What You Missed

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 It’s like a convention for the socially inept to swap tips on how to be fascinatingly sullen and withdrawn.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


Ghostwood, The Crucible, Ghosts In Mirrors, XYEZ

20th June 2008

First of all, an apology, as I owe it. This month’s moan was a long time coming (and July’s late, I know…), but sorry, I’m old and have a life, so sincere apologies to everyone, especially the fop Randall, who has been patient with my lack of recent output on account of currently having no computer of my own on which to slouch in front of and pretend I have a purpose. Actually, I don’t really have much of anything possessions-wise at the moment, and that’s a good thing. Apparently. At least that’s what I’m supposed to say. Ah, rest assured all you young lovers out there (including our very own Baggers, who will tie the knot at around the time this article goes online. Love and congratulations to them both from me and all of us at Blam Towers, best wishes, big kisses, etc), I still believe that true love and marriage are the greatest things ever and life’s all about taking chances and embracing opportunities. When love happens, grasp it fully and the chances are, you’ll be happy for the rest of your life. But should things not quite go to plan, take comfort in finding out that it doesn’t have to be ugly and there is a positive lighter side to divorce, if you know how to find it. Knowing that by not having certain material possessions, I’m somehow more free, more independent, can start anew without all the trappings of a past life to tie me down and will have more time for other activities that I may have neglected, means that pretty soon I can have what Americans call ‘closure’, which sounds jolly fun compared to getting all miffed about things, I must say. So provided that I don’t have to start slobbering over people in group therapy or something equally ghastly, I’m all for optimism. But it doesn’t stop a chap missing certain material possessions he previously took for granted when he feels the need to write things. Or check out a band’s website. Or find a flat. Or knock one out. Or pay a fucking bill.

So, having limited web access, until tonight I knew nothing about XYeZ beyond the fact that I recall one or two people on the Forum message board being inarticulately but moderately impressed by the bassist last year. But nothing’s good though, right? No info, no comparisons, no specific expectations; the proverbial blank page upon which to draw one’s own conclusions without having that opinion tainted by someone like, well, me I suppose. Despite inevitable disappointments, there’s a real thrill to be had when discovering new music, whether it’s actually new or just new to you. XyEZ are in the latter category despite being a Stable band scoring highly enough in the Fan’s Choice to reach the finals, so a chance to find out is very welcome indeed, even though I know nothing.

Well, if Socrates was right and the only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing, then XYeZ’s sassy frontlady Hanna Webb must be a fucking genius. No, really, hear me out, because I’m not being a bastard for the sake of it, I’m just observing that the only possible excuse for young Miss Webb’s actions is blissful ignorance of what not to do, and how such actions could be interpreted. Not that she’s bad as a frontperson, understand, as she’s enthusiastic enough and let’s face it, also rather pretty. People are happy to do her bidding, given a chance, as she’s spirited and promisingly confident addressing a crowd. It just clearly hasn’t been explained to her that as the person fronting this bunch of Brightonian funkateers (and therefore being the main visual focus) there are some things she can get away with and some she can’t. Holding the microphone too far away to pick up her vocals when she realises she’s going off key in the hope that people won’t notice is one of them, and another is allowing bassist Lloyd to hog the limelight time and time again when it’s not his bloody call. Good you might be Lloyd, but please, we know. Stay at the side and do your fucking job you flash prannet.

Sure, it might be his band and his songs, and he might be an extraordinarily gifted musician, but when young Hanna’s trying to sing (after a fashion) and get the modest-sized crowd involved in some spirited funky fun, allowing him to repeatedly barge in (mid-verse, mid-chorus, anywhere he feels like in fact) and bask in the centre stage position just because he hasn’t shown off how fast his fingers are for at least 30 seconds…well, aside from emphasising how unimportant she is, it’s damn rude and she needs to give the lad a dry slap. Clearly she’s very used to it, because she uses these moments of being pushed temporarily aside to shake her arse somewhere else and pose half-heartedly with the microphone, trying to look as if she was meaning to do it, so when she gets back in position and they begin to behave like a band again, she’s only really killing time until he wants to be basking in vain narcissistic glory once more. Given that she’s barely audible, controlled, or tuneful anyway, it’s as if her place in the band is of no more consequence than the type of van they drove in order to get here, and any old screamer will do provided that Lloyd can demonstrate how flash he can be on his 5 string (yay for the 5 string bass – let’s give the 5 string bass some appreciation please – look, it’s got, like, 5 strings and that) and he can smugly enjoy the jealous mutterings from other watching bassists (such as our own Mr Thunderfingers himself, Funkydan) who begrudgingly agree that he knows his business.

But that’s all incidental, because if you wanted – and I mean REALLY wanted – strangers to visit your band’s Myspace page, how would you encourage them? Come on, think for a moment. Think about what would influence you as a potential fan. How about a new song that’s just gone up, exclusive downloads, the array of pictures and videos, or simply an invitation to get more info? Or would “Come and visit it because nobody else does!” do the trick for you? Hanna seems to think it will and doesn’t realise that it’s tantamount to saying “we’re not worth your time and nobody seems to like us”, but as I said, it’s just unwitting ignorance. Innocence, even. So maybe the old Greek fellow had a point after all.

As for Lloyd, well, as long as he’s got a chance to grin like an actor in a toothpaste commercial and show off those dancing digits, it seems he’ll be happy, whatever fate dictates awaits XYeZ. But it would be such a shame to let a talent like that stagnate in such unfertile ground. He really can do so much better, given a chance to get his ego kicked into shape, and I hope he does. I might be wrong of course and wind up making myself look silly, as I have no idea whether XYeZ are the bassist’s pet project and everything revolves around him at all, because when I eventually got online their Myspace page gave little indication of it. It just seems that way to the outside observer. I could be reading too much into it, writing late at night as I am, tired and allowing my mind to wander, so he may simply be more obvious than the others because he’s clearly the most talented member of the band. Factually incorrect or not, my assumption is based on one 20 minute observation which appeared to be of a bunch of yes-men (and one yes-woman) doing as they are told at the whim of an egotist. Apologies if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

That aside though, XYeZ’s scatty spluttering funk rock is polished and danceable; it’s latino-flavoured rhythm section is balanced out by raw bloody-knuckled guitar work that can lift the bleakest of moods. Despite the limp vocals, they knock out dynamically soulful and chewy tunes, whether in the guise of sensuous soft rock for vegetarians and people who wash, or pumping granite-bollocked heaviosity for scuzzy bloody-mouthed vagrants. Because that’s the rub ladies and gentlemen; XYeZ have some very, very, good tunes indeed and damn right they sound commercial. Yes, you can actually hum them, and what’s more, remember them. “Above The Level” for example, is as slick as eel spunk, but they maintain an edgy funky freshness that goes beyond the usual dross inflicted by third-generation RHCP derivatives and they sound, well, as if they may be onto something. Unfortunately though, nobody apart from the bassist is remotely capable of truly bringing these songs to life.

