We are delighted to announce that Ash, who perform at The Forum on Saturday 14 November, will play an extra special 1977 show the following night – Sunday 15 November. The band will perform the entire of 1977 back to back.

Tickets for the Saturday show sold out in a matter of hours, and this last minute extra date will also sell out quickly. Buy your ticket now from this link:

Tickets now available for


ASH – Extra special added event!!

from www.WeGotTickets.com

Due to the overwhelming deluge of offers of support to help maintain this blog, we’ve been having a think abvout the whole website and, thanks to our lovely friends at Music Glue, you will shortly notice some fairly major changes to how the Tw Forum website looks, resulting in Blam being moved directly into the website.

This will make it infinitely more likely that Blam will be up to date, as the posts for each night will be linked into the diary, removing the need for one of us to wander drunkenly into the office at 4am and notice that we are still showing the dates from December 1996. In case you be afeared of change, panic not. Blam will continue to be poorly written drivel with a side order of narcissism and a mile long streak of overdone sarcasm. It will be the same content, it will just be in a different place. And look nicer. And be updated a bit better.

Hand over your Ash tickets or the band gets it.


The Fillers have been a tribute band of The Killers since 2006. They have performed all over the UK, Ireland and The Channel Islands. Their furthest booking was for the Hard Rock Café in the Dominican Republic. During their short career, this bunch of likeable lads from Bury St. Edmonds has experienced the same amount of adulation whilst they act, sound and look like the real thing. To add to their CV; they have been recommended by Brandon Flowers as a band that should be checked out; lead singer Trevor, has been mistaken for Brandon by Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe; and Ronnie Vannacci has played drums for them at one of their gigs.  Check out the video evidence that is currently posted on The Fillers Facebook and YouTube!

We caught up with lead singer, Trevor Hurley, fondly known as ‘Fake Brandon’, whilst he tells us how pleased The Fillers are to be playing their first date in Kent at the Tunbridge Wells Forum in support of The Bridge Trust.

How did The Fillers first meet and whose idea was it to be a tribute band to the Killers?

Most of us were in another band together. We entered a local Battle of the Bands competition and somehow lost!”. Trevor then jokes, “Yeah, amazing that something like that could happen!” He adds, “The format was that the winners of the competition returned the following year to play the closing ceremony. The next year came along and the band that originally beat us couldn’t play.  Because we were the runners up we were asked to take their place. We all found this a bit comical and came up with the idea that as we were filling in we would change our name to The Fillers. Then we performed the music of The Killers.  We set up a myspace page, and proceeded to get interest from promoters and venues and the rest is history!”

Which Fillers gig sticks out in your memory as being the best experience – and why?

“We performed to an audience of 35,000 at the Matthew Street Festival, Liverpool this year. It was amazing.

Where did you get that jacket?

The jacket was hand made by my local tailor”. Trevor adds with a smile, “That was an interesting conversation – “You want a what?”

Do you and the band members have other jobs or is being a band member in The Fillers your full time jobs now?

We all have other jobs – A window cleaner, IT consultant, plumber, bus driver and computer programmer. Try and guess who is who!”

The gig at Tunbridge Wells Forum is part of a calendar of events that has been organised to fundraise for The Bridge Trust, a local charity that provides accommodation, support and advice to homeless people. Trevor responds,

“We are really pleased to be performing for such a worthwhile cause and we are all very much looking forward to the gig”, then he laughs as he recalls, “The last time I came to Tunbridge Wells was to collect a car, which broke down within 3 miles. We were driving around trying to find the Forum to see a band called Rx Bandits. We found it in the end, and it was a great night; but on the 20th November I will be bringing a Sat. Nav. and a more reliable car!”

You are currently reading about Frightened Rabbit. They are a band who live in Glasgow and have done for some time. They record in bedrooms, cupboards and kitchens. Anyone can be in Frightened Rabbit. They have played some live shows in this city, but want to meet people from other cities, in order that they can come and blow into tubes when they play live. Lets keep pop music alive by getting it out of that dress and into a sweater.

Already the subject of heated debate on the Facebook and MySpace pages for The Forum (which falls broadly along the entrenched lines of “this is the bestest booking evah” and “why oh why are you booking this rubbish again they are shit”, many people seem to miss the point that prior to the homogenistic approach of Kaiser Lily Reverend Hoosier Kylie Play, people actually used to like or loathe music. You don’t actually have to like every piece of music a tiny little bit because it has some elements of indie, dubstep, rap, electro, rock metal in it, you can actually really like a band because they’re your thing and really hate another band because they are not your thing . If you hate this band GOOD. That’s the whole fucking point of there being bands and music.You’re not supposed to like it all, and you’re supposed to think some of it is shit.

Bread products I don’t have a particularly strong feeling about, or which hairspray is best, or which type of stairlift provides the smoothest journey. I will, however, happily debate with you for hours the relative merits of Pink Floyd (shit) The Clash (genius) Nick Drake (over-rated) Scott Walker (under-rated) Tortoise (don’t get me started) Mogwai (if they had one idea half as clever as one of their sloganeering interviews it would be just about good enough to clean the bottom of Damon Albarn’s feet) Green Day (bizarrely maligned for being tuneful) Slint (bizarrely praised for being tuneless) or any other actual purveyors of an attitude or a form of music that is actually worthgiving a shit about.

You may want to hate them, and think their music is cartoon punk, and think Donny is the most annoying quasi rock star in the history of the universe, and think you’ve seen it all before.  But let’s be honest, you have an opinion about them and that means they are worth you having an opinion about. Just by the very fact you’re rading this and not agreeing with it, Towers of London already accomplished more in three paragraphs than The Fratellis will manage in twenty albums.

In any case, that bit where he hopped over the wall was fucking brilliant. So there.

Many of you will, by now, have noticed that Blam gets edited at frighteningly infrequent intervals and seemingly on a whim. There’s no rhyme or reason why we do this, no method in our madness, no secret plan to catch you unawares, we just do it when we get time and don’t do it when we don’t have time.

