LIVE REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE, 2020
THE BOYS. 100 Club, 11/1/2020. This was a great way to kick-off the new decade. The Boys were one of the earliest bands to emerge from the London ‘punk rock’ scene (0efore it even had a name) and Matt Dangerfelds’ small basement studio saw many of the other bands record their earliest demos within its’ confines. Musically, The Boys were more inclined towards the melodic side or punk rock, not a million miles away from the likes of The Ramones (who they toured with) or the Buzzcocks. But for some reason, the music press never really embraced their high-energy sound and they were never given the credit they deserved. Which is why, more than forty years later, it’s great that they’re still delivering excellent sets like this to prove the point. Of course, things have changed along the way and this evening, only Matt and Casino Steel represent the original line-up (Honest John Plain is unfortunately absent due to sickness but evidently intends to return to the fold as soon as possible.) However, the new additions to the band (all from various Swedish groups) are more than mere replacements, playing the songs true to the originals and with all of passion they demand. The gig starts with the traditional ‘Sabre Dance’ intro tape, before the band launch into ‘TCP’, immediately setting the tone and pace for the rest of the show. This is a band with so many truly great songs that pretty much every one played tonight is going to be someone’s favourite. ‘See Ya Later’, ‘Terminal Love’, ‘Weekend’… and those are all played in the first ten minutes! Just to show they’re not relying only on the oldies, the set includes several songs from the recent ‘Punk Rock Menopause’ album, which go down just as well as their predecessors. When compared to classics like ‘Cop Cars’, ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘Brickfield Nights’, they’ve got some tough competition, but songs like ‘1976’ and ‘I’m A Believer’ certainly stand-up with style. The venue has been packed all evening, proving that the fans still love this band regardless of the critics, and when the encore includes songs like ‘First Time’, Living in The City’ and ‘Sick On You’, it really is the perfect way to end a show. If you weren’t blown away by this gig, you just weren’t there. Make sure you don’t miss your chance the next time…
WIRE. Rough Trade East, 25/1.20. Celebrating the launch of their latest album, ‘Mind Hive’, Wire are playing a short set at RTE. I’ve seen them here several times before and, although the events have always been busy, there’s never been a big problem getting-in. However, this evening things are very different. As I turn in to Hanbury Street, there’s a crowd queueing around the block and I soon realise that this is for the Wire event! I’m really glad that I have my RT contacts, as I’m sure I wouldn’t have got in without them (the secret RT handshake works wonders…) That beibg said, the buzz about the new album has obviously been building even before its’ release and quite rightly so. I’ve never disliked any Wire album but some are obviously better than others and ‘Mind Hive’ is clearly one of the best. Everything I love about this band can be found on this record. Catchy tunes, dark psychedelia, energy, smart lyrics and a natural step-forward from anything they’ve done before. The set runs a little late but the band members are seen walking through the audience to the stage area so no-one’s worried. Soon enough, they’re onstage and ready to start. The set opens with ‘Be Like Them’ and ‘Cactused’ from the new album and both tracks capture what it is that I’ve always loved about the band. The live versions are a lot more visceral than their recordings, but at the same time retain both the melodic and intellectual elements. Wire can make perfect pop sound like the Stooges or The Monks in full flow, taking no prisoners but also enthralling your soul. Very few bands have ever managed this convincingly and only Buzzcocks or Mission of Burma come to mind at this moment… Tonight, the only older track they include is ‘Over Theirs’ from ‘The Ideal Copy’ album and it’s a good choice. ‘Over Theirs’ still offers possibilities to be developed, something that has always been a trait of their work. Why replay something you’ve already done when you have a chance to do something new with it? ‘Primed & Ready’ is one of the more melodic moments of this set, before a long, brooding version of ‘Hung’ brings the proceedings to a close. As ever, Wire have defied expectations, plundering their own legacy to create something new and vital. ‘Mind Hive’ is easily one of the most, if not the, great albums of this year, even having been released in January! If you can’t dig this, you can’t dig nothing… (as a wise man once said…) Trust me on this one… get yourself a copy of ‘Mind Hive’ at the earliest chance you get!
THE PHOBICS / JUNKO FUSE. The Pelton Arms, 8/2/20. This was one of those really annoying occasions when I wanted to arrive early to see all three bands (The Anderson Tapes were opening) so I left home early, arrived at the train station in plenty of time, but then suffered delays all the way and missed the openers altogether. At times like this you end up thinking, if I hadn’t made a point of being early, I would’ve got there with no problems at all, but once I’d made it known that I wanted to be on time, there was no way it was going to happen. Damnit. As it turns out, I almost miss Junko Fuse as well, although for different reasons. I arrive at The Pelton to find the place absolutely packed. The place is usually pretty busy when The Phobics play, but this turn-out is exceptional. At first, I assume at least some of the punters are there for some other reason, someone’s birthday-drinks or whatever, but as the evening goes on, the place remains rammed to the gills and plenty of the unfamiliar folks are down in front of the stage for the bands, so it seems they really were there for the gig. It just goes to show what an album review in ‘Fear & Loathing’ can do for you (I wish…) Anyway, back to Junko Fuse, with the place so busy, I have to force my way through to locate various friends and have the usual chats, before realizing that JF are already onstage. I’m glad to say they’re back to full-effect tonight, after the drummer-replacement problems they’ve had in recent times, and play a good set of solid punky tunes that gets plenty of people up’n’dancing ahead of the headliners. But tonight totally belongs to The Phobics. I think the audience-response even surprised the band, but in all the best ways. They launch into the songs from their excellent new album, pretty-much playing each and every track (sadly, no piano was available for ’12 Bar Dudes’) but everyone seems to be familiar with the setlist and there’s an impressive pit in front of the stage. Admittedly, stage diving attempts end-up more like bizarre piggy-back escapades, but it all adds to the event. The set ends with a selection of their older songs, ‘Midnight Milkshake’, ‘Lipstick’ and of course, ‘Down & Out in Deptford’. This was such a very enjoyable gig and exceptional, even if it was on their own manor. Seriously, with no regards to them being my friends, The Phobics are a really great band and firing on all cylinders right now. Just go to see them and you’ll know what I mean.