Don’t get me wrong, they can all play, and earlier comments aside, Hanna’s still better than many of her girly Stable peers. It’s just that they’re all mind-numbingly drab and average and he isn’t. Sure, it has a glossy tint to it all, and they can get the job done, but that’s the point. XYeZ are nothing more than an adequate bunch of musicians. As a band they come across as a faceless vehicle for this extraordinary bassist, and although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, surrounding himself with musical mediocrity when he could be in so much less creatively limited company…well, that’s a bit different. It’s something akin to a racing driver behind the wheel of a clapped-out Rover, or the Prom Queen who surrounds herself with dowdy sorts because she’s scared of not being the centre of attention.

But hey, I know nothing, remember. Ignorance is bliss and all that.

Mind you, there’s always an excuse for knowing nothing. I’ve made mine, Hanna probably has hers, but Ghosts In Mirrors frontwoman France (yes, that’s her name. I’m thinking of changing mine to “England” just so I can have the word on my passport) has certainly got the best one in that anything is forgiven if you are foreign and cute. Look at The Cheeky Girls. France is cute in the way puppies and kittens are cute when they aren’t shitting on your floor, and what’s more she knows it. She’s acutely aware of the effect she has on teenage hormones (after all, young T** A***** wants to have babies with her despite being gay as a maypole) so what on earth is she wearing? I’m hardly one to preach on dress sense but that gaudy red black & white frock looks like curtains that were considered tastelessly vulgar in the seventies. In Poland. And it makes her arse look big. Mind you, I still would, and so would you. It’s just a pity she can’t sing really, although the rumour going round is that they asked around for a frontwoman who was ‘horny and mental’ but she misheard and thought they said ‘ornamental’ and nobody’s had the heart to tell her otherwise. It must be that saucy accent she’s got, as he could tell you she’s just shat in your bed and you’d still go all gooey, hoping she’ll say it again.

Nevertheless, it’s damn convincing and expressive alt-prog for the first five or ten minutes. France may move like a chanteuse and sound like Amy Lee singing in the toilet while drunk, but musically its haunting, lyrical and imaginatively atmospheric stuff, full of elaborately intertwined vocal and guitar hooks that are both gripping and elegant when the lass is in tune. Traces of Nightwish and Within Temptation bubble up from under the surface as they become steadily heavier, but GIM retain a certain steady brooding groove of their own throughout making such references meaningless. However it gets a little tiresome as they only seem to have one trick up their sleeves, albeit quite a good one that wouldn’t be repeated so often if it didn’t work for them.

Their slightly gothic elements aren’t overplayed either, but aside from some fine ideas there’s little of the savage finesse needed to take them beyond the realms of drabness and after a while her voice will really start to grate on you, trust me. Even semi-narrating a passage PJ Harvey style through a megaphone only serves to emphasise her flatness and sloppy vocal technique, but she disguises it well enough simply by being French and saucy.

Still, for those of you that miss Imperium but wished that they were a bit mellower, Ghosts In Mirrors might just be what you need to scratch the itch.

From the murkier corners of the progsphere though, come the winners of ‘Best Three Piece’ at the 2007 Glasswerks Music Awards, East London’s The Crucible. It may feel like they want to revive the early days of Sub Pop, but this brash, loud, energetic trio are harder than a paedo’s penis in a playground. Although Guitarist/Vocalist Dan Isaac has a gauche and limited vocal style, their material veers between the austere rugged darkness of Alice In Chains and QOTSA’s tongue-in-arsecheek swagger, giving a Muse-ical polish to their proggy timings and thunderous drums, even hinting at dizzying low-end power rock a-la Black Mountain. All rather exciting really, as they unleash their thrashing rhythmic rippling menace on us, building it all up from subtle tones to bombastic extravagance in a few sweaty beats and turning new single “Beyond Driven” (out now on Sub Mariner. Buy it, it’s ace) into a gigantic hulk of a tune that does to the ears what a Chicken Phal does to the bowels.

. Their set is criminally short though, cut by time restraints but that doesn’t seem to hinder them tonight. They haven’t got time to be pissed off at the turnout and it ain’t there show either, so they simply get on with it uncommunicatively, trying to ignore the twitching bodies that pass for an audience and allow themselves an opportunity to get off on their angry flair, even if nobody else does.

Maybe it’s the late start that’s made things so difficult for Sydney’s Ghostwood, as it’s 11pm before they’ve even tuned up and most people have left to catch the last train. Or perhaps it’s because their faces indicate that they are about as comfortable as a hang-glider with diarrhoea. Hardly a good recipe for getting a small but workable audience on their side, but you see, they have a secret. They have frontman/guitarist Gabriel Navidzadeh, and he’s got the special ability to make all your cares disappear, along with your girlfriend’s underwear, so they can get away with doing pretty much as they please. A devastatingly handsome little furry fella, it’s as if Johnny Borrell and Russell Brand were grafted together with no thought about what bits would go where, but one glance from those tired dark-rimmed eyes as he shuffles nonchalantly to centre stage, and you’ll understand why every remaining female mouth in the room is drooling and concluding that walking home really isn’t so bad after all.

Ghostwood lurk in doomy wet darkness and atmospheric anxious melancholia, as if bits and pieces of JAMC, The Cure, Ride and My Bloody Valentine had been hammered together by punchdrunk yobs, which is something only Aussies seem to be able to pull off successfully. OK, so they look about as happy as a baby’s funeral, but when you have a voice and presence like Gabriel’s, such things cease to matter and your only bugbear will be that the set’s not long enough. It’s a gurgling, anguished bellow that sighs, hoots, growls and lurks angrily below the surface of that fizzy, echoing, swirly guitar sound; as hypnotic as it is commanding, like Jaz Coleman might have sounded if he ever decided to write about teenage jailbait and getting drunk on alcopops instead.

Sure, it’s twangy, slightly depressing shoegazing music for surly people whose parents don’t understand them. But if the Aussies are going to produce more beautiful poetic rock stars for the ladies to get all moist over and for the teenage boys to hail as new messiahs of misery, then Ghostwood seem to be pretty much their best hope. All we need is for them to remember that the UK shuts down at 11pm rather than starts, and they’re onto a winner.

