Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Christopher Nosnibor

Four years on from Black Rat and DZ Deathrays return to the UK touring album number three, Bloody Lovely. Granted, the York show at The Woolpack with a capacity of maybe 70 on their last visit to these shores was one of the more intimate, but it’s clear from tonight’s turnout and reception that they’ve significantly expanded their fan-base in the intervening time.

Those who turned up in reasonable time got a real treat in the form of opening support act Dead Naked Hippies, who caught my attention a few months ago with the release of ‘Drain You’ on a split 12”.  The Leeds art-rock trio, consisting of drums / guitar / vocal kick some serious arse. The guitar sound is dirty, a little bit messy, but works well in contrast with the crisp drum work. It’s Lucy Jowett who really commands the attention, though, lunging and stomping about the stage, wide-eyed and crackling with tension. They’re already going places, and were worth the entry fee alone.

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Dead Naked Hippies

Touring support These New South Whales come on, shirts off and electrical tape over their nipples, looking dangerous and introduce themselves with some angular, grinding guitars, with menacing vocals pitch-shifted down. The stage half-obscured by a thick smog, they then proceed to slash and thrash their way through a sweaty, high-octane set. They may have their own show on Comedy Central, but they take the performance of their fast, furious, bass-driven art-punk seriously. It’s pretty fucking intense.

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These New South Whales

DZ Deathrays have really honed their live sound and the material from Bloody Lovely – which accounts for over half the set – is delivered with real attack. With the album having been out a full six months already, it’s had time to bed in with the fans, and a good segment of the crowd sing along with every song. Others just go nuts, with a mosh-pit seven rows deep and crowd-surfing commencing early.

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DZ Deathrays

Said new material pushes further into melodic territory, but the tunefulness is still driven by big, fat, fizzy riffs. Impressively, they maintain the high energy level throughout the set, with no let up in tempo (you’re not going to get a mid-set lighter-waving slowie or an acoustic breakdown with DZ Deathrays).

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DZ Deathrays

They throw ‘Reflective Skull’ from Black Rat in early, saving ‘Gina Works at Hearts’ for near the end. The crowd goes ballistic – with a crowd surge causing the band to briefly stop to make sure someone wasn’t too badly hurt – and rounding off with ‘Like People’ and ‘Ocean Exploder’ for the final salvoes, it all adds up to a blistering set.

With three cracking bands, a corking headline set, and a great vibe all round, it’ll probably go down as one of the gigs of 2018.

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It’s not often that an evening of live music begins with spoken word poetry. It’s a shame, as the two media can often prove complimentary. John Cooper Clark supporting The Fall and KJ Farrington supporting Sleaford Mods stand out in my mind for all the right reasons.

Self-professed punk poet and nerd, Henry Raby, gets things going with a couple of pieces. A seasoned performer who seamlessly rides out any fluffed lines (and can turn forgetting a line into a plug for his book), he’s relaxed and emanates an energy that’s infectious, and which is paired with a disarming affability.

Katie Watson’s poetry is personal, confessional, brimming with anxiety and keen observations, and rendered with fine details and a certain self-effacing humour. Her delivery is superb: having previously caught her not s long ago at a spoken-word night in a small room, she seems to revel in the bigger space, the challenge of a larger audience, and being faced with a microphone.

What Henry has a knack of bringing to events he’s involved in is a spirit of inclusivity, of equality, of unity. We’re all misfits together here. So, the board gaming nerds, the varied shades of gender and a range of musical and literary tastes are all catered for here.

