THERAPY? / THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES, Sub89 Reading

THERAPY? / THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES, Tuesday 14th April 2015 at Sub89, Reading

It’s ten months since I last saw Thirty Six Strategies but that pails into insignificance compared to when I last saw Therapy? – that’s more like decades. Oddly its Thirty Six Strategies who have changed the most since the last time. Original drummer Mobs has been replaced behind the kit, original singer Kirsty’s spot is now taken by Marie Vockins and both of the guitarists have moved on too leaving just original bassist Ian Glasper. Except for tonight – original guitarist Neil Cox is back for just one show on a tour which seems them as the opening act for Northern Ireland’s alternative metal / punk / masters.

Something of a confession now. I’m busy taking pictures of Thirty Six Strategies tonight, so much so that I don’t really get to appreciate the band fully. Of course I have an ear out too and am pleased to catch a good number of the songs from their debut singles and album getting an airing tonight. They sound like a cohesive unit, DC influenced riffs, intelligent lyrics and well crafted catchy songs are the order of the day. New singer Marie has a strong voice and the band put on quite a show with everyone having their turn at the front of the stage. The assembling crowd seem to really appreciate their style  and based on tonight’s performance I’d say they’d won over some new fans. Therapy? certainly seemed to love them, mentioning them in their thanks during the last song of the evening. Maybe next time I’ll leave the camera at home for a change. In the meantime I suggest you check them out for yourself. Their debut album ‘Strategy Three’ is a great introduction and with another 33 stratagems to go they should be around for a while yet.

Thirty Six Strategies

Marie Vockins from Thirty Six Strategies

Ian Glasper airborne, Thirty Six Strategies

Therapy? kick off in fine style with a classic that gets the crowd going from the off. Singer guitarist Andy Cairns is in great form and bassist Michael McKeegan is smiling like he’s having the time of his life. They keep the tempo up throughout their set only pausing at times for Andy to tell an anecdote. Like the time he was asked to help a friend choose the right university for his child with the choice being between Reading and Brighton. Brighton was chosen despite him referring to Reading as Reading On Sea and extolling the quality of its literary archive! Standout songs for me included a suitably manic version of ‘Knives’ which led to man in front of me to aggressively tap his own head when Cairns sings “Bad trip tattooed on my brain” plus a pretty head spinning version of Teethgrinder full of complicated rhythms and a relentless guitar. More accessible is Potato Junkie with its crowd friendly singalong line of “James Joyce Is Fucking My Sister”. ‘Trigger Inside’ gets such a rapturous reception from the crowd I start to wonder (more like worry) how many of the crowd identify with the lyrics. A quick break at the end of the set followed by a three song encore including a blistering set closer of ‘Going Nowhere’ and everything finishes perfectly on time, everybody seems very happy with the set list. Big smiles everywhere on the way out.Therapy? nailed it.

Andy Cairns, Therapy?

Therapy? at Reading Sub89

Not Just Bits Of Paper

NOT JUST BITS OF PAPER – Gregory Bull and Mickey Penguin (ISBN 978-1505703382 available from Situation Press / Amazon 

I used to have a great big box of paper. Full of music magazine cuttings, letter exchanges with bands, fanzines, flyers – it was all in there. But then one day during a house move it made its way to the tip. I miss it all to this day. Some others were not so stupid as me. They kept all these bits of paper, knowing that they are things that unlock memories, that they changed minds that are still changed from the mainstream view even today. They provide the backbone of this new book in which Greg Bull and Mickey ‘Penguin’ collate these fragments and coupled with testimonies from the time create a view into the personal stories behind punk. What I love about punk is the way that you can be part of it all and this book perfectly demonstrates this. Put together by those who had these connections there are stories, pictures and thoughts that to others could seem trivial but to those involved were often life changing. The stories in here explain why. Pilgrimages to record labels, seeing a band like Antisect as your first gig, hand crafted flyers –  this book is full of fascinating personal insights that have previously gone unreported. Eighties punk was always about much more than the bands themselves. In keeping with the times it’s a bargain too, “Pay No More Than Twelve Pounds” for over 220 pages. You can get it directly from Amazon and if it sells enough the authors promise more of the same.

