It’s here. The infamous PiL, reunited after 17 years of supposedly being on hiatus. A band that John Lydon claims allows him to “express proper emotions”. So a media storm (concentrating on the one-legged natured loss of original members) over a reunion tour planned for the last month of 2009, including 3 consecutive dates in London, would suggest a big deal. It’s only natural for the music to suffer.

PiL cannot be neatly chocolate boxed as post-punk at its barest level: stripped down to mere hyped Jamaican dub and something like disco electricals, which Lydon recalls as “nauseated, because the bass frequency was so low your bowels started to vibrate.” A PiL to make you sick? Well the monotonous drear is a reality. It should be noted that following ‘First Issue’, PiL went down a different route of genre interpretation.

Lydon seems to think that to be a thinking band with a brain, one must impose a life sentence of overly wound out tracks filled with dry bass played over and over again. There’s a loss of Levene’s crisp and articulate aluminium guitar, such as in ‘Poptones’, and a less than flatter tone in ‘Death Disco’ – it gets lost in its own making. Add to that keyboard and electro drum beats via experimentation and they are closer to avant-garde bands of the modern day than any post-punk menagerie.


PiL’s best works arrive in the form of ‘Public Image’, ‘This Is Not A Love Song’, ‘Rise’ and funk-fuelled track ‘Warrior’, amongst other reflective songs like ‘Psychopath’ and ‘Memories’. And then the penny drops: the band really lacks a rhythmic palette, the crusty soul of post-punk all along. There’s that awful chafing edge to would-be delicate songs like ‘Disappointed’. Lydon’s vocals have certainly changed over time. Funnily, all that droning is enough to send a few people to sleep, as Lydon calls out, “Wakey wakey, Arsenal country!!” A marmite moment? Hardly.

But Lydon is difficult to resist; that adorable face of ‘Country Life’ butter TV. His musical career is certified (seriously). But when he jokes, “Enjoy it while you can ’cause we can only get worse”, you realise he is his own self-fulfilling prophecy. They end a two+ hour gig (obviously justifying extortionate ticket costs) on ‘Open Up’ to a slightly emptier room. It seems PiL have almost gone down the ratty drainpipe of other bands such as The Slits (excusing the familial connection here). Experimentation for the sake of experimentation.

But what’s past is past, and as Lydon observes, it’s time to move forward and say, “Thank you for the ‘Country Life’!”. Lydon’s image is spectacularly out of place with his rather rash statements, in which he calls for all politicians to be emigrated, as if to force himself to realise his punk credentials are not lost on him (save LA mansions and brand wars). You still have to love his showiness: “You don’t love me as much as I love me.” PiL are post-punk, if post-punk translates as a condition of music AFTER the punk era. Local boy did good indeed.

22/12/09: PiL @ Electric Ballroom, London.

Photos © Danny Payne.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.


Echo & The Bunnymen

Following their 2009 album release, ‘The Fountain’, critically received with a mixture of frowns and smiles, Echo & The Bunnymen ended their partially sold out UK tour with three consecutive back-to-back concerts in their home town. At probably one of the worst O2 venues in the country, still unshaven since its Carling Academy days, a loyal fanbase packed in for a slice of homegrown pride.

They opened with ‘Going Up’, a track from the 2008 bonus disc of contestably one of their best albums, ‘Ocean Rain’. ‘Show Of Strength’, from early album, ‘Heaven Up Here’, was unrivalled in its guitar lingua, but like most songs on the setlist, it was overspun. Tuneful upbeat numbers such as ‘Rescue’ started well but flailed; a mustering lyrical drive with a backing keyboard riff irato.

McCulloch sounded spookily like Kurt Cobain at the beginning of ‘Broke My Neck’. Twin turbo summer tinged songs removed the trepid winter blues; guitar acoustic took over in ‘Stormy Weather’ and in firm classics such as ‘Seven Seas’ and ‘Dancing Horses’, but the revivals didn’t quite conjure up the magic intended. ‘Rust’ was a mellowed acoustic jive, followed by more murmurings aside Will Sergeant’s carefully chimed out guitar chords.