Paul Mills

Chain Street & 4th, Greg & Chas, Leon & Phil, The Flavenoids

No, I don’t know why these Unlabel spin-off shows are called “Dog Ego Company”, just in case you’re wondering. And you quite might be, because I know I’m not the only patron curious as to whether it is supposed to mean anything. However, I can reveal why these individually numbered Dog Ego Co nights appear to be going backwards. This is what, number 29 or something like that? 28’s next week and this is allegedly because UnBob has decided to treat them like his birthdays in that after 30 they’ll go in reverse. Sound thinking I reckon, although Bob does risk growing into the only teenager in Tunbridge Wells drawing a pension, but there you go. Age affects us in different ways, and even if it doesn’t make us fret about our physical decline, if nothing else, increasing age causes us to view the world with a more jaundiced eye. Call it bitterness if you wish; I won’t argue.

As I sat in the car listening to the news this evening (as is my want), I found myself watching (with considerable curiosity) the local wildlife which thrives around the back of The Forum, going through their rather charming mating rituals. Well, we all feel that way inclined when springtime is upon us, and it’s strangely sweet to see these delightful examples of regional fauna so well-practiced in the fine arts of courtship. If I were a wildlife spotter, I may have paid more attention to the finer details of the rituals and therefore may have been able to eventually identify the precise sub species of these peculiar rodents, but since I’m not, I can only provide a generic description in that they were a modestly sized pack, scuttling southwards towards the courtship grounds near the roundabout.

At a distance, as any observer will agree, the sexes are difficult to determine, due to the nylon branded sportswear coats adopted by both, plus a shared habit of blowing smoke from thin white sticks, which may have once been an exclusively male privilege but in recent generations has evolved into a practice commonly adopted by both genders. As they passed closer by, I could determine what I could only assume were three males (identifiable by shorter hair, an aggressive stance and a red and white canister carried in the hand and swigged from intermittently) and 2 females (identifiable by slightly longer hair, a disproportionately oversized rear end, a glass bottle in the hand and the more obvious fact that their mating cries are higher-pitched and louder than those of the males).

The male seemingly has to demonstrate his excellent genes by impressing the female with his physical superiority, but risk minimal harm to himself, so a great deal of posturing, spitting and loud grunting towards other species is required to attain the female’s interest, with the other two males ready to show support in the event of real danger by joining the alpha male in a pack attack. A loud shriek from the larger female seems to be the signal to proceed to the next courtship level which involves impressing her with his athleticism, and this seems to be best demonstrated by hurling the metal canister (still full of liquid) with great force at a parked car, with the intent of shattering the glass. A failure, oddly, is met with the enthusiasm of a success, and joint cackling screams of “Naaaaaaaaagghh!! Gaz yorra faaakin men’al kaaant!” from the females and appreciative laughter seem to show that trying is the main thing, although a great deal of importance seems to revolve about the idea of treating the car like a vanquished enemy, so it is often attacked afterwards to inflict further damage and perhaps remove part of it as a trophy of the hunt. This particular missile did not cause much damage however, and pausing only to kick the driver’s door, the pack soon disappeared from view towards the bright lights that beckoned them.

As I watched these creatures on their way to play, the latest details in the trial for Sophie Lancaster’s brutal murder were being broadcast. For those of you that don’t follow current affairs beyond which bands have broken up today, this was the case of a young girl beaten to death by such feral youths for “being a goth”. It’s arguable that being a goth had nothing to do with it, as these lowlife bits of barely-human chav detritus were vicious violent vermin that would have started on anyone seemingly weaker than them and unfortunate enough to have been in their vicinity at the time, regardless of how they dressed. For once though, the tabloids have got closer to the truth than they usually do, because as sickening as it sounds, such attacks by Neanderthal pikeys on “grungas n gofs” happen virtually every weekend in this town. Whose turn it is tonight to receive a kicking is impossible to say, but it’s a fairly safe bet that it won’t be another cowardly shell-suited thug ending up in casualty, unless it’s to have their stomach pumped. And you can tell that someone or something is going to receive the wrath of the underclass tonight, because the Fair is in town and it’s attracting scurrying rat boys like some drum ‘n’ bass version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, so as sure as night follows day, some kind pack of humanitarian peasants, perhaps even those I observed earlier, will stagger from it soon, vomiting Stella Artois and candyfloss as they search for someone to batter or a parked car to destroy on the way back to their holes.

If you’re a young person, you’ll be worried about yourself or your friends, and quite rightly so. But if you’re older, with children of your own, you can’t help but worry about their safety when you know the sort of scum that are out there looking for someone to bully or rob from. These same scum share the same schools and the same streets, so a teenage daughter seemingly impressed by these monkeys in tracksuits is a parent’s nightmare, and it’s for this reason that I’m not going to slag off The Flavenoids and refer to them as a ridiculous and agonisingly awful bunch of clueless schoolgirl bints, whereas in the past I wouldn’t even have hesitated to do so. It’s age again, you see. You start to realise that there are far, far worse things for kids to do with their time than being in a diabolically bad band, and on the whole, no matter how ghastly they were, if it were my own daughter up there I’d be proud and pleased as punch about it when I consider potential alternatives to her and her mates making a brain-aching racket in the garage and pissing off the neighbours.

Can somebody give me some water, my voice is about to go…” croaks lead lady Jessamy as she steps nervously up to the mic, her face rigid with anxiety. It doesn’t bode well. Like everyone playing in support tonight, The Flavenoids haven’t had a chance to rehearse or even prepare because they’ve stepped in at the last minute after cancellations, so a lot can be forgiven. To agree to do this when they clearly aren’t ready is exceptionally brave of them, but sadly shows them in their worst possible light, which is 4 teenage girls (well, they qualify as such), 3 chords (E, A and G), 2 speeds (all over the place and stop), and 1 idea (lets form a band and try not to be too terrible).

From a strictly critical viewpoint, they could be regarded as portrayers of ghastly, excruciating, plodding schoolchild jamming that helps cement the stereotype of girl bands being fucking rubbish, as they’re devoid of cohesion and unable to listen to each other until the set’s nearly finished. Stylistically it vaguely evokes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs being jammed by apes wearing mittens, and I doubt you’d find any disagreement even from them. The Flavenoids know that they’re shit and make no apologies for it. They don’t have the ability to bring out a fraction of their ideas at this stage, and as such they come across a bit like a parody of themselves as they try in vain to hold the bare bones together, playing alongside but never with each other as their timeslot ticks away.