MAID OF ACE / THE LIGAMENTS / ALTERCATION / UNDERCLASS UK / SLUTDROP – Camden Unicorn

Cool, a bunch of bands I haven’t seen before and one I love already. All for free on a Sunday night. What’s not to like? I arrived just too late to see much of Slutdrop. They were running through their last two songs as I entered the venue but seemed decent. Plenty about them as they kicked up a two guitar attack before heading off stage having earnt a decent reaction. So first up for me was Underclass UK. Right from the off they had a powerful no nonsense sound, something of a cross between Oi and hardcore with a bit of menace thrown in for good measure. Dirty, rough punk rock that doesn’t takes its boots off. Except for half way through when unexpectedly a man walks on stage and creates a fair degree of tension with a very direct spoken intro into ‘Somebody’. It works a treat and lets not spoil the effect here in case you catch it live yourself. Two bands in and its already shaping up to be a great evening.

Underclass UK

This guy introduced ‘Somebody’ for Underclass UK

One band definitely on my bucket list to catch this year is Healthy Junkies. They’ve had a slew of great singles, especially the ridiculously catchy ‘Resistance’ but I’ve failed to catch them live at any point in the last year. They play all the time as well which makes it all the more remarkable that singer Nina Coulson also fronts tonight’s third band Altercation. They deliver a confident performance, part rock, part experimental, building up, crashing down and delivering expertly through a varied and entertaining set. I need to track down a recording so I’ll be more familiar with their material next time.

Altercation

Altercation

Nearly time for headliners Maid Of Ace but just prior to that are The Ligaments. A three piece, they amble onto the stage with a double bass, a drummer and a guitarist. So far, so rockabilly. And then they play. Wow, just wow. Their drummer thrashes and crashes around the kit, her arms a blur as she really hammers out the beats driving the band forward. Not that they need encouraging at all as the guy on double bass is really giving it some. It doesn’t sound typical of that instrument at all – they sound proper hardcore, on guitar its blistering riff after blistering riff building up into a finale on ‘Back Room Wall‘. Got to say they blew me away and were well worthy of their slot on the bill. A fact not lost on tonight’s headliners who offered them their congratulations as well.

The Ligaments

Maid of Ace are, however, also well worthy of their headlining slot. They kick up an almighty, filthy punk rock sound right from the opener and crash relentlessly through blocks of four songs at a time with very little let up. Their set has got stronger over the last year – It’s now a formidable all-out assault on the ears full of passion, distortion and commitment. They’re a veritable force of nature. Go see ‘em while they’re like this, they’re nothing short of amazing right now. Right at the end though a disappointment – set closer ‘Rules and Regulations’, a cover of the Fuzzbox song has to be dropped due to a strict curfew. Oh well, I’m going to have go along and see them all over again now, what a shame!

Alson Cara Elliott, Maid Of Ace

Anna Coral Elliott, Maid of Ace

Abby Elliott, Maid Of Ace

PACO TRIBUTE – CONFLICT / ICONS OF FILTH / HAGAR THE WOMB / THE RESTARTS / POTENTIAL THREAT / LIBERTY

CONFLICT / ICONS OF FILTH / HAGAR THE WOMB / THE RESTARTS / POTENTIAL THREAT / LIBERTY / LOST CHERREES – Sunday April 5th 2015 at the 100 Club.

On the 20th February 2015 Francisco ‘Paco’ Carreno passed away. He was for many years the main man behind the drums for both Inner Terrestrials and Conflict. The latter band in particular had a profound affect on how I live my life, what I eat, what I think and how I treat others. They did this by coupling challenging lyrics with powerful music that has an intensity that has rarely been matched. An essential part of this was Paco’s drums, the way they thunderously roll in setting the scene on ‘Whichever Way You Want It’ or the breakneck blast through that is ‘Neither Is This’. Phenomenal. Conflict just would not have been the force they were without Paco driving it from the back and his loss hit Colin Jerwood, Conflicts singer, particularly hard. Both Colin and Paco go back a long way and with bonds deeper than just band members so it was no surprise that Colin would set about organising a memorial concert. Finding bands to play was no problem, Paco was a well loved and respected man and the seven chosen to play on Sunday 5th April all had direct connections.

The gig started later than advertised on Sunday afternoon but no one gave a toss. This was a DIY affair, if you want things to run on time and someone to complain to when they don’t then I suggest you go and see some dinosaur rock band in Hyde Park. This gig was the bands doing it for Paco and his family, no fucking pretensions or egos on show just a determination to stage a fitting memorial.

