Friday, October 22, 2010

Obituary - Arianna 'Ari Up' Forster

On 20th October 2010, Arianna Forster (aka Ari Up), vocalist and founder of pioneering Punk band, THE SLITS, passed away at the age of 48. The news was announced via John Lydon’s website, which stated:
John and Nora have asked us to let everyone know that Nora's daughter Arianna (aka Ari-Up) died today (Wednesday, October 20th) after a serious illness. She will be sadly missed. Rest In Peace.
Forster was born in Munich, Germany on 1st January 1962. Her mother, Nora, was known within the music industry via her promotion of Jimi Hendrix in the 60s and having dated Chris Spedding for a few years. It was through Nora’s relationship (and eventual marriage) with SEX PISTOLS frontman Johnny Rotten that lead to Arianna’s exposure and experimentation with Punk Rock, reputedly learning guitar from Joe Strummer of THE CLASH.
At the tender age of 14, along with drummer Palmolive, she formed THE SLITS. Joined by Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt, the band became one of the most notorious on the early London Punk scene with an unconventional, abrasive sound that mixed reggae dub rhythms with scratchy abrasive guitars creating something that was both angry and joyous. Of the band’s debut gig supporting THE CLASH in Harlseden on 11th March 1977, Forster said, “It was something I was born to do. It was like an explosion for me. Made that stage my living room. We were musically so fucked-up and untogether. And we were just so amazing in our time-bombing up there, we just went up there totally fucking up every single note, every single beat! And we were just great. We were brilliant at it.” A month later, Forster was nearly the victim of a stabbing as THE SLITS supported the SEX PISTOLS are the infamous Screen On The Green shows, as an anonymous punter declared, “So you’re the SLITS huh? Here’s a slit for you!”
Later in 1977, the band supported THE CLASH on the band’s White Riot Tour and again the following year on the Sort It Out Tour before dropping the classic debut album, ‘Cut’ in 1979. After the ever more experimental follow-up album, ‘Return Of The Giant Slits’, released in 1981, the band split up.
Following the band’s split, Forster moved with her husband and twin children to Indonesia and Belize, living among indigenous people in those areas, eventually settling in Kingston, Jamaica.
Her musical legacy continued, first with the NEW AGE STEPPERS followed by a solo career that resulted in the release of the 2005-album, ‘Dread More Dan Dead’. Later that same year, Forster along with Tessa Pollitt reformed the band for which she will always be remembered - THE SLITS.
An EP, ‘Revenger Of The Killer Slits’ was released the following year featuring former SEX PISTOL Paul Cook and ex- ADAM AND THE ANTS guitarist Marco Pirroni. The next two years saw the band tour USA, Europe, Australia and Japan, culminating with the release of the 2009 album, ‘Trapped Animal’.
Besides THE SLITS, Forster had played occasional solo concerts and toured with her band, THE TRUE WARRIORS and appeared on recordings with JAMMYLAND ALL STARS, German Technoheads TERRANOVA and LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY.
In a tribute on THE SLITS' MySpace page, her manager Jeff Jacquin paid tribute to her, “unyielding passion for music and life. She influenced generations of women and created some of the most memorable music of our time, but Ari's true magic was how she affected people on the street, face to face, every day,” he said.
“She ate life up and spit it out.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Show Time!

