Noise and Revolution
One of the greatest things about rambling on incoherently for R*E*P*E*A*T is the occasional package received from HQ. This invariably includes CDs and publications that have been carefully selected by our beloved Rosey to suit the individual tastes of the reviewer. Consequently, I get anything that vaguely resembles punk, whether new or old, as well as the odd smattering of indie rock. However on the odd occasions things go a bit awry .
POPE ON A ROPE- Pope on a Rope
Well where do I start? Imagine Depeche Mode playing free-form jazz, backed by Test Department, in the crèche of Ronny Scott's' club.
Apparently this is the brain child of Simon Burgess who describes the band as "an unprecedented swerve in pop and is the first record in the canon not to drip with rage or sarcasm. The frippery of Aphex jostles with the gloom of Morrissey, the emotion of Nick Drake and the smart arse of Frank Zappa. Thrill to Dummy Boy's skewering of loutish Ben Sherman trolls. Weep along with the melancholic heel-dragging of the opening Drag of Sloth. Visit the mind of a tree in Holy Summer. Discover all about how 80's disco had a bastard child by Aphex Twin and he never pays the child support". (Geddit? Me neither!)
I'm sure this is someone's bag baby, just not mine. At times I genuinely had to wonder if all the instruments were actually playing the same song! In fairness there is quite a diversity of tracks, but just when I'm enjoying something that resembles a tune, the next number will be made of random noises and bleeps. I have a feeling that this type of music either requires a level of intellect that is sadly lacking in my case or is just a case of "Kings new clothes" and is actually total bollocks.
At least they had the irreverence to cover/rework "Imagine" against the wishes of the Yoko Ono apparently. But, as a considerably better band once said, "I laughed when Lennon got shot".
So try out Pope on a Rope for yourself. Who know you might appreciate it more than me. If I'm reading his website correctly it will be available as a free download, so you won't even have to cough up any of your hard earned lucre:
THE BERMONDSEY JOYRIDERS - Noise and Revolution
Thank God, normal service is resumed!
The Bermondsey Joyriders line up consists of veteran punks Gary Lammin (vocals / guitar) and Martin Stacey (bass) who paid their dues in bands such as Cock Sparrer, Little Roosters and Chelsea. Drummer Chris Musto has previously seen tours of duty with the likes of Johnny Thunders, Joe Strummer and Nico. The album has been produced by Depeche Mode and Cure confident Dave M Allen and benefited from the additional skills of ex Damned drummer Rat Scabies.
Rather than sticking doggedly to the Oi! sound, that largely monopolizes the genre today, they've gone back to the early pub-rock roots of punk. Whilst that doesn't mean it's any less rock orientated, at times certain tracks can also have an almost bluesy quality.
Relating a story over its 21 tracks it is in all essence a concept album, even though that phrase has been a dirty word in punk circles since time immemorial (albeit it hasn't done Green Day too much harm of late). Starting in a similar vein to the Sex Pistols "Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle" the opening track is preceded by a spoken word intro. However, unlike the aforementioned recording this continues throughout the album with all narration in the rich, deep, tones of John Sinclair, the notorious manager of MC5 and bona fida 60's counterculture icon.
Having started recording in August last year the albums first musical track "Society is Rapidly Changing" neatly reflected the mayhem that was unfolding on the Capital's street and so was strangely prophetic.
Casting themselves as saviours of Western society, the Bermondsey Joyriders mantra is to trust only in the eternal verities of punk rock and roll! Reflecting on the disenfranchisement of a large proportion of today's youth, they string together next number "Right Now" incorporating bits of T Rex, country slide guitar and a mid song blues section, all rapped around a more traditionally punk structured song.
And so the album meanders on its merry way taking in a myriad of different topics. They reminisce about a bygone musical era in "1977", "Noise and Revolution" and "Tru Punk". Given they were at the epicentre of the British musical revolution of the late 70's, I think they are ideally placed to cast aspersions on the plastic punks who "when I first met them they were into Genesis and Yes". The screaming guitars and thunderous drums of these tracks remind you why this type of music was so refreshing and invigorating when it first burst onto the stagnant music scene over 35 years ago.
