DRAN’s Public execution

DRAN’s Public Execution for Pictures On Walls, Soho, London

Dran has previously had a well received show with Pictures On Walls as part of a seasonal pop up in London’s Soho. This time Toulouse’s most famous draughtsman was back in the same area with an unusual concept. Starting off with a gallery full of blank spaces he has over the past couple of weeks created an entire show by working odd hours to fill the frames in time for its closing today. A wander around the final pieces brings many a wry smile to your face with plenty of clever imagery on show. Here’s some of my highlights taken on the show’s penultimate day.

Work was still in progress on the day before closing

Dran: No Rule Games

 

RIP PACO

Rest in Peace Paco, a vital part of a band that changed everything about me. What I think, what I wear, what I eat, how I treat others. So sad to hear the news today. To live on in hearts is never to die. I hear there will be a memorial gig. I hope I can attend this and Colin, if you’re reading this I offer my condolences and my services as a photographer on the night for free.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – No Going Back Album

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – No Going Back Album Review (Mondo Recordings)

So this review is getting on for a year late and oddly is only happening because I’ve read other reviews. Stiff Little Fingers live album Hanx was the first album I ever bought with my own money and I got all the early singles and the first few albums after that too. Then as they went more melodic and quieter I went faster and louder.  I remained aware of what they did and even saw them a few times but I felt they’d lost their spark a bit. Then in 2013 I saw them at Reading’s Sub89 and they were simply brilliant but somehow I never quite go around to buying this, their latest and crowd funded album. I kept reading rave reviews and assumed they were from die hard fans blowing on the embers but last week after seeing the album for 5.99 in HMV I decided to bite the bullet. I should have got this ages ago….

As soon as the first song snakes out of the speakers you realise it’s all there – great guitar hooks,Jake Burn’s voice all so familiar. The songs don’t sound like reheated versions of the old ones. Instead they sound like the band held back some of their best songs from years ago to release at a later date. The lyrics give the game away that time has passed. Songs about depression (My Dark Places) and a spot of banker bashing (Full Steam Backwards) are about Jake’s experiences and views on modern crises. The venoms still there along with the melodies. Moving in a heartbeat from a tuneful chorus to a momentary break in the music to snarl “you’re out on your fucking ear” there’s real passion in his delivery.

Like I say I’m a bit late to review this – there’s already plenty of good reviews already out there. If you ever, ever liked Stiff Little Fingers do yourself a favour and get this. So…oddly enough an album entitled ‘No Going Back’ turns out to be a return to form. And then some.

UK SUBS – Yellow Leader album

UK SUBS – Yellow Leader album review (Captain Oi)

Anyone who has witnessed the UK Subs live in the last few years knows just what a formidable line up they have these days. Forged out of constant gigging a stable quartet of  Charlie Harper (natch), returning early eighties bassist Alvin Gibbs, drummer Jamie Oliver and guitarist Jet deliver high octane precise punk rock night after night. Their set consists of a great number of classics from their early period but what of their recent output?

On a mission to produce an album for every letter of the alphabet from to A to Z they are currently at the penultimate letter Y. Yellow Leader is the chosen title and follows on from 2013′s excellent XXIV. Being so close to the end now it would be the simplest thing in the world just to knock out a couple of ropey albums to get the job done but that would be to underestimate them. Yellow Leader is a lavish production. From a Roy Lichtenstein inspired gatefold sleeve with the lyrics reproduced in full to the fact that there are 18 songs included this is a quality product and not a rushed job in any way. All good, but what about the music?

‘Sick Velveteen’ kicks things off with bass and drums and choppy guitar before launching into a fast paced tight punk rock workout. Everything sounds fresh, punchy and up to date. There’s even keyboards overlaid on the top just like the opener of XXIV. ‘Artifical’ continues at a slower tempo but the guitar chug is just so familiar, so…UK Subs. Two songs in and this sounds worth your money already. ‘Bordeaux Red’ is up next, the title maybe not so surprising as some of the band like a glass of red, the feeling of this one is more mellow before ‘Chemical’ comes in with its harder lyrics and spaced out chorus. Track after track lands in a plethora of styles. ‘Deconstruct’ is classic Subs, a live favourite for sure. ‘Heathens’ really sees the band going at full pelt at times, ‘Prime Evil’ has some real rock guitars in amongst a little thrashing. Rebellion takes things down an acoustic route before ‘Sin City Blues’ lives up to its name. ‘Suicidal Girl’ really gets things rocking and shows off Jet’s guitar work nicely and the whole thing ends with a pretty crazy instrumental ’611′. There’s so much great stuff here if the Subs were a lazier band they could quite easily have chucked another half dozen songs into the recording can and released two separate 12 track albums to complete the A-Z right here, right now in 2015. Yellow Leader defies this attitude, it’s a fantastic album by a band on the top of their game. Roll on letter Z!

CONTROL / NEWTOWN NEUROTICS / THE ANGRY AGENDA, 100 Club, London

CONTROL / NEWTOWN NEUROTICS / THE ANGRY AGENDA Friday 6th February 2015 at the 100 Club, London

Back in the eighties I was very familiar with the Newtown Neurotics, one of the more cerebral and left wing bands of that era. I saw them play a number of shows, each time often memorable for something that happened (Putney – closed by the Police during the Miners Strike, Leighton Buzzard – where music occasionally interrupted the fighting, the Greyhound – last show and not forgetting New Malden – a long walk home ‘cos the last bus had gone)! I’d not seen them since though so when promoter Human Punk announced that he’d booked them I had no hesitation in getting a ticket even though I didn’t really know the other bands on the bill.

