Saturday, February 17, 2018

Show Time

The Stranglers
THE STRANGLERS - RUTS DC - Town Hall, Auckland, New Zealand - 2nd February 2018
It’s been 31 years (yep - thirty one!!) since I last saw THE STRANGLERS - and that wasn’t even the first time! It was on the ‘Dream Time’ tour and they stopped in Ipswich. That was back when Hugh Cornwall was still in them. Hugh actually jumped in the crowd that night to pull a guy outta the audience who had been spitting at them. The guy had had a warning before letting another big greeny go, so Hugh jumped into the throng at the front of the stage at the Ipswich Gaumont and hauled the gobber onto the stage. The band then proceeded to take said gobber’s trousers and undies down, exposing his weener to all of us laughing and shouting Ipswich Punks! Then a banana was produced, peeled and stuffed on the gobber’s gonads, undies and trousers very roughly pulled up squishing the ‘nana and skin in his undies, before Mr. Gobber was given to the roadies!! That remains one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen at a show.
Anyway, I lost interest in the band after Hugh left; to me he was very intrinsic to the make-up of the band, even though musically they always pivoted around Dave Greenfield’s keyboards and that monstrous, pounding bass of JJ Burnel. This show was billed as the ‘Classic Collection’, which is pretty self-explanatory. So, with the added bonus of RUTS DC, I got my ticket and headed to a rain-soaked Auckland to see THE STRANGLERS for, what I had and still have no doubts about, the last time.
Ruts DC
I’d never been to Auckland Town Hall before. It’s a typical town hall theatre complete with balcony (which spans round virtually to the stage), good sound and over-priced beer. I mean, $9 for a bottle of fucking Heineken??!! Thankfully I managed to squeeze in a good few pints of Guinness in the pub beforehand, so the Heinie topped things off nicely.
All too soon, RUTS DC came on looking very dapper for a bunch of fellas who are probably very close to drawing their pension! The band’s last album, ‘Music Must Destroy’ is a total cracker and they launched with a track from that - ‘Surprise’. From there it was a totally classy performance of classic RUTS and tracks from that new album. It’d be pretty pointless saying what the highlights were as every track, ummm,... Destroyed. ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘West One’, ‘Music Must Destroy’, ‘Kill The Pain’, ‘Jah War’, ‘In A Rut’, ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and closer ‘Psychic Attack’. The only fault was the set was way too short.
These guys are seasoned, quality musicians. Drummer Dave Ruffy in particular didn’t drop a beat and played those old, complicated RUTS rhythms without fault. Both guitarist Leigh Heggarty and bassist Segs looked great too, often drawing in tight around the drum kit to really lock in. Segs also made the comment of the evening asking, with a distinct smirk, who was going to see the Foo Fighters the following night in some hideous stadium. Surprisingly, a lot (too many?) of the crowd were... “I shouldn’t be so cheeky should I?” was his reply!!
I was hoping for an encore - but alas no....
Ruts DC
So it was left to the other set of near-pensioners to try and follow that. Kicking off with the moody and magnificent ‘WaltzInBlack’, I had high hopes. Then I got the first of many songs during the night that I didn’t know. ‘Was It You’ appeared third from the ‘Dream Time’ album. It’s a track I always liked and was pleased to see its inclusion here - particularly with JJ sounding so impressive. The first real hit of the night though (and I mean sonic hit as well as hit single) was ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ that saw that bass simply pound out and made all that went before it seem rather tame. From there we got a good number of the Classic Collection - ‘Hanging Around’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Walk On By’, ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Nice ‘n Sleazy’, ‘Nuclear Device’, ‘Tank’, ‘Go Buddy Go’ and most surprisingly, ‘Just Like Nothing On Earth’.
Hugh’s latest replacement, Baz Warne, did a fair sounding impression of him I concur, but that sense of intimidation that I’d always experienced at previous STRANGLERS gigs was noticeably lacking. Maybe it’s cuz I’m 31 years older too!! Dave did a stunning one-handed keyboard solo (I think during ‘Walk On By’) while drinking a beer (or water) before scrunching the cup and heading it away. It got one of the biggest cheers of the night and seemed to put the biggest of smiles on the collective face of the band. Incidentally, I didn’t realise drummer Jet Black had left the fold either.
My own personal favourite, ‘Duchess’ got aired (first STRANGLERS record I ever bought dontcha know!), ‘No More Heroes’ was part of the encore - and then they were gone.
The Stranglers
Classic Collection?? My arse was it!! No ‘Peaches’, no ‘Straighten Out’, no ‘Five Minutes’, no ‘Strange Little Girl’, no ‘Skin Deep’, no ‘Something Better Change’ let alone ‘Death And Night And Blood’ or ‘Dagenham Dave’. There were about 10 songs I didn’t know and while both ‘15 Steps’ and ‘Norfolk Coast’ were good (the former in particular), neither are ‘Peaches’.
I felt a bit unfulfilled on leaving. While the good bits were great (let’s face it, the good songs are fucking classics and they were played well), there’s no denying my attention wandered and that tension I always associated with the band had gone.
Yep, this was definitely the last time I’ll see THE STRANGLERS - unless, maybe, Hugh rejoins.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Year-end Recommendations 2017

