Racket From The Pit: January 2016

You can’t keep a bitter, neurotic, befuddled, old man down.

Shitty New Year, friends! So, here we are after a two year hiatus, having jumped ship once again. Whodathunkit?! Back on the critical stretch-rack, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous sonic misfortune or embracing the occasional purr of bountiful genius. It’s all gravy, except when it’s diarrhoea. Thank you to PS for allowing me to foist my eternal BS upon all you LAMFs.

And so on. Ex-Algernon Cadwallader trio, DOGS ON ACID, may walk like Weezer with adequately whiny singing and mid-paced rifferama but it’s homegrown trio, BANGERS, who took the gold medal tonight (Junction, Plymouth, 16th Oct). Their more considered, less frenetic, new direction is every bit the equal to the growling melodic punk of old; vocalist, Roo Pescod, seamlessly blending both styles with witty hooks and grinning gusto. Openers, DOE, may sound like they need a bassist but they don’t care. The Brighton power-trio’s Pixies-esque hum has enough invention to outwit the lack of low end.

Album launches are like birthday parties: over-hyped, anti-climactic and full of sobs. Thankfully, THE BLOWOUTS heralded the release of their debut, ‘A Veteran Of Sorts’, with a modest sense of occasion and no blubbing (Underground, Plymouth, 23rd Oct). Eschewing the ramshackle punk of their former selves, the Plym quartet now cut a more indie-centric dash, taking the feyness of The Cure and giving it a spiky AFI makeover. One-man post-rock army, STEVE STRONG, continued to plough his singular furrow with guitar taps, sampled noise and very smart, scattershot drumming; while Bristol post-rockers, THE EARTH & ME, made their instruments howl like Mogwai’s old underpants.

Blowouts-pic-best

The Blowouts

It was HOWLIN’ LORD‘s last ever show (Junction, Plymouth, 13th Nov). Damn shame. With the effortlessly retro Mark Legassick at the helm, the Bristol quintet chopped out line after line of deliciously Dylan-esque ’70s folk-blues, clearly in love with their heroes and clearly unconcerned with whatever the fuck you and your beard-mapping bro’core goons are up to. The beautifully understated harmonies of WALNUT FALCONS (reduced to a duo) also resonated with authenticity, as honeyed vocals and caressed chords weaved their way through country music history.

In the mid-’80s, Crass had come, conquered and gone, The Exploited were wallowing in self-parody, the punks were all hippies, and the free festival scene was spewing out post-Hawkwind acid-rockers by the bucketload. Bucking the trend were RDF: a ragtag bunch of parochial crusties who imparted revolutionary soundbites over heaving bass-lines and hypnotic, narcotic rhythms. Back in Plymouth (Underground, 21st Nov) for the first time in 20 years, vocalist, Chris Bowsher’s ghostly countenance and flatlined rants, like an albino John Cooper Clarke or a zombified Sleaford Mods, were tight and true, while the band’s dub/reggae lockdowns brought memories of Stonehenge and squat gigs flooding back.

I drove London indie-punks, APOLOGIES I HAVE NONE, on tour for a week, basking in their no-frills, psychotically-charged odes to love and desperation. Despite personnel and personal issues, the band have managed to complete their second album and seemed revitalised by it. Frontman, Josh McKenzie, doesn’t so much wear as skewer his heart on his sleeve the result, at times, being as discomforting as it was gladdening. Other notable bands encountered were co-headliners, HINDSIGHTS, and their youthfo’ emo catharsis; DARKO and their ridiculous command of speedy tech-core (Junction, Plymouth, 25th Nov); and Mancunian homeboys, THROWING STUFF, who made like Minor Threat with ADHD. Smashing.

It was the almost-debut outing of Patrick James Pearson’s new vessel, SAN FELU, and expectations were high (Junction, Plymouth, 19th Dec). Accomplished and slick, urbane and dexterous, with more than a nod and a wink to The National and Nick Cave, there’s no doubting the cosmopolitan talent that continues to course through Pearson’s veins, never more so than on the majestic ‘Sanctuary Blues’. Meanwhile, Devon’s gnarliest post-punks, BRUNEL, were warmly belligerent and dripping in sarcastic joy. Just as we like ’em. And if those lewd bass rumbles and San Diego guitar chops don’t warm the cockles of your (post-) Christmassy heart, nothing will. Later losers!

Darren Johns (johnsycash@yahoo.co.uk)

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