If you’re reading this – you may or may not be aware that February Issue 126 is the last ever printed Blam and will no longer be able to read it on the bog (thereafter putting the conveniently-sized pages to good use), or the bus (subsequently leaving it on the seat for the next bored passenger to flick through, perchance to giggle at, perchance to visit our smelly little artshole). Instead, as you’ve obviously done to enable you to be reading this (without moving your lips) you’ll have to hook up to an interweb machine and deliberately look for it instead of having our puerile nonsense thrust under your nose in sympathetic establishments and the Forum bar. So, er, sorry and all that but times change, and since Max Vonsydownyourrockintheboat has buggered off to a job where he actually expects to get paid, we can’t find anyone else to lick the kharzis clean for free (not even Andy), so with a heavy heart we’re sacrificing the cost of printing each month in favour of bleach and antibiotics. Apparently.

I feel sentimental about it all admittedly, but all things must pass and this new computer wotsit means that we can fit more in online whenever we want. which also means that you don’t have to put up with just me droning my inane babble because if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a scribe, zine hack or rock blogger, if you have some thoughts about a Forum gig or local record to share, or if you just want to gob off, then get in touch because we need people who know what they’re talking about for a change.

So, Ska Punk perhaps? Something in the sharp two-tone suits and shades sported by Bromley’s PARKER’S LIP give it away before they even take the brass out, and when frontman/guitarist Jonnie T appears in his downbeat garb and elaborate mohican to give them the necessary visual contrast, well, dead genres do offer nostalgic comfort sometimes. Mainly, I suppose, because the fans are so easily pleased. Ever noticed that? So much can be forgiven by unsubtle application of parping, brass-bollocked, tooting, skanking clichés because ska’s such a happy noise and blows all the clouds away. After all, ever seen a grim-faced skanker? Like I said, easily pleased.PARKER’S LIP have brought a small but appreciative bunch of mates to show off to as well, even if they don’t actually cross that invisible line at the front which is a shame as PL’s upbeat Reel Big Fish-isms should make the staunchest misery-guts drink too much and get out of order. Although suffering a tad from Jonnie’s weak snotty vocal delivery they pull off their standard ska fayre with tremendous style if not particularly skilfully.“The Resignation”, being their chance to slow down a bit, shows these former Blunt Skulls struggling to keep time with each other and highlights the lack of melodic imagination they have in anything that isn’t the deep booming brass section (which carries them all the way) but they’re clearly having too much of a good time to care much about such technicalities. This is their first gig after all, and even if “The Lesson” speeds things up with calls for skanking that aren’t quite answered beyond the swaying hips of a fat bird and 3 pissed harpies trying not to fall over, Parkers Lip cope admirably with what’s demanded of them, which isn’t really very much. But what with ska being deader than Heath Ledger, it does beg the question of whether they can hope for any more than pumping out shouty brash nostalgia to their mates now and again. Still, whatever keeps ’em amused, an’ all that.

Stalwart mainstays of the (occasionally) rather fabulous Nifty Nights, HOW SOON? SWEET ACHILLES are just the sort of monged doomy post rock that people who are “like, seriously into Tool, man” would get mildly excited about: an instrumental sonic jihad with oodles of bowel-quaking bass conjuring up nightmarish trippy images as they canter through the spectrum of headfuck rock from Tool to Monster Magnet to Isis to Slint. OK, so HSSA have a terrible name and they frequently lose track of what bits go twang and what goes widdle, but it’s boldly perverse stuff with huge mutated tunes crying out for a freaky animated video with lots of blood in it.

The oddly engrossing aspect with HSSA is that the rare use of dual bassists makes them feel awkwardly imbalanced at first, as you can barely hear the guitar over their booming roar. After a few minutes though your ears adjust and a fascinating dimension reveals itself as they fill up the sound spectrum with pulsing bassy din that shouldn’t ordinarily be there with only one bassist and 4 fingers to handle the bottom end, and they explore this opportunity in a truly spectacular way. You can’t dance to it, you can only listen to it studiously because with no vocalist’s ego to massage, they spurn the traditional methods of communicating with their audience and instead choose to smash them round the chops with a gregariously gloomy low-end racket and contrasting ugly/beautiful diversions that are hypnotic, self indulgent and heavier than a dead elephant. Nobody in their right mind would stomach more than half an hour of it, but as a brief diversion from the norm, HSSA are a welcome waft of foul air that screws with your musical tastebuds and on the right bill could do very strange things to your head. Check ’em out.

It may be my addled memory, but wasn’t there a band called THE GUNPOWDER PLOT threatening big things back in the mid nineties sometime? Not that a little thing like that would bother these Bexhill oiks of course, as it’s just another addition to their list of familiar-sounding qualities that they show off like gaudy jewellery. Small wonder that the pissed hags from earlier are drooling with unexpected hunger, because TGPare a band that your girlfriend or kid sister will adore, much to your annoyance. Yes, they sound a bit like McFly and are all teeth ‘n’ curls. Yes, there’s a ska-ish undercurrent adding a hit of Bacardi to their sweet ‘n’ fizzy pop-rock, with the plinky-plonky keyboards of singer Jonny Fitzpatrick where the horns should go, and yes, they are handsome charming little smilers with bubblegum songs that might be cheesy if you heard them on the radio, but in a live setting grow on you until you can’t get the buggers out of your head. Of course, their relentless enthusiasm helps more than a little. Girls can’t resist young rogues like Jonny and guitarist Henry, who eye them up with self-assured panache, so calls to clap and dance are obeyed without too much hesitancy. Jonny’s got a sore throat tonight it seems, or maybe he just ain’t very good, but that doesn’t seem to matter as much as his desire to entertain cabaret stylee, grab attention and help everyone wash down their chorusy flexible be-bop with a long cool draught of feelgood factor. Sounds dreadful doesn’t it? It ain’t though, much as you might want it to be.Oooh, it’s infectious stuff alright. The radio-friendly clatter of “Wet Yourself In Protest” is roughly hewn, but like everything they’ve chucked at us so far, carries a very virulent germ indeed. Their songcraft is lacking only subtlety and lyrical finesse, and that’ll come to them eventually. Perhaps when their balls drop. In the meantime though, they’re pussy-rock that’s acceptable to both sexes, and strangely cool, although you still wouldn’t play them before a lads night out.

Paul Mills