Crumbs describe themselves as ‘a post-punk pop party pack’ who like ‘pets and puns’ (and alliteration, on this evidence). The four-piece blend jangly 90s indie with a grunge sensibility. Pavement would be an obvious, but fitting touchstone, and at one point I find myself thinking about a collision between The Cure and Carter USM, while elsewhere, there’s a new song that boasts a chunky, funky bass groove and choppy, fractured guitar worthy of Gang of Four. It’s an eclectic and compelling mix. The guitarist has some of the dirtiest overdrive I’ve heard in a while, creating a strong contrast to the crisp, chiming tone that features in most of the songs’ verses. It’s a simple dynamic, but highly effective. Playing on the floor in front of the stage, the sound in the front rows is mostly backline, and this only heightens the experience of the band being in such close proximity to the audience.

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Crumbs

Having only caught the second half of Dream Nails’ set at Live at Leeds, and found it to have been good fun, I was keen to see how they’d go over the duration of a full headline set.

They’re high-octane and high-energy from the get-go, and if there was any question over whether or not they could sustain it for a full set, they answer it with a resounding yes. There really is no let-up in their four-chord poppy punk thrashabouts. The lyrics veer between vulnerability and vehemence, and while they may lack overt depth or subtlety, the directness is part of the appeal. And behind the effervescent performance style, and the bouncy, accessible tunes, there are some serious issues, largely centring around the challenges of being a woman in the world today.

And these are the reasons why I’m here. I go to gigs to watch and listen to bands. As a music critic, I write about them, and because we live in a very visually-orientated age, pictures accompanying a review are often useful. But Dream Nails don’t like having their pictures being taken by men, and since I didn’t have any female company in tow to shoot a pic on my behalf, there’s no image here.

Men snapping away make them feel uncomfortable. Especially men in my demographic with certain types of camera (I’m 42, although the post on their Facebook page which appeared within a short time of the show’s ending would suggest they think I’m older, and I prefer t travel light). Fair enough. Although generally, if you’re going to implement a policy, such as no photography without consent, it’s better to state it up-front. But when that policy is called during the show, and applies only to a few – well, men, actually – the issue becomes rather thorny under scrutiny.

Nobody likes to be singled out, especially not based on an assumption, and even less when the assumption is incorrect – because that’s prejudice. To be singled out as one of two men with cameras, with the justification that they hadn’t given consent, and fuck the male gaze, was not comfortable. I can live with uncomfortable: I’m aware that my own performances have a tendency to evoke a very tangible sense of discomfort and awkwardness. But no-one is ever singled out or humiliated, and it’s not about ‘unlearning oppressive behaviours’.

But more than anything, I found not only the approach troubling, but what it represents. Now, the battleground of gender is one of which I have only a cursory knowledge, but I am acutely aware of the divisions and infighting between the various identifiers. But ultimately, being a straight white male, I’m in the bracket which is the worst of the worst on the enemy scale. As we mark the centenary of The Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave British women over 30 the right to vote, at the same time as picking through the fallout of the events that led to the #metoo campaign, it’s clear we’ve still got a long way to go and that male oppression is rife.

However, the ‘calling out’ of ‘creepy’ guys taking photos of a band performing assumes that all men are creepy and only go and see bands with women in because they want to go and ogle women. Which also seems to undermine the idea that as women making music, people –regardless of sex / gender (I’m aware the correspondence between the two varies considerably) – may simply appreciate their art, and, like so many others, shoot snaps for posterity or social media because it’s the age we live in. To judge an individual based on the behaviour of a number (not even necessarily a majority) is prejudice in action.

This – literal – finger-pointing may have been well-received by a sector of the audience, but even if it hadn’t been directed at me, it would still have sat uncomfortably on a personal level: publicly humiliating someone based on an assumption is very much a knee-jerk response, the likes of which result in heated arguments. My knee-jerk reaction was to omit Dream Nails from the review altogether, but precisely what would that achieve? Certainly nothing productive. First, what’s actually needed is rational debate and mutual understanding of commonality. Second, they played a decent set, and went down well with a crowd of a respectable size, which is no small feat – especially in York on a Thursday night.

