The Bermondsey Joyriders

What do you get when you cross classic London 1977 punk with addictive power chorded rock ‘n’ roll and a heavy sprinkling of Johnny Thunders? Something not far off The Bermondsey Joyriders – the missing link between the ’60s and the ’70s. Gary Lammin (ex-Cock Sparrer guitarist) and Martin Stacey (ex-Chelsea guitarist) were joined on the drums by guest for-one-night-only, the formidable Rat Scabies (ex-The Damned).

The Bermondsey Joyriders are a band that puts angular on cue drumming and slide guitar effects at its centre. They broke open with an instrumental warmup to precede their best release, ‘All That Darkness’. This was brought into play with the brilliant precision drumming of The Damned’s ex-man, Rat Scabies, who made a guest appearance in place of Keith Boyce for an unforgettable night at The 100 Club.

The Bermondsey JoyridersIf Johnny Thunders was alive today, quite simply this would be his spin-off to the New York Dolls. It’s heavy enough to deter its glam roots and interesting enough to breath in variation in the form of  gritty, bluesy funk. ‘Runnin Riot’ and ‘Part Of My Problem’ were hot off the pressing line of Johansen’s Dolls, whereas ‘Football’ was freshly spun, country-tinged blues rock. And then there was a reversion to pure and simple street-meets-Oi! anthem, ‘Who R Ya?’

On first listen, The Bermondsey Joyriders could be accused of layering repetitive chords in a succession of full blown out songs, but on closer inspection there’s a filtering of a ‘rock through the ages’ agenda, which meets and greets any branded replica idol punk band with contempt. And with new songs aired tonight they are clearly expanding from their humble Bermondsey roots. Definitely likely to grow on you.

09/07/10: The Bermondsey Joyriders @ The 100 Club, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Distorted magazine.



It’s been a mighty long time since Wire last played a UK date, extensively toured or played in London, as demonstrated by a muffled Irish(?) voice blurting out, “Stop playing concerts in Europe,” before bassist Graham Lewis politely replied, “What the fuck did you say?”, humorously imitating his accent.

But now they’re back in London, accompanied by a new second guitarist, Matt Simms (It Hugs Back) in place of Margaret McGinnis. Otherwise they’ve hardly changed a bit (Colin’s even wearing that shirt again). Their performance is as virile as ever, with visual subtleties such as Colin’s reliance on a lyric folder and the abundance of reading glasses the only suggestion that they’re ageing a little. Nevertheless, punk musicians less altered in ways than years – Colin clearly enjoys his music as he danced his way through the 19-song evening.

The setlist was a manoeuvre to new brain produce: it was surprisingly made up of a large proportion of unreleased material, which makes a change from the lean one or two you usually hear other bands showcase. This is all ahead of their upcoming untitled album, currently set for release early next year. Graham made comment of their new and opening song, ‘Smash’: “This song has a connection between roadkill and potatoes,” which is graphitised the same with a Wire trademark bass heavy interlude. New song, ‘A Flat Tent’, is a fast naked punk track, whilst yet another new track brings back the soft new wave shades of ‘A Bell Is A Cup Before It Is Struck’.

They also played a large range off their 11 studio albums, such as last albumWire ‘Object 47’; entrancing ‘Mekon Headman’ and ‘One Of Us’ gave way to the tell-tale chimes of ‘Kidney Bingos’ and ‘German Shepherds’, before returning aggressively with ‘106 Beats That’ and ‘Spent’. And let’s face it, that’s what Wire are about. Old men with loud ‘fuck off’ voices screaming out lyrically obscure musings. They’re still musicians at heart, taking time to meticulously tune their instruments to flex with the alternating slices of punk and post-punk/new wave nuances.

Still keen to showcase even more helpings of their upcoming release, they weaved new songs around a poignant classical crust of ‘Pink Flag’ and ‘The 15th’, before finishing their third encore (yes third) with sexy, gritty funk song ‘Lowdown’ and hate fuelled ’12XU’ (the latter played twice as fast as the studio version so don’t even try to imagine anything milder).

Definitely not the loudest I’ve seen them, but nevertheless brilliant. And it’s great to hear a continuance of their branded sound in their newcomings. A stage time of an hour and a half seems fair, but with Wire it’s consequentially ephemeral. Considering they’re probably the best band in the world (no hyperbole intended – listen to ‘Pink Flag’, ‘Chairs Missing’ and ‘154’ for a start), let’s hope they come back real soon.

08/06/10: Wire @ The Garage, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Distorted magazine.


The Damned

Shepherd’s Bush Empire’s website might call The Damned “punk heroes” but there is little question over how omissible that is. For a band that started a tailgating competition with The Sex Pistols over who could release the first official punk single back in the heyday of ’76, The Damned are one of the most distilled coreline 1977 punk bands about. But more importantly, they’re a progressive one. It goes without saying that they’ve been genre splashed and coated throughout their existence and a tenfold album span.

Immediately noticeable from their opening songs, ‘Disco Man’ and ‘I Can’t Be Happy Today’, there was a steep gothic and new wave overture branching back to their earliest tracks, exuberated by Dave Vanian’s masterful crooner style gothic operetta. Moreover, The Damned, who have been on tour every other year since their reform in 1993, have continued to display Lazarus raising abilities in their live show performances, to a point where all songs are true off-the-record sensations.

They played from a mixture of albums: ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ and their debut, ‘Damned, Damned, Damned’, alongside their latest release, ‘So, Who’s Paranoid?’. The round-about 20-song setlist was a tumbling fruit machine. ‘Thrill Kill’ is an overlooked track from their later ‘Grave Disorder’ album, which shadow surfed the heavy trod of metal bass with low to high pitched guitar streaks. A song that Captain Sensible dedicated to Lemmy of Motörhead, who The Damned toured with at the end of last year and a previous member of the band for a brief period.