Nonetheless, we recognise that for many of you, life is simply incomplete without a regularly updated free rundown on all the gigs you won’t bother to go to but will later claim to have been at if it makes you look cool. To this end, we would like to invite each and every one of you to review, preview, interview, spout off, mock, publicise, slander and just generally make up whatever you want about whatever it is you want to make it up about and submit it to us so that there’s some sort of rolling content thing. This article is particularly aimed at the several dozen people whose fingers are currently poised over their keyboard on an urgent mission to send us an email bemoaning the lack of mentions to date of their own band, their cousins band, a bloke their mate once met’s band…. we don’t have time to review all the upcoming stuff because there’s too much of it, but we will happily carry whatever you send us in the shape of a ludicrously over the top puff piece thinly veiled as a critical review.

Seriously, if you don’t think there’s enough about you or somebody you care about on this website, send us something and we’ll put it up for you.

Otherwise, shut the fuck up. Eythangu.

Hotleg, Saving Aimee
30th October 2008

Hmm, oddness. Being the privileged sort, I tend to forget sometimes that I can walk in to the Forum whenever I feel like it and perhaps I’m a tad overused to not having to stay outside queuing with the plebs. I daresay I’m just a bit spoilt on that score, so occasionally forget that in the absence of the public, when I wander in, more often than not, musicians and assorted crew from the headline and support acts are hanging around at the closed bar, or soundchecking, making last minute preparations, bawling for leads or other bits of assorted gubbins or simply trying to discuss things with each other before the doors open. The point is, when you’re used to it, you tend to ignore whoever’s there because they’re usually looking busy and one hairy muso looks very much like another after a while. I’ll just park my expansive arse on an available stool, frown at the Pepsi (look lads, its Coke we want, so please bring cans of it back to the bar. Pepsi is the devil’s diarrhoea. Nobody in the world has ever asked for a vodka and Pepsi) and chat to whomever’s guarding the bar from thirsty people. On this occasion, I enquired of young Tom “not gay, just well groomed” Riddlemetimbers as to whether the band have actually turned up (because, sadly, big headliners occasionally don’t) and was pleasantly surprised as he poured my pint of Beelzebub’s arse gravy, when he pointed out what I had utterly failed to observe: Justin Hawkins was standing but a few feet away with his back turned.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m seldom starstruck and I’m not this time, but the other half is a fan (of sorts) and feeling a bit guilty about not bringing her, I reckoned it might be put me in good stead if I ask him, nice and respectful-like, if he could just record a brief video ‘hello’ on my phone. Not that I’d have bothered normally, but one’s lady, you know. So, feeling no end of a tit, with a gentle “Excuse me Justin…” I prompted him to turn round and holding my phone up, asked with all civility whether he would be kind enough to record a brief hello for her as she can’t be here tonight, or words to that effect. You never know, I thought, he might give her one of those trademark saucy feline growls that he does so ‘ironically’, which would guarantee my (hot)leg over when I got home. But no sooner had the words left my lips and the phone was raised, his smile morphed into a pale wide-eyed expression of pure terror, and in a high pitched shriek, stuttered “No! J-j-just – NO!”, turned and ran stagewards to hide, as if I’d suggested he snort a line of charlie from my cock, or handed him a writ for unpaid taxes or a paternity suit.

Tom reckons I frightened him, which I consider to be quite an achievement if I did. This isn’t going anywhere as a story and kinda ends there with no climax or drama, but I record it because a) it happened, and b) because other than this momentary attack of the jitters, Justin Hawkins is perhaps the bravest down-on-his-luck rock ‘n’ roll star on the toilet circuit right now, and it’s high time he was recognised for it. Even if it is on a more modest scale these days.

You may have refused to buy the records on general principal and might even have feigned despair at hearing “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” for the hundredth time in a week, but the odds are you secretly liked The Darkness, or at least begrudgingly admired them. I did. So did countless others of all ages and tastes, especially that summer, and we’ll always remember them with fondness for that, and for the genuine excitement and fun they generated on festival stages, rather than for the appalling bilge that preceded their demise and giant inflatable body parts. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we, the public, want it all over again. Once was enough for many of us, but the rest don’t seem to be shutting up about it.

Yes, The Darkness could reform at any time, or they never will, depending on which rumour mill you believe, and certainly many, including their bank managers, would welcome such a move. Nevertheless, there also exists a diehard segment of fans sincerely hoping that The Darkness don’t bury the hatchet, because it’s better to remember them for how they were in all their innocence before fame chewed ‘em up good n’ proper.

Although there have been a few tentative stabs at the limelight since, Hawkins has been trying to live down those early days and make something of the opportunities that have come his way, and despite one or two less than salubrious moments, he’s come out with a fair bit of respect intact. In his own daft and limited way, Hawkins has become a bit of a national treasure, and he knows that for some bizarre reason, the more of an ironic rock ‘n’ roll fuck-up he is, the more we like it. He might be a cock, but he’s an amusing cock and a British cock, so even in these difficult times, his stock might be trading lower than it was, but warrants a watchful eye, because you never know what the bugger’s going to do next. It would be a shame to throw that away by pandering to pressure and reforming The Darkness, as that would be accepting that Hawkins can’t do anything else, when he clearly can.

Hotleg are not The Darkness in either style, attitude or budget and that’s a good thing. However, their prime commodity is The Darkness’ legacy. Hardly anyone would want to see them otherwise, so of course, despite the quality of Hotleg, who are – it has to be said – more technically proficient than The Darkness ever were, the fact remains that although the crowds are happy to lap up Hotleg and have a great time accordingly, it’ll take a Darkness tune or two to make ‘em go home really happy. So much for a clean break.

There’s a reason that that tune has been found tacked onto the end of previous Hotleg set lists as “the ultimate song”, because it’s Justin’s finest few minutes and he’ll be trading on it all his life, like so many jaded rock stars before him. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t of course, as it’s a tune he has a perfect right to perform and it has ensured his immortality, but Darkness tunes will always get the biggest cheers no matter how good Hotleg’s other material gets. For example, let’s take Hotleg’s Xmas single “I’ve Met Jesus” , or rather, don’t, as you’ll find it an utterly ghastly business. It’s marginally less embarrassing than that abominable “Don’t Let The Bells End” nonsense, but which of those tunes is going to be on every seasonal compilation alongside Wham, Slade and Mariah Carey, until the end of time? He’ll still be asked about The Darkness in interviews and badgered by fans even if his ‘solo’ career lasts 20 years, because the 21st century has proved so far that the only thing preventing a band’s reunion, for pretty much anybody, is death. And even that’s not much of an obstacle if enough money’s involved.