The intro of ‘Bedbugs And Ballyhoo’ was lead-heavy funk, but brilliantly short; the struggle by this band to burgeon out post-punk derivations is frustrating. One of the best and most famous was ‘Killing Moon’ – that spine-tingling guitar curdle of rusty strokes. Sadly interrupted by a midsong whistling debate (nice testament to McCulloch’s supreme pretensions), the live performance was crippled slightly.

‘The Cutter’, however, seemed to establish some cementation. Echo & The Bunnymen were once an all-time rich tea classic blooming from ’80s experimentalism, but slipped away somewhere on their journey to the 21st century, crossing Oasis’ path (‘Think I Need It Too’/’Nothing Lasts Forever’) when taking a diversion down alternative rock avenue. A desperate version of ‘Walk On The Wild Side (or Merseyside as McCulloch sings *erhem*) was a cheesy bite on a Lou Reed favourite. A disappointing enigma of a potentially reputable band.

17/12/09: Echo & The Bunnymen @ Liverpool O2 Academy.

Photo © Danny Payne.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.


New York Dolls

New York was back in former glam-rock city, London, on the third night of the New York Dolls’ UK tour, following a show earlier in the year at the intimate 100 Club. David Johansen and the two guitarists, one old one new – Sylvain Sylvain and Steve Conte – electrified the reunion corpus at a packed out Forum.

The Dolls performed archaic songs such as ‘Looking For A Kiss’, ‘Private World’ and Bo Diddley cover ‘Pills’. There was also a Sylvain-led tribute to former Dolls member, Johnny Thunders, and his 1978 single, ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’. Newer material included ‘Dance Like A Monkey’, ‘Gotta Get Away From Tommy’ and ‘Cause I Sez So’, the latter off this year’s album release of the same name.

Proto-punk according to the Dolls is revved up, anti-statuary rock ‘n’ roll, hormonal guitar duets and danceable rhythms, thrown in with the occasional yelp. Whilst there are several other past and present contenders for the position, the New York Dolls harnessed raw acrimony from the likes of MC5, one of the heaviest influences on the American punk movement, and teamed it with the soulful mellifluence of Bo Diddley, to whom they tribute “Hey Bo Diddley!”

New York Dolls New York Dolls

Vocalist David Johansen has since lost his crossdressing flair, looking a bit sombre and rigid these days, although just as camp (“I love singing!”). But being flanked on either side by two energetic crowd-milking guitarists vying for his attention, the onstage theatrics were balanced up nicely. There were a few troublesome numbers such as ‘Better Than You’ and an overlong version of ‘Trash’ ad nauseum. Johansen could cut back a little on the ego-charging introductions. Yes we know which one is Sylvain.

These guys certainly have a greater number of years’ experience than lines on their faces, but there was an overwhelming truth abound. How far have they strayed? Call it old-fashioned, but with constant praise showered upon them as ‘proto-punkers’, the hysterical cacophony of guitar ringing doesn’t seem to suggest so. Of course their ‘look at me’ cravings would suggest Rolling Stones disease, something they carry with enthusiasm. A little musical variation and flamboyancy is lacking.

They blunder astronomically by missing off ‘Frankenstein’ from the setlist, choosing instead to finish off on ‘Personality Crisis’. But musically they are clearly adept: Sylvain is a master of his signature jazz guitar; Conte, although outshined by his contemporary, excels at finger tapestry; and former Honoi Rocks bassist, Sami Yaffa, sets a striding gait, but is no “killer bassist” Arthur Kane. Thankfully, they still know how to whip up a noise induced hurricane.

04/12/09: The New York Dolls @ The Forum.

Photos © Luke Ball.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.


The Vibrators

One of the original ’76 (aside The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Buzzcocks) to cradle the punk phenomena in its early malformed roots, but lacking the PR mechanisms of some bands, The Vibrators found themselves being christened one-hit wonder bandwagon jumpers. By contrast, they were the initial renegades, and far from mere historical facts, it’s typically sewn into their energies and raw crusty rhythms. Sex Pistols go pop.

Long reigning British punk monarch, Knox Carnochan, and the rest of the band (drummer Eddie the only other original member), have flexed the elasticity of time and continued to do around 100 gigs a year, home and away. Add to that a bunch of new albums and The Vibrators have achieved more than most ongoing seminal bands of this century. Did they ever split up? Hardly.