The Damned

Classics included ‘Love Song’, Pistol riff precursor, ‘New Rose’, and ‘Born To Kill’, which was interrupted by a reverberating ‘Neat Neat Neat’ interlude, allowing the audience to catch their breath before it came to a bludgeoning end. The encore contained ‘Problem Child’ and ‘Fan Club’, as well a Sky Saxon tribute in the form of Seeds cover, the 1968 psychedelic classic, ‘Satisfy You’. They finished the night on a return to ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ – ‘Smash It Up’.

It’s a wonder why the ‘music press’ don’t cut The Damned some slack over the content of their latest albums, which unfathomably received appalling reviews. Their expansion from one-line chorus and fast pumped tracks has certainly not compromised anything off their earlier work. The experimentation of albums such as ‘Strawberries’, resulting in songs like ‘Bad Time For Bonzo’ and gothic western, ‘Shadow Of Love’ – both on the setlist – have done no harm. In the words of an old-time punk veteran, “Wasn’t punk supposed to be about something new?”

04/06/10: The Damned @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

Photos © Kim Ford.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Distorted magazine.


Stiff Little Fingers

Having missed out London on their 2009 fall tour, the Irish pub rock legends were back in the capital, still albumless but able to entertain the crowd with a bulk of pre-washed material. Jake Burns headed up a somewhat quiescent band, inhibitively exhibiting himself on one of two guitar alter egos, although Ali McMordie was much more deranged on bass.

It’s hard not to dismiss these guys as merely a fun-loving on the bandwagon band, who used the 1977 mantra to breed their own version of punk rubber careers, albeit highly successfully. But their loyal fanbase is clear for the eye to see.

The setlist pick ‘n’ mix spanned the last three decades of Stiff Little Fingers’ history. It was meat-packed tight with chanty pop melodies, such as ‘Wasted Life’, ‘At The Edge’ and ‘Guitar And Drum’, with hint flashes of decent folk wrenched songs like ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers And Reggae’ and ‘Silver Lining’, with a reggae Specials cover thrown in for good measure.

Stiff Little Fingers

The problem is that Stiff Little Fingers are a guitar built band, which brings them closer to their pub rock upbringing than to any sort of punk ergonomic energy. But it’s good to see that some of their newer material has been reflecting off the lustre hot plate of their past: a newer, albumless song previously debuted live, ‘Liars Club’, smacked hard with ravaging punk rock guitar interludes, politically subjected upon Bush/Blairesque dystopia.

Touching upon their military Irish conflict obsessions, they also showcased ‘Barbed Wire Love’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, and ‘Tin Soldiers’, before finishing up on ‘Suspect Device’ and an encore with an overlong version of ‘Johnny Was’; the latter really well done live with strained guitar effects. Stiff Little Fingers have lost their original Venetian gloss, but with a loyal fanbase about they can’t ever be extinguished. Truly inflammable material.

05/03/10: Stiff Little Fingers @ The Forum, London.

Photos © Luke Ball.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Distorted magazine.


Pere Ubu

The Pere Ubu sextet were in London for two dates at The Relentless Garage and Blackheath Halls, the former for a beginning and end showcase of their first and last albums, ‘The Modern Dance’ and ‘Long Live Père Ubu!’. Two world apart collections spanning over 30 years of Ubu tenacity.

They began with not the first, but their most recent album compilation, laughably because their later works lack some of the musical charisma that their earlier albums amass, or as David Thomas summated, are somewhat “shit”.

David joked about his future replacement, Frank Black, before launching straight into ‘Song Of The Grocery Police’: distorted vibes of whinging vocalisations. ‘March Of The Greed’ followed with its baseball organ riff, before David skipped a verse and halted the song, humouring the crowd. The songs on this album were slightly disorientated from the contextual setting of the theatrical production of ‘Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi’, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s ‘Ubu Roi’, which left David pining over emotional disturbance.

Robert Wheeler (synthesiser) was chicken-headed for ‘Big Sombrero (Love Theme)’, a nonsensical noise piece that was slightly off-putting. ‘Bring Me The Head’ continued the theatricity, which David explained is Mère Ubu singing, “She’s convinced Ubu that he’s not the monster. They are. The people. They’re the monster. ‘Slowly I Turn’ influxed with heavy-toned punk beats invaded by paralytic frequencies.

After the interval, ‘Modern Dance’ was played out in full, with filtrated post-punk classics such as ‘Non-alignment Pact’ and ‘Laughing’; teaming streaming theremin high frequencies with mind-branding chants.

David’s blatant sexism was celebrated in ‘Over My Head’ and the menacing ‘Time Will Catch Up With You’. ‘Sentimental Journey’, the 1977 recording which was largely improvised, was specially performed with different lyrics; a desperate distortion of broken conversation. Pere Ubu finished the night on audience requests including the fast punk paranoia that is ‘Folly Of Youth’. It’s from songs like that that a firm line can be drawn to David’s social cause – the ex-punk 50-year-old males.

A night of disjointed untameable rhythm and staged pranks that covered Sting to the “pimple-headed, cross-eyed geek from Radiohead.” Pere Ubu have set up a sharp contrast in their musical outputs over their expansive career, but have maintained accordance with discordance. Of course, their older classics are much more delectable to the ear.

25/02/10: Pere Ubu @ The Garage, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

Originally published in Noize Makes Enemies.