Lost Cherrrees kicked off the night with a strong set of recent material with a smattering of songs from their Mortarhate career. Like some of the other bands on the night I remember them playing often with Conflict back in the day, particularly at the Surbiton Assemby Rooms riot. Of course now there’s only one member left from that time but the connection still runs deep.  They have a harder sound nowadays especially on songs like ‘Who’s Fucking Who” and plenty of venom in their lyrics.

Lost Cherrees

Lost Cherrees

Liberty were up next. Another stalwart from the eighties scene they played more from their earlier years, “Diluted Rebellion” a real favourite and with their dual singers and twin guitar attack they put out a pretty fearsome sound stopping to dedicate their set to “Paco and all of our fallen brothers”. As did Potential Threat, announcing “The Hunt Is On” with a heartfelt “You Bastards”! Time hasn’t dimmed their anger nor any of the other bands on the bill on the night. It was the first time I’d seen them since they reformed and its great to have so many of these bands back playing, especially on a night like this.

Liberty

Liberty

Potential Threat

Potential Threat

The Restarts are a band I love, more recent maybe but they’ve actually been going a very long time now. They have some real classics in their set from the relatively early bass driven ‘Frustration’ to the more recent “Independentzia” and “Drone Attack” from their “A Sickness Of The Mind” LP they did a great job of injecting life and urgency into the evening. Everything seemed to get a little bit darker and more hectic from this point onwards. Well except for Hagar the Womb who were up next with their pretty joyous take on punk rock. Sure they get angry too bit there’s real humour, a sense of the co-ordinated chaos about their set. Their songs like “Idolisation” sound better now than they ever did and having a few recent gigs under their belt has improved their consistency in delivering fun and thought provoking songs. This gig needed a bit of Hagar!

Restarts

Restarts

Hagar The Womb

Hagar The Womb

Conflict recently played in Wales for the 10 year anniversary concert marking the death of Icons Of Filth singer Stig. So it was poignant that Icons of Filth that were so soon in London to be doing the same thing in honouring Paco. Adding to the emotional charge was the fact that Stig’s son Calvin (now in Grand Collapse) was on vocals for most of the night. He did a great job. He made the point that his father would have loved to have paid his tribute in person and that singing his fathers words was hard. Brave words and very well received. As the Icons excellent set full of early material drew to a close they were joined on vocals by Ben, drummer Aitch’s son, Ed on bass switched to drums and the bassist from Grand Collapse came on, the singer from the Phucks also sang and so did Colin from Conflict on “Enough Is Enough”. The songs from Nostradamnedus sounded superb alongside all the Mortarhate songs. A very impressive set and like all the bands a real reminder of what Paco meant to everyone here and a reminder of others we have lost too.

Icons of Filth

Icons Of Filth

Icons Of Filth

Finally it was Conflict‘s turn to take to the stage. Right now they’re back to their best. Stripped down to a four piece they steamroller through a set full of classics with very little let up. Talking to Colin earlier in the evening this seems like a deliberate plan and it works brilliantly. They’re a real sonic assault full of passion, drive and anger – just as they should be and with very few distractions everything really hits home hard. Drummer Spike has a tough job on his hands taking on the job of replicating Paco’s rhythms but carries everything off superbly and heads to the centre stage to make his own personal tribute during the set. Colin also dedicates the Ungovernable Force to Paco with the words “This is for my boy, I love you Pax” but its set closer ‘Whichever Way You Want It” that really has everyone on stage joining in a fitting tribute to the man himself. An amazing end to a tribute to an amazing man. So many warm words, so much heartfelt emotion. Paco. rest in peace.

Colin Jerwood, Conflict

Conflict

Conflict

PACO RIP

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STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, The Forum, London

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS Thursday 26th March 2015 at the Forum, London

I arrived late at the Forum after the support acts had finished but still in time to catch Stiff Little Fingers’s famous warm up tune before they came out blinking into the bright lights and the simple stage set of North London’s Forum venue. They weren’t messing around either, launching directly into a crowd pleasing ‘Nobody’s Heroes’ followed up by another couple of early classics. More recent songs are heralded with the arrival of the menacing ‘Full Steam Backwards’ from the bands recent No Going Back album. It’s a brilliant song about how life can all fall apart when during the financial crisis others flitted in and out of your life, took your money and left you “out on your fucking ear”. That line is delivered with such unexpected venom it takes you aback a little. Also aired from the new album is ‘My Dark Places’, a searingly honest and personal look at singer Jake Burn’s long battle with depression. Setting the scene prior to starting the song he extolled the crowd to talk to people, to get help if they ever found themselves in a similar situation. It was heartening to see a warm reception for his words, maybe it struck a chord with many in the admittedly predominantly early fifty something audience. Also getting a decent reception was ‘Bits oF Kids’. Burns first talked about the ‘Now Then’ album that spawned it as dividing opinion with a mixture of great and not very good songs. He jokingly happily took credit for the good ones but claims he wasn’t there for the others!

