Thursday, 21 April 2011


TV Smith and the Valentines
The Hydrant (upstairs), Wed 30th March

Some, I’d sure, would class this one a guilty pleasure. TV Smith gets together with “glam punk” band the Valentines, to serve us up the best of the Adverts. True, up to now he’s been one of the original punk figures to explore new stuff and not attempt to keep living in 1977. And true, he was sporting what looked rather like the suit he wore to work, modified with spraypaint and stencils seconds before going on stage.

Yet his first words, as soon as he took the stage were “I’m in my mid-Fifties and I’m still pissed off!” (After a little audience prompting, he even mentions the massive anti-cuts demonstration of a few days before.) Ten years behind him, and I feel much the same. Punk was always primarily an outlet for negative energy, and there’s still plenty of that to go round. The music doesn’t just scratch a nostalgic itch, it flickers with life in your memory precisely because it still conveys that same sense of aggravation.

Mention punk to me and I will most likely think first of the old Ignition lyric, “I know what my anger means.” Despite what hardcore fundamentalists tell you, it’s not necessarily that they lyrics are political. In fact, other bands were more explicitly political than the Adverts. (And anyway, popular music had found politics long before punk.) It’s the music. It feels partisan, perpetually rousing itself in a war against boredom and ennui which may never end so long as the world’s still going. Perhaps it doesn’t do any of that for younger generations. But it still fans that fire for those of my time.

Resting on his laurels or keeping tuned into his roots? I doubt it was so simple as one or the other. But he rattled through the set like he meant it, man, and the glass was at the very least half-full...

This clip isn’t from Brighton, but it’s little more than a month later...

The Fallen Leaves
The Hydrant (downstairs, Sat. 16th April)

”Don’t follow the many, baby,
We are the few.”

So was classic-era British punk really about returning the clock from 1976 to 1966? Ex-Subway Secters Fallen Leaves would seem to suggest so. They come bedecked in cravats, waistcoats and neatly pressed check drainpipes, like they want to replay the very moment where mod met hippy. Their sound is white-heat amphetamine blues but with a hazy psychedelic edge, so they serve up both buzzsaw fuzz and shimmer. (Think early Kinks, or perhaps the Pretty Things.)

This might make for a neat comparison to their old frontman, whose return to gigging was reviewed on these shores last Summer. Though their self-description promises roughness (“pop played with passion rather than precision”), even without an adequate sound-check they’re actually a whole lot tighter than the band now under the name Subway Sect!

As said at the time, what makes Goddard so wrong as a frontman, what makes him a South London postie stuck inexplicably on a stage, is the very thing which makes him so right. Conversely, while Goddard poses as anybody, Rob Green is definitely somebody – he exudes charisma, merely of a bizarrely misplaced kind. He’s like a tweedy Thirties prep school teacher, haughty and aloof, looking disdainfully down on the back rows with elegant menace, finger permanently raised in the making of some point or other.

During instrumental breaks he turns his back upon us, hands clasped behind him like an eccentric Edwardian gentleman before the fire. At one point, he stops to pour out a flask of tea. (I think, however, he missed a trick by not sporting a pocket watch which he could consult.)

And there you have it. Subway Sect evade all expectations; even as you stand there watching them they slip through your sight’s grasp. Fallen Leaves have staked out their pitch, and live every inch of it. I think I might even prefer them out of the two. (But then they sport two ex-Secters to Goddard’s one, with guitarist Rob Symmonds.)

This gig was staged entirely for free by the good folks at Spinning Chilli. Knowing them from their pre-presenting days, I asked how they started. They explained they’d been in the habit of travelling out of town for music, then finally figured they could put bands on down here for the same money they were shelling out in petrol and hotels – and give everyone else a chance to see them! A welcome ‘Old Brighton’ attitude and a pleasant change to the current odious fixation with “business opportunities.” They even made the bar staff turn off’X Factor’! (Check out their site.)

While we are on those lines, the band themselves have a cool-looking site.

You may recognise the guitar line here...

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