So, with regard to his pop star past, Hawkins has a tricky decision to make: to play, or not to play what people want to hear. Sure, Hotleg played ‘that’ song in the earlier gigs, but would they carry on doing so, knowing that it would somehow be a millstone around their necks? Will they let go of the past completely in order to embrace the future in their own right with no ghosts hiding in the machine? That would be the most principled thing to do, and the happy throngs demanding his falsetto yelps on a song they know, well, they can go hang. But people know that Hotleg have used Darkness tunes as their set climax in the past and as such, they may feel disappointed if Justin & Co refused to delve into Darkness tunes at all, so does he play them with pride and subsequently get accused of being a spent force with his best work behind him, or stubbornly insist that Hotleg is the future and let the past go? It’s a decision that can’t have been very easy to make: damned if he does, damned if he don’t.

Hotleg don’t intend to be rock’s next big noise and know that they won’t set the world aflame, but they’ll get out there and do it well regardless, because, well, they have some pride, and it’s what they do, even if they look a bit silly doing it. Hawkins and fellow guitarist Pete Rinaldi, despite trying to out-‘Eighties’ one another, are a quite mesmerising double-act, assuming the roles of Fun Revivalists par excellence and doing their damnedest to ensure that they drag out the degenerate side of any witnesses even remotely so inclined. So certainly, for as long as Hotleg lasts, they’ll never try to get too serious on us. And why should they, when the public appetite for reviving the fortunes of the forgotten is so strong? The Darkness were hardly a critics’ band and Hotleg aren’t either, so if they gain momentum it’ll not be due to miserable cynics who dismiss Hotleg as a cant method of keeping the fire stoked until the point in the not-too-distant future, when The Darkness can undertake an appropriately funded and marketed return, no doubt championed all the way by Classic Rock magazine or the Daily Star, with Justin re-entering as an elder statesman to all those celebrity parties and trendy haunts that keep the tabloids in business.

But if and when they do, with their youth gone and their naivety kicked into touch, they would be trading on memories alone and they can never again hope to be the same band of spandex-clad goons because everyone’s greyer and podgier now, so they’d be, well, a bit ridiculous. Sure, they would celebrate the old tunes and that long-awaited third album would probably be hailed by fans as a return to the form of “Permission To Land”, but we’d all know inside that it’s cabaret and baksheesh, wringing the remaining life and lolly out of a five-times platinum legend-that-was, nothing more. The magic would be gone, and all that bouncy enthusiasm and camp glamour that they did so well would become self parody. Back then they were new and cheeky and impudently astounded by the scale of their own success, flaunting their hair and codpieces, frequently stealing the show from their betters, giving us instant pop classics that even your granny liked, and we equally loved and loathed ‘em for it. But whether we were twelve, twenty or ninety then, everyone’s five years older now and to the new generation they’d be little more than a novelty. When what was initially rock ‘n’ roll fun becomes corny and stale, as they proved it had on the last Darkness album and tour, it’s impossible to get it back to any significant degree, and no matter how strongly a reunion might be trumpeted, however hard they might try, they’ll always be trying, and failing, to party like it’s 2003. Not unlike a drug addict hardened to his poison, trying in vain with an ever-dwindling circle of friends to achieve the memories of those glorious early highs and never getting there, yet still living in hope that one day, he might.

A bit saddening when you think about it.

It’s a problem that Saving Aimee don’t have, yet, and praise be to that. With haircuts apparently stolen from Guitar Hero characters and a logo nicked from Aerosmith, The St Albans sextet have spent the last three years since their inception, touring and gigging pretty much constantly, hammering the toilet circuit with nobodies and grabbing fortuitous slots with the likes of Enter Shikari and McFly, so with their Hawkins-produced debut album due for release early in the new year, they’ve earned their place at the fringes of the new glitterati through sheer sweat and it shows. Saving Aimee, you see, are simply quite ridiculously good.

Boasting the rare Forum quality of a crisp, clean sound, Saving Aimee whip in and out of tonight’s show like gung-ho guerrillas, coming in to brighten our existence by blazing splendidly for 20 minutes, leaving our ears all tingly and a bewildered “what the fuck ?” expression on our faces. And how do they do this? With wit, bounce, and the skilful application of geeky, freaky, punky emo with electro bits, riffy bits, drummy bits, funky bits, melodic shifts, wonky loops to die for, rich tunes that stay with you like a winter cold, and all polished as brightly as a guardsman’s shoes, that’s how. Should you need much more, we have frontman Luke, a floppy haired urchin with a clipped home counties accent but the dress sense of a bag lady, so naturally the girls love him and the lads think he’s a wanker. Nevertheless he’s got a well seasoned versatile vocal technique, able to croon, rap, scream and holler like a beered-up teenager having the worst tantrum of his life, so he’s certainly not going unnoticed.

The rest are colourful enough goblins, being sufficiently less flamboyant than their leader but happy, tight and absolutely effortless in their ability to enjoy themselves and tease out the fun in others. Be sure of it, Saving Aimee have practiced stagecraft and audience involvement as vigorously as the songs themselves, so we can stand up with ‘em to milk every last tingling drop out of free download single “Small Talk” and “We Are The Good Guys” celebrating the sheer joy of girls, gigs, guitars and grog with as much clapping, chanting and sweating as we can muster, and during that time, Saving Aimee can make you feel as if you both have limitless reserves.

It won’t be long before Saving Aimee’s hearty ability to bend a whole room to their feel-good whim becomes an extremely bankable commodity, so although we may not expect gargantuan success for ‘em in 2009, they’ll keep popping up and getting better each time until you can’t ignore the little buggers.