RED FLAG 77 - DANGER’S CLOSE - SKA-PA, Royal Oak, Ipswich, UK - 23rd July 2010
After very nearly six months in Ipswich, and a departure date set to head back home to New Zealand rapidly approaching, it looked distinctly probable that I would not see erstwhile Ipswich Punks, RED FLAG 77, on this visit. That’s kinda ironic as on the three previous visits, I’d seen the band at least once during each - and those visits lasted little more than four weeks each! Thankfully, some flakey pub crud-rock band cancelled the lame effort it no doubt called ‘a gig’ at the last minute and into the fold stepped the FLAG, with a scrum-diddley-umptious supporting line-up to boot!! Choice!
I’d already seen SKA-PA once on this trip and, for such a new band, had been relatively impressed. It seems the band has been practicing though, as this was a notable step up. The band was less ragged, somewhat more focused (especially the bassist) and certainly more visual - even if Kyle didn’t have that impressive Mohawk on show - although that could be due to the larger stage at the Oak. Highlight of the set for me was still ‘Shattered Young Girl’, although ‘Pirate’s Quest’ sounded impressive also. Gotta say though, that cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ is fucking awful. There is still something of ISOCRACY about the band, but on the strength of this, it’s now coupled with something much leaner with a harder dynamic.
Had a bit of a chat with some FLAGgers after SKA-PA’s impressive skanky blast and, mid-conversation with FLAG guitarist Mickey, realised that this could well be the last time I ever see RF77. I don’t plan on returning to the UK for sometime (as in years) and although the FLAG has been a constant on the UK Punk scene for the best part of 20 years (and even more relevant to that of Ipswich), it can’t go on forever. That was kind of a sobering thought and one that got in my way of fully enjoying DANGER’S CLOSE.
I had been hugely impressed with DANGER’S CLOSE when the band played with the ADICTS last year, but for some reason they didn’t quite hit me tonight. I do remember ripping versions of ‘Apathy’, ‘Denial’ and a scathing ‘What’s Your Problem’ but a lot more passed me by. Sure, the band was good but I think I had been expecting a bit too much. How a band that has a vocalist like Abby - someone who can sing with power and has a stage presence that is both explosive and natural - can pass me by I am not sure but unfortunately for me it did. The band got a great reception from the assorted local Punks - guess it just was not my night.
And so came the FLAG. In one form or another, and in many different places, I’ve probably written more about this band of reprobates than any other. This show though, as suggested above, had a greater sense of gravitas than any I had previously witnessed at the hands of the FLAG. The more I thought about things (and too often through the DANGER’S CLOSE set), the more I realised that this could very well be the last time I see the band live; it felt like kissing away a great part of my history. As per usual, the band played a blazing set, culled from all three albums.
Undoubted highlight was, as always, ‘As I Fall’ (personal dedication aside - thanks for that Rik!!). It’s a song that I first recall hearing back at the Earl Roberts many years ago, sat next to Jim Kocher, and after RF77 had played the song, we both looked at each other and kinda went, “Fuck me - that’s in a different league!!” To me, it’s still a song that resides in the Top Three All-Time Ipswich Punk Songs and, on a personal level, probably stands at #1. Other highlights included opener (I think!) ‘Insane People’, the excellent ‘Time Has Been Called’, ‘Backs To The Wall’ and the too-catchy-for-words ‘Stormy Weather’ while ‘You Won’t Get Me’ saw vocalist Rikki prowling the crowd for some audience participation. When it came to requests, I called out for THE DRONES’ classic ‘Lookalikes’ which resulted in a chuckle but no performance. Tut tut!!
As always though, covers are still an integral part of the FLAG live. Besides the obligatory ‘Football Crazy’ and CLASH tunes, I was treated to ‘People Who Died’ - the old JIM CARROLL classic. I half expected Pete Hurley to come lurching back from musical obscurity, brushing the cobwebs outta his bleached barnet, to reclaim his FLAG place for the song; instead we got another ex-FLAGger, Jonny Learjet, who gave the track a neat ragged, raucous vibe before falling over a monitor and ending up on his back on the beer-drenched floor - but still playing!
A sobering walk home surely helped dispose of the Guinness-induced damage I should have felt the next day. ‘Drunk Again’? You can betcha bondage pants and brothel creepers I was!!
Another great night at the hands of RED FLAG 77; I sincerely hope it was not the final one.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Show Time!

THE LOVE TRIANGLE, Hayward Gallery, London, UK - 17th July 2010
Now this was not what I imagined at all!! The Hayward Gallery is situated on London’s South Bank - not too far from the National Theatre. The original plan was for the excellent SHITTY LIMITS to headline an afternoon’s worth of entertainment - and that, besides a long overdue catch-up, was the main draw for both Peter Zonked from Brighton and myself to head to the capital on a balmy Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, SHITTY LIMITS had to cancel and in the band’s place we got a LIMITS-splinter group, THE LOVE TRIANGLE that features SHITTY LIMITS vocalist Louis and drummer Tim.
The whole afternoon was organised by (this being the collective’s ninth event) and staged outside on a balcony above the Gallery’s main floor. Space only allowed for about 30 people besides the bands, but the excellent July weather meant many more could assemble below or on Waterloo Bridge adjacent to the gallery that spans the Thames. Inside was an excellent record/ zine fair kinda deal and below was a restaurant that provided some over-priced but very tasty, thirst-quenching bottled beers!
By the time Pete and I had finished catching up in a nearby boozer, we returned to find a duo doing its thing. One half of the pair was a drummer while the other fella spent his time bent over some kinda mixing thing that generated various distorted noises and waves of static sound. It was interesting for a few minutes, but the absence of any defined structure ultimately bored.
The bottled beer was flowing nicely by the time LOVE TRIANGLE fired up. The balcony had become a little more packed also, lending a vaguely bohemian feel to proceedings, although the twisted, raucous stomp of the band shattered any hippie metaphor that may have existed. From the off, Louis (attired in a very neat GERMS ‘GI’ shirt) appeared to be the only person who actually performed to and acknowledged those who weren’t on the balcony. A good-sized crowd had formed below and even those on the bridge stopped to watch and groove on the fuzzed chords and sneered vocals of LOVE TRIANGLE.
The band’s sound is not too far removed from that of SHITTY LIMITS, although LOVE TRIANGLE’s probably has more of a direct Rock ‘n’ Roll bent about it. There seemed to be a distinct Aussie Garage Rock feel about them too, best typified by the band’s cover of THE BABEEZ, ‘I Hate School’. I can’t tell ya anymore song titles as this was all new stuff to me, but the tunes were decidedly more raucous than the band’s rather 60s styled name suggests. seem to hold similar shows on a monthly basis at non-traditional venues, with a minimum of four bands per show and a proportion of the entry funds being donated to charity. It’s reassuring to see such ideals still exist in the capital’s Punk scene; especially in this day and age where Punk is, seemingly, as much about getting sponsored by Vans as it is about making a social/ political statement and inciting change.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Show Time!

