For many in the UK, Cornwall is known for being one of the most beautiful parts of the country and a holiday destination for the masses, as well as being the home of the tasty Cornish pasty. However, Cornwall is also being put on the map by a three-piece punk band going by the name of Bangers. This is a band which has, over the last few years, raised its profile through gigging in the UK, mainland Europe and even playing The Fest, honing their talents into a mighty bundle of melodic punk rock.
Last year saw Specialist Subject release a compilation of Bangers tracks on the Dude Trips collection CD, a reminder of what they'd previously put out; plus, for some it acted as a taster for a promised long-player. That compilation was good enough, and I was hoping for more of the same from Small Pleasures, but what strikes me immediately when listening to the opening track of the album, "Making Friends", is that it sounds like Bangers have matured somewhat and with it moved up a level. That's not indicating that they previously inhabited the world of base humour and dodgy lyrics, as nothing could be further from the truth; it's more a case of the whole sound of the band coming across thicker and even more cohesive, as well as the guys being just that bit older (that final point is one that cannot be denied and is enhanced by the band in "Wizard Wise", when they sing "we're older now than we ever have been"), especially from the vocals of Roo Pescod, which have taken on a slightly deeper, throaty tone.
Throughout the album, you get the feel that these really are personal offerings from the band, with songs conjuring up images and reminding me of situations I've been in or others I know have been in. It was one of the things I instantly liked about the songs on Dude Trips, in that there was a sense of reality within the lyrics, with references or situations that were easily relatable and which drew you into their world. With Pescod's improved vocals, the whole package is served up with a warm, crunchy guitar sound and a rumbling rhythm section that is efficient and effective; Bangers basically crank out song after song of melodic and tuneful punk rock without a lull in the quality of what they produce.
I really like "Church Street in Ruins", a song which could have been written about a whole host of towns across the UK, highlighting the plethora of coffee shops, sale signs and a general air of needing to spend, spend, spend. However, in an effort to resist this, Pescod repeats the mantra, "The last thing I need is any more things," a sentiment that is admirable but is anathema to so many whose only aim in life is to own more for one reason or another.
Tracks such as "Geeks and Paedophiles", which laments the world of computers and their ability to break down just outside of the warranty (it contains the wonderful line, "So thanks a lot Bill") and "Integral Faults", with the excellent observation, "I wish just once I had a job that paid the rent and left enough time to make living worthwhile", are just two of 10 very good songs here. It's rare to find work that is this consistent across the board, but that's what Small Pleasures provides.
I like this more each time I play it, and it currently stands in my top 10 releases of the year (you can't go wrong with Specialist Subject Records, really), and it's got a strong chance of being there or thereabouts come the end of 2011.
Obviously, the link with Kiss of Death should bring the Bangers to the attention of a new audience, one they deserve, and they fit in nicely with other bands on that label-as well they would if the album had been co-released by the likes of No Idea or Traffic Street Records. The USA should be looking eastwards to see what's happening in the UK these days, as there are a number of bands who could pleasantly surprise many people not looking beyond their own home-grown talent.
On a slight tangent, to really appreciate the ups and downs of touring, you could do worse than get ahold of a copy of drummer Hamish Adams' fanzine, Lucida Console's Dog Days, which details the events, both positive and negative, of a Bangers tour to Europe. It's an interesting, albeit at times quite bleak, read.