The Last Word on Puppet Rebellion
Please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock and roll band, who’ll throw it all away
Someone sung those words once, and they have rebounded around my head like pinballs since Manchester band Puppet Rebellion announced they were disbanding. Life is in your hands though, so you can put it in the hands of whichever band you want to.
You sing the words of your band like they are chiselled on your heart. I mean, if you are lucky, you sing them like they are everything. If you are lucky and you find a band who speaks to you, speaks for you and becomes crucial to your everyday life. If you think I am being dramatic then you’ve probably never had that kind of relationship with music. How awful that must be for you. But then again, you’d be able to read about Puppet Rebellion riding off into the sunset and you’ll be able to brush it off as if I just told you that Marks and Spencer’s don’t put ring pulls on their own brand of baked beans. No big deal!
But music is a big deal. A band should write the soundtrack to your life. Lyrics about nothing can become everything. It works for you because you believe it, and when you believe it then you become a passenger on a journey. Bands and their fans create this thing together, a promise, a contract between the two; you follow where they lead you, living the highs and experiencing whatever lows may come. Maybe you’ll even agree to be in the same room a few times. That is the best feeling. Magic things happen in that room. That’s when everything is created, from nothing, right in front of you. There is nothing there until someone counts off and you suddenly realise, they weren’t just your everything they spoke to all the other people too and you are an army.
Better than drugs.
Puppet Rebellion leave behind an army. Believers. I can sit here and say it shouldn’t have ended this way, it shouldn’t have ended at all. But an unwritten part of the contract is the hope that if the heroes on that stage ever get to the point where they are phoning it in, you hope they will drop their capes and depart. Music can be many things, after all, but it should never be false. Sometimes they have to do the honourable thing and get a divorce. Those who love the band will probably ask questions, like hurt kids, whats next? Why now? Don’t they love us?
Those questions are all scenic and the answers will become clear in time. Maybe. Maybe not. The contract is never iron clad, bands throw it all away, remember? And now the Rebellion is over we have the time and the space to look at the legacy they left us and, as anger and confusion leaves us, we can admit it’s a fucking epic legacy.
They wanted to write their own tunes and play them back to people who loved them. They were never in any rush to complete their album, it had to be right when we got it. So EP’s came first, song after song improving, changing and staying the same. You cannot be angry that the journey ends here, because from verse one through to chapter the last, it has been monumental and it still exists. Anyone new stumbling through life can stagger into a pacey melodic story and take the journey when they are ready. The lucky ones knew how good the journey was while it was happening. We’ll never get the promised second album.
Leave a beautiful corpse though, right?
Puppet Rebellion will never again tug at our heartstrings, the contract is null and void and we move on.
If they spoke to you, you were ahead of the others. The cool kids needed you on the top playground, you knew the handshake, you were in on the joke.
Dear friends, you were born three nil up, you were lucky. We were lucky.
Lets turn our new pages now.
Given to Sounds, October 2018.
The Rebellion was Recorded
The legacy, track by track.
Chemical Friends (2013 EP version) – the grace from which you fell
A bit White Stripey, a stompy warning against surrounding yourself with things that will rot your mind. It’s not the way your life should be. This was the title track of the first Puppet Rebellion EP and was a quality way to say hello, it features Simon Monaghan on vocals.
The Greatest Lie Ever Told (2013 EP Version) – I’m a scene that constantly replays
The first and arguably last anthem of anthems, the first time many people sat up and took notice of this band, Simon Monaghan’s first awesome vocal delivery and a menacing build up before the last rebellious roar, “I don’t believe you”. “You’ve gotta keep believing”, they said. We did.
The New Twenty – No one can bring you down
The lyrics and the music tumble and fall beautifully together here, the guitar chimes like a call to arms.
Pirouette (No Means Yes EP 2014) – I’m an easy target the world is in my way
No Means Yes was Simon’s last stand with the Rebellion and he departs at his most nuanced. Pirouette is a song about a relationship, the anger, unfaithfulness and a determined effort to break free. By now you’re hearing what you already consider Rebellion signatures, train like drums and melodic guitars are all there.
Cupboards Painted Red (No Means Yes EP Version 2014) – I’m broken so can you help me!
Simon’s tour de force. Take a bow, Mr Monaghan. A deeply personal lyric cushioned by music that stands back until the right time to absolutely soar with such grace. Some bands will be recording for decades without getting anywhere near this kind of song. They have every right to be proud, Puppet Rebellion had the confidence to go here this early on in their career. Awesome.
Loner in Disguise – Complaining in deaf ears again
You don’t want to be the next act on stage after everyone’s just seen Hendrix so following Cupboards was a thankless task. A bit Coldplay-esque, a bit of a safe call from the band but they are forgiven because they blow your mind elsewhere.
Green Eyed Monster – You’ll be sifting through the debris!
