Black Skies EP
(Pirates Press Records)
As cool as some album covers are (and the cover of the Black Skies EP is definitely very cool), the peril is often that the image on the cover of a record just doesn’t match the music. It could easily be argued that Black Skies falls hard into that trap; with crows and twisted trees adorning the EP’s cover as well as an ominous and gothic looking clock tower, the idea that the music contained on the record might sound like The Birthday Party or The Misfits or some other gothic punk outfit doesn’t feel like it’s outside the realm of possibility. As soon as srtlus settles into groove and “Last Minute Warning” opens the A-side of the EP though, listeners will know that possibility is evaporating; guitarist Rob Schwitzer lays out a lean and overdriven but not over-sped figure under which Troy Zak and Orville Lancaster align a fairly simple but powerful rhythm for Greg Huff to bark out an angry but unfocused rant which still manages to hook listeners and pull them along. Lines like, “I look at your system… tell me what you see/ Too many faces, what about them now/ Never mind the situation, just tell me what you see/ Passing by the clock, I wait; lost in time again” prove solid in performance even if the direction in which they’re headed is unclear. That lack of focus endures, frustratingly, but the performance never weakens and, when the song wraps on the words, “So much sorrow, so many lies,” listeners won’t be able to get away from it – nor will they want to.
The power and passion presented by “Last Minute Warning” falters a little as the lack of focus in the song actually becomes more obvious on “Empty Streets” but, happily, Bishop’s Green manages to save the side with the petulant sounding closer, “What For.” There, Schwitzer adds some gloss to the going with some really sweet chorus/flange effects, thereby adding some New Wave-y color which really serves the song well. In addition, the, “what are you fighting for” plaint of the song will tweak the senses of any punk within earshot, and will have listeners ready and eagerly waiting to see what the band may have in store on the EP’s B-side.
…And, in fact, the B-side actually begins better than the A-did. “Ravens Cry” beautifully puts the urgency on which the early A-side came up short, and fires it squarely in listeners’ collective face to really get pulses racing, while “No Tomorrow” makes the most of those chorus/flange effects again and produces some great alt-punk energy before “Another Mourning” just runs balls-out with the hands-down best punk anthem on the EP. There, Schwitzer doesnt bother with effects other than volume and overdrive but, after the angles to the songs that Bishop’s Green took prior to this point in the EP’s running, the lack of frills and no-nonsense demeanor of “Another Mourning” proves to be the best way to close – it is the best and most memorable cut on the EP, and offers a promise of greatness on future releases as the needle lifts.
(Pirates Press Records)
Stacked next to the Black Skies EP, Bishop’s Green’s Waiting EP is just a completely different kind of release. While the album art implies some horror imagery again (the stark artwork featuring a single balloon implies one of the central images in Steven King’s It), listeners will be surprised when they discover the frenetic energy which powers the EP’s title track – which also happens to open the A-side of the EP. There, no punches are pulled as singer Greg Huff just makes his opinion of young punks known (there is no misreading a line like, “This generation is dead inside”) and lets the band off the leash to push the song down listeners’ collective throat.
Unlike the music which occupied most of the Black Skies EP, “Waiting” comes off as easily accessible as the guitars just blaze forth in a very street punk-identified manner, and the vocals stick to simple themes (like “This generation is dead inside” as well as isolation and loneliness, in lines like, “You’re waiting – left out all alone”) – which are easy to find one’s way into. “Working Poor” follows close behind the title track and, again, Keeps close to themes of isolation and frustration (with a bit of poverty mixed in this time) before offering some resolution and empowerment at the close of the side, in “We Decide.” Here, Huff barks with the authority and command of a seasoned veteran as he calls for the disenfranchised and the desperate to make a move and make a difference before running out the back door and letting the side slam to a close after just twelve minutes. Compared to the movements that Black Skies EP, the Waiting EP is a complete misnomer; through the A-side, there is no waiting – just gratification.
…And, just for a change of pace, the B-side of Waiting relies entirely on live cuts. Of course, with the A-side playing as well as it does, the leaner and more sinewy production values of “Tumbling Down” and “The Crow” detract a bit from the songs themselves, and the obviously fake live sounds which bookend “Alone” call into question why the band went out of their way to make a “fake” live presentation – but at least all three songs are worth experiencing, if not being 100% essential.
In the end, what listeners get out of the Waiting EP is worthwhile overall – even if not every moment in the running is a sterling example of the creative powers of Bishop’s Green, there’s enough in it to be of value. The exact same contention could be made of the Black Skies EP, but there’s no question that fans will definitely find themselves rewarded by the purchases of one of both of these releases. [Bill Adams]
Both the Black Skies and the Waiting EPs are out now. Buy them here, directly from Pirates Press Records.