Moreover, feminism, at its heart, is about attaining equality for women. To substitute misogyny with misandry is not a push for equality, but to simply invert and replicate the behaviours of the guilty, and thus perpetuate division. Dream Nails generously commented on their Facebook thread, ‘Also if u r a male fan who is feeling affronted by this, pls remember you are still always welcome at our shows without your cameras.’ So, credit where it’s due, they’re still espousing equality. But is conditional equality really equality? Not really. Obviously, I’m grateful for the concession to be allowed to attend their shows in the same way anyone else is.

I shouldn’t feel the need to state that I’m not anti-feminism; quite the opposite. Moreover, I’m fundamentally opposed to any -ism that promotes inequality, discrimination, prejudice. And so, while Janey Starling may have provoked something personal in her actions, my beef isn’t so much directed at her or the band, but at the way complex and difficult issues are addressed, without any attention to the details or any sense of nuance, with too many people shouting about the lack of consideration they’re shown by others without showing that same consideration in return.

They ended their set with a blistering rendition of ‘Deep Heat’.

Sometimes, I just need a night off. And what better way to unwind than going to see a trio of noisy bands? It may be something of a busman’s holiday for a music critic, but a night-off gig means there’s no obligation to produce a review. Which means I can drink all the beer and not care about making notes, about remembering anything other than the atmosphere, the overall experience of whether the bands and the night were any good. Right? Only, I’ve gone and done it anyway. For posterity. Out of habit. And because it’s shows like this that provide the best entertainment, but rarely get the coverage -or attendance – they deserve.

Granted, it’s baking hot and it’s Wednesday night after the universities have split for summer. But it’s free entry, dammit! And the lineup features bands who’ve travelled from Hull! And bloody good bands at that!

Admittedly, I’m here for Cannibal Animal, a band who’ve consistently impressed, both live and recorded: their latest EP is an absolute banger.

Night Owls arrive with squalling feedback and noodling synths, with driving drumming and some melodic hooks. There’s much to like about their brand of sinewy, synthy, post-punk… and beyond ‘I am for real’ their singer hollers ad infinitum during their second song, and nothing in their edgy, angular set gives reason to doubt, although their style is so wide-ranging I do find myself wondering exactly how to position them. But then, it’s not about pigeonholing, but quality of material and performance. And these guys are good on both fronts.

Night Owls

Night Owls

Cannibal Animal’s latest offering marks a significant shift toward the more psych-influenced end of the post-punk spectrum, evoking the sort of surf-goth of obscuritants like The Volcanoes more than the overt rockabilly of, say The Cramps. ‘Ellipsisism’, the lead single from their snarling ‘A Decline in Morality’, which also reminds me of the mega-obscure ‘Genetic Disruption’ EP by Murder the Disturbed (released on Small Wonder, the same label which would release Bauhaus’ seminal ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ 12” in the same year) EP is a clear standout, although it’s the EP’s closer ‘Ripe’ that’s lodged in my head on the train home.

The brittle, flanged, chorus-soaked guitars of the studio renderings are cranked up to the pain threshold and into a thick mess of distortion and shrieking treble, resulting in a set that slams from beginning to end like a sonic battering ram. It’s no criticism to observe that Luke Ellerington isn’t your conventionally appealing front man, but he’s charismatic and compelling and his presence is huge. It’s tense, loud, and thrilling, and I could go home happy after their set.

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Cannibal Animal

But then there’s Lumer, who’ve also made their way from Hull. Theirs is a set of angsty, aggressive post-punk with pummelling tom-driven drumming that’s tense and expansive.

I’ve had a few pints by now, since I’m not planning to review the show, and spend some time marvelling at their keyboardist’s dubious moustache and the fact the singer bears a passing resemblance to a young Kirk Brandon.

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Lumer

The one thing about gig drinking is that there’s always someone way drunker than you, and while I’m conscious of gaps in my notes, I’m more conscious of the fact there’s a really drunk guy who keeps falling over while moshing loosely. People keep picking him up and throwing him back upright, before he lurches toward the stage. But he’s happy and they’re cool with it, and as outstanding as the music, it’s the community spirit. It’s truly uplifting and a joy to witness.