As Hotleg take to the stage amid a perspiring mob of punters trying to fondle bits of his costume, Justin Hawkins stands alone for a few seconds, basking in the adulation before getting down to business. His arms are a mass of tattoos, the dark roots are showing in his bleached shaggy barnet and that guitar’s hung so low it keeps whacking him in the knees. But then, with heads down and knees apart, they roar into life like a buzz-saw and the chances are, you’ve not heard or seen a more scurvy bunch of gutterdogs since The Glitterati: squealing brash guitars, a touch of ironic kitsch, pale skins, cigarette burns, bleach, eyeliner, designer stubble, bandanas, spandex…you know the score if you’re old enough. Think back, if you can, to those heady days of 88 –92, when the likes of Rich Rags, Tattooed Love Boys and Soho Roses dominated the club scene, with bands everywhere desperately pretending that they came from Hollywood. Or if you aren’t that old, think Rachel Stamp, or The Glitterati after soap and water. But essentially, if it wasn’t for that outrageous falsetto vocal, Hotleg would look and sound just like a Hanoi Rocks tribute band.

You’d be hard pushed to fault their enthusiasm for the era though, and as such, expecting anything more challenging than celebrations of sex and loud guitars would be foolish. Take new single “Trojan Guitar” for example, which as Justin helpfully informs us is “downloadable free, no tax, no obligation, just listen as loud as you like!”; it’s rolled out to hollering aplomb and gets a mass clapalong out of sympathetic support, but as songs go, it’s a bit of a turkey, being a typically clichéd bit of softcore that bursts into Crue-esque glam metal exactly when you expect it to , and ultimately as forgettable as a cigarette. Their debut download single “Heroes” is more tautly angry degenerate sleaze, and damn good it is too, but it’s “Gay In The Eighties” that really divides opinions on Hotleg, because this retro-styled celebration of camp nostalgia is comical, catchy and as corny as a Mexican turd. It’s a tune so instantly despisable that those who aren’t jumping gaily about are by-and-large making forced affectations of nauseated derision to one other, no doubt sighing to themselves that it was exactly what they expected and feared from Hawkins and Co, with a self-satisfied sneer, and making mental notes to use the words “Darkness-Lite” on their blogs later.

So much for the material, then. But as a practiced and slick band, Hotleg can hold their heads up high. Hawkins’ guitar work in Hotleg is precise and dextrous, leaving none of the room for fucking about that he had with The Darkness. You’d probably be forgiven for thinking that he was trying to be taken seriously, because Hawkins seems exceedingly comfortable thrashing around with Hotleg, and even that high vocal technique doesn’t sound like he’s taking the piss any more. That being said, they do practice a lot of cheeky things for the amusement factor, such as when JH busts a string. At a given signal they all stop – and I mean stop dead on a note with absolute unified precision and total silence – while they swap axes over, and when he’s ready to strum again, they burst smugly back to life without missing a beat, as if someone released a pause button. Style, you see. It might not be influential or unique or even desirable style, but it’s flash, and though JH might not be the most eloquent of frontmen, where showing-off is involved, he’s a master of the art.

A Xmas single and lots of booty-shaking later, it’s “mega-ballad” time, in that good old fashioned Eighties way. Yay. Big guitars, waving lighters, the odd hurled glowstick and guys drilling their erections into the spines of whichever female is in front of them, just as tradition dictates. But are we going to get a Darkness tune to top it all off? It could arguably be our little treat for being so appreciative while Hotleg strut and frolic in approved rock n roll fashion, making time honoured squeals with lots of grimaces, tart Tap-isms and grunting noises. No we’re not, despite the cat-calls. And neither will anyplace else. Why? Because JH is brave enough to stick to his guns and treat Hotleg as a band with a future rather than yet another publicity platform. This is a man, remember, who absolutely clamours for an adoring audience and to please crowds, so he’ll upset a sizable proportion of his fanbase (who missed the early shows featuring Darkness tunes) by not performing “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” on this short tour when they’ve been expecting it, but fuck ‘em. For now and for the foreseeable future, he’s finally leaving The Darkness behind him, thinking of Hotleg as a band he’s in rather than as a star with a supporting cast, starting at the bottom, looking straight ahead and damn the consequences.

Fortune favours the brave, they say, so perhaps by the summertime everything will have worked out and their gigs won’t be full of people continually spouting the D-word. But I doubt it, I really do.

Paul Mills

Acoustic Lounge – Sunday 30th November 2008
Ant & Fie, The Yuri Gagarin Contraband, Nick Stephens, Ashley (from Over By Dawn)

One of the most rewarding aspects of The Forum’s monthly Acoustic Lounge is that in addition to the usual solo spots, we often get to witness side-projects that have had little or no prior opportunity to be aired. Frequently unnamed as acts, and often with only vague working titles to the tunes, they’re no so much gigs in their true sense, but convenient opportunities to practice in front of an audience and establish what, if anything, is amiss. On this occasion, Ant from Tom Williams’ band, has teamed up with the silk-throated Fie to see what they come up with; just a piano, guitar, two vastly different voices and songs like “Laugh Out Loud” which possess such iridescent charm that they reel you in like a helpless fish.

It’s her voice that does it. Pitched somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, she carries the whole folky melody with nervous yet determined composure as she picks away cautiously at the keyboard, careful not to put a finger wrong, miss a vocal note, or even look directly at the audience. Simple stuff for sure, and her obvious inexperience limits her technical capabilities, but there’s such a loving fragile caress in Fie’s voice, and such tense delicacy in her piano work that it’s little short of hypnotic. Plus, she’s very very pretty indeed, by hippychick standards, which does the pair of them no harm either.

Despite her hesitant manner, Ant takes pains to stay very much in a supporting role, preferring to strum away dexterously, using his rich voice only when he has to, and when taking the lead, he sings softly, as if not wishing to upstage Fie, even if she’s doing no more than sitting there picking out gently chiming chords. Together though, they harmonise beautifully, particularly on their tale of life love and laptops “Rosie” and the elegant “Paperclip Anecdote”, which sounds not unlike Kings Of Convenience stripped right down to the roots. “Tobacco Stained Guitar” however, is certainly their strongest offering, with it’s in-out breathing melodic rhythm and irresistible hook, and with a few more like this, and a touch more gloss, Ant & Fie will have a future together to take them way beyond this hallowed stage or The Grey Lady, so watch their progress.