I.C.H. - TAGNUTS, Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich, UK - 16th July 2010
Third time lucky for me!! Since hearing, and being blown away by, the debut I.C.H. album, I’ve been in Ipswich twice previously when the band has played. The first time, in August last year, was the night after my Mum’s place got burgled; needless to say I couldn‘t leave the poor old dear alone in an unlocked house (the scum stole the house keys too) while I went boozing and schmoozing. The second was around about March this year. I’d left what was gearing up to be a rather good New Zealand Summer but weeks previous and, arriving in the UK during the second flurry of snow, I was struggling just too damn much with the cold. My knuckles had cracked open and the prospect of waiting for a bus, then the walk to the Steamboat was just too much. Man - the Kiwi climate has certainly made me soft! Haha!!!
Thankfully, this show appeared on the Steamboat’s calendar. Even a day of being frustrated, annoyed and ultimately insulted by the fuck-wit ’company policies’ of the Abbey National (or Santander as they are now) could not deter me this time - although I did forget my camera - so ‘boat bound I headed!
A disappointingly small crowd greeted Cambridge Ska-Punk act, THE TAGNUTS. The first thing that was really noticeable was a stunningly thin guitar sound which seemed to hamper the thrust of the thrashier numbers. Comparisons are unavoidably drawn with CAPDOWN but minus the brass and plus an additional guitar, giving the band an UNSEEN-esque bite. Lyrically, the songs were rife with socio-political comment and, although all the songs were new to me, a number stood out with ‘Motivate Me’ in particular lodging itself in my memory.
Come I.C.H. time, the Guinness had started to work its magic and a few more punters had turned up. After a bit of the renowned cheeky Essex banter from Ed, the band kicked in with a blur of flying dreads and a set that was faster, tighter and much more aurally assaulting than I had imagined. Much of the aforementioned debut album was played, but highlights would include ‘Not Indestructable’, a belligerent ‘Cunts’, ‘Oi Tune’, a sneering, bitter set-stealing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and the excellent tale of passive suburban rebellion/ apathy that is ‘Smells Like Community Spirit’. What I.C.H. has that sets the band apart from other contemporaries is a natural charm that eminates from each and every band member, but vocalist Ed in particular is a forthright and commanding figure centre stage, with just the right amount of arrogance that the vocalist of any Punk band requires.
Next time this band of be-dreaded, cantankerous ragamuffins assault a stage near you, it comes with a good recommendation from me.
I.C.H Scanner interview - hit here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Obituary - Todd Sampson

In the early hours of Sunday 25th July 2010, Todd Sampson, the original vocalist of M.I.A., passed away after virtually collapsing during an M.I.A. performance at the Black Door in his hometown of Las Vegas. He was aged 46. At the time of writing, the cause of death is unknown.
Sampson had always been a prominent figure in the Las Vegas Punk scene. In 1980, aged 16 and still a student at Clark High, he joined local band THE SWELL that, following a New Year’s Eve performance, changed its name to M.I.A. Unfortunately for Sampson, the newly-christened M.I.A. soon left town for the vibrant scene then blossoming in California. Sampson, who was still 16 when the move occurred was prevented from going with the band by his parents.
A year later, Sampson was back on the local scene with the band SELF ABUSE where he teamed up with schoolmate and ex-SPLIFFZ bassist Matt Dudenake, who took up the role of guitarist. The band played a mix of classic USHC covers and originals including the 45-second thrash ‘Locked Up For 90 Days’. The band played on and off, reforming for shows in 2001 and 2009.
In 1984, Sampson formed SAMSONS ARMY which battled through to the early 90s and, as above, reformed for occasional shows in the 2000s.
In 2008, M.I.A. vocalist, Mike Conley passed away. (Obituary here). Sampson rejoined the band which continued playing through to Sampson’s eventual collapse.
“He just started going down during the show,” said musician and close friend Rob Ruckus. “Backstage afterwards, he was totally burning up, kinda going out of it. We tried putting ice on his head, cooling him down with water ... we loaded him into the truck and got his breathing slowed down; he actually walked into his house on his own. But he started heating up again, and then he started hyperventilating, so we raced him to the hospital as fast as we could, but he stopped breathing on the way. When we got to the hospital there was no heartbeat.”
Sampson is survived by his son, Daz, and his girlfriend.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Show Time!