It’s a pain getting from work to central London and so I missed Skurvi but arrived for the start of The Angry Agenda. Up for it from the off with maybe already a few beers under their belts they went through a strong set of what is known now as street punk anthems but would of at one time been called Oi or boot boy anthems. The singer cajoled the crowd into a response with songs about boots and braces and smacking people in. I’ve got to say they were catchy, rowdy and enjoyable but lyrically just about the opposite of the stance taken by the Newtown Neurotics. I’ll be honest here – I started to wonder how that band would fare with this crowd when they took to the stage after The Angry Agenda finished their last song with a load of their mates on stage having gone down a storm.

The Angry Agenda (photo: Steve Cotton)

The Angry Agenda (photo: Steve Cotton)

Luckily Newtown Neurotics had a big build up from the promoter who explained why they were such a brilliant band and linked it all back to a time when he put on Running Riot at the 100 Club and witnessed vocalist Colin from the band singing along to every word when the DJ played Kick Out The Tories. Colin sadly died just a few days later and had said the Newtown Neurotics were his favourite band so Human Punk had resolved to get them to play the same stage. The band themselves hadn’t played there since the 80′s and commented that no video or photos exist of that gig. Something we could all put right tonight!

Newtown Neurotics at the 100 Club in 2015 (photo: Steve Cotton)

Just as I remembered them the band kicked off with the high pitch guitar of the intro to Wake Up, building up and going through the gears until it all comes crashing in with the great opening line “It all begins at school when they tell you you’re stupid and the jobs you get offered make the matter conclusive”. They hit their stride and the crowd come to the front; a quick look around shows a lot of the audience know every word and are enjoying singing along. The band have a new bassist – god he must have been young if even born when the band started and behind the kit I’m pleased to see first time around drummer Simon returning the band to two thirds of its original members. In the crowd tonight is BBC Radio 6 DJ Steve Lamacq clearly loving it all – it’s good to see someone from a mainstream channel liking this stuff because back in the day asides from John Peel it was hard for bands to get any other airplay.

Steve Drewett from the Newtown Neurotics

Original drummer Simon back behind the kit

Newtown Neurotics

The set list reveals a raft of classics including ‘Hypocrite’, ‘Newtown People’, ‘The Mess’ and, of course, ‘Living With Unemployment’ and ‘Kick Out The Tories’. Oddly missing is ‘Mindless Violence’ a song maybe more familiar than most to a section of the crowd as a version was included on the ‘Son Of Oi’ album. This turns out to be just an oversight and its duly played. A very short speech from Steve Drewett precedes their final song essentially saying that politics can be full of complications and compromises but that he can make it simple for us before immediately launching into their most famous lyric with an impassioned plea of “Let’s kick out the Tories, the rulers of this land”. Even when this is done the crowd want more and the band duly oblige with a brave (because its unrehearsed) run through of ‘No Respect’. They were really enjoying it and so were the crowd, its great to have them back and I hope to see them again soon.

It’s heading to 11.00 now and a last train home but I want to at least see some of headliners Control. They started off just great but a fair amount of the crowd was having to go by this stage, it was noticeably thinner by the time I left about five songs in. They seemed a very decent street punk band with singer Iain adept at rabble rousing and with every song seemingly having a particular point rather than just a run through of punk rock cliches. I really liked opener ‘ Punk Rock Ruined my Life’ – one to see another time!

 

Control Punk Band

Iain from Control

Control punk band at the 100 Club

DIRT BOX DISCO / MORGELLONS at the Fighting Cocks, Kingston

DIRT BOX DISCO / MORGELLONS, Saturday 31st January, Fighting Cocks, Kingston

Slow Faction had already played by the time I walked through the door of the Fighting Cocks on a cold and windy night. I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd – the last time I was here Steve Ignorant barely pulled 50 but its already busy. Morgellons look pleased as they take to the stage and launch into ‘Stay’ – a real crowd pleaser with some confident lead work and one of their best. They follow this up with a pretty diverse set ranging from slow burners to upbeat numbers. With singer Vincent putting real visceral emotion into every line they come across as authentic and intelligent and tread their own path.

Morgellons (photo: Steve Cotton)

Morgellons (photo: Steve Cotton)

 Dirt Box Disco on the other hand are all about the obvious. Full of catchy hooks, sing along choruses and a good smattering of humour they also have a rather unusual collection of attire – they look as if a torch has been shone in a corner of a den of unusual sexual practices. Spandex, one eyed balaclavas, army helmets, flowing robes – you get the idea. They’re all about having a good time, extolling us to “get fucking wasted”, getting us to join in singing “we are Dirt Box, we are bastards and we love it”. The place is absolutely jumping with both the band and the crowd loving every second even if we’re singing “My life is shit, nothing good will ever come of it” at the top of our voices. A huge cathartic experience, the perfect Saturday night after a tough week Dirt Box Disco are just about the best good time punk rock shout your head off and chuck inflatable cocks in the air (I kid ye not) band that there is.