Blond vixen Jessamy might have an indistinct voice (or a bloody awful one, depending on your personal tolerance levels) but even with a sore throat she uses it confidently, avoiding any temptation to go beyond her limited range and power levels, because it’s enough of a struggle with the basics as it is and there’d be no sense in embarrassing herself. Simple trashy rock ‘n’ roll is the name of the game with The Flavenoids, and perhaps it’s their gritty determination to come through unscathed that somehow makes them slightly endearing, even a little cute as they rasp away at what could well be a cover if it was vaguely recognisable.

But let’s not forget that experiencing this kind of embarrassing episode in those formative years before they can drink and buy fags legally, is part of an essential learning process and has to be endured. It’s cruel to slate ‘em simply for being inexperienced as everyone has to start somewhere and stepping in to do this at the eleventh hour shows guts and moral fibre, but it’s nothing more than courageous heartfelt fun at this stage, untempered by practice, patience and time, which are the factors that will determine the The Flavenoids future, if they have one. Until then its valuable experience, so watch them closely and they may even end up tolerable.

Blimey, I reckon I’m getting soft in my dotage.

Another problem with being old though is that whether you want to or not, you eventually mellow your musical tastes as everyday life limits your listening time to things you know you like. Sure, lots of other new exciting stuff drifts across constantly and there are fewer keener pleasures than discovering something that revolutionises your own tastes, but if you want any sort of life at all, you have to accept that there are things that you simply aren’t going to ‘get’, no matter how eclectic you’d like your musical tastes to appear. I know for a fact that I’ll never properly understand or appreciate hip hop, electronic dance, or most jazz, so in the knowledge that I only have limited time in the average day for selfish pleasures, I’ve given up trying. Hey, I’m middle-aged, shoot me. The point is, I also don’t get a lot of what Unlabel finds appealing. Sure, some of it is fantastic, but I really can’t appreciate instrumental noise which sounds like endless droning feedback punctuated by vague guitar strums and randomly plucked strings at an earsplittingly high volume, while someone screams unintelligible nonsense now and again. In a post rock universe (or ATP), it’d be atmospheric lo-fi noise art, but in my day they’d call it tuning up while the soundman’s absent. Ignorant idiotic philistine that I am, I have as much chance of enjoying or even adequately describing Headquarters’ Leon and his buddy Phil’s experimental random headfucking as your granny, so I won’t even try as I take no pleasure in having my eardrums ruptured by something this fundamentally ugly and pointless. Maybe there is a point, I dunno, but it’s lost on me whatever it is, which thinking about it is probably a positive endorsement. OK, to be fair, they aren’t a band, a project or anything tangible really, just two geezers filling in by improvising a doomy din for a while which is great in spirit and appreciated by many. Just not me. Sorry.

Slightly less arduous on the senses are ex 9-Volt quad-stringer (and winner of the 2008 ‘Bloody Nice Bloke’ award) Greg Cheney and his acoustic associate Chas, who haven’t got a name for their enterprise yet but are open to suggestions, so please feel free to post yours at the bottom of this page and if they use it, I’ll give you a prize. They haven’t had a chance to prepare either, but at least there’s a vague resemblance to a workable unit going on, no matter how sloppy it might be. Well, I say that it’s a unit, but it seems to be pretty much whatever Chas wants to do, and what Chas wants to do is make emasculated folk pop pitched somewhere between Damien Rice and Jack Johnson that would probably give James Blunt a momentary stirring in the trouser department, while Big Greg sits there smiling, acoustic bass on his knee, not intruding on Chas’s limelight as he chirpily plucks out a lazy backbeat, trying not to look like a giant backing up an elf.

They almost have it from the offing, as an opening cover of Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Stay Tonight” snaps together pretty damn snugly to the point of suddenly receiving enthusiastic cheers. Beginning with a cover is a risky move and they both know it, but the warmth in the crowd’s reaction seems to have taken young Chas by surprise, leaving the duo unsure of where to go next. While the audience are perhaps expecting more singalong pop as a lightweight interlude after the previous noise terrorism, perhaps they weren’t expecting something quite as lightweight as what they were served with, but it doesn’t dampen anyone’s spirit, least of all Chas’s.

He’s got a slick David Gray-ish voice too; a little lacking in power perhaps, but nice enough to listen to for a while if you like that sort of thing, which he does if the next few tunes are anything to go by. He even starts to get a bit Newton Faulkner on us, experimenting with guitar-body percussion while crooning twee nonsense like “oh come to me, dreamy melody…”, but it’s a fine tune regardless, and they at least have the luxury of being the closest to ‘cuddle music’ that the evening’s going to get, and the couples seem to take advantage accordingly.

Greg & Chas make a pleasant, if not entirely thrilling attempt at contemporary acoustic cool, and with luck could find themselves entertaining punters in wine bars before too long, because that seems to be the most fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of popularity when you have tender songs of heartbreak and holding hands to deliver. “We’re gonna do a Bob Marley type thing…” warns Chas, and a fairly simple calypso ensues as they explore Caribbean clichés in the way that Johnson’s “Banana Pancakes” does, before leading the couples into a “one love” chorus. They adore that sort of bland bilge in such places, and should keep it for them because doing it somewhere like a pub in Brixton would probably get them shot.

Age, or maturity if you like, has caught up with Chris Hoad too. The demise of 9 Volt a year ago may have been a sad occasion for those of us that followed the Crowborough mosh-merchants with fanatical zeal, but the absolute necessity of it becomes blindingly obvious now that this solo project has reached fruition. Unrestricted by petty internal politics or the rigid confines of accessible metal, the driving force behind 9 Volt is back, and this time it’s personal. Chain Street & 4th are the embodiment of Choad’s own private fantasies and fears, his inner demons, frustrations and torments come to life. Sure, the Choadlet’s onstage persona is still geared around smutty innuendo as some things never change, but style-wise it’s as far removed from the traditionally raucous metal of 9 Volt as a standard porn flick is from 2 Girls & 1 Cup; musically this project is darker, deeper and scarier than a cave full of vampire bats.

From the opening guitar blast of “The Sentence” to the twisted acid-gargling fury of “Litigation Machines” it’s clear that Chain Street’s modus operandi is to create challenging gritty post-grunge that’s tight, explorative and terrifying, like a grimier, slimier Bring Me The Horizon, fused with the epic anger of Tool, leaving you to marvel at the unhinged toothgrinding moodiness of it all. Tangled blistered guitar squeals, spurting progressive rhythms and intense mathy cool abounds, full of light and shade, loud bits, quiet bits and bits that are just plain weird. It ain’t pretty but it’s immensely heavy and satisfying as they riff out in a flurry of sweaty feedback and distorted, epic, constantly mutating, grinding grunge. And of course, if we want to extend the Chain Street experience we’re all encouraged to buy their new debut album “Devices” (out now on Unlabel) for a mere £8, which as Choad helpfully reminds is around the same price as a prostitute from Glasgow, although slightly more costly and certainly a better investment towards a good time than one from Slough.