THE DAMNED - TREXTASY, Corn Exchange, Ipswich, UK - 26th May 2010
The irony of the bill did not escape me. The fact that THE DAMNED, one of the bands that lead the charge for the new beat that was Punk Rock, is now be playing over 30 years since its first record came out with a fully fledged tribute band as support suggests they have become what they set out to destroy. Yet, if any of the original wave could get away with this particular support, I guess it is Vanian and the boys as they did support Marc Bolan way back in the 70s.
I arrived 10 minutes after the doors opened and TREXTASY was already on. I don’t have much time for tribute bands, but at least this lot has the decency of doing a tribute to someone who is no longer alive. Gotta say also, this was a really convincing performance. Even from a moderately close distance, the resemblance between the singer and the real Marc Bolan was uncanny. He had the moves too, exuding Bolan's vaguely androgynous appeal in every way. All the obvious tracks were there - ‘Get It On’, ‘Children Of The Revolution’, ‘Jeepster’, an excellent ‘Solid Gold Easy Action’, my favourite ‘Metal Guru’ and ‘20th Century Boy’. The negative was ‘Telegram Sam’ that lacked that broad, orchestral sound and came over a little pedestrian. Never heard ‘Ride A White Swan’ either. After a couple of bottles of Newcastle Brown, I found myself grooving to the Bolan beat and had simply forgotten just how many truly great songs the man wrote. I even applauded at the end - can’t recall any other tribute band that I have ever given such plaudits to before!
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen THE DAMNED. I’ve seen highs (1988’s reunion shows at Town and Country Club being a particular high, along with a full performance of ‘Curtain Call’ at an Ipswich gig in the early ‘90s) and dismal, embarrassing lows (‘Neat Neat Neat’ being drawn out to over seven minutes in some sterile fucking Prog Rock muso experiment being the most unforgivable). This, the first time I’ve seen THE DAMNED without the legendary and incendiary drummer Rat Scabies, was never going to live up to the heady heights of seeing the Vanian-James-Scabies-Sensible line-up, but it was going to be interesting - especially in the wake of a new, half-decent album to promote in ‘So, Who’s Paranoid?’
Predictably the show kicked off with ‘Wait For The Blackout’ - still one of my favourite DAMNED songs. The sound was OK (considering the Corn Exchange usually sounds worse than a crap bootleg played with a knitting needle while an Alsatian shits all over the stereo speakers), a decent crowd had appeared (especially at £21.50 a head) and the band seemed to hold its own on such a classic. Vanian, I hate to say, looked fantastic. I’ve never seen him look anything less in fact but, given the fact he must be 50+, I had hoped to see a bit of middle-aged spread! Alas no - and vocally he still sounds commanding.
Unfortunately, as the show progressed, it became evident that the drummer just really wasn’t up to Scabies. Sure, he was a good drummer (very good in fact) but let’s be honest - Rat was/ is the best drummer in UK Punk. Period. ‘Love Song’, the song I so vividly recall from Top Of The Pops in 1979 that kick-started me onto this whole Punk Rock thing, was the biggest disappointment of all. The bassist, rather than attacking the strings, just played them; it was lacklustre. And of course there was no Rat to power it along.
The set list was impressive and surprising. Besides obvious squad members - ‘New Rose’, ‘Neat Neat Neat’ (which was drawn out a little - but not to an offensive ELP length), ‘Smash It Up’, ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’ - there were a few surprises. ‘Bad Time For Bonzo’ and ‘Gun Fury’ from the ‘Strawberries’ album, the excellent ‘Disco Man’ followed ‘...Blackout’ and ‘Thanks For The Night’ all stood out. The big surprise was the post-Sensible tracks ‘Eloise’ and ‘Shadow Of Love’. Decent executions of them too. The highlight was an inflammable take on ‘Stretcher Case’.
Vanian threw a bit of a moody fit also, throwing his microphone toward the back of the stage and stomping off. I’m guessing it was a bit of staged anarchy - I’ve seen that before - although I would like to think the mic was directed at the drummer. Hahaa!! Had it been a genuine display of disgust toward Ipswich, I doubt he would have reappeared to do a 20 minute encore - unless it was the chorus of “Sensible’s a wanker,” that Storkey, Boondog and I initiated. Heckling and general abuse directed toward the Captain was notably absent from this gig. Surely, Ipswich is not that conservative - or I that old??!!
It was all over by about 10.40pm - meaning I could get the last bus! How did this stack up in a long list of DAMNED shows? Not bad actually; it was better than I expected and, had Rat been sat behind that kit, it could’ve been an impressive if not killer DAMNED gig.

See what I mean?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Obituary - Steve New

On 24 May 2010, guitarist, singer and songwriter, Steve New (aka Stella Nova), passed away due to terminal cancer. New may not have been one of the most immediately infamous names of London Punk Rock, but he did have a few key roles in some very notable bands.
New was born in London on 16 May 1960 and attended school in St. John's Wood. At the age of 14 he began playing with the London Jazz Orchestra. A mere year later he was initiated into the then infant London Punk scene when he was asked to audition for the band that would spearhead the movement and become the figurehead for a generation - the SEX PISTOLS. His audition was for the role of second guitarist to Steve Jones - obviously history states he did not get the post.
When PISTOLS bassist Glen Matlock was exited from the band, he asked New to join his new band, the RICH KIDS, along with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure. The debut single, 'Rich Kids', was a hit but the following album, 'Ghosts Of Princes In Towers' and successive singles failed to maintain the momentum. The band split in 1979 although a live performance can be witnessed in the 1980 film, D.O.A.
New and Matlock then toured with IGGY POP before New moved to the USA, where he did some work with JOHNNY THUNDERS while battling a reputed Heroin addiction. 1980 also saw New, via his friendship with Keith Levene, enter the world of PUBLIC IMAGE LTD when Jah Wobble left the band. Besides the obscure 'Pied Piper' track, New never recorded with the band.
New has also played with the likes of SID VICIOUS, Chrissie Hynde, Kim Fowley and GLEN MATLOCK's solo work.
New reappeared in 2006 under the name of Stella Nova in the band BEASTELLABEAST with Beatrice Brown, releasing the 'Beastiality' album in 2009.
With the prospect of the fatal terminal cancer looming, the RICH KIDS reformed with New for a benefit concert for New's family in January 2010. The sold-out show also included MICK JONES, TV SMITH and various members of THE SLITS on the bill.
New is survived by his children Diva Atlanta New and Frank James Lightning Hopkins-New.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Show Time!

