Radio Alcatraz: It's All Coming Up Roses

Seething second offering from London post-hardcore quartet

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Radio Alcatraz wear their hearts and influences on their sleeves. One hot minute into Industry Has Failed, Activate The Black Magic, the explosive opening track of the sarcastically titled It’s All Coming Up Roses, the influence of At The Drive-In, Refused and fellow Londoners Hell Is For Heroes upon the quartet’s post-hardcore sound is immediately evident, while lyrics such as “you feel like it’s a waste of time, and a constant kick in the teeth” offer a clue as to their keenly politicised world-view.

A decade or two ago this furiously confrontational and fiercely righteous rage would have landed the Londoners on magazine front covers, but these are different times, where punk rock attitude is less important than possessing the right neck tattoos, and so Radio Alcatraz may be doomed to operate on the margins. Which is a great shame, for It’s All Coming Up Roses deserves a wider audience, being one of the finest UK rock albums of 2014.

Much of the pre-release publicity around the Londoner’s second album has revolved around the presence among its ten tracks of stellar guest stars – Cancer Bats’ vocalist Liam Cormier, Anti-Flag’s Justin Sane, former Reuben frontman Jamie Lenman and Justin Scholsberg from the aforementioned Hell Is For Heroes all turn in cameos – but really, such talk is distracting albeit guaranteed to increase awareness. Radio Alcatraz’s real strength lies in their collective sense of purpose, unified like a clenched fist, whether that fury is directed at capitalist constructs (“You got your football team, you got reality TV, you got the deliberately constructed distractions that you need to make you feel free,” spits frontman Simon Griffiths on Holiday In A Police State: “It’s the death of a generation” he laments on The Physical Effect) or advocating DIY self-determination on the seething Industry Has Failed… There are no weak links here, no excess fat on the bones, not a second wasted in their full-tilt assault upon the senses. Better still, there’s a genuine sense here that Radio Alcatraz are only truly beginning to show their potential. Epic seven minute closing track Sleeping Limb (which features Cormier’s vocals) is stunning, a bold, weighty declaration of independence which finds the band stretching out dynamically while retaining every ounce of their impactful power. It’s an indication that the quartet need not be fettered by their (admirable) influences and can locate their own vocabulary for their stinging, seething spleen-venting. The British rock scene could benefit greatly from their ascendance.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.