Of course there were a great deal of classic SLF songs to run through too, a quite frankly thunderous start to ‘Tin Soldiers’ and a very lively ‘Suspect Device’ gets the crowd jumping up and down at the front while a mellower cover of the Specials “Doesn’t Make It Alright’ gives everyone a breather. Jake’s voice is on fine form, a great deal less raspy than it was on those early singles but now carrying the lyrics effortlessly. ‘Wasted Life’ sounds superb, building up from its opening plea into a raging tirade. Coming back for one last time at the end ‘Alternative Ulster’ sends the crowd home happy on a high and gets me spending the next day spinning all those old essential 7″‘s. So many great songs to choose from, all delivered with that SLF grit that has been there right from the start and that still persists to this day.

Jake Burns – on fine form at the Forum

SLF at the Forum

SLF at the Forum

Stiff Little Fingers at the Forum, London

The Truth Of Revolution, Brother

‘The Truth Of Revolution, Brother’ by Lisa Sofianos, Robin Ryde and Charlie Waterhouse  (Situation Press ISBN 978-0-9930190-0-5)

MacKaye_grande

Billed as “An exploration of punk philosophy” it might be useful to point out what this book covers and what it doesn’t right from the start. If you’re looking for the musings of The Exploited’s Wattie Buchan on Scottish Independence or what Bill Stevenson from the Descendents has to say about the ethics of coffee drinking you’re in the wrong place. This is a predominantly UK centric book with a relatively small international dimension, a bias towards Crass and anarcho punk and a fairly narrow time frame. That said, it is without a shadow of doubt, an excellent read.

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign the authors have travelled extensively to interview the more cerebral ‘names’ in punk, those well known to have something to say. It expands its horizons beyond the usual list of band members to thankfully include others who make the punk ethic of DIY work beyond the process of making music. Consequently we hear the views of Tony Drayton (Kill Your Pet Puppy zine) on squatting and Graham Burnett’s love of permaculture amongst the thoughts of scene luminaries such as Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Steve Ignorant (Crass), Ian McKaye (Minor Threat and Fugazi)  and Dick Lucas (Subhumans). There are insights aplenty from individuals who have had the time to experience and reflect on what punk has enabled them to achieve. It seems that regardless of the music punk has had a profound affect on each contributors life, expanding their horizons. A do it yourself attitude coupled with a desire to test and break through the barriers of normality abound. Forty years on the philosophy of punk is still enabling people to challenge their situations and to work to improve the lives of others. Reading this book will make sense of some things you have learnt along the way, show you some the mistakes that have been made but ultimately inspire you. Previously ordinary people can do extraordinary things once they realise they can. It’s got some very nice pictures too!

 

UNDERCOVER FESTIVAL – have a look at this line up!

The third Undercover festival which is held over three days in Woking, Surrey between 18th – 20th September 2015 has announced its full line up and a corker it is too. Featuring a mix of punk and post punk, dub, ska and reggae its grown in size and features an impressive array of talent. The Damned, UK Subs, Peter and the Test Tube Babies and Penetration are headlining but each day has some real gems in support. Click here to see the the Undercover Festival listings for 2015 and buy tickets here.

THE STRANGLERS, THE REZILLOS, G Live, Guildford

THE STRANGLERS, THE REZILLOS Thursday 5th March 2015 at G Live Guildford

I caught the Stranglers on their Ruby tour at Reading’s Sub89 and I’ve got to say that was a very special gig. An intimate venue, with a crystal clear sound and a set list I could have written myself that was one great night. So no pressure tonight then!