Although a clean break from 9 Volt personnel would initially seem to be the obvious choice for such a personal endeavour, having fellow ex- 9 Volter Jamie Straker sharing guitar duties certainly seems to be a wise choice, if only for reasons of comfort as they understand each other’s ideas better than anyone else could, but there’s no doubt at all who’s leading the way. Choad moves like a flailing scrawny bag of hair and bones, thrashing and waving that guitar about like a b-move axe-murderer on prom night, but more remarkably – considering his recent sinus surgery – he’s seldom been on better vocal form; that roaring, phlegm-rattling, tarry-lunged growl is so loud and powerful, it’s a wonder it needs amplification at all.

Chain Street & 4th aren’t easy listening, it has to be said. If 9 Volt was your limit for angry energy, and the Slinty mathiness that’s so popular ‘round these ‘ere parts doesn’t altogether melt your Magnum, or you’re simply plain old, then frankly, you might be better off with your memories. No hard feelings. For everyone else, who might enjoy the feeling of having their brains sucked out of their lug‘oles, they’ll have you grinning like a stoned hyena. And you’ll still get lots of cock jokes too.

Paul Mills

Deeply Purple

Friday 30th May 2008

As peculiar as it might seem, believe it or not there are only a handful of Deep Purple tribute bands out there. Yeah, I know, you’d think there’d be dozens but you can look it up if you like. Unlike Sabbath, Zeppelin and the rest of the seventies monsters that have inspired facsimiles everywhere, only Deeply Purple and Deepest Purple are serious contenders for the role of the UK’s premier Purple tribute act, and though there may be one or two others floating about entertaining old men in rural pubs, being little more than dire Purple covers bands rather than tributes, none are really worth a damn, so the title means very little when you consider the competition.

And speaking of market competition, it seems that The Counterfeit Stones are playing at The Assembly Hall tonight, which may explain the lack of ticket sales. Well, that’s what ‘Ian Gillan’ is trying to convince himself of as he stands outside pre-gig, disgruntled and bewildered. Maybe they’re used to having hundreds of headbanging granddads at other venues, but it just ain’t gonna happen here, and even 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, we’re still low on bodies because it’s hard enough getting the youngsters along to a gig on a Friday night, let alone the parents. And can you imagine the scene at home when young Toby or Penelope finds out that Dad’s planning on going to the Forum of all places, will probably play air guitar and start headbanging even though he’s bald, pot bellied and wears glasses. “No way am I going there again just in case anyone finds out he’s something to do with me…”

They needn’t worry for nothing. There are a number of fortysomething old ‘uns here, and it’s actually a novelty for me not to be the oldest person in the room for once. They’re supping their pints, gawping at the décor, wondering where on earth some of these bands on the posters get their names from and whether a comfy chair in a nice country pub might have been a better way to spend an evening. They won’t be dancing, headbanging or plugging in their invisible Stratocasters and as for shaking their barnets while grimacing as if the activity demanded intense concentration, well, thankfully they can sit for a couple of hours glued to an uncomfortable rickety chair, cheering mutedly and clapping on occasions as the band do their level best to recreate the sweaty excitement of a packed Japanese arena so that old ‘uns can pretend to enjoy it. Aye, it’s a Dad’s life.

Luckily though, Deeply Purple, like the rather fabulous Led Zep Too, at least do their best to play their parts and dress accordingly, from the genuine Deep Purple intro tape to going someway towards actually looking like their heroes, such as with bassist ‘Roger Glover’s wig and hat (which make him look like some Cavalier left over from the English Civil War), to Ritchie’s own flowing locks and look of boredom, to a very convincing ‘Jon Lord’. ‘Ian Gillan’ of course, looks the part naturally, although it’s debateable as to whether that’s fortunate. Yes, they have got real names of course, but do you really care what they are? You wouldn’t go to see an Elvis impersonator who kept reminding you that his name was Dave, so let’s keep the Deeply Purple boys in character for now.

Despite being very much a Mark 2 set-up, Deeply Purple spend an inordinate amount of time delving into the mark 3 material, particularly from the “Burn” album, when the band featured Glen Hughes on bass and David Coverdale on vocals, and that they choose to open with “Burn” itself seems a tad odd. It’s done Mark 2 style of course, with Gillan’s cock-wobbling clumsiness and roaring effervescent vocals down to a tee, and the interplay between their laconic ‘Ritchie Blackmore’ and the swirling keys of ‘Jon Lord’ becomes increasingly wild as the crowd level reaches 30 or so, roaring their approval (still sitting down though) to indicate that all’s well. So far so peachy.

Woman From Tokyo” suffers a little though. Despite sounding more authentic than its predecessor (it is after all a Mark 2 tune) Blackmore’s guitar sound is somewhat weedy and if truth be told, he sounds very ordinary and no different from a pub-rock copyist in a good covers band. Though he plays with the offhand casual narcissism that the man himself does, he’s actually only competent to do the job rather than ideal, but luckily the rhythm section is steady and powerful, leaving ‘Jon Lord’ an awful lot of scope for filling in Blackmore’s inadequacies.

They don’t really start to slip into their comfort zone until “Perfect Strangers”, but this greased nostalgia isn’t really up to a great deal. As tributes go, Deeply Purple are competent and respectably authentic, it has to be said, but they’re not quite there. Close your eyes, that’s the key. You’d be amazed at how infrequently people actually do that y’know. If you think a tribute band are any good, it’s easy to overlook things on account of the visual impact, but close your eyes and actually listen and you’ll get a far greater understanding of whether the band actually ‘connect’ in the right way. Deeply Purple, unfortunately, do not. They merely play well together and have brief flashes of inspired brilliance, but because they lean so heavily towards the Coverdale/Hughes era tonight, what with “Stormbringer”, an epic “Mistreated” and the swirling purple whirlwind of fleshy organ and guitar interplay that is “You Fool No One”, it simply doesn’t sound ‘right’ and cheapens the tunes a little, not getting comfortably confident until a massively self-indulgent “Lazy”, but by then Gillan is showing tell-tale signs of pressure. He lacks the necessary power and range to do little more than modestly mimic his hero’s style and phrasing, which is particularly apparent when he accidentally goes off-key, but it’s saved from disaster by a swirling purple whirlwind of fleshy organ/guitar interplay and galloping throbbing rhythms, and for once, Ritchie handles the slowburning blues with more style and finesse than he’s shown so far.

