Featuring members of great North East bands such as Tide Of Iron, Grace, Jinn, OZO and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaind, BALLPEEN burst onto the Newcastle scene in 2017. Their debut show at Little Buildings was a low-key affair, but their opening performance at the inaugural Brave Exhibitions festival in the same year was a stand-out of the weekend and led them to becoming the festival’s perennial favourite.
With roots in post-hardcore and the dynamism of greats such as Melvins and Unwound, BALLPEEN have looked to capture the energy of their live performances through releases on premier DIY punk label, Serial Bowl Records. 2018’s ‘Loose Knot’ with it’s wry nod to Black Flag in title and excellent artwork, rapped five across the listener’s brow from the get-go, with its attention-grabbing power and undulating groove, coursing through the 6 tracks, leaving you thirsty – but not miserable – for more.
And now you can have more. ‘Pachinko’ (again with mind-blowing artwork from James Watts) is an 8 tracker that blisters along like a wide-eyed frenetic who’s had all the speedballs. With quality production that brilliantly captures the urgency of their live performances, ‘Pachinko’ will delight old and new fans alike. Hardcore will never die.
To celebrate this amazing ear-wrencher, we have teamed up with the band to give you its full stream and first-hand track by track breakdown below!
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Graham Thompson. Recorded at the Lockup in Hartlepool; Shoe Tree Cafe and Off Quay Buildings in Newcastle upon Tyne. Art and Design by James Watts.
Track by track commentary
1. One Man’s Narrative
RORY: Both this song and All Salt, No Slug came about while I was listening to a lot of Neurosis Souls at Zero and Through Silver in Blood after Adam and Graham turned me on to them. The rest of the song was all done at practice after trying to figure out where it was going. I think Graham came up with the ending chord progression.
GRAHAM: When mixing and sequencing this release I always had this song in mind for the first song, I’d thought of producing the intro in that way from the get go. I’m happy with ow it came out.
RORY: This was one of the earlier songs we wrote for this recording, guitar wise for some reason I know I had just been listening to Assfactor 4 for the first time in ages, think I just wanted to do a riff like that. The break part was all Graham then we improvised the whole second half. Actually, come to think of it, it’s pretty good example of what a different direction things can go once everyone’s on it.
ADAM: Flipper was one of the first songs we came up in writing this record, the middle section with me and Graham playing the same riff/beat with Rory improvising over the top was set the first time we’d explored that way of writing.
GRAHAM: Although I really like this song, I think it’s one of our better songs, I hate doing the vocals for it. For some reason, it drains the life out of me, I always try and position it in the set next to some more easy-going songs. There’s one line in particular in the middle that after I’ve sung it I’m always light headed.
3. Ornate Coalmen
GRAHAM: This was the last one we wrote of this bunch of songs, we finished it just before recording. We weren’t sure how it would come out but decided to record it and see how it sounded. I’m glad we did as I think it came out great. We’ve only played it live once or twice but it’s a fun one to play. I don’t particularly like talking about my lyrics, but broadly speaking this song is about other people’s perceptions of people in the North East and how some people in the North East perpetuate certain behaviours or attitudes, for one reason or another, often to the determent of those in the region as it reinforces exaggerated stereotypes.
RORY: No idea where the music came from for this one, all I know is that a few days later I was trying to record that scene with the Vietnamese hooker asking if that dude from Full Metal Jacket had a girlfriend in Vietnam.
4. Clocked Out
ADAM: Clocked Out came from a practice where Graham was ill and cancelled, so me and Rory decided to have a go at writing without him. I’d been listening to a lot of High on Fire at the time.
RORY: Like Adam said, think we played it one night when Graham was ill. Checked and that last Slayer gig was on 18th Nov 2018, I’d probably been listening to a lot of that for the previous month. I have another recording from Christmas Day where I can hear someone doing the dishes in the background, sounds like this is where the idea was ‘finalised’ in my head before bringing it to practice. The short stop that we put in halfway through was an absolute nightmare for me timing wise. The end riff was something we came up with in practice I think.
5. All Salt, No Slug
RORY: The first incarnation of this song was written around December 2017, the riff for the guitar break didn’t come about ‘til March 2018 when I was still on the same Neurosis trip as I was when writing One Man’s Narrative, so took a while before figuring out that there were two that would fit together. The part where we all come back in after the guitar break is actually my favourite thing on all these tracks, think it works really well together.
GRAHAM: For some reason I had a real mental block when it came to fitting vocals to this song, apart from the line in the breaks between choruses which I had from really early on. I just couldn’t work out where to fit vocals around it, and musically I didn’t think it could stand alone as an instrumental. This was the last track with vocals written for it, finished right before I went in to record.
6. Dairy Queen
RORY: Think this was relatively early in that batch of songs. I remember thinking the bridge part reminding me of Harkonen, and the end part sounding like Unwound, think bar the opening riff it pretty much came about all though practice.
