The UK’s folk punk scene, when folk punk was a really big thing, never felt quite as ambitious as America’s. While the US had Andrew Jackson Jihad and This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb and Defiance, Ohio and Plan-It-X records and all that stuff, the folk punk of the British Isles was mostly dominated by acoustic solo singer-songwriters like Frank Turner, too mellow to still really be considered anything other than punk by association. Josh Mckenzie and Dan Bond’s Apologies, I Have None was different – they were ramshackle and impassioned, trading two sticks and six strings as they hopped between drums and guitar on each song, the chemistry between them undeniable.
Different bands work in different ways. There are some that manage to be so much more than the sum of its parts that just about any member can come and go without it stopping the collective from moving forwards, while others are so tied to its core members that its hard to imagine them moving on once one of them has left. Apologies, I Have None always felt like the latter sort of band. When they expanded out to a four piece they became unstoppable, but only because the new members served to back up that chemistry and their combined songwriting strengths, keeping it as the band’s focus and core dynamic. They were pretty much the best punk band in the UK for a while because of it, before they got swept up in that tour cycle where you’re big enough to earn support slots for all your favourite bands from when you’re a kid and get too busy to ever play at home anymore.
Sometimes life gets on top of you, and few bands have been as good at summing that up at Apologies – but there comes a point where you can’t solve all your problems by turning to punk rock, like their old songs suggested. Bond left the band and their hectic tour schedule behind to have a life with his family, leaving Mckenzie to carry on the momentum that the two had built together on his own, to carry a band built entirely on a partnership on one set of shoulders from now on. A tough task for anyone.
The first try wasn’t bad – Black Everything was a great EP that hinted at a bigger, darker direction for the band on the terrifying Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust, but also at the dangers of having to fill the gaps that another songwriter usually took care of – Two Bombs In A Box remains one of Apologies’ weakest songs because it takes the core concept of a lot of their best efforts, distils it to one simplistic line – “How the fuck did I not see this coming? I should have known.” – and repeats it over and over again until it loses all meaning. The next full-length could have gone either way.
But it’s finally here – a ridiculously long four years after London – and Pharmacie is, for better or worse, a killer. Quite literally taking us out of London, to a pharmacy in Paris, Mckenzie’s Apologies, I Have None goes to darker corners than the band ever found in the familiar streets of their home city. When things went wrong there, safe spaces and friendly faces and second chances were never too far away. Here, cast adrift in Europe with the weight of the world on their shoulders, things feel a little less certain. And it’s not always going to plan.
Why even bother to beat around the bush? “I hate the person I’ve become,” Mckenzie sings on The Clarity Of Morning, reworked from Black Everything to sound even more haunting than before. “The world has got me spinning around, and down, and out.” There are lines throughout that will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s recognised something wrong with themselves but not been able to fix it. It’s a record full of insecurity, doubt, depression and struggle, offering catharsis and dragging you down with it in equal measures.
With a bleak view of what the future holds, Pharmacie spends plenty of time looking backwards for at least some sort of an attempt at solace. Killers calls back to “the beds we shared in London, in the flats that we called home,” while Goodbye, Peace Of Mind feels even more specific. “Turn this one up, man – I haven’t heard it in a long time. As we sit in silence, it reminds us of how we’ve barely spoken in a long time. I don’t know why” – it feels like it could be about listening to 100 Club from Two Sticks and Six Strings, remembering when things were a bit easier, when we were unstoppable.
Crooked Teeth, on the other hand, reads like a sequel to Sat In Vicky Park – sunlit afternoon drinking sessions led to realisations about masculinity that have developed over the years to more serious questions of identity, and the struggle of “trying to find a place within a framework that says teach your sons to be aggressive, daughters to give in, and a real man never backs down, he keeps his fears close to his chest.” It’s easy enough to realise that a man is not his job – it’s harder to deal with the expectations that society places upon men, and women, and the way they deal with their emotions.
Mckenzie has always been good at masking his intent – his most notorious line on London’s The 26 set up a scene of violent assault and then immediately pulled the rug on the boys singing along by explaining just how fucked up it is. This time, he spreads a similar bait and switch over two different songs, setting up a dangerous approach to dealing with your own problems on Everybody Wants To Talk About Mental Health. “Everyone thinks that by talking they can work their problems out,” he sings, voice twisting to a growl. “But I’ve never been one for talking about myself, so if talk is the only way to solve this then I don’t wanna sort it out.” It’s a pretty dark view of where things might end up, but then It’s Never The Words You Say softens the edges just enough, reminding us that “not much ever changes if you don’t let old habits go.” Hope still manages to shine through, here and there.