Highly recommended by the boy Wolff (and you know how hard it is for anyone to impress our terrifying ninja doorman) The Yuri Gagarin Contraband truly is a fascinating and unique little project. It’s the brainchild of Ben Shilling, who effectively puts himself in the mind of the first man to go into space and shares with us his hopes, dreams, nightmares and fears (of which there are many) via an audio-visual medium. A projected screen and sound effects show different images of the great Russian cosmonaut, taking great pains to highlight his emotional vulnerability, with shots of him looking proud and heroic with the Russian space team, interspersed with those where he looks pensive, anguished or just plain terrified.

Supported percussively by a fellow in an orange boilersuit (looking like an extra from an old Tango advert) and a double-bassist who never ventures from the shadows, Shilling sits on his stool, as alone as his hero, strumming a battered acoustic, narrating rhythmic poems about being a real space cadet rather than the metaphorical variety, the hellish training, fear of what he’s about to do, leaving behind loved ones and the unknown future, which when you put yourself in the position of a man who doesn’t know if he’s going to die or not, is a pretty heavy deal. Like the first man to test a bullet proof vest or parachute, it takes balls, and the YGC want people to appreciate that, so Shilling’s eccentric urbanite lo-fi folk is centred wholly on Gagarin’s pre-orbital jitters, philosophical musings and whimsical flights of fancy, which compliments his Barrett-ish vocal style perfectly.

And we haven’t even touched upon the lyrics yet. Sometimes inane, but always playful, they suggest that Shilling has spent a great deal of entirely necessary time as high as a satellite. Keeping a straight face while singing such pithy gems as “lost control of my nervous system, found some knobs and I’ve got to twist ‘em…” (“Space Cadet”) and “the real destroyer, is paranoia…” (“Super Punk”) can’t be easy. The guy’s not quite on another planet, but if he told you that he’d been to one, you’d believe it. Or believe that he believes it, at least.

Thought-provoking, arty, wonderfully odd and curiously cool, the YGC are wittily and boldly original, even if their low-budget antics are a little clumsily executed. As a piece of rock theatre it’s still very much a work in progress, but they’re engaging and riveting to the point where you almost want to flip ‘em some spare change, so make every effort to check ‘em out because it’ll be well worth the bother.

Maybe it’s something to do with being a tad older than most of the turns that play here (at least the thick end of his twenties), or perhaps it’s because he’s well groomed, chatty and intelligent, so obviously more serious than most angsty young oiks, but Nick Stephens comes across almost as an acoustic geek. You know how some musicians seem to take great pains to tell you how technically minded they are, as if they’re trying to appear ultimate connoisseurs of their instrument? Come on now, we all know one or two. They’re the type, who swear that they can tell the difference between two almost identical gauges of guitar string, sneer with derision at anyone who doesn’t use a particular brand of effects pedal, recognise structural similarities between two obscure and very different pieces of music, and who think that tuning their instrument slightly differently is something that merits awed praise at their insightful genius. OK, so he’s not exactly one of those, but he’s not far off, and I daresay that creating a hybrid guitar with bass strings replacing the bottom E & A strings, is a bold and clever thing to do. It certainly helps him achieve a full and deep sound, and he can emulate bass parts under the core melody with accomplished finesse, but most people don’t care much about how it’s done, only what it sounds like.

That being said, Nick’s style is soulful, snappy, almost funky, not unlike Newton Faulkner, but without the percussive element and a voice that’s closer to Buckley. He switches back and forth between this home-made hybrid and a normal guitar according to his needs, but armed with a standard instrument, the material is considerably limper. Boasting a crooning wobbly vocal, poppy ballads such as “Supernaturalness” are pleasant enough but ultimately empty and unremarkable, which is perhaps explained by the fact that he’s more used to playing these tunes in a band rather than solo.

Vocally, he has range, power, precision and depth, when he sticks within his limits, but he’s undisciplined enough to frequently overstretch himself like an X-Factor contestant attempting Mariah Carey, treating every line as an excuse to twitter as many notes as humanly possible to disguise a bland voice with flashy glottal stops and warped warbles up and down the scales, which is bloody annoying after about 5 minutes. Nevertheless, his tunes have clearly undergone a lot of painstaking constructive thought, and although fairly average fodder overall, they’re not disposable, and he sings them with passion, giving his all, even if his audience are fidgeting and checking their watches every couple of minutes. So much, in fact, that in order to liven things up, or perhaps as a critical gesture, Forum playmate Charlotte sportingly leaves the sanctity of the bar area and rushes the stage topless, jiggles her bouncers about and streaks back again. Which is nice. Although sadly, Stephens is so wrapped up in trying to merge “The Wheels On The Bus Go Round & Round” with “Play That Funky Music White Boy”, that he doesn’t seem to notice. But that’s geeks for you.

Taking a well-earned repose from Over By Dawn, it’s difficult to tell what Ash is trying to achieve as a solo performer. Looking like a right hard-case and sounding like James Blunt might not be an obvious formula for success, but at least it isn’t the other way around.

Melodically simple and pleasantly catchy, Ash’s gentle traditional bedsit folk style is safe and sensual enough, but hardly distinguishable from half the sensitive romantic troubadours that have proliferated since Damien Rice caught on, and even if angry protest songs or sly sarcastic observations aren’t his line at all, he ticks most of the boxes if inoffensive middle-class acoustic twaddle is yours.

An acoustic cliché he might be, but you’d have to be made of stone, or German, not to be a little moved by his honeyed optimism and belief in the power of love. As he sits on that stool crooning and strumming his white guitar, you’d be forgiven for enviously imagining yourself in his position up there, serenading your truest love, while she looks on adoringly instead of reaching for the vom bucket. Indeed, if you’re starry-eyed enough, “Summer and You” will be as whimsically soppy a tune as you could wish for. But even the most tender-hearted and moonstruck lovers would be hard pushed to retain their stomach contents as he dedicates the sugary “Can I Take You Out To Tea?” to his new wife. Aah. With twee melodies and romantically idealistic lyricism, Ash’s songs are a girly dream, seemingly full of kisses, holding hands in dewy meadows and images from the ‘How To…’ book of slush.