Typically though the ‘Ian Paice’ drum solo is an over-extravagant load of old wank, and yes, I did manage to sneak off for a ciggie and a piss and was back at the bar before before he’d finished, but “Strange Kind Of Woman” brings us back into Mark 2 territory quite comfortably, giving the faithful a chance to join in a little. “Lets get some hands in the air!” yells Gillan, and there are few sights more depressing and horrifying than a handful of grey balding men in smart trousers sitting down as they clap vaguely in time to the rhythm, half-raise an arm in the air before letting it fall, mumbling to the ‘call and response’ rigmarole, while the band try to recreate the experience of getting an arena to ebb and flow with the power of the music. It’s like watching classic rock go through its death throes, and “Fireball” (which Gillan helpful reminds us was used in “Life On Mars” a while ago) fares little better.

That being said, DP are certainly more comfortable trying to emulate the chaotic pompous beauty of the Mark 2 line up, but here’s the thing: they do it pretty much perfectly from a technical perspective and probably perform the tunes better than the current Deep Purple lineup could manage (Steve Morse? Pah!), but it’s really just covers done well rather than a magical homage as one would get with Led Zep Too, Limehouse Lizzy or tonight’s ‘rivals’ for punters The Counterfeit Stones. Don’t get me wrong, they do it well, it’s just not great, and nowhere is this more apparent than on “Child In Time”. Though the tune is, as we all know, a shifting monster of epic solos and OTT extravagance, Gillan’s vocals, particularly on the high “woo-ooo-oooh” notes, are ineffectual and lacking in any real depth or power as he struggles to reach them. There’s little emotion as he swoops and soars, just rather asinine and crude attempts at trying not to fuck it up, but he redeems himself by virtue of enthusiastic audience interplay during “Space Truckin’” and the sight of a bespectacled shiny head bobbing up and down yelling “C’mon! C’mon! C’mon! Let’s go space truckin’!” is one that’ll stick with me in my darker moments for a long time to come. . Mainly because I know that I’ll probably be doing the same myself in a few years. Jon Lord gives it all the full organworks though and they lose it a tad as he improvises naughty little interjections from Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin”, even the theme to “Blackadder” of all things, but luckily the rest of the band don’t stand for such nonsense for very long and the jam continues in a more orthodox direction as we move back into the usual frothing cocktail of extended solos and grimacing poses that seem to last for about a fortnight. Even the old ‘uns are bloody glad when they’ve finished.

Of course, they daren’t leave out “Smoke On The Water” but Gillan’s voice is wobbling like jelly on springs, and although getting everyone to sing the words is a bit optimistic, a much-appreciated “Highway Star” in it’s full-length extended glory, and a frantic “Black Night”, finish things off contentedly enough.

Deeply Purple’s playfulness and true fondness for Purple’s music are wonderful in their own way, as when they’re jumping all over each other as they tip over the organ and Ritchie pretends to torture his white Strat against the Marshall stack, it almost makes you want to throw caution to the wind and jump around up there with them. As a cheery bit of not-quite-there nostalgia, they tick most of the relevant boxes too, but a true tribute and one with the necessary class to hold the banner of Britain’s best Purple tribute? ‘Fraid not. But for want of anything better (and I include that current masquerade of the real thing within that statement), they’re respectable enough. For now.

Paul Mills

The Forum’s crowd is usually a mixed bunch, but not normally so much in mood. However, the arrival of the winners of the indie equivalent of X factor is always likely to split a few opinions. Some were down as true fans, others for curiosity. And some had has a really bad day and fancied doing a literary Joe Calzaghe on an expected parody of a rock and roll outfit.

Yet it’s hard to maintain a fighting demeanour when Tom Williams and the Boat are the support act. Apart from the sound soft folk-tinged rock taking the venom from this writer’s sting, they’re simply too good a local talent to ignore through pointless vendettas. This Briticised Neil Young-ish outfit pulse with energy and roll off a solid set list. Williams’ occasional brash vocals and lapses in tune are more than made up for by the solid work done by ‘backing band’ The Boat, who deliver originality like most post men deliver Christmas cards in December. A well deserved bout of rapturous applause at the end of the set is thus more than justified for one of The Forum’s brightest lights.

So on to the main event who appear on stage dressed like in a 1930s pit worker’s Sunday best. And whether nerves or a slightly depleted crowd, Envy and Other Sins sadly begin by delivering exactly what is expected – radio friendly, Queen-ish, half arsedness! Though the band rock on regardless songs like ‘It Gets Harder To Be A Marytr’ deliver as much excitement as drying paint and hold less credibility than The Hoosiers.

Then the switch happens, and in the changing of a song Envy and Other Sins clearly transform. Gone is the forced album sales and 3-minute singles and in place is the organic band that pre-existed Alex Zane and his T4 minions. The vaguely ambient pop of ‘Talk to strangers’ prove this band are a talented Alice in Wonderland of pop, where nothing is quite as straight forward as it initially seems yet is glorious all the same. New material proves the band is growing and only ever getting better in this capacity, and by the time they deliver the keyboard thumping ‘Highness’ as the final number of the night, its clear Envy and Other Sins are winners irrespective of the competition they took part in.

There is normally no worse a taste than your own humility. Well, maybe that chow mein that had you bowing to the toilet like a porcelain god. But humility comes a close second. I had hoped to indulge every single bone of my cynical being in engaging with this band. Yet such narrow-mindedness is simply counter productive in the case of Envy and Other Sins. Yes they have their problems – a lack of a substantial grass-roots fan base being first and foremost of those. Yet given the chance this is a band that will impress. And perhaps it’s their dubious origins make them more eager to do so.