Dirt Box Disco (photo: Steve Cotton)

Dirt Box Disco (photo: Steve Cotton)

Dirt Box Disco (photo: Steve Cotton)

Dirt Box Disco (photo: Steve Cotton)

PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES / THE VILE / CRETIN 77 / ARCH RIVALS at The Flag, Watford

PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES / THE VILE / CRETIN 77 / ARCH RIVALS Friday 23rd January 2015 at The Flag, Watford

The Watford Punk Collective have been steadily putting on punk gigs at the Flag for a while now but this was only my first foray into the town North West of London for a show. The journey round the M25 was surprisingly easy for a Friday night and I arrived in time to catch opener Arch Rivals. With a definite Oi feel their set consisted of strong hooks and stronger choruses. There was even a little bit of ska thrown in there too. The singer has a decent amount of stage presence, not least because he was sporting a flat cap and a big bushy beard for good measure. A bit Peaky Blinders and quite a good look – a fact not wasted on a section of the crowd who mid song donned fake beards and turned up en masse in front of the singer. I’ve since discovered that this was Arch Rivals first gig – a very impressive debut.

Next up were Cretin 77, a band I first saw in Milton Keynes over a year ago. It’s hard at times for ‘new’ punk bands to make a name for themselves but that’s exactly what they are doing right now. Singer Joe has a real Jello Biafra tinge to his voice and a captivating style, all stares, hand gestures and stop start motion. The band provide a solid punk rock base, part GBH, part Dead Kennedy’s and even referencing Joy Division (although sadly their stunning cover of Transmission didn’t make the set tonight).They have a wealth of strong mid tempo songs – standouts for me were ‘Sleep In Your Car’, ‘Satellite Smile’ and the more recent ‘Killer Kane’. If they play your town go see ‘em. They win more people over every time they hit the stage and got a great reaction from the rapidly assembling crowd tonight.

Joe from Cretin 77 (photo: Steve Cotton)

Andy, Cretin 77 (photo: Steve Cotton)

One thing you can’t do with The Vile is ignore them. They arrive and start as they mean to go on, relentless punk rock thrash. Fronted up by Rat (Varukers, Discharge etc) they take no prisoners. I have to say last time I saw them I wasn’t much of a fan but tonight the sound man ensures they get a decent mix and some songs start to really stand out. Set highlight for me was “It Is What It Is” from their 2014 Fear Of the Truth 7″ EP. I really should have bought this on the night – I’m going to have to track it down now.

Rat from The Vile (photo: Steve Cotton)

The Vile at the Flag, Watford (photo: Steve Cotton)

I’ve seen headliners Peter And The test Tube Babies countless times over the years and they never disappoint. Launching into crowd favourite ‘Moped Lads’ they played a set full of early classics (‘Run Like Hell’, ‘The Jinx’, ‘Banned From The Pubs’ et al) and a smattering of more recent offerings. There’s a bit of an atmosphere in a section of the crowd which sadly and somewhat inevitably boils over into a few punches being thrown but things settle down quickly and whilst the threat never quite goes away the rest of the gig passes off without serious incident. The Test Tubes come back to complete an encore of ‘Elvis Is Dead’ and a blistering version of ‘September’ giving the crowd just what they wanted. It’s the second time they’ve played the Flag and judging by the size of the crowd here and the reception they got it won’t be the last either.

Peter Test Tube (photo: Steve Cotton)

 All the classics – Test Tube Babies set list from the night.

UK SUBS / LOUISE DISTRAS at the 100 Club, London

UK SUBS / LOUISE DISTRAS Friday 9th January 2015 at the 100 Club, London

The Resolution Festival at the 100 Club entered its penultimate day with what for me was the best night – Wakefield’s singer songwriter Louise Distras and the ever fantastic UK Subs. Louise had also promised via Facebook that something huge was going to happen on the night so I was curious to see what that might be. She took to the stage in her characteristic style – 100% from the off. It always takes me back a little bit when she starts because it’s just so instantly full on but boy does it gets the crowds attention! She’s over halfway through her set having played anthems such as ‘The Hand You Hold’ when she announces her surprise welcoming Jamie Oliver (UK Subs) on drums and Chema (Cellbound, Skeptix etc) on bass. Louise Distras has a band!

Louise Distras debuts her new band at the 100 Club (photo: Steve Cotton)

She’s really enjoying herself as the 100 Club bears witness to the very first performance of what will be a new unit that will tour the UK later in the year. I recorded ‘Bullets’ on video and after the show bassist Chema hooks this video up with another by Tutek and with a bit of wizardry all of a sudden we have a new official video for the band. You can watch it here. Great start to the evening!

Louise Distras (photo: Steve Cotton)

The UK Subs took to the stage and I was surprised at just how packed the 100 Club was by this time. Five nights of consecutive punk gigs hadn’t reduced the crowd at all. There were other options on in London tonight too so it was great to see so many there. The Subs delivered a fantastic set as ever, Charlie orchestrating from the front with Alvin, Jet and Jamie all putting in great performances. This band are on top form right now and its been like this for a while. With new album Yellow Leader due out imminently the end is now in sight for them to complete their A-Z album list and they play a couple of new songs from it tonight with Jet’s composition ‘Suicidal Girl’ being the stand out. They also gave ‘Keep On Running’ an airing for the first time in a while, it went a little awry to be honest but it was great to hear it live again – hopefully it’ll stay in the set from now on. All the favourites were there – a blistering ‘Emotional Blackmail’, a heavier ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’, a singalong ‘Warhead’ and taking it right back to the beginning ‘CID’. Stand out for me, as ever, was “New York State Police’. ‘Til the next time!

