me, I always try to keep it in mind when giving new music a go. 

Times of Grace and Sun that Never Sets get played more regularly as overall bodies of work, they are much stronger but the first five tracks on TSIB are almost untouchable. 

Iron Monkey – Self-titled
Adam: Around 1997 Iron Monkey played in Newcastle at one of the smallest pubs with an even smaller basement (the Stout Fiddler), I think there was an Irish folk band performing upstairs as well. I met a few people who were involved with organising the gig, I ended up joining a band with them. This band set me on the course to meet Graham and Rory to eventually form Ballpeen. 

Around this time I remember reading interviews with the band and being….confused by the singers nonplussed attitude towards their growing popularity, he seemed more happy playing smaller gigs, practising and just being part of the band, talk of “making it”, “progression” etc he seemed happy enough to entertain but left that to the others. Looking back the attitude was as an eye opener. A band doing fairly well for themselves yet not actively looking to sell millions and make a fortune. 

Anyway, I picked up the self titled cd either just before or after the gig. Their second album, Our Problem is almost certainly better but that record brings back fond memories. 

Yaphet Kotto – Syncopated Synthetic Laments Of Love
Rory: This was the first Yaphet Kotto release I heard in 2003 or thereabouts and I was instantly into all the melody and downbeat but hopeful sort of feel to everything. There’s nothing complex about the music, it just does what it does really well and completely makes sense if you’re into it. This was the gateway for getting into the whole Ebullition Records back catalogue, Torches to Rome and Bread and Circuits could both be on this list too, but for me Yaphet Kotto came first. 

Unwound – The Future Of 
Graham: Like a lot of great bands and great records I came to the Unwound party pretty late. I’m shamefully slow with a lot of good music. I’m not sure which of their albums is my favourite, but I think this one captures them in the right balance of noisy and distorted but still with some really strong melodic content and well written songs. As a 3-piece I think it is a challenge to build up layers, make it interesting and have enough musical presence, unless you’re only playing three chord punk or something along those lines. Although we’re sort of a ‘noisy’, ‘heavy’ band there’s a lot of melody in Rory’s guitar playing. We try to strike a balance between playing off or against each other then all playing together when a song needs it, it’s those and other subtleties that I think make the music more interesting. Bands like Unwound, Melvins, Shotmaker, Unsane and others do that well and I’d say they’re an inspiration for Ballpeen. 

Onlooker – Musical Influences

Uranium Club – All Of Them Naturals 
The four of us came across this band almost by accident about a year ago and they blew our collective minds. They’re one of those bands that you listen to and think “how aren’t these being played everywhere?” This album in particular (although all their releases are up to the same standard) is about as close to perfect as is possible to get. From the writing to the guitar tones, they absolutely nailed it. 

Harvey Milk – Special Wishes 
Ben: What an album. I think the fact the band openly hate everything they release adds to this being so good . The whole album has this feeling that no one involved really cared what it sounded like, given that the singer Creston Spiers sounds plastered through the whole thing, but they just couldn’t help but make it incredible. And even though a lot of the record is played to sound loose or even sloppy it has some of the most perfectly placed and played guitars I’ve ever heard; the solos in Mother’s Day for example. 

Polvo – In Prism 
Bruce: I’ve come back to this album recently after not regularly listening to it since it was first released in 2009. Polvo are the type of band I feel like I fall more in love with upon each listen, they’re weird like Sonic Youth but they’ve got the hooks like Pavement. Each of their releases are sensational and when they reformed and released In Prism there was no doubt in my mind that they’d held on to what made them special. 

Kate Tempest – The Book Of Traps And Lessons 
Kev – when I first heard this album last year it blew me away, I’ve listened to bits of Kate tempest over the last few years and the stories, subjects and rousing statements always catch my attention in an ‘Amen’ kind of fashion. Full of angry but hopeful tension of being alive right now this instantly spoke to me. With Onlooker being my first band as a vocalist, I’ve found myself looking in many different places for inspiration especially poetry, I can’t help but find myself writing heavily about world issues, human struggles and frustrations. This album hitting on all of these topics and more is maybe why it gives me so much inspiration right now. 

Meatbodies – Meatbodies 
Mike – An all round absolute screamer of an album that never fails to slap the taste out of your mouth. Meatbodies live are so tight, they make my duds seem loose.

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