They played hourglass classics such as ‘Automatic Lover’, ‘Whips And Furs’, ‘Baby Baby’, ‘Judy Says (Knock You In The Head)’, ‘Bad Time’ and ‘London Girls’, rehashing their tough fibrous husk with newer material like ‘Disco In Moscow’ (‘We Vibrate’), ‘Sound Of The Suburbs’ (‘Garage Punk’), ‘Under The Radar’ (‘Under The Radar’) and ‘The Kid’s A Mess’ (‘Hunting For You’). Unlike bands that change their mantra like a pitiless politician in order to keep with the times, their new material is just as virile and 1977 as their earliest albums.

On stage they were demons in their own right: Knox couldn’t be detached from his guitar even when he didn’t have one, playing air to all of Nigel’s parts, whose improvised solos were reeled out in true heroic rock ‘n’ roll heritage; contrasted on the other side by Pete’s jagged bass and Eddie’s power drum beats. A band caught up in the controversial punk cauldron it was spewed from but still able to settle a feud, tonight being no exception to the early days back at The 100 Club.

The Vibrators

The best of the rest were ‘Pure Mania’, with that exculpable descending riff, ‘Into The Future’, ’24 Hour People’ and ‘Troops Of Tomorrow’. The Vibrators share much of the musical influences of their contemporaries The Clash: not only is ‘Brand New Cadillac’ given a new lick of paint via metallic thrust, but in general the rhythm and blues similarities are palpable truths.

The Vibrators manage to crosshatch primordial savagery with punk idealism; a tackle on the opacity of the future, trapping danceable, brain-sticky material and stapling it onto core, original punk style instrumentation. With a bit more stage time, ‘Stiff Little Fingers’ wouldn’t have gone amiss but, nevertheless, a lesson in how to pin the flesh back onto the punk fuggled donkey.

29/11/09: The Vibrators @ Camden Underworld, London.

Photos © Luke ball.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in The 405.      



Sham 69

The London born-and-bred Hersham boys played out their own brand of street punk in a return to their home city, seeing how much gristle they could chew through in an hour’s time.

They began with a touch of humour and entered with ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ ringing from the stage, before they immediately launched into a setlist jam-packed full of familiar tracks, largely taken from their more famous and well known earlier compilations: ‘I Don’t Wanna’, ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’, ‘Questions And Answers’ and ‘Hersham Boys’, each dedicated to its own societal cause.

Although in danger of being blemished with football chanting, there’s enough variation in there to avoid a distasteful cyclical occurrence. Inbetween songs, Tim V (vocals since 2007 following original member Jimmy Pursey being allegedly sacked from the band) entertained: “We are all gonna be skinheads – why fight it while mother nature takes its effects?”

Recently played to the Irish, ‘Ulster’ contained a prolific riff and Parsons’ intermittent solos, the kind of technical snippets and interludes that make Sham more than mere boisterous Oi! sharks; a group wholesome and enhanced through its live performances. ‘Hey Little Rich Boy’ was a catchy chant, but criminally curtailed in length.

Another band that attributed to dead friend Strummer, their ‘White Riot’ cover was a rowdy number. ‘Hurry Up Harry’ was ridiculously loveable; a track later re-recorded as the official England football team song for the FIFA World Cup in 2006. There were a couple of Jimmy jokes thrown in before the lethal ‘Borstal Breakout’.

Sham may not cut it in the art school of complexity, but they have some of the greatest raw molten glass talent. Al Campbell (originally UK Subs) isn’t just a punk bassist and Parsons is 30 years in the making. Just when you thought there may not be much more on the table, Tim announces that there’s a movie out next year. You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Rating: 4/5

28/11/09: Sham 69 @ The Borderline, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originallly published in Daily Music Guide.


The Fall

It seemed the most dreadful innuendo. It was already 10.20pmish following performances from support acts Orphans & Vandals and Darker My Love (feat. ex-Fall bassist Rob Barbato) and the chances of a decent stage time were quickly fading into the ominous curfew. But eventually a mysterious instrumental, ‘Our Future Your Clutter(?)’, and then the magnificent Mark E. Smith, who casually strolled into the sight of a horrendously parched audience palpitating within the chambers at Koko.