Charlie Harper, UK Subs (photo: Steve Cotton)

Jet from UK Subs (photo:Steve Cotton)

Alvin Gibbs from UK Subs with roadie Chris (photo: Steve Cotton)

 

 

HARD SKIN / PKN / GOOD THROB / INTERROBANG?! at the Lexington

Typical of me I’d adopted a “I’ll do that later” approach to getting my tickets for Hard Skin’s Christmas bash and only really took proper notice once they’d sold out. Luckily for me my old friend James Sherry came up with the goods at the last minute and so thankfully I made my way to Kings Cross on Saturday night with another old gigging partner – Jake from UK Resist.

Inside the venue at 8pm the crowd is building up nicely when a man in a suit appears at the back of the hall shouting into a megaphone. He clambers up on the stage still making his point and then the rest of Interrobang?! (a guitarist and drummer but no bassist) join in. That vocal style is immediatley familiar even if the musics not – Harry and Dunstan from Chumbawamba make up two thirds of the outfit. They fill the sound out nicely with guitar loops and are blessed with a spot on mix from the sound desk. Subjects are largely familiar (their view of social change with the benefit of decades of real life experience) with the exception of a brave song about the death of a parent. Their first gig was only back in October but already they have confidence and a wealth of material and receive a warm reaction form the audience.

Changing tack somewhat with a heavily distorted sound Good Throb arrive on stage and start out blasting tribal drum based simple but effective tirades. These three ladies and one man really go for it throughout their performance. Quite why the singer wears marigold gloves throughout is something I never worked out (maybe I should have asked !) but I loved their attitude and the way their music hits home at a really basic level. Looking forward to tracking down some recordings so if you know of any….

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN for short) are a Finnish punk band who have achieved a level of fame through being the subject of a documentary ‘The Punk Syndrome’. Each member has learning difficulties and the film covers their lives inside and outside of the band. After tonights show I can’t wait to see it, they were just excellent and received a fantastic response from the crowd. Each member of the band expresses real character with drummer Toni being a particular favourite of mine. Bands should entertain and they certainly did that, in fact as they walked off stage after a great set I happened to be  standing next to Johnny Takeaway of Hard Skin who was staring incredulously and I overheard him say “How the fuck do we follow that”?! (see what I did there – I had to get an Interrobang (?!) in this review somewhere)!

The answer to that is of course is simply to play their very effective brand of street anthems, indulge in some very amusing in between song banter and get the crowd joining in by calling themselves wankers. Hard Skin’s songs owe a great deal to the Cockney Rejects and that basic Oi sound. In fact they out Oi many Oi bands and that’s why despite having their tongue firmly in their cheeks their love for the genre has resulted in some truly memorable classics. With so many crowd pleasers including “We Are the Wankers”, “Sausage Man” and “Boys In Blue” they go down a storm and a short but consistently on the money set meant that everyone left happy with their favourite Hard Skin song lodged firmly in their head. All together now “You what. You what…”

Watch videos from the gig:

Hard Skin playing Boys In Blue live at the Lexington / PKN live 

Good Throb live at the Lexington

Interrobang?! playing Are You Ready People live at the Lexington

Interrobang?! (photo: Steve Cotton)

Good Throb (photo: Steve Cotton)

Good Throb (photo: Steve Cotton)

Good Throb (photo: Steve Cotton)

PKN (photo: Steve Cotton)

PKN (photo: Steve Cotton)

Hard Skin’s Johnny Takeaway (photo: Steve Cotton)

Destination Punk – Svenja Block’s Barb Wire Dolls photographic document book review

DESTINATION PUNK : BARB WIRE DOLLS by SVENJA BLOCK 200 pages, paperback, Countdown Books, ISBN 099283046X

Photo books dedicated solely to just one band are usually reserved for multi million selling artists. So when I first heard that photographer Svenja Block was putting together a book on the Barb Wire Dolls, a rapidly rising but still underground unit, I was pretty impressed at her ambition. Just how do you fill 200 pages with photos of what is essentially four people playing live and keep it interesting? Well, take pretty much the most photogenic band I’ve ever seen and combine them with Svenja’s inspirational photography that absolutely captures the essence of the band in their live environment and it all starts to look easy. In concert the whole band fire on all four cylinders, they have ‘ingredient x’ in abundance and their relentless energy and fitness means that opportunities for freezing moments of pure rock’n'roll passion come thick and fast. The photos in this book are captured over several locations in the UK and Germany with the first one being a completely naked man confronting the band in Hastings, England and the last a portrait of singer Isis Queen staring directly at the photographer. Isis just suits black and white so well, there are echoes of Debbie Harry, of all those photos you’ve seen of raw punk bands playing at CBGB’s and the 100 Club, of a dirty, filthy, sexual rock’n'roll past. Sometimes punk seems a little too safe these days, just the reheating embers of fires that have long since died down. Barb Wire Dolls burn like petrol has been poured on the fire. They play with the intensity of a band that just love to tear it up live. Guitarist Pyn Doll has a long history of previous bands and a straightforward dirty but perfect punk rock guitar sound whilst Krash Doll plays a stripped down drum kit like his life was depending on how hard he hits it. There are two bassists featured here too, with the most recent addition – JayJay Doll – fitting into the groove of the whole thing effortlessly. Buy Destination Punk and you’ll wish you were at the shows, What’s more you’ll know that punk rock is still dangerous, still vital, that it very much didn’t die in ’78 and that there are great photographers out there still capturing it all.

