UK SUBS - Work In Progress
I think it fairly obvious what keeps a band like the Rolling Stones on the road nearly 50 years after they began Money! Im sure Mick Jagger has had a guts full of singing Satisfaction nightly for half a century, but the pain is softened if people are still willing to cough up a £100 a ticket for the pleasure.
But what about bands that have also toured continuously but without the commercial success? Take for example the UK SUBS, or more precisely lead singer Charlie Harper, who has almost constantly been on the road for the last 35 years. Apart from a brief flirtation with chart success in the late 1970s and early 80s they have continued their quest without great financial rewards. But in a way that says it all about Charlie, for hes carried on for the love of the music, and punk rock in particular.
And just to prove the bands longevity they are shortly to release their 23 album WORK IN PROGRESS, there first new studio album since 2002. Having started back in 1979 with Another Kind of Blues, followed by Brand New Age and Crash Course in 1980, they are now onto the W in their attempt to release an album for every letter of the alphabet. In truth I think you know what you are going to get with a Subs album, but thats one of their strengths. Hell, it never harmed the Ramones career. So, light on ballads, hip hop and techno it may be, but if you want to hear straight ahead, ball breaking, punk rock then this is the band for you.
Apart from the immovable object of Charlie Harper on vocals, there has been a revolving door policy with other band members over the years. Rancids guitarist Lars Frederiksen was once in the band and has co-written one of the albums tracks This Chaos. However, they now seem to have a more settled line up of Jet on guitar, Alvin Gibbs on bass and Jamie Oliver (yes really) on drums, with all contributing at least three songs to the CD. And just to belie the widely held belief that all punk songs are simplistic and written by Neanderthals, subject matters range from the Creationism in religion to the war in Afghanistan.
The album starts off with at a blistering pace with Creation, which sets the tone for the rest of the record. Heavy drumming, hypnotic guitar licks, crashing bass and over it all the unmistakable vocals of the Grandad of British punk. Next track Tokyo Rose has the addictive chorus that means it is sure to become a favourite at future Subs gigs. And just to show that they are not a one man band bassist Alvin Gibbs contributes third number Hell Is Other People, a Sartre sentiment that all Manics fans will be familiar with having adorned past tour t shirts and mugs of the Welsh trio. And so the album continues with one solid punk song after another. Radio Unfriendly with its partially vocoder-distorted vocals, the aforementioned 18 years-in-the-making This Chaos, the Chinese Rocks style into of classic rocker RocknRoll Whore, a cover version of Strychnine by 1960s US garage band The Sonics, and finally Robot Age which whilst staying true to the punk genre, has touches of Test Department and a guitar solo that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. All-in-all 14 tracks of pure punk rock that clearly shows why time has not diminished the bands ability to stay at the head of the punk rock pack.
And whilst about this time of the year a new load of music nobodies and sycophants get recognised in the honours list, a true gentleman and giant of the British music scene goes unrecognised. I think the campaign starts here for his knighthood. Sir Charlie Harper...it sounds about right!