THESE ARE END TIMES - DANIEL MERRILL - LIFE AND TIMES OF, Blue Room, McGinty’s, Ipswich, UK - 14th May 2010
Since I have been in New Zealand, McGinty’s seems to have become one of the most popular live music venues in Ipswich. It’s easy to see why too; separate room from the bar, a central Ipswich location, good booze served in the bar and, on evidence of this, excellent acoustics too. This was a show to celebrate the launch of the debut album from newish local band, THESE ARE END TIMES, which has been released on the band’s own Antigen Records. But before the main event...
...I had to sit (well, stand) through the Indie, wannabe-RIDE convulsions of LIFE AND TIMES OF. I’m sure the band is very good at what it does but, in a bid to escape its droning Indie tones, all it inspired me to do was head into the beer garden to breathe in second hand cigarette smoke. Maximum rock ’n’ roll?? Not even partial!
After some wonderful Guinness refreshment, I went back to the Blue Room to witness DANIEL MERRILL. Now, this was interesting. MERRILL plays violin to a pre-recorded (and, at times, bombastic) backing track. It was well thought out stuff with MERRILL adding a visual side to the performance that went beyond ‘a bloke with a fiddle’ also. For 15 or 20 minutes, it was quite a captivating and even hypnotic performance. By minute 21 though, my attention began to wander; my glass had run dry also. He seemed to play for some time, and received a deservedly good response, but there wasn’t quite enough to hold me present.
And so, running nearly 30 minutes late, came THESE ARE END TIMES. The band is a veritable who’s who of the netherworld of Ipswich’s music scene. The band has been put together by guitarist/ vocalist Martyn Peck (aka Roki) who has had stints in notables such as OPTIMUM WOUND PROFILE, RAW NOISE, SCREAMING HOLOCAUST and most recently THE BALLISTICS. Joining Roki is Simon Finbow, also on guitar/ vocals who fronted CHOCOLATE and was also in OWP; bassist Andrew Laws (better known as Andrew Culture) of JUNK CULTURE, ZEEB and Beat Motel zine fame; drummer Dom Cattermole (ex-NEMO and ZEEB); Gareth Patch is responsible for keyboards, samples, digital noise and vocals (ex-LOVE LIES BLEEDING and DELIRIOUS) and finally, centre stage is Mark Schorah blowing his trumpet (ex-BALLISTICS).
Knowing Roki’s eclectic taste in tunes, I had little idea what to expect from this self-proclaimed ‘Post Rock’ band. What I actually got was a very clever, decidedly interesting and occasionally disconcerting 50 minute slab of sound. Comparisons are not obvious but ‘White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity’-era SWANS certainly came to mind, mixed with some of the orchestral punches of CARDIACS on downers (and most definitely not said band’s quirky side). Vocals penetrated the sound sparsely, which was a shame when you consider Simon numbers in the band’s line-up. ‘End Times (We Are All Condemned)’ probably proved to be the most accessible song of the set, although the unexpected highlight was the 15 minute ‘There Should Be A Crowd Of Spectators At My Execution’, which spliced samples from a film about people jumping off San Fran’s Golden Gate Bridge with an ominous, reverberating background panorama accentuated by punishing slices of scorching sonic attack. While the closing ‘Now I Realise How Helpless We Are’ (you get the impression these songs are of a slightly, um, downbeat, depressing nature?) continued the unique atmospheric drama of the set with Roki playing an accordian, it did end the set on a vaguely disconnected, ambiguous note.
By 11.30 it was all over. ...ENDS TIMES had impressed me greatly; my ears were suitably fried; the Guinness was as Guinness is: sublime!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Show Time!