BROKEN BONES / FREEBASE at the Pipeline

BROKEN BONES / FREEBASE – Saturday 29th November 2014, Pipeline London

London Launch night for the new Broken Bones 12″ single sided EP Dead and Gone”. A real return to form this one with a reworked manic version of City Fodder along with a standout track in Tread On Me. The band are backing it up live too, best I’ve seen them in ages. Support came from fellow hardcore but more metallic thrashers Freebase. Guitarist , Ryan’s last gig with the band, he bowed out in style.

Watch Freebase play 23 years at the Pipeline

Watch Broken Bones play State Violence State Control live at the Pipeline

Broken Bones (all photos Steve Cotton)

SHE MAKES WAR / ANDY RUDDY at the Old Queens Head

SHE MAKES WAR / ANDY RUDDY Tuesday 25th November 2014 at the Old Queens Head, Islington

My record collection seems to be narrowing as I get older. Pretty all much all I’m buying these days is punk and certainly all the gigs I go to are in that category. So what am I doing in the Old Queens Head in Islington on a Tuesday night listening to She Makes War playing a Uke? Simple really, I love her work and have done so for a good while now. I think it started when I saw her video for Slow Puncture which has a street art theme (not to mention polar bears and Star Wars Stormtroopers). It’s a beautiful song and got me intrigued so I invested in a CD album and was struck by the DIY ethic she has and the way she connects with her fans. Anyway, to cut a long story short, having ‘attended’ a few online gigs I finally had the opportunity to see her live shortly after she had finished a long tour with The Levellers. First up, however, was Andy Ruddy, a singer songwriter from Bradford. Having overcome a few problems with a lack of sound from the accompanying keyboards he quickly had the audience on side and received a warm welcome. There was a great atmosphere all night and his gentle songs and good humour seemed a big hit with the crowd.

She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) describes her music as gloom-pop, certainly there is much talk of issues with ex boyfriends  but it’s never depressing. It’s just fascinating to see how she fills the room with sound, recording loops live and setting them running, building up layers and then even leaving them playing on stage while she walks around the room singing though a megaphone on ‘Delete’. Personal favourites such as the aforementioned Slow Puncture and Scared To Capsize are perfectly formed songs and are spellbinding to hear live. The Old Queens Head feels like a front room tonight. I don’t know anyone here, I’ve gone to this on my own but it doesn’t matter a jot as we’re all sitting or standing quietly captivated by what’s going on. Laura explains how she likes to work as an independent artist using social media and crowd funded projects to work collaboratively with those who appreciate her music. In fact her new album Direction Of Travel is being created in exactly this way. There are no barriers in the way between the artist and her audience and a real self reliance to what she does. That’s a pretty punk attitude – maybe I’m at a punk gig yet again after all. I loved it and I know I’ll be back again.

She Makes War at the Old Queens Head, Islington 

THE COMPUTERS / COLT 45 at The Barfly

THE COMPUTERS / COLT 45  - Tuesday November 18th 2014 - Camden Barfly.

Sold out in a matter of hours the Computers at the Camden Barfly was always going to be a bit special, Support came from Colt45 who had traveled a long way to be here. They got the evening off to a rocking start before the Computers took to the stage. Racing through a high octane romp of rock’n'roll, soul and punk the Exeter outfit used the entirety of the venue parting the crowd and jumping on bars. Now that’s a night out!

Support came from Colt 45

The Computers – Camden Barfly

The Computers, Camden Barfly

The Computers, Camden Barfly

The Computers, Camden Barfly

Slab of hardcore: The Twin Dracula Death Is Our Client CD EP

Seeing The Twin Dracula for the first time earlier this year I can’t recall a time when I’ve ever had to readjust my preconceptions quite so fast. Ambling on stage to support GBH the singer has a haircut more in touch with rock’n’roll than punk rock and none of the rest of the band really looked like they were just about to rip through a blitzkrieg of thrashy anthems either. But that’s exactly what they did. And at least some of those songs, if not all, have ended up on this their recently released Death Is Our Client EP. I remember set closer Newtown Jazz Revival particularly well. In fact it’s the reason I was keen to track down this CD. With an ever present driving bass line which takes a nod to AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock it swirls in and out of raucousness and by TTD’s standards can best be described as mid paced. For most other bands that would be an up-tempo song but on the other two tracks on offer here the band push things more to the extreme which makes it sound almost pedestrian in comparison. Despite all the ferocity there’s room for respite from the onslaught contained in these songs too with the band effortlessly switching from the raging to a more ear friendly style mid tune. Preconceptions adjusted, this is one I can recommend.

Buy it here thetwindracula.com - Death Is Our Client 3 somg CD EP featuring the songs Nom De Plume / Occultimate Warrior / Newtown Jazz Revival

The Twin Dracula – Reading Sub 89 (photo Steve Cotton)

ANDY T / LOUISE DISTRAS / STEVE IGNORANT’S SLICE OF LIFE – Kingston Fighting Cocks

ANDY T / LOUISE DISTRAS / STEVE IGNORANT’S SLICE OF LIFE Saturday 11th October 2014 - Kingston Fighting Cocks

Didn’t know much about opener Andy T before this gig apart from his Crass Records release ‘Weary Of The Flesh’, certainly never seen him play before. Standing on stage with his notes, guitarist seated at his side he engaged the sparse crowd with angry polemic with a varied and well received set. The targets were familiar (I Still Hat Thatcher) but the passion shone through and for many it was a reaffirmation of what they already consider their opinions. Decent enough but I struggle with getting too enthused by just a guitar and a voice alone.