I’m also conscious that the volume is so intense that the sound is mushy, especially standing as close to the speakers as I am… and it doesn’t matter. The energy that crackles from the band, and which is bounced back by the audience is immense.

If you want clean sound, stay home. If you want to get out of your skin, cut loose and live, go and watch live bands in small venues.

I need to take more nights off.

Christopher Nosnibor

The 13th of July is a Friday. It seems like an appropriate date for a show hosted by The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator. And besides, an event that involves standing in a dark pub venue being aurally assaulted by four noisy bands in sweltering heat represents the perfectly antithetical alternative to the populism of a city swarming with racegoers.

It might not exactly be packed for Pak40, who begin their set with a claxon and bass hum, before thumping in with some tom-heavy drumming and thunderous, super-low bass growl that comes on like early Earth, only with percussion. While the duo’s focus is firmly on the creation of maximum noise, the stylistic manifestations are varied, with classic rock elements churned through a cement mixer and a vocal style characterised by elongated vowels that range from pysch-tinged prog to something closer to Bong. The final track is sludgy as hell, but ups the pace considerably, inviting comparisons to Fudge Tunnel.

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Pak40

Saltwater Injection are another drum / bass combo. As last year’s debut single, ‘Vinegar / Cuntryfile Part 3’ revealed, they’re noisy, too, cranking out a mesh of grindcore noise interspersed and overlaid with trebly, distorted samples from films and whatnot. It’s not about innovation, but execution, and after a lengthy intro, the bass feedback howls and they go full-throttle to deliver a set of high-octane aggression. It’s stick-twirling drummer Paul Soames who provides the vocals – predominantly guttural barks to their frenetic attacks. There are flickers of pop, but they’re transmogrified into roaring slabs of rage that go off like a clusterbomb.

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Saltwater Injection

Nottingham’s Bone Cult have been on my radar for a while, and I’ve been quite taken with their brand of hard-edged technoindustrial crossover music. Visually, they’re on a whole other level: with dense smoke, neon skull-masks, a crisp, clinical sound, and laser lighting shooting every which way, they transform the 120-capacity pub venue with a stage a foot high into an academy-type gig experience. They’re so slick, so tight, so immense. For all the intensity and aggression, they do seem a shade lightweight in context, mining more the Pretty Hate Machine era sound of Nine Inch Nails and aping the electro end of the Wax Trax! roster circa 1988. Still, in terms of entertainment, they’re hard to fault.

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Bone Cult

The same is true of headliners, London three-piece Little Death Machine. They neither look nor sound like a band on the lower rungs of the circuit. They’re mechanoid tight, and have a set packed with killer tunes, delivered with nuance, passion, emotion, and panache. A spot of research suggests that this is a new lineup, and while I lack the reference to compare to the old one, they seem to have gelled well. Yes, they do sound a lot like Placebo. A LOT like Placebo. But old Placebo, which is A Good Thing. It’s a punchy set, packed out with songs with massive drive and killer hooks and crackling energy. It’s also the perfect climax to an exciting night.

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Little Death Machine

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, it’s a fairly complimentary lineup, showcasing three similar but varied strains of angsty alternative rock. On closer analysis and observation, the three bands appear to have quite different fanbases, with only limited crossover. Surveying the demographic, I’ve no explanation, and it’s really quite odd, to the extent that it almost feels like three separate gigs. Not so much a partisan audience, as three, with limited crossover. Admittedly, I’m here for Weekend Recovery, having championed them from way back, but it strikes as strange that someone would pay £7 for a 3-band lineup and spent all but half an hour at the bar or outside. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned and have a thing about getting value for money. And given the bar – £4.50 for a pint of Stella Cidre is as good as it gets – the punters should be keen to get something to justify their outlay.