THE GODFATHERS - LOWDOWNS, Arts Centre, Colchester, UK - 9th May 2010
It could so easily have been a catastrophically wrong trip down memory lane. For starters it’s Sunday night and a bloody cold one at that. Twelve quid a head seemed a bit steep also for a band that, much as I rate it, has only ever remained a cult name. The sparsely populated Arts Centre suggested Colchester thought much the same also.
The LOWDOWNS was a quartet that looked a bit like your typical Brit Pop thing but with more balls and a bass sound that, at times, boarded the bowel-moving depth charge tones of one Mike Watt. I vaguely remember a fast rocker of a track called ‘Switch’ and the singer looked something like a cross between Rodney from Only Fools And Horses and the singer-dude outta Oasis. To his, and the band’s credit, they did put on a show to the assorted, mainly disinterested, punters; pulling several of the recognised ‘rock moves’ albeit with a degree of inhibition.
The between band choice of tunes was exceptional - dunno if it was the request of THE GODFATHERS or just good taste on the behalf of the PA man, but we got MC5, NEW YORK DOLLS, ELECTRIC PRUNES and some bizarre instrumental-but-blazing version of THE WHO’s ‘I Can See For Miles’. The good tunes sure accompanied the Guinness well. So well in fact, I managed to bang two cans back! Good work!!
The familiar strains of a surf-guitar-led take on ‘Goldfinger’ rattled out of the speakers; I felt a sense of expectancy in the air - even if it was only to see whether brothers Coyne would now be fat old men playing spiritless versions of once-biting songs.
As it happened, both vocalist Peter and his bassist brother Chris, looked anything but fat. Sure, they have aged a bit but considering this tour celebrates the band’s 25th Anniversary that can only be expected. What has not changed is the menace of old. Peter Coyne still glares at the crowd from his position on stage with a look that fuses defiance with self-confidence, while the remaining band members fail to share a single smile throughout. For those who don’t know the band, this could suggest apathy or it could provoke a sense of intimidation. I know it’s not the former, and I am sure the Coyne brothers would be happy with the latter!
‘I Want Everything’ opened the set, followed by, if I recall, ‘She Gives Me Love’. Whether it was the sparse crowd or the frosty May evening, but the band didn’t find its stride instantly. ‘She Gives Me Love’ in particular sounded a little lacklustre. Having always employed a twin-guitar attack, this reformed single-guitar version of the band seemed to lack the sonic depth of old.
Five songs into the set a fiery new song was played and the band seemed to move up a gear. The inclusion of a couple of old SID PRESLEY EXPERIENCE tracks (with which the Coyne brothers played before the GODFATHERS) in the shape of ‘Public Enemy #1’ and the classic ‘Hup Two Three Four’ (which I recall SPE doing live on the The Tube back in the early 80s!) was an unexpected highlight. That said, Del Bartle, the former SPE guitarist replaced original GODFATHERS guitarist Kris Dollimore in 2009, so not strictly unexpected.
Peter Coyne’s barbed antagonism was evident a few times, in particular pointing out a guy in the audience who hadn’t bought any beers for his mates. “I’ll have a whisky and coke when you do - and make it a double,” sneered Coyne. Did the job though - Coyne got his drink!
Other highlights of the main set included ‘This Is War’, the debut ‘Lonely Man’ single (the band is currently pushing a very nice double CD reissue of the formative retrospective ‘Hit By Hit’) and an excellent new track called ‘Back Into The Future’. By the time of the set’s climax - a stunning blitz through ‘How Low Is Low’, ‘This Damn Nation’ and the threatening, imperious declaration that was ‘Cause I Said So’ - the band was firing with a force that any American Mafioso could only dream of.
It appeared there was going to be no encore as Chris Coyne turned off his bass amp and seemed to show a sense of disgust toward his brother. Not sure what he expected from a Colchester crowd on a Sunday night who had paid £12 a head. Thankfully Peter coerced him back for a finale of ‘Birth School Work Death’ and a psychedelic burn through Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’. I would’ve rather heard another original (‘Unreal World’ or ‘Those Days Are Over’ would’ve been great), but at least we got those in light of Chris’ huffy protest.
I did smile to myself during ‘Birth School Work Death’. At the time of the gig, Britain wallowed in a state of no officially-elected Prime Minister. It seemed slightly ironic to me that, throughout THE GODFATERS’ original existence, there was a back drop of oppressive Tory rule - be it Thatcher’s dictatorship or the grey John Major. Twenty-five years on, the band is back and so is the Conservative Party. How’s the song go? “I’ve been abused and I’ve been confused, and I’ve kissed Margaret Thatcher’s shoes.” We’ve now got Clegg kissing Cameron’s arse!
Welcome back Brothers Coyne - Britain may just need your brand of Punk infused Rock ‘n’ Roll once again!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Show Time!

THE GRIT - SKA-PA, The Swan, Ipswich, UK - 25th March 2010
I only found out about this the very day of the gig and, I have to say, questioned whether THE GRIT concerned was indeed the rockin’ band of Geordies that released the ‘Straight Out The Alley’ album on People Like You Records a year or two ago. The Swan isn’t somewhere that has ever been high on the list of venues for seeing Punk bands, let alone out-of-town travelling Punk bands. On arrival, the huge double bass, assorted tattoos and Newcastle accents did - thankfully - confirm that this was the Rock ‘n’ Roll machine known as THE GRIT. Free entry too - good work fellas! “Pint of Guinness please barman!”
A large crowd had gathered by the time Ipswich locals SKA-PA arrived on stage. Given the band’s name, you don’t have to be a Mensa member to work out its sound! All three band members were new faces to me - but that’s not surprising after being in New Zealand for the last six plus years. Vocalist/ guitarist Kyle sported the most impressive mohawk I can remember seeing in Ipswich for many years and, after a slightly shakey start, the band’s brand of Ska-infused Punk mixed with wit got the audience bopping. The set consisted of mainly original songs, besides an odd and rather hit-and-miss version of THE UNDERTONES’ classic, ‘Teenage Kicks’. Highlight of the set was probably the up-tempo Ska beat of ‘Shattered Young Girl’. There was definitely a hint of CULTURE SHOCK about the band’s sound, but mixed with the raw sound of ISOCRACY. After the performance, Kyle was walking round giving out CD demos too.
A few more “tasty, tasty very very tasty” pints of Guinness were put away before THE GRIT arrived in a flurry of quiffs and tattoos. On record, he band’s mix of Punk, Rockabilly and Roots Ska isn’t 100% my thing - although I did rate the aforementioned album. Live though, the band is a rip-snorting carnival of all that live music should be - energetic, tight, demonstrative and, best of all, fun!! Many of the songs sounded familiar, but my favourite, ‘This World’, appeared early on in the set with ‘12th Floor’ making an appearance also.
Given there is a double bass, three guitarists, drummer and full backline, I’m not sure how the band made the show quite so visual, but there was a lot of movement on the stage. Something that really set THE GRIT apart from the many bands that do this kinda thing is the use of an acoustic guitar quite high in the mix. It certainly adds a crisper dynamic to the slower parts while contributing an almost percussive crack to the many rocking parts. The TIGER ARMY comparison is still well evident but I kept hearing comparisons with that great, underrated British band, THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG, both in composition and energy.
According to vocalist Lou, this was the band’s first show of the year which could suggest the band attacked it with additional, show-starved vigour. It could also suggest the band was not as tight as it might have been had the show been part of a tour. Either way, they blew the roof off The Swan, got the punters dancing and left me with some seriously ringing ears for the next couple of days. On the strength of this hootenanny of a knees-up, I’m going to have to check out that ‘....Alley’ album again - maybe after a few pints of Guinness at that!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Show Time!