So up next was Louise Distras, another guitarist with just a voice. But what a voice! I’d first seen her live supporting GBH at the 100 Club and she was essentially the reason I made the effort to attend tonight. She demands attention from the very first song through her forceful delivery and a clear honesty in her conviction. She has a passion that fills the room and songs that lodge readily in the mind. Despite being the support act with the headliner to follow on leaving the venue it’s her song “Never Let The Hand You Hold Hold You Down” that I have going around my head. I bought a copy of her album Songs From The Factory Floor on the way out and I’m pleased to report it does her justice. Great album full of solid songs.

Louise Distras – Kingston Fighting Cocks (photo – Steve Cotton)

It’s odd seeing Steve Ignorant in a pretty small and half full pub back room. He’s got a new band with him, a stripped down and more melodic sound and a lot of life stories to tell. I’ll be honest here, the first two songs he went through I thought what the hell is this? Accompanied by stories of how wonderful sex under the light of a lamp post is he’d completely lost me. But then, little by little and over the rest of the set I became accustomed to his bands style, got more engrossed in his amusing stories and by the end he’d pretty much won me over. I’d not put this band in the ‘cancel all leave’ category for when they come to town, in fact I don’t really know if I’d bother to go and see them again but it was entertaining and thought provoking and portrayed him as just a person, a human being more than was ever possible than when he was in Crass. Talking of which, the audience were kind of expecting a song from that era. Steve didn’t disappoint, eventually ending with an encore of ‘So What’ which ended abruptly in good humour when he stopped the song before its climax and advised the audience they could go home and listen to the rest. Gig done, hat back in place atop his head, he slipped back into the crowd and the show came to an end.

SKEPTIX / BLATOIDEA at the Pipeline

SKEPTIX / BLATOIDEA – Saturday 18th October 2014, Pipeline London

Another Pipeline gig, this time seeing a welcome return to London for the Skeptix after an absence of 30 years. With Blatoidea and others in support this was one not to be missed. Blatoidea these days are a tight unit with some fast paced killer songs that through constant gigging and youtube videos are becoming increasingly well known. An appreciative crowd got into it from the off and they set up things nicely for the headliners. Skeptix hit the stage and it was immediatley apparent the two original members left were the ones the band couldn’t really do without. Fish’s driving guitar and the pretty much perfect urgent vocal style of the singer would be hard to replace.Most of my favourites from their classic singles (Peace Force, Routine Machine, Return to Hell) got a good airing. Skeptix have a fast and furious sound and were obviously relishing a chance to play the capital for the first time in such a long time. Great times, don’t leave it so long next time chaps!

Watch Blatoidea play Wake Up Dead live at the Pipeline.

(with apologies to Low Rollers and Overload – got there too late to catch these bands but reports were good)!

Skeptix – Pipeline, London

Fish from the Skeptix – Pipeline, London

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London 

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London

Blatoidea – Pipeline, London

BARB WIRE DOLLS / MORGELLONS / CELLBOUND / GASOLINE THRILL at the Purple Turtle

BARB WIRE DOLLS / MORGELLONS / CELLBOUND / GASOLINE THRILL – Sunday 12th October 2014, Purple Turtle, Camden

It’s a mark of how far Barb Wire Dolls have come in a year that last time they were in London they were a support band but this time around they’re headlining at a decent sized venue. Whoever chose the line-up for this gig had variety in mind. I arrived too late to catch anything other than part of the last song by Gasoline Thrill. That sounded great in itself, my loss and I hope to see them again sometime soon.

Next up were Morgellons, a band I first saw in a pub in Staines. Tonight they have a proper stage and lighting (albeit a bit too red for decent photographs) and somehow it seemed to suit them better. They effortlessly captured the crowd’s attention with a fine set  of slow and mid paced thoughtful songs – no mindless thrashers here. They have a proper stage presence that doesn’t rely on speed or volume. I don’t really see any other bands operating in the same space at the moment and that can only be a good thing.

Cellbound announced themselves next and provided a stark contrast. Rough and ready looking they explained their moniker comes from the fact that everyone in the band had been ‘inside’ at some point in their lives. Their UK82 style of punk was of the heads down, no nonsense variety but unusually for the genre there was quite a bit that the vocalist barked that was easily understood. Three bands down and no complaints from me, this was shaping up to be a great night.

Barb Wire Dolls have a buzz about them right now and there were obviously various music industry figures down here to check them out. The band seem to genuinely love to play and had a lengthy set list in place – certainly well over the hour mark and including over 10 as yet unreleased songs that were not on their debut ‘Slit’ LP. They kick off as they mean to go on, full throttle and in your face. I took out my little camcorder to capture a bit of their performance only to have some woman shout in my ear “WOULD YOU LIKE THEM IF THEY WERE MEN”? – a clear reference to the fact that singer Isis Queen dresses exactly how she wants and that the band now have a bassist to match. I reply “well yeah, I would”. Sure I like BWD because of their very photogenic stage presence but the songs are just such gems too that they could be the ugliest band in the world and I’d still make the effort. The fact that they’re not is hardly their fault. “Would you like them if they were men” is such a dumb comment to make when half the band are men – talk about missing the point. It’s Pyn’s 100% punk rock crunching guitar sound and Krash’s relentless pounding on the drums that have been driving this unit forward over the last few years. Now BWD have recruited a great bassist in JayJay they really have a band where everyone knows exactly what they are doing and it all clicks together wonderfully with the iconic Isis Queen leading things at the front. She’s a charismatic whirlwind, constantly moving, cajoling the crowd and encouraging them to engage with the band, taking herself off the stage to talk to individuals directly and literally grabbing them to get their attention. They’re a force to be reckoned with. Check out set closer Revolution in the video below.

