Released in February 2015, Yellow Leader is UK Subs‘ umpteenth album. This is a band who have had more releases than any of their contemporaries and have stuck around longer than most of them as well. Only their UK cousins Buzzcocks have also remained from that first wave of late 70s British punk rock, but the UK Subs are the only band who have been around the whole time.
When they started and released album #1 (Another Kind of Blues, 1979), leader/vocalist Charlie Harper said he wanted to release enough albums that each could have a title from a different letter in the alphabet. How many took this seriously? Who knows…but 35 years and countless tours, singles, members, and labels later…he’s finally hit Y. That’s 25 proper albums, plus a wide assortment of collections, live albums, archive releases, etc. It’s not hard to find UK Subs albums out there with so many available.
The quality hasn’t always been 100%, mind you. From the late 1980s through to early 2000s, the albums were pretty mixed, but it’s hard to be consistent when you’re getting new guitar players and drummers every few months. Their most recent albums have been setting the bar very high. This version of the band has been playing together consistently for a decade, and the relationship makes all the difference. Charlie Harper (vocals) has been there since 1976. Alvin Gibbs (bass) was an original Sub, but took a few extended breaks over the years. Jet is the best guitarist they’ve ever had, and Jamie Oliver is an extraordinary skin-pounder. This band is road tested, and the production on this album is slick without being too glossy.
Yellow Leader is strong, tough, melodic, and shows a tremendous amount of growth. It still snarls and kicks like any great punk album, but they show a dynamism in playing that lacked on their earliest efforts. Check “Bordeaux Red” for a nice melodic shift, a little more down-tempo. But tracks like “Suicidal Girl” or album opener “Velveteen” tear you apart with their tough attack.
Only available on CD currently, you can pick it up at the Captain Oi! Shop, iTunes, and Amazon. They tour regularly all over Europe, so check their dates on the main UK Subs site or on Facebook. You can also follow on Twitter and Jet is on there, too!
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