SUBHUMANS - THE DEAD BATTERIES - THE FANNY PADS - TOE, Royal Oak, Ipswich, UK 30th August 2009
When I was at high school there were three bands that mattered: CRASS, who changed everything; DISCHARGE, who sounded the best loud; and SUBHUMANS, who were a more approachable Anarcho band, not as scary or clandestine as the crew from Dial House. I never saw CRASS live, due mainly to the fact that I’m too young, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I never will. A couple of years ago a few of us travelled to see DISCHARGE, who were massively, though predictably disappointing. When rumours started circulating that SUBHUMANS, who I’d never seen, were playing at the Royal Oak, my local pub on and off since I was 15, the received wisdom among most people I know was to take these rumours with a pinch of salt. As the date fast approached, however, it looked more and more likely that this might actually happen. Approaching the pub on the night and being greeted by a murder of punks smoking in fitful anticipation outside the front door, confirmed that there was substance to the stories after all.
First up were TOE, an Ipswich three-piece drawn from the more avant end of the DIY scene. Between them they make quite a retro din, something akin to SCRATCH ACID or RAPEMAN with vocals manipulated electronically into something akin to what you might hear on a WHITEHOUSE album. Cool stuff, I thought, and I’m looking forward to catching them again. The FANNY PADS were up next but suffered badly with sound, their guitarist turning up way louder than everything else could compensate for. We made for outside to grab a breath of fresh air. The PADS were followed by The DEAD BATTERIES, who were largely responsible for organising the night. I’d seen this lot before, a year or two ago, and they’ve improved a lot, getting tighter and faster, and clearly having a blast when the audience responded.
After a short set-up the SUBHUMANS came on and immediately the Oak erupted into a flailing mass of people. And, out of nowhere, came the old-schoolers, people I hadn’t seen for years, singing all the words and taking their place in the pit. The set was largely drawn from 'The Day The Country Died', 'World’s Apart' and 'EP-LP', with a couple of new songs and the odd 'From The Cradle To The Grave' track making an appearance. And they were brilliant! By the time ‘Mickey Mouse Is Dead’ made an appearance I was in the pit, too, arm round my brother, singing my little heart out. ‘Religious Wars’ ended the night in fine style, another classic that I couldn’t resist getting stuck in for. And that was it, all over, an amazing night where the Oak really came alive. Afterwards I’d lost my voice, which was a bonus for most of the people who know me. Now, if we could just get CRASS down there . . .

Friday, April 30, 2010

Show Time!

THE ADICTS - SUSPECT DEVICE - DANGER’S CLOSE, Regent Theatre Bar, Ipswich, UK 13th August 2009
I’m sitting here typing this some six months after the actual show. Not only that, but making this ever more surreal is the fact that I’m typing this while back in the UK on an unexpected visit. Furthermore, the show was staged in Ipswich on the very day of my 40th birthday. THE ADICTS was the first live Punk band that many of my era witnessed and, being an Ipswich band itself, one with which we felt a certain kinship; I certainly remember Murrayside Youth Club in my early teens and the more pivotal Ipswich Corn Exchange show when I was 15. Never, ever did it cross my mind during the intervening 25 years that my 40th would be spent seeing THE ADICTS on home soil drinking the still over-priced slop that Ipswich Borough Council venues consider to be ‘beer’. Surreal becomes an understatement.
Due to pre-show Guinness sustainability, I have to confess to missing the start of DANGER’S CLOSE. Having been out of Ipswich for near-on six years, this was a new band to me and one made up of fresh faces. Good stuff too, if a little tentative looking on this stage. The female vocalist certainly exuded confidence and had a great voice in a vague Pauline Murray (PENETRATION) gone LUNACHICKS/ BLITZ BABIES kinda way. I can’t recall any track titles, but I do remember some well-observed lyrics and a few disaffected social/ political comments.