GRAHAM: I like the way this song builds and builds without losing the energy, this was a set closer for a good while when we first wrote it. I wasn’t sure if this or No Mark should be the last song on the release but No Mark won out. It’s also replaced this song as the set closer in recent months too.
ADAM: Kancho is a song me and Graham brought across from a short lived previous band, Zealots. One of Zealots first gigs was with Future of the Left at the Cluny, the only reason we got the gig was our bass player Pete is he is the brother of Andy in FOTL. I don’t think we played this song at the gig, we might have went down better if we did!
As Zealots never recorded or released that song, and it was one of Graham’s ideas, we thought it fair game to bring across as we both really liked it. Might be interesting if Pete or Bruce ever try to use it.
GRAHAM: The working title for this was Pissed Geordie Jeans. Glad we changed it.
8. No Mark
RORY: I think Graham wanted to do a D-beat song? Definitely starts like that, then like Flipper it then develops into something way off from the starting point.
GRAHAM: The D-beat part of the song is another Zealots leftover from very late on before we broke up. It may have been after I’d been on tour with War All The Time and was inspired by them, but I wanted to try and write a simple but interesting D-beat song. The rest of the song was worked out by us in practice. I really like this song, one of my favourite on the release. Always fun to play live too. There’s a line in this song, ‘drive the 555, worst job in town’, that relates to a bus service near me that is about a quarter of a mile loop. The driver picks people up at a metro station and drops them off at a nearby business park, then again in reverse, ad-infinitum. I just thought it must be a mindless, soul destroying job to do that I don’t think I’d last a week in.
Review by Aural Aggravation:
“Cruel Nature’s roster is reason alone, and this latest offering from full-throttle noisemakers Ballpeen is exemplary. Three years on from their first live show and, the band have established themselves, ‘through releases on premier DIY punk label, Serial Bowl Records’. As the press release recounts, ‘2018’s ‘Loose Knot’ with its wry nod to Black Flag in title and excellent artwork, rapped five across the listener’s brow from the get-go, with its attention-grabbing power and undulating groove, coursing through the 6 tracks, leaving you thirsty – but not miserable – for more’.
In attempting to capture the energy of their live performances, Pachinko is a relentlessly balls-out, up front amalgamation of all things post-hardcore, with a big, bold 90s slant that evokes the spirit of Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile, as well as contemporaneous little UK labels like Eve Recordings and Jackass.
At times, it feels like we’re wading through endless indie sameness, and even so much alternative music, spanning metal, hardcore, post-hardcore and whatever else you’ve got simply fails to hit the spot, and I’ve felt listless, uninspired many evenings while reviewing these last few weeks. And then Pachinko slams in with a proper smack to the chops and I’m instantly reinvigorated and reminded of all of the reasons for music. Pachinko is distilled excitement. The album’s eight tracks are packed back-to-back and are all the guitars, spasmodic, jolting, big distortion. The fact it’s a mere twenty-one minutes in duration indicates the density and hell-for-leather pace of the album, which last less time than it takes some bands to tune up, or in the case of Sunn O))), to strike the first chord.
𝑃𝑎𝑐ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑜 𝑖𝑠𝑛’𝑡 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑦: 𝑖𝑡’𝑠 𝑑𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑡, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑟𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑗𝑢𝑔𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑟. 𝐹𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑜𝑤𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑙𝑢𝑟𝑐ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑑𝑟𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑜𝑓 ‘𝑂𝑛𝑒 𝑀𝑎𝑛’𝑠 𝑂𝑝𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑜𝑛’, 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑛𝑦 𝑚𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝐾𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐽𝑜𝑘𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑙𝑦 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑝𝑦? 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑎 𝑑𝑎𝑠ℎ 𝑜𝑓 𝑀𝑖𝑙𝑘, ‘𝐹𝑙𝑖𝑝𝑝𝑒𝑟’ 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑎 𝑑𝑜𝑤𝑛𝑡𝑢𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑐ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑓 𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑎𝑢𝑙𝑡, 𝑏𝑒𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒 ‘𝑂𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝐶𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑚𝑎𝑛’ 𝑠𝑙𝑢𝑔𝑠 𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑎 𝑚𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑦 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑎𝑠𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑔𝑢𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑟-𝑑𝑟𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛.
Blending Trail of Dead and Blacklisters at their most attacking, or to pluck lesser-known but perhaps more accurate reference points, Tar, Guzzard, and Hora Douse all spin into Ballpeen’s sonic blast.
‘Kancho’ goes full-on Bleach era Nirvana with a driving, circular riff and sprays of feedback bursting from the halts in the crushing percussion. It’s heavy in a relentless, churning way. Some songs, like the closer, ‘No Mark’ are straight-ahead hardcore punishers that are Black Flag and all the hardcore releases Southern Lord have released in the last five years rolled together and deep-fried in breadcrumbs that stick in the throat simply to choke you.
No prisoners. No respite. Just full-on fury. The best.”