Jon Bye

Well this is fucking inspiring innit, eh? It’s not as if we’re talking unknowns here as both bands in our “Fuck Off Big Bollocks Double Headliner” are having their turn on the media machine at the moment, the pinnacle of which might just have been reached as they celebrate winning the viewers vote on that triple-nippled skank Lily Allen’s er, ‘chat show’, which if the media is to be believed has been trounced in the ratings by the Albanian shopping channel. Perhaps that’s why nobody seems to know that this gig is happening because I’m reliably informed as we open (oh alright then, Baggers told me), that we’ve sold just 13 tickets for tonight. Yes, I know that The Lionheart Brothers were only added to the bill a week or so ago, but even in NME-land and those other peculiarly-odoured places where we are told what we ought to like, Look See Proof are making a big enough noise to justify a pretty decent turnout on their own. What with being Lemaq’s pet lambs , touring with The Fratellis, having their singles praised by all the quality press and being the first band to plug in and play at last year’s Glastonbury Festival, they’ve had all the hype they can handle. In addition they’ve got an insanely dedicated handful of fans following them around the country from gig to gig, which isn’t as common a situation as it used to be, and normally a sign that a band’s on the way up. As it happens though, if it wasn’t for that particular posse, tonight’s audience levels probably wouldn’t have reached double figures.

So, as the people here tonight are mainly here for Look See Proof, it seems that The Lionheart Brothers are rather less popular than a hog-roast at Ramadan, which sounds a bit odd considering that they’re the latest bunch to have been championed by everyone from MTV to XFM, they’ve sent Wossy all spoony, they’re pulling ‘em in all over the place and are practically enforced listening if you get your record recommendations from The Guardian, so you would think that in a nice middle-class Radio-2 loving town like Tunbridge Wells there might be some casual interest for want of anything better to do in on a Friday night. Even the fop Randall bought their album and rumour has it that he hasn’t opened his wallet to buy music since 1986.

Promotion then, or the lack thereof, will probably be blamed. Truth is, I haven’t a sodding clue of the extent that this gig has or hasn’t been promoted, so let’s assume that it has had sufficient exposure given the speedy circumstances, which leaves us with one other possibility: people simply can’t be arsed. Sure, nobody’s obliged to come, and we should all feel free to support our venue as often or as infrequently as we wish, to see whomever we choose to entertain us. We, the public, can do whatever we want with our time and money, so if we choose to stay in with a beer and a video game then we aren’t going to apologise for not dragging ourselves off the sofa and seeing some band simply because they’re there. But that doesn’t make it any less sad when you know that the venue is losing money and the visiting artists have got the impression that playing here is a waste of time because nobody’s interested. So, although it would be inappropriate and unfair of me to turn this into yet another load of “use it or lose it” bollocks, I can’t really help feeling a bit peeved because a turnout like this is, well, embarrassing. Fuck knows where the club regulars are, as even their idle presence would make it less of a disheartening experience for everyone. But, like, whatever.

When you have this few bodies in a cold room, even when more dribble in to make it 20 or so, everyone sits or stands passively, waiting for a band to impress them but denying them the opportunity because nobody wants to be the lone nutter that everyone stares at. There’s “the line” for a start, and crossing the line simply isn’t the done thing. You’ve seen the line of course, and almost certainly you’ve helped to form it: that invisible area at the front of the stage occupied by empty air and floor space which no human being dares enter without the accompaniment of at least a few dozen of their peers, even when encouraged to come forward by the bands who find the line as pointless and irritating as the rest of us. And this is the doozy: the line only exists when there is almost nobody to mark it out, therefore less people to be embarrassed in front of. Even when a band successfully manage to bring people forward, the line seems to magically re-establish itself shortly afterwards, because for some reason, a couple of dozen people would rather space themselves out as far away from the band as they can, than enjoy themselves collectively at the front, so although nobody wants the line to happen, we can’t stop ourselves from standing there and forming it. Behind the safety of the line, a few girls might do a strange huddled-together dance if drunk enough, and a few boys may sway with lagered looseness before self-consciousness kicks in, but this seldom lasts for more than a song so tonight’s headline bands quite understandably wish to get it all over with as quickly as possible, politely suggesting participation but not labouring the point to the brink of humiliation. This ain’t intimacy, it’s a failure, so tomorrow they can forget this empty smelly place where they’re nobodies, to enjoy a bit of human warmth in Cardiff or Northampton or some other such godawful place on the tour schedule, where they can feel as if they matter and women might be willing to take their clothes off.

Not HOUR HANDS though. While still a work in progress, Brighton‘s most intriguing new band are happy to be anywhere that indulges them whether busy or not, and what a bunch of moptopped beauties they are. Every now and again you see, you can find a band who do things that you wouldn’t even consider, and Hour Hands are as delightfully surprising as unexpectedly coming across Modest Mouse and The Thrills jamming Flaming Lips tunes in a basement cafe in the north lanes, or to use a more local analogy, they’re like Spilt Milk but twenty times better; a gaily coloured jamboree bag of screwy geek-pop that doesn’t just want you to love it, it practically begs you to thrust your hands into it’s open ribcage and play with the squishy bits.

What we have here, with the enthusiasm of children who know the rules but have more fun making their own up, are 4 distinct misfits grafted together to create an unruly, undisciplined, bizarrely behaved teenage mutant. And although I’m probably alone in feeling this, they look and behave like a random selection of comedy characters: guitarist and frontman Liam with his woolly hat, retro styling and floppy fringe is Mike Nesmith from The Monkees, bassist Sam is Neil from The Young Ones (and damn he’s one ugly dude. I thought he’d been attacked by bees or something before I realised it was actually the shape of his face) stixman Gabriel is Chris from Family Guy and guitarist Fifi is, well, probably Phoebe from Friends for want of a better alternative. The point is, Hour Hands inspire the sort of thoughts that people spend a lot of money on drugs to achieve. They do strange things to your head even if you’re sober and straight, ’cause with their skewed perspective on rock ‘n’ roll art, you can’t watch them without your mind consequently leaping in all sorts of entertaining directions as different things become possible. When they write a song, they ignore all that nonsense about structure to make bendy, indescribably invigorating garage pop that flicks playfully between psychedelic lullabies and fingers-in-the-eyeballs indie savagery, and by gum it makes you feel good to be alive and grinning at it. It’s unsettling, bold stuff, yet done so flippantly, almost disposably, as if they have some unique viewpoint of what music can be and it’s given them limitless scope for mischief.

The fact is, Hour Hands are interesting and wouldn’t know how to spell ‘cliché’ let alone use one. Their ideas are leftfield, fresh and creamy, fitting the rudimentary pigeonhole of experimental indie-pop but only just, like a naughties interpretation of the sounds and attitudes that we left behind in the C86 era. Sure, they can behave too, and fit seamlessly into your indie disco playlist with such examples of twisted mentholated cool as “Wooden Screw”, but Hour Hands seem to have a sense of freedom and detachment from the norm which allows them to take their jangletastic clatter and sneering harmonies, put ’em together any old how and just go with it, because they’re distinctive and different and all the more enthralling as a result.