Watch Barb Wire Dolls play Revolution live at the Purple Turtle, Camden

Watch Morgellons play Red Scab live at the Purple Turtle, Camden

 

Isis Queen, Barb Wire Dolls

Cellbound

Morgellons

Gasoline Thrill

Revolution time again

Barb Wire Dolls are back in the UK with their explosive mix of punk rock. You know good bands fire on all cyclinders and there’s no passengers in Barb Wire Dolls. Last time here singer Isis Queen got dumped on concrete but she’s made of kevlar – and was back playing the following night.

Isis Queen, Barb Wire Dolls ) photo: Steve Cotton

See them at the following venues:

02.10.14 UK Lowestoft – Granny’s
03.10.14 UK Middlesbrough – The Longlands Club
04.10.14 UK Leeds – The Packhorse
05.10.14 UK Edinburgh – Bannersman Live
07.10.14 UK Liverpool – Lomax
08.10.14 UK Grimsby – Yardbirds
09.10.14 UK Peterborough – Met lounge
10.10.14 UK Bristol – The Louisiana
11.10.14 UK Manchester – The Star and Garter
12.10.14 UK London – Purple Turtle Camden.

NO LIP at the Fox and Duck

NO LIP – Saturday 29th September 2014 at the Fox and Duck, Richmond

A quick jaunt out last night to catch No Lip playing in Petersham. Nothing on the telly (as usual) so what can be better than a bit of Saturday night punk rock? No Lip play some of the tunes you’d expect from a covers punk band (UK Subs and The Clash) along with some you had to dig a little deeper to hear (Cocksparrer’s Runnin’ Riot). They do them so well too with pretty much one song from each band chosen. And then without warning,  it ended all too suddenly and I was back to a boring Saturday night…great fun while it lasted. Cheers No Lip.

Watch No Lip playing Cocksparrer’s Runnin’ Riot here.

RED FRENZY / MANIAC at the Fighting Cocks

RED FRENZY / MANIAC Saturday 8th November at the Fighting Cocks, Kingston

Fun night at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston catching up with a lot of old faces. The evening started in fine style with the assorted keyboard wizardry of Transistor Quartet (Maniac’s old bass player) pumping out quality tunes good and loud followed by most of the rest of the old Maniac themselves running through songs both old and new.  RED were headlining (featuring ex March of Anger members) and delivered a confident performance of hard hitting rock/metal. Also enjoyed the Dirty Ugly Punk Monkeys doing punked up cover versions of pop classics – always thought Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold would make a great punk song - so it was great to hear a band giving it some live.

Watch Maniac playing ‘Say No’ live at the Fighting Cocks. Kingston

Watch Red play Communicate at Fighting Cocks, Kingston

James Jenkins, Maniac

Maniac, Kingston punk band

Red Frenzy

 

THE FITS / THE LURKERS / 16 GUNS at the 12 Bar Club

THE FITS / THE LURKERS / 16 GUNS Friday 5th September 2014, 12 Bar Club, London

I’d never seen the Fits before tonights gig. I think they’d moved on to other projects by the time I was really going to gigs on a routine basis. So I was really looking forward to seeing a band that made such rapid musical progress over their short career in the 80′s from quite basic but catchy punk to fully thought through and accomplished tracks like Peace and Quiet.

First up though were 16 Guns with Loric from Rage DC on guitar duties tonight. He slotted in just fine and the band know how to get people having a good time. They’ve got a fine set of proper no nonsense punk songs which’ll keep any audience happy.  Marie from Lost Cherrees also got up on stage to do a duet with singer Tom. We’re not talking about a Jason and Kylie ballad here but a version of that Motorhead / Girlschool classic ‘Please Don’t Touch’. Puts a smile on a lot of faces in the audience.

The Lurkers are one of those bands whose name has been around forever but I don’t know much about. I can’t explain why but I’ve never been that interested in finding out more save for having picked up a couple of OK albums along the way. Tonight though is a different matter, they played a wealth of catchy, solid punk rock songs that sounded crisp and punchy. Coupled with a great deal of good natured and very funny banter they provided excellent entertainment, taking the mickey out of their advancing years and in some cases their far from athletic builds. I think they converted me so I’ll be off to listen to some more of their back catalogue. It’s only taken me 30 years.

No such issues with the Fits. I think I own all of their releases and I’m very familiar with classics such as Tears Of A Nation and the aforementioned Peace and Quiet. Some of the best songs from that era and they more than stand the test of time.  It’s so good tonight to see original singer Mick giving them his all live. He’s a natural frontman, climbing up into the rafters of the 12 bar club to sing to the crowd below when managing to move about on the 12 Bars tiny stage is more than enough of a feat in itself. The Fits remain a quality outfit, well worth seeing. All in all a top night all round.