Thrashy, punky drums, a good bass, grabs you by the collar and takes you on this rampant riot. A great note on which to leave us because if they painted by numbers for the previous track, they make sure we are awake here. Before this song has outstayed its welcome it has gone, run off into the sonic distance flipping you off like a rascal. 2 minutes 15 seconds of rebellion piss and vinegar on record.
Chemical Friends (Cai Casiavinieri Remix)
The band ran a remix competition in 2013. The winner was Cai Casiavinieri, his remix of the first track from their debut EP closes No Means Yes. This is a brave step from a band, but proof if proof were needed that they were looking for new frontiers this early. Cai did a great job on a pivotal early track for the Rebellion.
Life is in your Hands (Life is in your Hands EP 2015) – I hope your ego is braced
Oliver Davies makes his first vocal appearance in this absolute stonker of a track. Progression musically from the last EP and their first, this is a call to arms, a get off your arse moment, a hands in the air moment. Puppet Rebellion previously showed us that small bands don’t have to think small, they had no right to sound as good as they did in their last EP but they ran with it and they pushed on. This showed yet more confidence and a slightly more approachable, embracing sound.
Watch Me Fall – Staging our demise in a scene we’ve mastered
Claustrophobic, paranoid verses and a chorus that sets us free. Drums like an express train, bass anchoring, guitars dripping with melody and a vocal that chases after itself and then explodes into the great wide open. Do you hear me?
Claim to Fame – A preacher with a silent congregation, speaks only to the ones he rules!
Lyrically immense. This is an undeniable belter of a song. Every word is poetry and the music is stompy with purpose. Get this downloaded and play it loud.
Test Pilot (EP Version) – I’m not living my life in darkness…
The Life is in your Hands EP is full of enormous headliner quality, there is not one weakness. The band would re-record this later in their career and it differs slightly. This version ends with a couple of lines about looking in the mirror and finding the person looking back and changing. Puppet Rebellion were clearly not daunted by anything that had gone before, they were happy to smudge their own younger footsteps and carry on in pursuit of something better.
The band had started strongly, delivered true undeniable quality and equalled that when you wouldn’t think it was possible. Indie band is a terrible label because of the ideas it drags along with it and all the lazy writing it can bring out in critiques, sounds like [insert band] sort of comparison. Given to Sound has covered Puppet Rebellion since before minute one. Technically we were survivors from Simon Monaghan’s previous band and since then we’ve at least tried to leave all the sounds like nonsense at the front door.
After Life is in your Hands the simple fact was they were delivering. Small band? Up and coming? Laziness! They were delivering tunes cinematic in scope and sonically outstanding songs that stand alongside anything on your Ipod. With their next song they saw that and raised you.
Fragments (2016) is beautiful, tender, strong, strident and will give you whatever you want from it at the point you are listening to it. Seriously, if you feel like running away it will guide you, if you need a wake up call it will be that, it’s a release and a reminder, it is a beckoning to freedom, an invitation to anywhere. At the end of this song you could only stand and applaud, or at least smile to yourself knowing that you liked a band that was capable of giving us this.
The Pact (EP Version 2016) – I took my last chance on you
Giving us Fragments as a standalone track was the right way to go because it felt like the mic drop moment it should be. Nothing followed it because what on earth could follow it? There’s no song in the track listing after Champagne Supernova after all. Later in the year they did give us more songs and when The Pact EP was released Fragments was the second track. How could we not love a band that not only thought they had tracks to stand alongside it, they had a opener that knocked it down the track-listing?! The Pact runs away with itself, it moves effortlessly and Craig Gibson’s guitar work is a thing to behold, either in your ears here or when this has been played live and the guitarist has gone off into his own world spinning and strutting and making that guitar talk.
Maybe You Wont – We can pretend you’re not them but can you prove it?
The third track continues the journey feel to this EP, you’re setting off with the opener, finding the wide open space in Fragments, and aboard the locomotive for the this third song. Signature Puppet Rebellion sounds, restless and achieving.
The Greatest Lie Ever Told (2016 version) – Put your faith in a myth
To close this EP the boys decided to take another look at a favourite from the early days, one which they continued to perform live. Recording wise it’s pretty faithful to the original if anything it sounds more polished and less bratty. Oliver stands in no-one’s shadow as a vocalist but if he ever got close it is here with his version of the original singer’s vocal. Call it copycat, call it homage. It would come full circle live at Band on the Wall when Oliver gave the stage to Simon for the closing moments of this song, the last song in the set of the final gig performed by Puppet Rebellion.
Where was there to possibly go after such stellar quality and growth as displayed in the EP’s to date, you may ask? Well the Puppet Rebellion boys had the answer finally in 2017, with the release of their debut album.
Chemical Friends LP (2017)
The title is interesting, it’s a doth of the cap to their first steps on their recording journey but the song it nods to wasn’t included on the album. There’s a takeoff and landing to everything though, and it’s another one of those full circle moments; first EP title, first track, first (and last) album title. You may think it’s ironic that the band named their album after a song about breaking away from negative influences and then broke up, but we’d just like to point out that everyone is still on good terms and no fruit went flying in any dressing rooms. Their last gig showed nothing but a group that believed in every note of every lyric and every chord of every song. Even the drummer, Henry, sang along.