There is an unusual depth to him though, and nowhere is this more evident than in his choice of cover. Most of us would probably agree that hearing someone busk “Wonderwall” is enough to make us want to do them physical harm, but luckily Ash redeems himself with an interesting and thoughtful take on it that’s barely recognisable, half the speed, warily delicate and actually very beautiful. However, he’s back to formulaic folk straight after, and while he may be inventive with other peoples’ tunes, his own, sadly, don’t seem to merit the same care and attention, being formulaic and almost lazy. A new song, “Bury Yourself”, for example, is half-hearted and clumsy, takes ages to actually get anywhere and ends so abruptly it seems unfinished, while the Rice-esque set closer “Hold On” is so dull and lifeless that people are yawning and starting to leave before he’s even halfway through.

Although Over By Dawn gives Ash the benefit of having seasoned and accomplished musicians behind him, which no doubt invigorates his tunes as well as his performance, as a solo acoustic turn he’s unspectacular, and it’ll take more than an interesting cover for him to raise himself above any of the hundreds of other Sunday-lunchtime pub-poets and acoustic Romeos out there. I daresay he’ll give it his best shot though, and should you and your other half find yourselves watching him at some point, any latent ardour will be rekindled with no need for effort on your part. Perhaps you can even book him for Valentine’s day.

Paul Mills

Apologies again this month, as for the first time in 5 years (although it’s been touch-and-go a few times) I’ve missed a monthly moan. No, that’s not a cryptic way of saying I might be pregnant or something, I’ve merely had to miss out reviewing a gig for July. All my own fault as I’ve moved house and the notepad I had for The Displacements gig went AWOL during the move before I’d had a chance to transcribe it, so sorry and all that, but there it is. Call it a summer holiday if you like. Besides, you wouldn’t really have wanted my opinion on it anyway, so let’s just say that it was the most godawful silage from a band that would improve the world around them by having their knees grafted onto their foreheads, set on fire and sent rolling off a high precipice onto rusty spikes, although support act Us And Them are certainly worth checking out, and be done with it. OK? Good. Believe it if you have a mind to.

Tonight though, with the climax of the Local & Live festival happening in The Pantiles and our very own Night Without Sleep creating merry Hell among the bewildered locals as supportive canine howls relay among the crowd, we’re low on bodies and high on apathy. I can’t understand it, personally. Not the turnout because that’s obvious, but the fact that people who have made an effort to pay to get in (while a street party is rippling away outside) seem to go out of their way to be surly and unappreciative. It’s like a convention for the socially inept to swap tips on how to be fascinatingly sullen and withdrawn. But hey, whatever floats their boat. As for everyone else, well, you can hardly blame ‘em for wanting to enjoy the last rain-free evening of the summer, outside amid all the fun, especially when in addition to free entertainment they’ll also get free lavishly packaged CDs, can buy their drinks from The Ragged (have we shamelessly plugged The Forum’s associated watering-hole The Ragged Trousers very much on these pages? It’s where Forum folk go to be ‘normal’. Lovely food, fine beer, good sounds, etc, and The Boy Lawrence pulling pints. Just don’t tackle the stairs while drunk) and can enjoy the luxury of sitting down on chairs, smoking, like they used to be able to do in the olden days. Eeee…when I were a lad…

So, it’s just the sort of elitist evening on which those wacky guys from Unlabel thrive, bless ‘em. There’s a chap in a pig mask (it could be Leon but it’s difficult to tell) screaming and squealing like one that’s being fed backwards into a bacon slicer, while another in a chicken mask (Allan from JATA, I think) makes odd electronic noises and rhythms, while someone else in a donkey mask batters the keyboards. It’s virtually improvised nonetheless, and really just an excuse for some mischief and mayhem, seeing what happens as they allow whatever rhythm they find among themselves to grow and mutate in an orgy of randomly skitterish angry noise and death metal shrieks.

Pretty awesome stuff if you like that kind of thing, no doubt. I don’t though, sorry, which is probably a positive endorsement of some kind when I think about it. To my wimpy ears it’s a bewilderingly unpleasant, sadistic, excruciating din, roughly akin to the highly amplified sound of thousands of nuts and bolts spinning around in a washing machine, while a broken synth goes bonkers and pig-man impersonates the cries of a demon boiling in a vat of hot mucus. But as I contemplate this, the angry young monster stomps around the floor until he eventually snaps into ‘charge!’ mode, grabs my pen and hurls it across the room. Twice. So sorry if I can’t say anything more descriptive about their twenty minutes of electro carnage, but hey, nothing to scribble with, so there you go. I daresay that this audio-terrorism is rather good, because there are enough people willingly enduring this ghastly hullabaloo, trying to get into the vibe, but personally, I found it so painful that I ground my teeth so much that they ache still (that’s true by the way), so least said, soonest mended. Perhaps it might even please the young scallywags.

And speaking of agonising noise, this is Massacres last ever gig, because they’re not talking to each other anymore, apparently. They have their reasons I suppose, although it’s probably something to do with a woman as these things generally are. Sadly though, the former Yes No Maybes never really stood a chance to begin with. For a start, even when things were ‘working’, they were a shambles: out of tune, out of time, out of steam, no coherence, no substance and no positive connection among each other when they played. In short, an absolute dog of a band. Bad tunes, minimal care, poorly executed and dull to boot. Sorry, but it was, so there. Mainly though, it was the ginger frontman who never once thought to hide his shame under a hat, and seemed to have a bizarre inability to control a single aspect of pitch, tone, volume or rhythm, in whatever came out of his mouth.

That being said, as short-lived as their existence has been, Massacres have tried to be bold and inventive with their rough-arsed dark punk. Fair dos to ‘em for believing that there’s something worth exploring, but even with their last chance to make a good impression, they still can’t find it. Tonight, Massacres play so badly, with such clumsiness, they can do no more than blunder at whatever it is they’re trying to do, hoping that they can just get it over with a bit of dignity intact.

