This time my assignment is Ashley Reaks’ latest album, This Is Planet Grot. Reaks is a man of many talents, a collage artist and genre-hopping musician, who has played bass for Mark Owen (Take That), toured the U.S and Canada with pro-rock guitarist Francis Dunnery and also had a hit in Japan in the late 90s with his electro-pop band Younger Younger 28s. Ashley gave up a career as a promising cricketer after hearing the album Rocket to Russia by The Ramones and seeing Gee Vaucher’s artwork for anarchist punk band Crass. He plays every instrument on the album except from the drums (which are played by Dan Mitzen)…Now with a back story like that, I was expecting big things from this album…And I wasn’t disappointed!
Waiting For Something To Believe In, the third track on This Is Planet Grot is fantastic, sounding like Joey Ramone (The Ramones), Paul Weller (The Jam) and Carl Baret (The Libertines) formed a super group just to come up with this song. It’s got everything: a punchy, punk beat with chugging chords and melodic harmonies, and Ashley’s brilliant voice enlivening the great lyrics. It’s a real old-school punk anthem. It’s so well crafted that it already feels like a classic: not just another cheesy rip off of a punk standard, this track has class. The lyrics are quite simple, but you know where you are with them: it’s the good old story “We’re the last inhabitants of planet grot, and we’re waiting for something to believe in”. And let’s face it, who hasn’t felt like that on their commute to and from work? I know I have…
Freaks Of The World Unite is the fifth track on This is Planet Grot. The song starts with Ashley’s vocal, telling us that “This song is for, all those whose life is a mess, who feel they’re second best, and all those freaked out by sex, and those who hate themselves”. Then the band kicks in, Ashley still listing all the types of freaks out there: “All those who are living rough, and all those who’ve had enough, all those who had no love, can’t see no God above”. The chorus comes in next like a call to arms, ordering us to: “Stand up and fight, All the freaks of the world unite!” I love a song that makes people feel like they belong to something bigger, and that they can make a difference, and Reaks really makes you feel that with the lyrics of this track. The guitar work on Freaks Of The World Unite is fantastic, big, brash and very melodic. The vocal harmonies throughout the song are full and rich, and the drums played by Dan Mitzen are full of good old fashioned punk pedigree, great steady rock beats speckled with dramatic rolls and fills that really keep the song pumping and driving along. It’s another great track and another future classic for Ashley!
No Point At All is track number eight on the record, and it’s a face-melter, and also my favourite on the album. The lyrics are simple but to the point, as you can imagine with a song called No Point At All. But it’s the way they’re sung that’s the kicker. The lead vocal has a really hard edge, very reminiscent of early Joe Strummer, with vocal harmonies that could have been supplied by The Ramones. But it doesn’t feel like Ashley has simply ripped off the greats of the 70s Punk era, it feels like a genuine punk song, on a genuine punk album, by a genuine punk artist.
Ashley Reaks really is one to watch. His talents as a musician, writer and artist are incredible, and at recent live shows Ashley has been combining his art and music by projecting his collages on a screen while he performs. Reaks has already released two albums in 2015, (Uneasy Living and Before Koresh) and is set to release a collaboration with Hull wordsmith Joe Hakim, called Cultural Thrift. I’ll definitely be looking out for Ashley Reaks in the future and I think you should too! If you like classic, old-school influenced punk, This Is Planet Grot is the album for you! If you like musical freedom and real honest gritty art, Ashley Reaks is your man!