SUSPECT DEVICE followed. Fronted by ex- RUE DE LA MORT frontman, Johnny Learjet (who also had a stint in RED FLAG 77), SUSPECT DEVICE is a pretty throwaway cover band. There are no ‘cult’ classics, just your run of the mill ‘Sound Of The Suburbs’ Punks on 45 stuff. Oddly, the set consisted of only three bands’ material too - SEX PISTOLS, CLASH and STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. Punk covers maybe fun, but it’s also cabaret and should be left to pubs full of pub rockers.

The last time I saw THE ADICTS was in the back room of a pub during which a minor Punk vs Skin battle kicked off. That was 15 years ago so I got told (cheers for making me feel even older Matt!!). That was also during the time that bassist Mel had left - which makes the band’s claim of being the ‘longest running Punk band with its original line-up’ a bit of a misnomer. If a band splits up in the interim, or replaces members before ‘reuniting’ as THE ADICTS have, surely each reformation of SEX PISTOLS can claim that same crown? Minor gripe yes, but one that kinda irks.

Anyway, from the opening chords of ‘Joker In The Pack’, this was a much different proposition to the band witnessed in the maelstrom of violence of the show above. There was a distinct sense of theatrics throughout with vocalist Monkey going through various costume changes and props. Songwise, it was very much the ‘greatest hits’ with nothing (at least that I recognised) from the abortions that were the ‘Rise and Shine’ and ‘Fifth Overture’ albums. So we got classics like ‘Viva La Revolution’, ‘Easy Way Out’, ‘Just Like Me’ a ‘Chinese Takeaway’ that had an intro so bad I thought it was gonna be little more than a chip-shop takeaway version and a cracking closer of ‘Songs Of Praise’. There were a good few surprises in the set too; I hadn’t considered the likes of ‘Numbers’ and ‘Sensitive’ would be played, nor two of my favourites from the ‘Smart Alex’ album (‘Troubadour’ and ‘You’re All Fools’). It was good to hear the underrated ‘27’ album represented with ‘Fuck It Up’ too.
There were a few new numbers I didn’t recognise as well as the odious ‘Falling In Love Again’ which rankled even more than before given the classic ‘Straight Jacket’ was omitted entirely.
Encores saw glitter fall and huge beach-balls kicked out into the crowd as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out in memory of the recent passing of ex-Ipswich Town manager, Bobby Robson. Finally, ‘Bad Boy’ rounded off a totally enjoyable night.
I’ve been a fierce critic of THE ADICTS in the past but for pure fun and entertainment, there are few bands I can think of that could pull off such a Punk Rock Party vibe so effectively - even with the swill served from the bar!!
Think you’ll still be at it when I hit 50, fellas??? On this evidence, I no longer rule it out!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Obituary - Jay Reatard

On Wednesday 13th January 2010, Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr, better known to readers as Jay Reatard, was found dead in bed at his home in Midtown, Memphis at around 3.30am. He was aged 29. A statement from Goner Records says Lindsey had died in his sleep. Those close to him state that recently he had been complaining of flu-like symptoms. Although the actual cause of death is unknown at the time of writing, the Memphis police is believed to have opened a death investigation.
Lindsey was born on 1st May 1980 in Memphis, Tennessee. He began his recording career at the age of 15 via a home-made demo tape. This was sent to Goner Records where it caught the attention of Eric Friedl, Goner’s owner and then member of the OBLIVIANS. This was to prove a valuable contact as, when Lindsey formed his first project, THE REATARDS, it was Goner Records that released the band’s debut 7”, ‘Get Real Stupid’, in 1998.
In 2001, Lindsey - by this time using the Reatard moniker - started what was initially a side project named THE LOST SOUNDS. Employing a dual male/ female vocal and synthesizers, LOST SOUNDS was more experimental than the souped-up garage snot rock of REATARDS and, ultimately, took over from REATARDS as Lindsey’s main concern until a bitter split in 2005.
In between both bands, and after their respective splits, the ever-prolific Reatard continued making music in projects such as BAD TIMES, THE FINAL SOLUTIONS, NERVOUS PATTERNS, ANGRY ANGLES, TERROR VISIONS and DESTRUCTION UNIT.
2006 saw him start a solo career with what many consider to be his definitive work, the ‘Blood Visions’ album. Over the next three years, a succession of solo singles followed before his second - and ultimately final - album, ‘Watch Me Fall’. This was part of a 2008-signed, exclusive multi-album deal with New York label, Matador Records, which released a compilation of his 2008 singles (reviewed here).
He also contributed a track to the ‘Stroke - Songs For Chris Knox’ album. Chris Knox, an infamous New Zealand musician who was in formative Punk bands THE ENEMY and TOY LOVE, suffered a stroke in June 2009 and was due to collaborate with Reatard.
This solo career was deluged with problems over the last year. In October 2009, his backing band (The Barbaras) quit mid-tour. Reatard was scathing; in a Twitter post he stated, “Band quit! Fuck them! They are boring rich kids who can't play for [shit] anyways... Say hello to your ugly and boring [wives]. So who wants to see just how terrible it is to play in my band. I mean it's so so hard I promise it's the worst :)” In December the same year, he was attacked on stage in an Austin, Texas club by two audience members. Jay fought back with his mic stand.
A statement from Matador reads, "Jay was as full of life as anyone we've ever met, and responsible for so many memorable moments as a person and artist. We’re honored to have known and worked with him, and we will miss him terribly."