They launched unsurprisingly with the 2008 ‘Imperial Wax Solvent’ album and ‘Strangetown’, a cover of The Groundhogs: distorted radar waves of synth psychedelia and spewed out neck-crackling guitar. Then ‘Wolf Kidult Man’; a catchy, harsher rock exemplifier with contemptuous basslines. All the while, MES typically paced about the stage, shifting microphones and twitching amp controls.

But a large proportion of the setlist (as applicable to shows earlier in the year) consisted of their work-in-progress album, ‘Your Future Our Clutter’ (due for release Jan 2010). ‘Slippy (or ‘Sloppy’) Floor’, the intro of which saw MES submerge himself in one of the stage amps, was a choppy, gritty noise mess steamed full of tempo extraneous beats. Such an album has seen The Fall turn over yet another leaf on discovery of a new age of rockabilly trend.

‘Cowboy George’ was fuelled by more MES murmurings and squeaky clean guitar riffs. ‘I’ve Been Duped’ saw Elena colonialising the vocals for a more reggae tinged punk number, thankfully a tone or two distinct from Ari Up. The Fall’s choice of cover track on the unfinished album is Wanda Jackson’s ‘Funnel Of Love’; albeit far off from the original in Fall fashion, it continues their curious interest in exercised countrification.

But the best track of the night, and indeed so far on the new album, was ‘Chino Splashback’; a welcome return of traditional post-punk ideals and a seismic bassline tickled by Greenway’s signature strokes. Then the electronic riffs and scuffling hurried beats of ’50 Year Old Man’ showered by Smith’s scrawly vocals, occasionally needy of two mics.

Unreleased material continued with a new intro likely to be ‘New Cowboy’ (as listed on the setlist); an extended guitar and bass instrumental. Finally, ‘Mr Pharmacist’, ‘Reformation’ and a classic from the early days, Dragnet’s ‘Psykick Dance Hall’. As per usual, I’m going to crank on about the lack of older material, but The Fall’s continuous contemporising musical ageing, newer band members and an album still being manifested under new label Domino records, would understandably promote the otherwise.

17/11/09: The Fall @ Koko, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.



Frightful veteran punk antiquation, ANWL, blasted both dusty cobwebbed tracks and fresh blooded tunes at The Underworld for a Halloween punk rock trick or treat.

Anti-Nowhere League (they prefer ANWL to ANL of course), having not outgrown their armless leather jackets, were back for some traditional English jam roly-poly street punk. Having appeared at live shows and festivals over the last few years in the face of many member changes and record label problems, ANWL’s ability to recreate has been fairly impressive.

Following their 2007 album release, ‘The Road To Rampton’, ANWL’s putrid stench is still fresh. It’s typical Oi! smothered, choking fumigation: anthems and chants, repeated chorus lines and boring bass, all of which will drive the more acute of ear into the ground. With surreal monster rock, they entertained with classics ‘We’re The League’, the infectious ‘Streets Of London’ (Ralph McTell cover) and ‘So What’.

ANWL attributed disastrously to Joe Strummer in ‘Dead Heroes’ and fed Elvis LSD in ‘Fuck Around The Clock’ (a bit of trashy fun). However, they were firmly reigned against rock ‘n’ roll’s rhythmic predictability in ‘Can’t Stand Rock ‘n’ Roll’; energising string tight guitar tendons that clashed with Animal’s vocal savagery. New song, ‘Skulls And Bones’, was endangered with communal hand claps, but featured good fretboard slides by Johnny Skullknuckles.

They wound down for lazy number, ‘Woman’, when Animal declared, “[I] don’t feel aggressive anymore. Had it kicked out of me”. Staccato ‘I Hate…People’ sounds familiarly like ‘God Save The Queen’. And ‘My God’s Bigger Than Your God’ – is that a Reagan Youth rip off? Still, it’s the same tired message: “Religion stinks”. If you like folk rock, bleached in punk and set on metallic spin dry, this is the band for you.

Rating: 3/5

30/10/09: Anti-Nowhere League @ Underworld, London.

Photo © Lola Marsden.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originallly published in Daily Music Guide.


Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine

Ahead of the release of their debut album, ‘The Audacity Of Hype’ (LP/CD), Jello and his new band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine, are here to operate on your politically malnourished minds with a series of lectures about political corruption, consumerism and corporate exploitation. But the former Dead Kennedys frontman isn’t intending to brainwash the politically disillusioned with his rantings and ravings about this season’s political failures hot list. He’s here to educate about what they are already well aware of, using music to satirise the monocelled politicians and global hypocrisies of our era.

After a sonic intro sounding familiarly like the build up to a thriller, Mr Biafra finally relieved the crowd’s tension, appearing on stage wearing a blood spattered white coat. Always one for the visual stimuli of theatrics, his characteristic miming performances once classified his Dead Kennedys live shows before their breakup, later overshadowed by his ex-band mates’ ensuing legal poaching over royalties. Despite that, Biafra is still on the road and writing fresh new material; his pugnacious immutable spirit was alive in the song ‘I Won’t Give Up’.

They opened with the album’s first track, ‘The Terror Of Tiny Town’. This being a new band, Biafra – in keeping with the saying, “out with the old, in with the new” – was keen to flaunt the new material. Still retaining its Dead Kennedys ancestry, however, topics ranged from conservatives, Republicans and penises in ‘Clean As A Thistle’; corporatisation and workers’ rights in ‘New Feudalism’ and ‘Electronic Plantation’; and the police Big Brother security state conditioning of ‘Three Strikes’ to the embarrassingly global consumerist culture in ‘Strength Thru Shopping’. Two guitarists, Ralph Spight (Victims Family/Freak Accident) and Kimo Ball (Freak Accident), spun the Dead Kennedys trademark “spy-music-on-meth” guitar hammer-ons and pull-offs, knitting its repetitive web of conspiracy around racing beats and high frequency distortions, all perturbed by the vocals of Biafra.

Jello Biafra & he Guantanamo School of Medicine

There was still time for some classics from the Dead Kennedys collection, including the ‘Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables’ hits ‘Let’s Lynch The Landlord’, ‘California Über Alles’, ‘Holiday In Cambodia’ and its B-side, ‘Police Truck’. ‘Bleed For Me’ had a political naming and shaming spoken word interlude, where Addington to Wolfowitz all served their time in the Biafra grilling house. He’d even glossed over the recent frontpage news stories. Constantly contemporising his political mantra, despite pushing 51, Biafra’s still his impassioned stage diving, youthful self. But as long as there’s an injustice to shout out about and a loyal fan group to satisfy, Jello’s going to be around for some time yet. Watch this band take over the world.

08/09/09: Jello Biafra and The Guantanamo School of Medicine @ O2 Academy Islington, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.


’30 years ago…from my notebook at the time: “Why should Buddha be right?”‘ So poetically philosophises Howard Devoto, the vocals and brain behind Magazine, dressed in a soft black suit and crisp scarlet shirt, clearly reflecting his pining for a clean-cut masterpiece. And tonight’s show was a theatrical masterpiece; the criminally prestigious venue seemed a little out-of-sync with the usual 40/50-something fans, but oddly enough, the scruffy fellas were nowhere to be seen.

The aptly named ‘Soap Show’ was a justifiable celebration of their third album, ‘The Correct Use Of Soap’, released when ’80s musical innovation seeped through the charts. Two-tone ska mod revival and prog-rock classics from The Specials, The Jam and Genesis reigned with the kings of electro synth-pop, Cabaret Voltaire, Gary Numan and The Human League, and yet it’s incomprehensible that there was no niche for Magazine.

Rather predictably played in track order, ‘Because You’re Frightened’ was first, after which Devoto triumphantly brandished the LP – comically the sleeve was empty. Just when Magazine couldn’t further reinvent itself, ‘Model Worker’, with its vibrant intro tones, proved otherwise. Noko was skillful on backing vocals, whilst a saxophonist also steps in, giving a Psychedelic Furs feeling about it all.

Devoto continued, “The knowledge that you have a superb record collection enhances pleasure.” ‘I’m A Party’ served its name well in his stage shuffling, grooming back his usual excessive conducting habits whilst the jazzy saxophone solo spiced up the instrumentals. Devoto, now holding the record, continued to humour and mystify the audience: “And eliminate contact with the [record’s] playing surface.” The tempo grinded down with the deformed ballad, ‘You Never Knew Me’, with Rosalie Cunningham’s (Ipso Facto) haunting siren vocal scales and Devoto’s delayed lyrical rhythm wringing out the bitter resentment from behind every word. A reminder that album producer Martin Hannett’s eerie perspective didn’t just gloss over Joy Division.