The Pact is the opener of the album, they had every right to be so confident in this song as it starts as they mean to go on, we’re bursting out of the door.
Slave was originally released as a standalone a short time before it was included on the album and it showed a slight change in direction. If the band were preaching to the congregation then there was enough here to refresh, and if you were a newbie then this had enough to catch hold of you. It has a strut and a swagger, no weakness here at all, drums, bass, guitars and vocals all on point, some might say Kasabian, some might.
Hey Now – We were reckless then? Well it depends who’s asking!
A stonker, great live, Oliver snarls the vocals and the guitars are dirty. It’s one to repeat and repeat and repeat, and you’ll probably bounce like a lunatic too. We wouldn’t blame you. The band do the f the consequences, damn the torpedoes type songs very very well, this ones a rascal and all builds perfectly.
Cupboards Painted Red (2017 Version) – There’s a freedom in your tears and no answer in the beers…
A re-recording of the original from the second EP, with Oliver on vocals and there’s also strings on this version. They gave this one the bells and whistles – it’s not necessary because they achieved perfection the first time but this shows what they were giving us from pretty much day one. The lyric still resonates even if we weren’t in that room, feeling that particular moment we’ve all felt something that touches us in similar ways. I go somewhere when this song comes on, I go to my own version of this story, and it means something to everyone who has heard it.
Please Me – I never pause i just rewind
The objectification of women with an opening female laugh or giggle that strikes Duran Duran chords with me for some reason. Catchy with a filthy lyric. Good guitars.
Test Pilot (2017 version) – You’ll never finish what you never start
Beefier version of this track, more immediate than the earlier version from the EP. The “Hide away or live in the past” part is new and replaces the spoken bit about pointing fingers and looking in the mirror and because of that it’s gets momentum and keeps it.
Now You Try – There is a still a future for you and for me
Seemingly a bit synthy, something of a different sound perhaps but nothing they couldn’t pull off. Lyrically it’s about the possibility of a future with someone, but very much from the point of view that this wouldn’t be a great idea. Funky stuff is going on with Oliver’s vocals too.
Save You – Next time you get what you’re given, think of what you had…
Nice lyrics, fitting that they are on the last album. They say they will save us all, they did. And we shall always think about what we had. Oliver’s got some snarly effects on his vocals again.
Red Light – There ain’t no time for heroes in this disaster
Sleaze, the bad good feelings. Romance that is scheduled and financed, appearance not reality, beauty at the end of a phone call, all of these things come to mind on this one. Everyone of us is worth saving, even if they don’t think that they are.
Operator – In your darkest hour they will join your cause from the corners of this town
As their album reaches the end there is a definite feeling of grabbing everyone and going somewhere, a theme we’ve seen them do very well in other songs whether it be leaving town, leaving relationships, shouting a message from the rooftops or just seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. The music matches the sentiment, it’s got a momentum and it is carrying you along.
Impact is where it’s taking you to, it’s all been building to this moment. We have been running towards this fist in the air slice of glorious anthemic awesomeness.
Warning, warning read the signs, I can’t react I don’t have time…
You can either take this as literal, there’s enough end of the world apocalypse loveliness here to keep you happy, but the song is rumbling from the first second and when the chorus bursts into being you shouldn’t care about literal meanings. It’s like you’ve lost someone in a crowd and you’re just moving further and further away and then all of a sudden someone grabs you by your collar, pulls you out of the mess and the pair of you are going to be okay.
It gives you that feeling. And it’s why you should feel incredibly sad that this band decided to bow out.
Life flashing before my eyes….
So there we are, almost every song discussed from 2013 to present day – this is everything Puppet Rebellion were about; songs about chances and taking them, songs about patterns and breaking them, songs of love, sleaze, friendship, togetherness and isolation. The Rebellion was about all of that, set to music that that got you moving and made you think. They complete their legacy with the last song on their album, Dark Thoughts, written by Craig, at Christmas a few years ago, a fact that might surprise some but others will fully understand. It’s another deeply personal one that will speak to a great many of those who hear it, it’s too flippant to say we’ve all been there but lots of us have.
The greatest compliment I can pay this song is to leave it with you, the listener.
Dedicated to all of the Rebellion and anyone who’s ever supported them. Special thanks to Sophie and Joanne. GTS
Words © 2018 SImon Andrew Moult / Moultymedia
Images © 2018 Sophie Robinson. Used with permission. Album artwork included for illustation only.
I write for free, any income I get comes from the people who read and enjoy my content. No one likes asking for money but such is life for a writer. If you have enjoyed this piece, it wasn’t knocked up in an hour, it was lovingly crafted and every word was agonised over usually in a pub after a lot of very cheap coffee. I would like to afford better coffee, if you have any spare money in this mixed up world, please think about possibly slinging some my way. You’re all lovely people. – Simon. (Click here)