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 . . .