Whether you believe it when they are described by their pals as ‘avante garde’ and ‘chaotic’ is up to you, but this lot could probably test the loyalty of their mothers, let alone their mates. They’re akin to one of those cocktails like ‘Baby’s Brains’ or ‘Blow Job’; more of a gag-inducing endurance test than anything to consume for pleasure. Separately, the ingredients are fine, and with the right partners they can make something tasty and moreish, but with Massacres it’s just bad chemistry; put ‘em all together and they congeal into a sickening snotty mess that’s as pleasant to swallow as whale spunk. They simply make a shapeless, unpalatable racket, and perhaps putting the beast down is for the best.

When the guitar pedals give up the ghost, they hesitantly enquire whether they should just move on or start again with effects intact, so under the instruction of their chums who agree, actually, demand, that they want to hear it again, they do. It would almost make for a moment of connection and warmth, providing a much needed element of intimacy if there was any discernable difference, or if Massacres used this opportunity to focus themselves and give of their very best. But there isn’t and they don’t. Massacres are holding it together purely through friendly sympathy and what’s more, they know it. As they progress, the disdain between them becomes more and more apparent, causing them to add bitterness to an already sour mixture, and as the last chords die, bassman Ben throws his guitar to the floor and storms off in a huff, which somewhat takes the starch out of Ginger’s planned farewell sneer. A mean thing to do to your frontman when he’s obviously been rehearsing a big moment, but no doubt satisfying.

I reckon it’s a safe bet that there’s a bird involved.

I had cause to get nostalgic recently, inspired by a band of the same name playing on our hallowed stage, and watch ‘Jubilee’, which if you haven’t seen it is one of most bizarrely pointless rock ‘n’ roll movies ever made. If you can stomach it (and I have every sympathy if you cannot), you might possibly be struck, as I was, by a similarity between Adam Ant performing ‘Plastic Surgery’ and the dance moves of Selfish Cunt’s Martin Tomlinson. I checked out a video of theirs afterwards just to make sure and the similarity is uncanny. They both twitch and jump like rabid rats and yelp a lot of fantasy ramblings, but more specifically, they’re both clearly unwell and watching crazy people let loose is grimly fascinating. Therein lies part of Selfish Cunt’s appeal as it’s riveting to watch someone whose behaviour is alleged to be unpredictable, and we go to see them not for the pleasure of their creations, but because we think that we should.

Although when Ant wrote ‘Press Darlings’ I wonder if, in his darker moods, he ever envisaged such a creature as Martin Tomlinson: the ‘controversial’ homosexual rocker who whines that the country is shit, behaves like a deviant corruptive maniac on stage and acts like, well, a selfish cunt. If he had, perhaps he would have given up there and then. For Selfish Cunt are living proof that everything we are sold by the media is a lie, and the public are gullible fools eager to have the most appalling bilge shoved down their throats in the name of artistic expression, glad to trumpet about how wonderful it tastes. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose as the young Parisians might have said.

I’m not saying it didn’t work, ever. A couple of years ago, they were just as bloody awful, but they generated a level of genuine excitement and intrigue that earned them at least some of attention they received. Perhaps in a crowded room, where the sweat clings to the bodies and the rhythm seduces the moshing muscles, they can command the eccentric actions of their disciples still. But certainly not tonight, and probably never again. Tonight there’s no façade of rock ‘n’roll craziness with Selfish Cunt, just tedium on a grand scale as they force themselves through a pantomime of forced naughtiness and unambitious repetitive strain. And just how outrageous is this young self-harming and self-deprecating scamp that fronts them? Well, it depends on whether there’s anyone there to show off to. Tonight, there’s precious few to care, so whereas the performer that he once was wouldn’t give a toss and could use the lack of adulation for mischief, this evening he merely goes through whatever motions are necessary to earn his fee and wails “is your pussy wet?…my pussy’s wet…” over and over again, like some bored porno harlot, as if it’s the only thing he can think of saying, and it probably is.

Nevertheless, Tomlinson has a part to play; that of an unhinged undernourished underachiever, fighting back to pour scorn and deviant sex-fluids on people of all races ages and cultures, with nobody escaping his contempt as he sneers and shrieks disturbed string-of-consciousness lyrics with his own brand of politically incorrect irony. “I saw a nigger cleaning your streets …” he yells, and I daresay there’s one or two lefties uncomfortable with a skinny gay white boy using the n-word, just the way he intends it. Between his staccato mock-beat poetry and the backdrop of angry grinding white noise comprised of bendy structures, feedback, squeals, loops and bassy rumbles, he pirouettes like a drunken ballet dancer, strutting and prancing about the empty floor, trying to appear sinisterly unhinged but actually looking a bit ridiculous. “I’m gonna fuck the living daylights out of you…” he croons. To the wall. He asks us to come on his big dick as well, which is jolly hospitable of him I must say, but nobody takes him up on that offer either.

Unless you’re about twelve and get excited about sexual gestures and swearing, it’s a desperate exercise in nonchalance and flat inane boredom. We aren’t talking about a mere ‘off’ gig, understand, we’re talking about a rock act that doesn’t know what to do with itself anymore, other than to give the media a legitimate excuse to print the c-word. They haven’t grown, become inspired, or even refined their comically ironic qualities, they’ve merely carried on churning out shite that when you strip away the cusses, is actually just…well, shite. It’s disconcerting to realise that as awful as they were 2 years ago, it actually represented Selfish Cunt at their artistic and creative peak. Now, well, they just make the same noises out of habit. But it’s not just the musical stagnation that’s a problem; they’ve lost interest in what they’re doing even from the perspective of entertainment. Gone is the grotesque edginess and theatrical anxious deviance that made them infamous, and in it’s place is only the residue, like a limp half-arsed shadow striking a few vague poses and fading away into nothingness. “We’re gonna come back and paint the town black…”. Yeah, right.

Of course, it’s arguable that the clue’s in the name and Selfish Cunt are happy to show the world that they do exactly what it says on the label. Yeah yeah, “Iggy for a new era”, and all that rubbish, and we can chuck in the words “cathartic theatre” or however it was that The Guardian described them if that makes you feel better, but come on, enough’s enough. Selfish Cunt aren’t and have never been bold, ironic, inventive, outrageous, or whatever tag you care to put on them to make them sound more interesting. They’re just rubbish, and to endure them for pleasure is to accept that you are not only deaf, but a fashion victim.