Weekend Recovery are up first, and after a few cable issues, they start their set, kicking in with ‘Turn it Up’ – and I find myself wishing the sound guy would do just that with the guitars. Nevertheless, they power through a set primarily culled from the debut album that they’re relentlessly touring this year with energy and panache. They’ve come a long way in 18 months.

Owen’s guitar lunges have developed to full-on rock posing: he’s a tall, burly fella and he dominates his space, and when she ditches the guitar for ‘Monster’, Lauren’s liberated and mobile. It’s a well-structured set, with ‘New Tattoo’ bringing a change of pace and mood at the mid-point, and culminating in a fiery rendition of ‘Get What You Came For’ followed by a breakneck blast though ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’

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Weekend Recovery

There’s a degree of irony there: it’s a song about on-line dating and insecurity. Because everyone wants to be loved, to be subject of adulation… don’t they? Spending just a few minutes with Lauren before and after their show is quite eye-opening, and sustaining a conversation uninterrupted for more than two minutes is impossible. There’s certainly a lot of love for the band, and her – to the point at which requests for photos and autographs on tickets and body parts has become pretty much standard form. As I say, they’ve come a long way in 18 months, but it also brings home just how fucking weird people are, what life in a band – even at relatively low-level – is like, and how women in rock and in the music industry in general are subject to some shocking treatment.

Avenoir have a hard act to follow. They’re either really popular or have a lot of mates. Did they sell all of the T-shirts occupying the first two packed-out rows? Judging by how quickly they thin out over the course of the set, one suspect possibly not.

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Avenoir

The singer’s wearing a Misfits T and a torn black denim jacket with a Ramones back patch, and he implores the crowd to ‘go fucking crazy’. Three or four people bob their heads in response. They do manage to get half a dozen or so moshing at one point, but there’s just somethings lacking about their energetic but ultimately forgettable brand of alt rock. Songs, mostly.

Our Divinity have both songs and fans. Zara Saunders has immense presence, making for an engaging performance from beginning to end, and for a band who’ve only played a handful of shows, they’re outstandingly tight. Musically… well, there’s a risk of courting accusations of lazy journalism given that every third female-fronted rock band with a bit of grunt sound like Paramore, but the influence on Our Divinity is undeniable: they even throw in a Paramore cover near the end.

What sets Our Divinity apart from their peers is the density of the sound – benefiting as they do from duelling guitars that weave tripwire lead lines over chunky, overdriven rhythm – and the quality of the material. They may have only one single to their credit, but they’ve got an album’s worth on the strength of tonight.

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Our Divinity

The audience show their appreciation by climbing on one another’s shoulders and constructing human pyramids in front of the stage like it’s a 1980s Sisters of Mercy of Mission gig. For such early days, such adulation is remarkable, and if tonight is in any way representative, they’re building momentum for a rapid ascendance.

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no such thing as a night off. I may habitually tweet that I’m taking the night off for beer and live music, but that’s simply my way of telling the world I won’t be posting any reviews, I won’t be active on social media and probably won’t be responding to emails either. Watching bands and drinking beer has been a hobby of mine for a long time now, and I still enjoy it, but even when not guest-listed for reviewing, I tend to take notes and photos out of habit and for posterity. I’m naturally assuming my memory won’t be able to store all of the live shows I’ve attended when I get older, give that I struggle now, so the reviews are rather like postcards to my future self.

The WonkyStuff nights aren’t so much niche as ultra-niche – and that’s a good thing. The mainstream is oversaturated, and to cater to those tastes is a huge gamble. Focusing on a niche and knowing it well means that while there’s a very definite ceiling on audience potential, those being catered for are far more likely to actually bother. And so it is that on a hot Wednesday, around thirty people take seats in front of the stage to witness a smorgasbord of the most far-out experimental music you’ll find anywhere.

