Ashley Reaks

When a Punk album as good as “This Is Planet Grot” comes to my attention; with a back story like that of its principal writer one Ashley Reaks, it is impossible to ignore. This is an album written about despair, loneliness, ambition, hope and above all honesty. Where better then to start than with the opener and title track.

1. “This Is Planet Grot” quite literally sets the scene in the writer’s mind through its lyrics. The explosive intro leads into strained vocals, with big hitting sitting behind chiming chords. A heavy bass fights for space on this storming opener. The “Planet Grot” in question is the writer’s vision of a Country he sees around him. The stark lyrics pull no punches and set the scene for the majority of the songs on this collection. A brutally honest yet brilliant opener.

2. “I Am An Addict” begins with a guitar part not unlike that of “Israel” (Siouxsie and The Banshees), but the similarities end there. It’s borderline “Electro” but breaks out into its virtually celebratory chorus “I Am An Addict, I Am An Addict” over a chunky bass. Those chiming chords once more take centre stage; most notably in the middle 8, before the slightly repetitive chorus takes over once more. It’s an anthemic chorus that frankly just gets stuck in your head. Everything sounds so strained on this song – this however may just be the point.

3. “Waiting For Something To Believe In” opens again with those chiming guitars, before that anthemic vocal kicks in. There’s big hitting throughout on this song of hope and longing that unsurprisingly namechecks “Planet Grot”. The bridge is Pistols-esque but again has enough originality about it to call it its own. In fact the vocals toward the end echo Rotten at his snarliest. That ending is a tad repetitive but I have no complaints-another anthemic cut from this fine collection.

4. “Nobody Here Is Alive” has a Killing Joke-esque intro, bassy with an aggressive vocal. It’s a vocal intro that wouldn’t be out of place on any UK82 release. It’s a song written about despair and seeing no way out. The anguish in the vocal kinda reflects the lyrics; “Nobody has got a chance, No-one got a clue, Nobody that’s living here has got a thing to do”…..

5. “Freaks Of The World Unite” is a complete departure from the previous 4 tracks, yet no less important. A brief spoken word opening sets the scene for a song written no doubt from a personal angle. Many a listener, myself included, will resonate with the lyrics. A very astute observation of outsider culture set to song. The clangy middle 8 gives way to an anthemic vocal, and a song I feel just made for the live arena. An early highlight.

Ashley Reaks

6. “Manipulator” – ah yes, we’ve all encountered one from time to time! More reference to Killing Joke for me here, especially that bassy intro. Classic three chord Punk with hard drumming and a snarly, anthemic vocal-delivering a spite and anger toward the subject of the song. Lyrically pulling no punches and delivering on all counts.

7. “I’ve Got Everything (That Nobody Wants)” – brilliant chord sequence before those chimes take over once more. Big hitting and clangy guitars sit behind a harsh and aggressive vocal. Lyrically remaining from a personal perspective but with a chorus that would be bellowed back at the band from the audience at gigs.

8. “No Point At All” opens briefly with UK82 guitars before giving way to shimmering chords and another in yer face vocal. It’s a classic putdown song that exudes negativity while retaining a certain humour. One wonders if this is a short autobiography of the writer, or just another observational piece. Furious hitting throughout with a driving beat that just gets punchier until the end.

9. “No Life” is an angry song with a classic Punk statement about having “No Life”. Huge hitting and aggressive vocals, fuelled by vitriol (lyrically) it really pulls no punches and delivers on all counts.

10. “I Wish That I Was Dead” is a much faster song with an unapologetically honest chorus and lyrics. The early riff sounds not unlike that of the Boomtown Rats “Looking After Number One”, but the similarities end there. Clangy, noodly guitars throughout and punchy drums match the angry yet tongue in cheek vocals. The “I Feel Like I’m Dying” line just stays with you, as does the infectious chorus. Nothing short of brilliant!

11. “Running Away From Reality” is a slower and a more melodic song, ideal as an album closer. Continuing with the chimes and sometimes strained vocals, the brutally honest lyrics suggest maybe there’s more in the tank if a second album is in the offing.

Ashley Reaks is an artist/singer/songwriter that one cannot fail to ignore. Immediately the artwork for the album will grab the attention of anyone aware of Crass-but this is no blatant copyist, borrow ideas and make them your own I say! Musically this is a fine body of work from this seasoned campaigner who has been around the block and back. A recent personal invitation to support The Dickies will have done him no harm, but now it’s his time. It’s just up to you, the buying public to invest in this supreme talent. For a limited time, this LP can be purchased for the princely sum of just 3 of your English pounds. That’s less than a pint at my local and I implore you to do so, as this collection of songs deserve to be heard by a wider audience.


Review by Ross A. Ferrone

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