2017 was an interesting year for music. I heard a lot of stuff but, like any year, I also missed a lot of good gear too. PROPAGANDHI’s latest still hasn’t crossed my ears and I think I only heard about one release on Deranged Records. What I did hear though made for an impressive year, with older bands like CHANNEL 3 cranking out brand new stunners along with newer names like DEBT NEGLECTOR.
For me, 2017 also had a very dark shadow in the passing of GRANT HART. It remains hard to believe that I was talking to him, here in NZ, just the year before. It has brought a whole new sensation which would have otherwise been lacking when listening to the recent HUSKER DU boxset.
Didn’t get to see as many bands as I would have liked. MINISTRY were due to play but cancelled (drug issues was it, Al?), I caught THE DAMNED for the 36th time and ADAM ANT blew me away on the ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ tour. I’m still blitzed by that version of ‘Beat My Guest’!!
Anyway - Top Tens and also-rans as follows. As I said above, there is a lot I have not heard - and these lists are always objective - but for me, these represent the Top Sounds of 2017. 

1. CYANIDE PILLS - Slice And Diced {Damaged Goods}
3. CHANNEL 3 - Put ‘Em Up {TKO}
4. CAREER SUICIDE - Machine Response {Deranged}
5. DEBT NEGLECTOR - Atomicland {Smart Punk}
6. PARANOID VISIONS - Rebellion {FOAD/ Overground}
7. REPLACEMENTS - Live At Maxwell’s {Rhino}
8. KOMPLIKATIONS - Humans {Rockstar}
9. CJ RAMONE - American Beauty {Fat Wreck}
10. PANDEMIX - Scale Models Of Atrocities {Boss Tuneage}
Other contenders: 1919 - Bloodline {Westworld}, BAD COP/BAD COP - Warriors, PEARS/ DIRECT HIT - Human Movement, WESTERN ADDICTION - Tremulous {Fat Wreck}, THE CRAVATS - Dustbin Of Sound {Overground} , DAMNED - 40th Anniversary: Live In Margate {Liveherenow}, DEAD ENDING - Shoot The Messenger {Alternative Tentacles}, DIRTY PRIESTS - s/t {BDI}, GRAND COLLAPSE - Along The Dew {TNS}, STUNGRENADES Class War: Fight Back! {Bastard Son}, SWHAT - Wasty Tasty {Heart Of The Rat}, DELINQUENTS - About Last Night {Violated}, FOX FACE - Spoil + Destroy {Dirtnap}, TIM BARRY - High On 95 {Chunksaah} 

1. DUNCAN REID AND THE BIG HEADS - C’mon Josephine {Damaged Goods}
2. DEALING WITH DAMAGE - Don’t Give Into Fear {Boss Tuneage}
3. FIVE THOUSAND - Monadh {Our Future}
4. NIGHT MEN - C’est La Vie {Rockstar}
5. JADED EYES - Hatespeak {Boss Tuneage}
6. NIGHT PEOPLE - Night People {Deranged}
8. FEEDERZ - WWHD? {Slope}
9. PAGANS/ HIP PRIESTS - Split {Just4Fun}
10. THE SWEET THINGS - Slather {Spaghetty Town}
Other contenders: ANTI-SYSTEM - At What Price Freedom?, NATTERERS - Toxic Care {Boss Tuneage}, FACE TO FACE - Say What You Want {Fat Wreck}, STARVING MILLIONS - V {DIY}, WRATHS - My Home {Bird Attack}, LAST GANG - Sing For Your Supper {Fat Wreck}, HUSKER DU - Extra Circus {Numero Uno}, DR. BOOGIE - She’s So Tuff {Spaghetty Town}, PATSY’S RATS - Roundin’ Up {Dirtnap} 

1. HUSKER DU - Savage Young Du {Numero Uno}
2. COVENTRY AUTOMATICS - Dawning Of A New Era {Free Range Product}
3. RAMONES - Rocket To Russia/ Leave Home box sets {Rhino}
4. DAVID BOWIE - A New Career In A New Town {Parlophone}
5. BAD DRESS SENSE - We Rule! {Boss Tuneage}
6. HANOI ROCKS - Reissues {Dissonance}
7. SWINGIN’ UTTERS - Drowning In The Sea, Rising With The Sun {Fat Wreck}
9. MANIACS - So Far... So Loud {Overground}
10. ELECTRO HIPPIES - Collected Works 1985-1987 {Boss Tuneage}
Other contenders: THE PROLES - Morton Crescent {Overground}, CHRIS SPEDDING - The RAK Years {Cherry Red}, MINISTRY - Reissues {Dissonance}, GOOD RIDDANCE - Ballads From The Revolution {Fat Wreck}