My future self, if presented with a photo of New Victorian Architecture’s performance would likely be ‘Christ, you have seen some weird shit’. Which corresponds with the multiple texts I received bearing the letters ‘wtf’ in response to sending pictures of said performance to friends. Certainly, the visual aspect – luminous yellow fishing kit, hood up, dust mask and heavy-duty latex gloves in blue – is striking, and if anything trumps the music or its delivery. There’s a lot of silence: some just awkward pauses, others more protracted periods of hush. At one point, he checks his phone, is momentarily animated as she scrabbles around the pile of pedals before him, then stops, stands (most of the set is spent kneeling) and addresses an inaudible question to the audience. Met with silence, he shrugs and resumes. The whole spectacle is odd – which is, of course, the idea.

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New Victorian Architecture

How Buildings Fail – the musical vehicle of Simon Hickinbotham – brings a different kind of odd, and one that’s much more song-orientated. The array of DIY and customised kit packed onto a small table includes an inverted Pot Noodle carton (chicken and mushroom) which appears to contain a set of controls. The material’s centred around the grainy and the granular, analoguey synthy sounds are modulated into gloopy oscillations and swerving sine waves which collide with overdriven, clattering drum tracks. Hickinbotham rattles off rants about philosophy and reading comics. It’s a weird, nerdy clash that lands somewhere in the field next to The Fall, Meat Beat Manifesto and Revolting Cocks. ‘Creative supply is outstripping demand!’ he calls by way of a refrain in the final song of the set. He’s right, but those gathered tonight are appreciate of their demands being catered for.

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How Buildings Fail

They may look like they’re playing chess, but Ash Sagar and John Tuffen are in fact pondering a rack of effects units on the table before them. The pair sit, almost motionless, mannequin-like, expressionless, and decked entirely in black. Tuffen, another self-solder gear enthusiast, appear to be playing open circuit boards, while Sagar tweaks at a more conventional-looking mixer unit. It’s difficult to determine the actual sources of the sounds which they sculpt expansive, glitchy drones that crackle and hum. Not a lot happens over the course of the set: instead, the emphasis on slow-evolving sonic shifts, and the focus is on detail rather than drama. Distortion ruptures smooth sonic arcs and beats like bursting bubblewrap forge subtle dynamics which balance grind and levity to immersive effect. It’s a meticulous performance, and for a few moments, time stands still.

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Orlando Ferguson

Stocker / Eyes – that’s Canadian-born percussionist Beau Stocker and multi-instrumentalist Ben Eyes – are celebrating the release of their new album, Earth Asylum. However, they showcase quite a different sound live in comparison to the album, which is extremely mellow and almost of a post-rock persuasion. Their set, driven by jarring, stop-start drumming and soaring, layered guitar and sweeping synths, and occasionally punctuated by jolting, halting guitar bursts, is certainly a strong contrast with the other acts on the bill. But for all of this, their set feels, perversely, the most conventional, working as it does established experimental / avant-jazz tropes. Although overtly improvised and fluid, and perhaps a shade overlong, there’s a clear sense that they have a tight rein on their performance, and it’s hard to find fault technically.

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Stocker/Eyes

In fact, it’s hard to find fault with the night overall: WonkyStuff pitch a varied but perfectly complimentary set of acts, the likes of whom will never achieve anything beyond cult status (if even that), and provide an essential platform for the oddballs and fringe performers. And essential is the word: in an age where capital and homogenisation is killing pretty much everything but the lowest common denominators, culturally, we need nights like this.

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s my second visit to Wharf Chambers in as many evenings. It’s a good job the beer’s cheap. And that it’s a nice little venue. And that the promoters, TV’s Over, have booked some quality bands. I’ve just about recovered from the blistering assault of Svetlanas the previous night when I arrive.

There seems to be a certain misapprehension that music reviewers hang out with bands and are mates with all the bands, their managers, PR and labels, and it may be true for some, but I prefer to preserve a certain professional distance as a rule. You never know when an act may deliver an absolute stinker of an album, and then what do you do? Blow your critical integrity, or the friendship? And so I find it’s generally better – safer – to keep people at arm’s length. And that’s a rule I apply to life in general.