Whilst I'm not too sure of the longevity of the appeal of having most tracks preceded by 30 seconds of storytelling, there is no denying that they are humorous vignettes. "Creepy Crawler" has Sinclair expounding the theory that, in the event of an atomic war, the only survivors would be "Scorpions, Cockroaches and Keith Richards!", whilst "Cuppa Tea" pokes lighted hearted fun at this sacred English tradition. One lump or two?
The album doesn't simply wallow in punk nostalgia and there are enough sojourns into other musical styles to keep most people happy. "London Bridge" is slower and less frenetic, but still retains a dirty rock heart. Whilst "Proper English" is a Small Faces type tribute/condemnation of middle class symbols such as the stock exchange, stiff upper lip, Pimms and Wimbledon.
"Shaking Leaves" describes the Soho based night clubs that were infamous in the 60's and 70's, in which you were guaranteed a good time. All these dens of iniquity seemed to contain the type of women that your mothered warned you about! However the story continues by relating that not everything is sweetness and light when being a "Rock Star" with many succumbing to "Fame, Champagne and Cocaine".
As the album draws to a conclusion, final track "Rock n Roll Demon" asks a question. Would you be prepared to sell your soul for musical fame and willingly make the same pact with the devil as Robert Johnson? It's here that the bluesy feel is at its most prevalent, yet with a rock backbeat that makes it seem almost like a Primal Scream track.
And thereby is the strength of the album, in its diversity whilst remaining within certain genre specific boundaries. Given the bands personnel and experience it would have been only too easy to bang out another traditional punk album. Lammin co-wrote many of the street punk anthems that still make up a goodly proportion of Cock Sparrer's set list even today (Runnin Riot, Chip on my Shoulder etc)
However this band is willing to experiment and take more risks, whilst still understanding the requirements of their core audience. With over 30 years of history behind them their musical ability is unquestioned, so they haven't limited themselves to just another album of three chord thrash. If you believe punk is more than just OI!, or are just willing to take a chance on hearing something different, then I think a ride with the Bermondsey Joyriders would be well worth the fare.
POSITIVE CREED - Fanzine
It was nice to receive the latest edition of Rob Stone's fanzine "Positive Creed". As usual this is a fine mix of news, reviews, interviews and opinions, all for the princely sum of £1 (that now includes postage).
They have an in-depth interview with Colin McFaul of Cock Sparrer who co-incidentally briefly mentions Gary Lammin (see Bermondsey Joyriders review). He outlines the long history of the band, the reasons for their lasting appeal, their future plans and views on the state of the music scene in general and punk in particular. What I found most interesting is that, given they headline several big punk festivals a year, they still need to retain full time jobs to pay the mortgage! So kids, if you want to be rich stick to banking.
It contains Rob's own "Top 10 Most Underrated Punk Albums of All Time", which though obviously subjective still made me want to dig out my old vinyl copies of The Saints and Athletico Spizz 80. You'll have to buy the damn thing if you want to know what his #1 was!
Henry Cluney, ex of Stiff Little Fingers, also is interviewed. Although a man of few words he seems brutally honest with his answers. When asked why he left the band, rather than be diplomatic, he candidly reveals he was told not to come back by the manager! Without naming names he also says that his "so called best friend" wouldn't talk to him, with no reason given. (1st degree Burns?)
There are the usual music reviews including new (and not so new) releases by Frank Turner, Pop Will Eat Itself, Therapy? UK Subs etc and, unlike us kind reviewers at R*E*P*E*A*T, Rob can be pretty scathing on bands he dislikes.
The things I have always liked most about reading fanzines (and to a certain extent doing reviews for this website) is that you get to learn about bands that have flown under your personal radar. This issue finishes with two lengthy interviews with 4 Past Midnight from Scotland and Trade Street Riot from Newport, neither of which, shamefully, had I previously heard of.
The former is a traditional balls out punk/Oi band along the lines of the Exploited. However they have the social conscience to write songs about subjects not normally covered, such as child abuse and domestic violence. They sound great and someone I will definitely be checking out in future. Trade Street Riot has metamorphosised from previous bands Pop Vandals and Kill 4 Money. Listening to them, I'm not sure if it's the Gwent twang, but lead singer Rich Thomas sounds uncannily like James Dean Bradfield.
So another enjoyable and informative communication from Positive Creed's HQ in the punk hot bed of Exeter. Well written and with an obvious love for the genre, it can be obtained for £1 from PO Box 777, Exeter, EX1 9TU.