Sure, they’re out of tune frequently. Out of time, occasionally, and the harmonies are off too. This is after all, very embryonic teenage stuff. But it’s not a bunch of vile youths getting gobby, because regardless of the lack of gloss they make damn good think-pop; it’s inspiring, honest, rivetting, puts a sparkly slant on lo-fi post-whatever and it’s cool as fuck, so there. They’ve got something special in their care and haven’t quite worked out how it functions yet, only that it’s there and needs feeding. Lets hope it stays healthy and grows fast because Hour Hands might just have struck along at the right time.

Dontcha just love “technical difficulties”? Kinda makes you glad there’s hardly anyone here because THE GUNPOWDER PLOT are probably feeling a bit sheepish standing with their guitars-in-hand for 10 minutes. All down to a wonky battery apparently, but we politely leave them to it, as the sparse crowd knows that they’re embarrassed enough. It’s worth the wait though because in the last two months, TGP have come on astonishingly well. Tight, clean, semi-acoustic pop rock with oodles of sunshine swagger, the Bexhill 5 piece take all kinds of influences creating a who’s who of summer pop, and guess what? They aren’t much like an acoustically enhanced McFly any more. Just a teensy-weensy little bit, but not so you’d notice unless it was pointed out. They’re just, well, better. With Jonny Fitzpatrick in fine voice for once, they’re considerably more confident and bold than even a few months ago, and are making orgasmic, virally-catchy folk pop like Jack Penate without the ego, looks or shoes. Like The Waterboys and Levellers beating each other with glowsticks. Sod it, it’s still girl’s music no matter how you dress it up but it’s uplifting, cruising, wave-surfing, tyre-squeeling, toe-tapping, open-topped, breast-enhancing, cock-hardening, low-cholestrol, fat-reduced, buy-one-get-one-free, organic girls music with knobs on and if they choose to get kitsch as hell with the jazzy stomp of “Why Do You Do Those Things You Do” like bringing out a fucking big cabaret cheesecake, then they’re all the bloody better for it. Anyway, ain’t it all supposed to be about fun?

THE GUNPOWDER PLOT could be the best band in this year’s Stable, and maybe when votes are in from The Man we’ll get some confirmation of that fact, but until we do, if you see any of this year’s entrants, try to make sure it’s them, because whether you’re into bubblegum or not, after you’ve let “Wet Yourself In Protest” wrap it’s feelgood yummy groove around your ears you’ll appreciate them for what they are: snappy gorgeous vaudevillian pop as scrumptious as that first sweetie after coming off a diet.

Dammit, the little fuckers probably even smell nice.

In comparison, THE LIONHEART BROTHERS look like they haven’t seen soap and water in a while, but with the Norwegians’ second album “Dizzy Kiss” being lauded as the coffee-table accessory for any self respecting euro-beatnik, they’re probably just trying to fit in with that classic hippy image or something. They do seem rather keen to strike lots of fabulous poses y’see, although it’s no doubt disappointing to have so few adoring women and lenses pointing at them to marvel at Morton & Marcus’ fire-and-ice approach to fronting the band: one glammed-up sleaze metaller guitarist thinking himself rather beautiful (and who’s probably disturbingly attached to a pet cat – he looks the type) having an attention battle with his partner who does most of the hard work but is handicapped by pimples, lank hair, sweat stains and grime-under-his-nails ordinariness. But regardless of how it looks (which is a bit silly, thinking about it) their sheer surging psychedelic power can rattle the fillings out of your teeth, as if My Bloody Valentine, Killing Joke and The Byrds got caught up in some massive swirling aural cyclone and were hastily reassembled by Brian Wilson using ouija-board directions from Vince Crane.

Guitars that cry and vocals that sigh, dontcha know, and even through tonight’s muddy sound they’re gloriously swirly, taking you back to those days of the early nineties and bands like Chapterhouse, Ride and Blur before they were pop stars, when songs were full of shoegazing black-eyed soaring garage ingenuity. The Lionheart Brothers add West-Coast stoner rock, the melancholia of The Fall, a dash of Cherry Ghost and a shot of Secret Machines to make it go down easier, so sit back, relax and let the maddening organ-fed sensuality of “50 Souls & A Disco Bowl” take you on a little trip to a hippy utopia where there’s free dope, limitless sex and no fucking lentils. Just don’t expect a lengthy visit because their set is criminally brief and if you have more than a 20 minute attention span you might feel a bit short-changed, particularly when it’s climax is a five minute squealing whine from the valve amps just so that Glammy Lionheart can throw shapes, chuck his guitar around (carefully though – it’s probably expensive) swig from his beer, flick his hair about and gaze sensitively into the camera lens of the only woman within reach. Fucking tosser.

It looks as if we’ll have to wait for festival season to start before they really show us what they can do. Give ’em low lights, enough adoration and a tent full of people buzzing off their tits, and they might just be more fun than naked mud wrestling. Give ’em a cold stage and a few stragglers, they’ll probably just give up again and put a bit of a downer on your day.

You know it’ll be hard work when all four members of the headline band saunter onto the stage without the merest hint of a smile. It looks as if LOOK SEE PROOF would rather be anywhere than here; scuba diving in a sewer, stuck in a traffic jam, studying accountancy, damn near anything within reason, but they have a job to do and a fee to earn, so they’ll seemingly do the bare minimum and that’s it. A joint sneer from the Sells brothers, a quick whine of feedback and a manic guitar blast later, and they’re viewing the assembly behind the line in front of them with the sort of enthusiasm a jizz-mopper might have for cleaning up after a busy night at the peep show. Grit your teeth, get on with it and it’ll be over soon enough. Try not to look too miffed.

Nevertheless, pissed off or not, when the Hertfordshire hooligans get going, their vibrant indie pop-punk is firey, feisty, clattering dynamite that’s as tight and glossy as a Chinese condom. They’ve got all the good bits of Boy Kill Boy, Foals and The Wombats all fighting together in a battle of grunting whoops and danceable melodies that makes you wonder why on earth utter bilge like Plain White T’s is cluttering up the charts when tunes like forthcoming single “Do You Think It’s Right?” can leave you breathless with jaw-dropping awe.

Look See Proof are perfect fodder for an NME market who can’t get enough of all that youthful decadent emo exuberance and no doubt will be huge because they’ve got the backing, are good looking and sound massive. “Casualty” for example has a hook so big you could use it to anchor down a dreadnaught, but when a band doesn’t want to be there, no amount of quality tunes can hide that they’re rushed, playing for the people that followed them here and generally acting a tad spoilt. We looked. We saw. They proved it.

Paul Mills

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

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