But, necessarily, for every rule there is an exception, and it so happens that two of them are on the bill tonight, in the shape of the two support acts, Leeds’ Wharf Street Galaxy Band and Lincoln’s Suburban Toys. Both acts feature individuals I know and like, but also know well enough to share an honest appraisal. These things matter.

WGSB have evolved a fair bit over the last year, and the set has changed radically over the time. The fare they’re touting now is, dare I say it, significantly more commercial than before. It’s all relative, of course: the set opens with a loping marching rhythm, feedback and an eternal bass rumble before Dave Procter enters and paces the venue, hollering impenetrably into a loudhailer, building toward a monotonous chant of the song’s title, ‘Freedom is Compulsory’, culled from their eponymous debut EP.

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Wharf Street Galaxy Band

‘Hector and Harass’ is an altogether more accessible effort, with a terrace chant of a chorus, and as I listen and smirk, I remember that in fact, this is my fault. Yes, my review of the aforementioned EP inspired the title, and there are no two ways about it, this is exactly what they do, especially here.

In a set that’s as much, it would seem, designed to torture the band as the audience, they bludgeon away at repetitive, cyclical riffs, looping bass motifs and singe-chord assaults, topped with repeated refrains (‘fucking useless stupid bastard’ they drone on ‘Clueless Advocate’) ‘Sex Master’ mines a squelchy bass groove and funky drum that threatens to veer into Duran Duran / Associates territory. Which is no bad thing. Puffins dominate the closing duo, as does a thunderous PiL meets Fall Krautrock groove dominated by a relentless, juddering bass.

Suburban Toys have had more lineup changes than I’ve had hot dinners, and could probably rival The Fall or even The Damned. They’ve probably been going nearly as long as The Fall, too, off and on, although the difference being that their mainstay is still with us, and it’s bassist Vincent Ramsey (or Vinnie, as he’s named on the website) who’s the consistent feature of their revolving-door credits. And like The Fall – to appropriate from John Peel – they are always different; they are always the same. A number of the songs (notably ‘Far Away’ and ‘Salamander’) are familiar to me from (dare I say it?) some 25+ years ago, but have been overhauled to varying extents.

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Suburban Toys

What they do is simple enough, and it’s a tried and tested formula: poppy punk songs with just the right balance of bite and bounce. They sit well alongside the female-fronted poppy punk bands they reference, which include Blondie, No Doubt, Penetration, and X-ray Spex. Abi is bubbly and energetic and a likeable performer, who brings a real presence. Her vocals are strong, but not overpowering or overtly spiky, enhancing the band’s accessibility. They’re proficient, they’re tight, they’ve got some decent tunes and endless bass runs, and most importantly, they’re uptempo and fun. They go down well, and deservedly so.

Culture Shock may be one of the key exponents of Ska Punk, and noteworthy for being Dick Lucas’ band between Subhumans (whose drummer Trotsky actually did a stint with Suburban Toys some years later) and Citizen Fish, but it’s simply not a genre I can get into. Maybe it’s the awkward stylistic straddling, paired with uncomfortable cultural appropriation that doesn’t it well. Maybe it’s the tendency of fans to feel the compulsion to go all Dick Van Dyke and dance like a bunch of Cockney chimney sweeps when presented with anything ska punk. Maybe I’m just difficult and hyper-critical. But Culture Shock simply offer nothing to excite, let alone shock: it’s all so very predictable. Any rebellious intent is diminished by three decades and the delivery being in the form of party tunes.

The nostalgia is tangible: you can see it on the punters’ faces. And I get it. It’s just not my nostalgia. I’ve already got what I came for, and with a 5:30 alarm in prospect, I slip out into the night to leave the old punks to their party.