And then the literary source of the riddling interludes was revealed: “The anonymous author of ‘Enjoying And Caring For Your Record Collection’ has a final piece of advice. It’s a bit sad: try to avoid ever lending your records to your friends.” An unusually laid back Devoto personifying the light heartedness of the album’s tone; colouring the trail of sterility left by the preceding ‘Secondhand Daylight’ album with funkier, rhythmic complexities and unashamedly thicker textures, when pure punk was sluggish to incorporate a little ostentation.

As Magazine’s juxtapositions go, ‘Philadelphia’ dissipated the previous song’s mellifluous tones, stepping up the drum beat with interfering abrasive guitar strokes, pitch distortions and Formula’s bewailing synthesiser. “Time to turn [the record] over.” But perhaps the best was ‘Stuck’: “Maybe I suggest you check out the 1968 Peter Bogdanovich film, ‘Targets'”. A rawer shade of funk enhanced with cowbells and Adamson’s bass solo barely above a drone.

After the interval and a shirt change, Devoto launched straight into the absurdity of ‘The Book’ – “Mr Manifold is at the door of hell…” – which fans attending earlier shows will be familiar with. ‘Twenty Years Ago’ could be the track to a sci-fi movie, sharing parallels with contemporaries Gang Of Four. Devoto continued, “In 1980, we had quite a few singles out. The third one was called ‘Upside Down’. Back then we never played it. This ‘Soap Show’ is for the first time,” Devoto teasing that this “maybe the last time…” A track from ‘An Alternative Use Of Soap’, a renewed version of the album. Devoto paraded himself with a spoilt schoolboy look and some fantastic sideways leprechaun jumps. A man much before his years.

To finish, ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’, followed by an encore featuring ‘Definitive Gaze’ with Doyle’s brilliant drawn out, stripped down heavy drum beat intro and finally “one, two, three little words”: ‘Give Me Everything’ – a neglected track which always benefits from a live resurrection and appropriately ended an extraordinary night. ‘Shot By Both Sides’ would have been tonally misplaced. Noko stole the night; watching hands reach out to his figure towering above, you can only admire how this child has bloomed. I think even the delirious bloke continuously calling out for McGeoch would have been mildly contented.

29/08/09: Magazine @ The Bridgewater, Manchester.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.


Gang of FourOnly a small number of tickets were splurged on the public for this unforgettable secret showing to celebrate 30 years of the ‘Entertainment!’ album ahead of the September anniversary tour. Inside the sweaty, poorly lit furnace I was contented in a room with wondrously decorated wall scenes of Macbeth – the venue really was a gritty jewel. Much like the band everyone in this room had come to see.

Not being able to see much of the stage, being 5ft 3ish, was actually a virgin experience, this being such a tightly packed venue. The band entered the stage like dinosaurs from a prehistoric realm. Original members Jon King and Andy Gill, surprisingly looking a lot younger than the average dinosaurs, were greeted with the crowd’s cheer.

Forget the studio recordings – there isn’t anything more different to their live soundings. Louder, rawer, more aggressive and outstretched, the band were pretty keen to show off their instrumental talents. The tiny stage contained and restricted the usually reactive, unstable and explosive atoms making up this band: founding members Jon King and Andy Gill and new recruits Mark Heaney and Thomas McNiece, in place of the original Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen.

Gill no longer able to strut and pace about; King no longer able to hit and run, though still able to do some mic-swapping. But what lacked in ground was made up in sound (as true as this rhymes). Whilst Gill barely looked at his guitar, eerily staring out into the distance, his fingers having a life of their own grating themselves on the strings, King flailed his arms about, even unexpectedly swinging on the light fittings for a few seconds. Punk blood is undeniably still bubbling beneath exteriors. No destruction of microwaves, however, although we can hope for so much in the upcoming tour dates.