Apologies wasted no time in shaking free from the folk punk aesthetic when they switched up to a four piece band, swelling to an almighty stadium punk sound on London that always felt as at home on those big festival stages all over Europe as it did in D.I.Y. venues around the UK, but Pharmacie takes things even further. The whole album soars on swirling guitars, crashing in with heavier riffs where you least expect them, constantly raising the stakes on every track. Love & Medication kicks things off in a way that suggests business as normal if you’d missed the lineup changes, heavy EPs and super-aggressive live shows since London, but Wraith quickly casts the record into a nosedive where all bets are off. Mckenzie, long-term drummer Joe Watson, and new guys Simon Small and James Hull have crafted a stunning record of dark, claustrophobic and intense punk quite unlike anything else out there.
The double hitter of closers Killers and A Pharmacy In Paris, is a particularly remarkable achievement, clocking in at fourteen combined minutes of suspense, buildups and crushing crescendos – the closest they’ve ever come to this is their epic cover of ONSIND’s Either He’s Dead Or My Watch Has Stopped on their split a few years back. A post-rock comparison whenever bands write a song over five minutes long feels lazy as fuck but here it’s justified – as Killers powers to a close with one ringing guitar line and Mckenzie’s scream of “it’s been a hard few years” forcing its way through the haze, Apologies sound like a band that have truly outgrown the constraints of punk rock and continue to set their sights on something ever-bigger.
There is, admittedly, the odd stumble, the odd wonky line – Anything Chemical repeats Two Bombs… trick of overdoing a certain lyric (“I let my brother go…” this time) – and at times it’s hard not to miss the more well-rounded Apologies, I Have None, with positivity that shines through the darkness, with two songwriters trading off and building on each other instead of one trying not to drown. But these moments are rare, and when Pharmacie hits its high points, which are fairly constant throughout, it’s obvious that it’s the struggle that’s important here. The world has got a lot darker since 2012 – gone from bad to worse – and this is the version of Apologies, I Have None best equipped to try and deal with it. Sometimes your favourite Grade record and some tins in the park can’t solve all your problems – you need to get your head down, and force your way through.
It is with a heavy heart that we announce that our slot on Saturday 4th at Hevy festival in Kent this weekend will be the last show CROCUS ever plays.
Over the last 5 years CROCUS has been a band of extreme highs and extreme lows and now we find ourselves being a band that is at a point where we are no longer really a band.
The first set of member changes in 2010 set us back for sure, but everything was eventually Ok, CROCUS felt great again for some time but the problems just kept coming; we kept adapting and kept adapting the best we knew how: allowing for fill-in members and new drummers galore. There were always the 3 of us battling through. However last week came the fatal blow; Lewis decided he no longer had the desire to continue his role in the band. He wishes to persue other ventures and feels he can no longer give what being in the kind of band we are/were requires. We cannot and will not continue as CROCUS without Lewis, it is already hard to see the woods for the trees and understand where we are and what we are as a band and without Lewis this is impossible.
All we can say is thankyou. Thankyou so much for everything, these 5 years have mostly been mind blowing, and changed our lives entirely, thankyou to every promoter every person who let us crash at your place, every person who filled in: mainly the amazing Kieran Brindley and every person who recorded us and put out our records, particularly Mikee/Zak & Cheryl we heart records and more recently the one and only Alex Fitzpatrick @ Holy Roar Records.
Thankyou to everyone who has ever been in and left our band: Tom, Greg, Jake and Lewis although we ended up wanting different things we shared a vision for sometime and this break up is because that vision is no longer achievable or even very real. To move forward as a band you have to be a unit and to be a unit you have to move together. When half of your band is replaced every 18 months, this becomes impossibly hard and apathy inducing.
We want to put this band to bed in the best way possible, with our friends all having fun in one place. When we play on Saturday just dance, go wild, that is all this has ever been about anyway, fun and enjoying each others company. If you can get on stage, then do, come and grasp the last moments of the songs and give them the funeral they deserve.
Thankyou for all the support and everything else, we love you all very much and please keep an eye out for our new band/s.
We are playing our last show this saturday at 12:00/midday on the Rocksound stage at HEVY fest in Kent.
“So the time has finally come………PRE ORDERS for our Brand New record will be up THIS FRIDAY. The record is titled "What’s Left Of Me” ( Think everyone knew that anyways ). There will be 5 different colour records. 3 colours for pre order, 1 colour available at our shows, and a final colour available from a selected record store in the big smoke. Loads more details released on Friday, but for now, as the Youth of today say……Get Stoked.“
12 year old (or so i’ve been told, might be wrong on his age) young dude reviewing the Run Walk album. His knowledge for his age is mindblowing. This is incredible and really gives me hope for the next generation of music fans! It doesn’t have to be all Black Veil Brides, Skrillex and whatever other shite certain media outlets/major labels condescending think you should like because of your age!
Check out his other reviews too as he speaks about some amazing bands. If anyone knows how i can get in touch with this young man, please let me know as he deserves to be told how cool he is and how awesome the effort he is making is….