A long time ago Guildford was home territory to the Stranglers. The affluent home county town seems a long way from a punk rock homeland but the cavernous hall of the G-Live venue is already filling up as the Rezillo’s hit the stage. I’ve never seen them before but love their presence right from the start. As expected from their song titles such as “Flying Saucer Attack” they are a little bit zany both in dress sense and musically. I’m surprised at how many I knew – not only their big hit “Top Of The Pops” but “Destination Venus” sounds fresh too with a fuller, more driven sound than on the record. Enjoyable and fun they have more than enough to headline themselves but they just don’t have the fan base right now for a venue as big as this.

The Rezillos don’t take themselves too seriously

The Stranglers come out oozing with confidence. They have a vast back catalogue to plunder from and most of my favourites are the more upbeat numbers. And while they played a few of these for me there were some real omissions here. Maybe its because the crowd at Guildford seem very mellow and the Stranglers have played here before they’ve chosen a more sedate set (there are people here in blazers and navy blue jumpers with shirts on underneath)! There’s no ‘Tank’, no ’5 Minutes’ and no ‘Norfolk Coast’ but we do get Golden Brown which with a few other numbers sees the welcome return of Jet Black behind the kit. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a great gig but something was missing tonight. The audience only really started moving when ‘Duchess’ was played and only looked threatened by the band when the bass during ‘Lost Control’ reached the level where you could feel your clothes vibrating. I’ll definitely be going to see the Stranglers again but maybe next time I’ll be choosing the venue more carefully. A point summed up neatly by the person next to me in the car park ticket machine queue on the way out. “Last time I saw this lot I bunked the train to get to the venue, tonight I’ve nearly been knocked down by a fan in a Jag”….

 The current Stranglers line up

MDC / SUBHUMANS / ANTI SYSTEM / HAGAR THE WOMB – AWOD 2015

Work, bad planning and just stuff meant that I could only make one night of the Another Winter of Discontent festival this year. It was going to be Sunday chiefly because I haven’t seen OI POLLOI in years but in the end Saturday was the only option available. Even then I only arrived during Hagar The Womb’s set and was immediately surprised how well they came across on a big stage and with a decent full sound. Seriously loved them, mildly chaotic singing, animal print outfits and so much energy they filled the hall easily with songs from their Mortarhate / Abstract years along with more recent offerings. I want to see them again, their catalogue of songs live is much stronger than I’d ever given them credit for.

Hagar The Womb, AWOD 2015

Sick On The Bus started up just as I was about to head downstairs for Anti System. That’s the trouble with these multi hall gigs, there’s decisions to be made. Armed with a dose of “We Are Sick On The Bus” I had to leave to see Anti System ‘cos I’d never seen them before. With a new singer they came over as urgent and essential and immediately got the crowd going, a lot of people had been looking forward to this and down the front was rammed. They really delivered, a fast set punctuated by a couple of problems but all in that eighties punk / metal / crust vein, so good but it all ended so soon with the classic ‘Animal Welfare’.

Sick On The Bus, AWOD 2015

Anti System, AWOD 2015

Back upstairs the Subhumans were getting ready and when they started they sounded phenomenal. I’d love to get a recording of this gig, the band were on such top form. Bruce on guitar was hammering away, adding little touches here and there to songs that have stood the test of over 30 years. Three decades on the Subhumans make them sound like they were written yesterday about things that concern them today. Dick, always with something to say about current events, takes care of the vocal communication with the crowd as usual but this is a band where all four components are at the top of their game. Classic after classic is aired, “Subvert City’, ‘Mickey Mouse Is Dead’. ‘Fade Away’ is dedicated to Paco and the whole set is ended with the inevitable and welcome playing of ‘Religious Wars’. Good luck to MDC following that….

Subhumans, AWOD 2015

Except that they don’t, not straight away anyway. The Restarts are surprise guests and take to the stage to rip through three songs ending with crazy workout that is ‘Independentzia” from their A Sickness Of the Mind album. The Restarts claim they are there to warm the crowd up for the incoming MDC but just like at the Clarendon in whatever year it was in the 80′s that I last saw the Texas band all that is lost in a lengthy wait while they get things ready.

Restarts, AWOD 2015

MDC, AWOD 2015

When they start the bass is so loud the guitarist could have sat the first few songs out. The drums and vocals are there but it needs that cutting attack for it to all make sense. To be honest I’m feeling a bit cheated. I want this to be great but it takes until Chicken Squawk twenty or so minutes in for things to start coming right. ‘John Wayne Was a Nazi’ sounded like it should but I’ll be honest here they’re not my favourite band on the bill on the night, much like last time then.

 

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.