Watch The Fits play Peace and Quiet live at the 12 Bar Club

Watch the Lurkers play Pills live at the 12 Bar Club

The Fits

The Fits making full use of the 12 Bar Club

The Lurkers

The Lurkers at the 12 Bar Club

Tom from 16 Guns with Marie from Lost Cherrees

16 Guns, 12 Bar Club

44 FIRES at the Hobgoblin

44 FIRES Saturday 9th August 2014 at the Hobgoblin, Staines

44 Fires in the house, politically charged heavy metal is, for me, a difficult concept to get my head around but that is what 44 Fires deliver. With songs that hang around in your head for days these boys packed a punch.

Watch 44 Fires play live at the HobGoblin, Staines

44 Fires (photo: Steve Cotton)

 44 Fires at the Hobgoblin

THE SMEARS / BRAINS ALL GONE / 16 GUNS / LOST CHERREES at the Camden Unicorn

THE SMEARS / BRAINS ALL GONE / 16 GUNS / LOST CHERREES - Monday 4th August 2014 at the Camden Unicorn

Is it just me or does that line up look it should be the other way round – especially as this is in London? No matter I arrived early enough to see Lost Cherrees opening up. There’s something of pre Rebellion warm up feel to proceedings but the Cherrees put in a great set. I remember seeing them ‘back in the day’ and they could be a little ‘lightweight’ compared to their contemporaries (not necessarily a bad thing!) but these days they’ll hold their own with anyone. I still like old favourites like Living In A Coffin and more recent angry songs like Dear Tony but tonight a cover really stood out. As a set closer they played played Pulp’s Common People. It’s a song with a pretty spot on meaning and the band more than did it justice.

Next up were 16 Guns who I think improve every time I see them. I guess that comes from playing loads of gigs – they regularly appear on the bill of gigs I go to which is no bad things as they are now a fine unit who know how to get the crowd involved right from the off. Near the end we got to see Marie from the Lost Cherrees duet with singer Tom on ‘Please Don’t Touch’ – yeah, that Motorhead / Girlschool collaboration. Loved it, great fun.

It’s the second time I’ve seen Brains All Gone and in the same venue to boot. They seem to have grown in confidence since their performance here earlier in the year. Maybe the Unicorn is starting to feel like home to them? They certainly get a great reception and rightly so. They have written some damn fine songs. Singles ‘Education’ and ‘March Of The Youth’ being two favourites. In recorded form they are highly polished, super clear sounding pop punk classics but live they have a rougher, edgier sound. Singer Akjabus has a great rapport with the crowd and it’s so nice to see a sometimes snooty London crowd take a young female punk band from Krakow, Poland so readily to their hearts.

Last band on the bill were the Smears and lets just say that maybe this spot meant that they’d visited the bar once too often before they hit the stage. They take an age setting up when really they just needed to get started (it’s Monday and a ‘school night’ after all) and then they produce the set list on a bit of toilet roll (loved that)! When things get under way they are decent enough but I can’t help thinking I’m not seeing them at their best. A shame really as they split up not long after this gig. Maybe some other time ladies?

Watch Lost Cherrees playing Living In A Coffin and Common People live at the Unicorn

Watch Brains All Gone play March of The Youth live at the Unicorn, Camden

Watch members of 16 Guns and Lost Cherrees play Please Don’t Touch at Unicorn, Camden

The Smears

The Smears

The Smears

The Smears

Brains All Gone

Brains All Gone

Brains All Gone

Steve from 16 Guns

Tom from 16 Guns

Lost Cherrees

Lost Cherrees

Lost Cherrees

DOWN BY LAW / SOUTHPORT / THE CUT UPS at the Black Heart

DOWN BY LAW / SOUTHPORT / THE CUT UPS  - Friday 1st August 2014 Camden Black Heart

First up were the Cut Ups all the way from Exeter, a band who’ve been going for nearly a decade but one I knew nothing about. They play decent punk rock, seemed pretty sussed and got a decent enough reaction from the early arrivers in the crowd but it was all over too fast and too early.

Southport hit the stage at a more reasonable time and it was another fine performance at the Black Heart (I’d caught them here earlier in the year with HDQ). A little more rehearsed and a little more together they played  a decent selection of old and new from their catalogue. Singer guitarist Simon Wells has such a distinctive way of creating his own trademark sound with his playing hand moving up and down the neck of the guitar causing an ebb and flow to riffs. Their cover of “I Shot The Sherriff” is an absolute stand out both here and on the Southern Soul LP. Again though a relatively short set and we were left to await the arrival of Down By Law.

Dave Smalley is another singer/ guitarist but his past includes being the vocalist for seminal US hardcore acts DYS, Dag Nasty and All. It’s a real pleasure to see how relaxed he is now fronting up his own unit Down By Law. He has an easy way with the crowd, pretty humble in fact. I loved the way he praised an old school zine writer in the audience. So many times the people in the background of punk rock who work tirelessly and without pay get overlooked so it was great to see respect being paid in this way. In fact you got the impression that Dave Smalley both loves and cares deeply about punk rock based on his pronouncements from the stage. A great set of songs followed topped off with a very decent version of the old Dag Nasty standard “Under Your Influence”. A gig for the discerning, those who attended had been rewarded by a very decent line up for their effort.

 

Down By Law

Down By Law

Down By Law

Simon Wells from Southport (photo: Steve Cotton)

The Cut Ups (photo: Steve Cotton)

The Cut Ups (photo: Steve Cotton)