Gang Of Four ranges from a mixture of funk, revved-up disco and tribal-like minimalism – belonging to the songs ‘Not Great Men’ and ‘What We All Want’ – to the abrasive, crashing guitar and humming basslines of ‘Ether’ and ‘Paralysed’. It’s great to see a band that lives for experimentation; predictable rhythm guitar and obscured bass obliterated, replaced by anti-harmonic dissonance. A successful layering of those two instruments against each other, whilst maintaining their individual autonomy, was nicely displayed in the favourite, ‘Damaged Goods’. Tone varied from Heaney’s galloping drum beats in ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’ to the cutty obstructive lyrics of ‘Return The Gift’, which describe leisure commoditisation.

As is the case with all true punk outfits, the audience were welcomed to join in, rather cheesily in this case with King’s hand clapping frenzy (which a stale crowd mostly rejected). Perhaps the most memorable moment of the night was Gill’s trademark habit of guitar strangulation in ‘Anthrax’ – it still amazes me what pitches he can get out of that instrument. A hugely influential, enjoyable post-punk ensemble that hasn’t lost its fiery bite.

24/08/09: Gang Of Four @ The Macbeth, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.


Reagan Youth

God bless the “United States of Anarchy” for producing Reagan Youth, hailing from Queens, New York. ’80s hardcore/anarcho-punk literature; narration in its intelligent storytelling form, and yet these are no brainy whiz kids. Or are they? Paul Cripple (Paul Bakija) on guitar, Al Pike on bass and Javier Madriaga (Johnny Aztec) on drums, are the past preserved, pickled in the jar of Reagan Youth history. Pat McGowan (Pat SpED), joining in 2006 for the reform tour, had the large shoes of Dave Rubinstein (Dave Insurgent) to fill, who tragically passed away in 1993.

The big question: “Can he pull it off?” The dilly-dallying lingering intros, the teasing and mocking caricatures, were masterful, even if SpED’s voice is a shade variable from the originals. But they never wanted a clone. Reagan Youth are irony personified; their black sardonic humour touching the taboo. “People in Germany got offended by this next song,” Pat explained. The song was ‘Reagan Youth’; a stab at the self-glorifying Nazis who shouted, “Sieg Heil!” (it’s now illegal in Germany). The band jested, “We are the sons of Reagan, Heil! Gonna kill us some pagans, Heil!”, further playing on those ideas in ‘New Aryans’.

But Reagan Youth emphasised, “We are an anarcho-peace punk band.” Their album art depicts vivid cartoons of them draped in KKK outfits for satirical effect. The band draw disturbing parallels between the Nazis and the Christian right, the latter of which Ronald Reagan conservatively embraced; fascism and religious extremism selling itself off as ‘democracy’. But Reagan Youth don’t want any “bullshit democracy” – they’re anarchists! They pierced the hypocritical balloon of religion with ‘Jesus Was A Communist’.

Reagan Youth

Bakija’s choking guitar displayed his Black Sabbath influence, shadowed by Pike wielding his bass like a chainsaw, even if he broke a string halfway through the night. Johnny, with his afro and shades, quietly bashed away in his own prism. Pat declared, “This next song is one for the ladies…not the ladies here, I’m talking about the ones with the big…” Well you get it –lampooning the ‘Miss Teen Americas’ and ‘Queen Babylons’ of the artificial world. Strongly anti-religion, they provoked the crowd with “England’s obsession with the book” and ridiculed America’s fundamentalist Christianity with ‘In Dog We Trust’.

They also tuned their lyrics into environmental destruction and man’s selfish exploitation of nature, which would fuel a Green Peace rally fairly well. Their storytelling mode ventured through landscapes: first the country, awash with toxic rivers and ‘Acid Rain’; then the anarchist’s dream of metaphorically melting down capitalism’s locks on the city; and finally onto the monotonous stale neighbourhoods of ‘Anytowns’ of America, sneering at neighbours who don’t like you playing your music loud, or dying your hair green and pink. Boy is that familiar.

Reagan Youth evoke not only contexts, but senses of the decaying world and its inhabitants, as familiar now as it was back then, starring the ‘Go Nowheres’ and Johnny Vegetables of the TV addict generation. Angry and raw, their last night in England on their European tour spat a bitter truth from the renowned Underworld stage: mankind is robotic conveyor belt consumerism.

23/08/09: Reagan Youth @ Underworld, London.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Make Enemies.