Not that they haven’t done well out of it of course. To go from being proud denizens of the art-college set and bearers of the “London’s most exciting live band” tag for almost a whole summer, to inducing equal mixtures of rapture and revulsion in the festival tents of Europe is a proud achievement, but why and how have they achieved this? It’s the name, that’s all. Just a name. Let’s face it, if Selfish Cunt were called ‘Scented Candles’ or something, they’d scarcely be mentioned in a fanzine let alone lauded as one of Britain’s best. Most people with an ear to the ground have heard of them, but how many of those have actually listened to them and how many just want to snigger that they’ve seen a band called Selfish Cunt?

Their recognition (if that’s an appropriate word) has hardly been built upon the music, more upon getting the word ‘cunt’ in newspapers and on t-shirts more often than one used to see in days gone by. Credit where it’s due, they have helped shape the public’s perception of a word, and raise the question of what is truly obscene, and apart from a handful of loonies, most people seem to agree that seeing the word ‘cunt’ in the paper or having our kids listen to bands with names like Selfish Cunt and Fuck Buttons, aren’t going to make us choke on our morning muesli and write to The Courier in protest. After all, if such respected organs as Her Majesty’s Press can say it and nobody bats an eyelid, and if television channels can make documentaries about it and not receive complaints from Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, then the word ‘cunt’ simply doesn’t bother us much anymore and it’s taken the media attention towards Selfish Cunt to demonstrate that. So, if Selfish Cunt want to regain their place in the spotlight, seeing as people are yawning at the likes of “Tranny Fucker”, perhaps the only way they’re going to do it is change their name to something even more offensive. But what?

You see, (and I’m gonna go on for a bit here, but bear with me, it’ll make sense eventually) when ‘fuck’ lost it’s impact we still had ‘cunt’ to upgrade to when we wanted a proper swear word, as it’s taboo status meant that it gave immense satisfaction and maximum offence. Now, thanks to Selfish Cunt, it’s lost it’s impact as a cuss word. It’s still not a word we want our children to use, but there is a perverse satisfaction in that this band have done what dozens of generations of mighty scholars, musicians, filmmakers, pornographers, artists, writers, creative minds, intellectuals, critics, lawyers, rulers, politicians, priests, presidents, broadcasters, humble peasants, in fact, pretty much anyone, failed to do: they have taken the sting out of the word ‘cunt’. They have, without meaning to do so (which is pretty much how most important things were discovered) found a way of softening that word on the British consciousness and downgrading its potency.

Lets not forget that the word was not always as offensive as it is now. It’s common knowledge that there was a street in London called Gropecunt Lane and that Chaucer used it (with some pretty bizarre and inconsistent spellings raging from ‘quaint’ to ‘kent’) but it is changing attitudes that reflect the relative obscenity of words and they can evolve surprisingly quickly. Our grandparents thought nothing of the word ‘nigger’ but it’s deeply offensive now, and ‘fuck’ then was something everyone said but not in the public media. Even ‘bloody’ was outrageous a generation ago, with Mary Whitehouse frothing at the mouth about it being used by such social caricatures as Alf Garnett, but in 2008 you’ll find it being used by J K Rowling and delighting children.

Now of course, even the hallowed Beeb makes a point of ensuring a healthy ‘fuck’ quota to it’s post-watershed programming. If ‘cunt’ is all we have left as an unacceptable taboo, then it’s now lost its impact, meaning and ability to shock. We need a new word to replace it. That’s right, we need a new swear word now that those selfish cunts Selfish Cunt have stolen it from us, to ensure that we continue to have a word in our language guaranteed to offend and upset parents. A word so filthy that old ladies will have aneurisms upon hearing it. A word so taboo that it would render the person to whom it was directed to get terribly upset, perhaps even cry. But making up a new word isn’t easy, so we must choose an existing word, one that already has connotations of obscenity, and make it more so by perverting the meaning.

The word I’m proposing is ‘cuck‘. First of all, like all good swear words (with the exception of bollocks’, which is the juiciest word in the English language) it has 4 letters, one vowel and one syllable. Secondly, it contains parts of the two other rudest words, ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ in order of offensiveness. Thirdly, it is a contraction of ‘cuckold’, (which the older among you would know, is someone whose spouse has been unfaithful) and is in itself a term used contemptuously, as such persons were once the outcasts of respectable society. Finally, just say it out loud and replace ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ with it. It’s very convincing: Oh cuck! Cuck you! Cuck off! Cuck me! Go cuck yourself! What the cuck? Cucking hell! Cucking cuck! What a cuck! See where it’s going?  It sounds as if it should be up there with ‘fuck’, or ‘cunt’, and quite like ‘cock’ too. I’ve also checked Viz’s Profanisaurus and can’t find it, so yay, we’re in business.

But what, pray, does it actually mean? To whit, how can we employ this word in our lexicon of obscenity? Well it has a meaning already, but it’s not a modern one, so let’s revive it into something with a bit more kick. In line with the other swear words it would have to something to do with genitals, arses or substances produced by either. To up the offensiveness a bit and make it really filthy, it should also have a connotation that implies passive homosexuality, incest, religion and probably paedophilia too. After racking my brains for a good few minutes this morning while trying to decide what to put on my toast, I decided that the substance that I’d least like to have spread upon it would be the congealed plug of excrement, smegma and old semen in the unwashed anus of a kiddie-fiddler priest who had been sodomised by all his male relatives since he was a baby. This substance, ladies and gentlemen is  ‘cuck’. It sounds similar to ‘cack’ too, which kinda fits the theme.

So, there you have it. If Selfish Cunt can’t maintain appeal with their music and can barely evoke a raised eyebrow when their very name contains the naughtiest of words, then desperate measures are needed and perhaps adopting a brand new identity via a brand new obscenity is the answer. Selfish Cuck. Lets put it on t-shirts and start a cucking revolution.

Paul Mills