The Levellers / The Mutts

Reading Hexagon


"The Levellers are evil. Kill anyone you ever meet who tries to tell you otherwise" was the ever-gracious NME's 'preview' in anticipation of the crustie/free festival pioneers' forthcoming UK jaunt. With this sentiment in mind, we approached tonight's performance with a degree of apprehension, although in the end the headliners prove to be more than competent crowd-pleasers. It's The Mutts that are the real revelations though...

"We're really glad actually that they haven't given us any coverage" remarks bubble-haired guitarist Bryan Shore, furthering tonight's anti-NME feeling, "It's basically all bullshit, I mean bands like Franz Ferdinand and Kings of Leon are really good, but they're hardly life-changing are they?" Laid back, and dare we use that terribly clichéd term 'elegantly wasted' in demeanour, The Mutts pass around a large bottle of Smirnoff, which in turn is gratefully received, and we get chucked out of not just one, but two sections of the venue thanks to the band's insistence on rolling industrially-sized spliffs and then proceeding to smoke them in the vicinity. This relaxed manner totally belies what they are capable of onstage - a melee of flailing limbs, hard-driven valve amp crunch and rootsy, bluesy rock; think part Stooges/MC5 primitive proto-punk, part Who-style R&B stomp. With current young nu-blues upstarts such as the 22-20s and the Soledad Brothers set for success on a larger scale, if there's any justice to be had in this world then The Mutts will follow.

As the Levellers take to the stage, the Hexagon's cavernous auditorium suddenly fills up with a curious combination of ageing punks, dread-sporting crusties and middle-aged skinheads. Admittedly the show takes a while to get going, but when the band launch into the eternally optimistic effervescence of Beautiful Day it's hard not to feel euphoric. Hope St somehow manages to somehow combine metal and fiddles and make it work, whilst One Way, arguably the Levellers' best-known song has everyone singing along, crusties and punks alike. As the show progresses the balcony gradually becomes sparser as more feel the urge to get in the midst of the action as the celtic-punk-thrash finale hurtles to a climax.

They may look as if they haven't washed for weeks, and in bassist Jeremy Cunningham's you fear this is probably the case, and there's the notable exclusions of Riverflow and Just the One, but tonight's performance proves that although not the coolest of bands, the Leveller's are far from evil.


Clive Drew