Thursday, 8 December 2011

News At 11

First up I’d like to mention a couple of new CDs that have arrived and left me feeling very excited. First Mr Tadpole sent me the new Burnt Cross CD “Mankind’s Obiturary”, and Captain Oi have released another of their singles boxsets, this time featuring the Skids. Both are great in their own way; Burnt Cross are perfect for the current climate, angry anarcho punk rock that pulls no punches. While the Skids have always been favourites for me and their timeless tunes have remained constant companions over the years. Reviews of both are up on the Suspect Device website now.
I ordered the Sudor LP from La Vida Es Un Mus after hearing a couple of tracks on-line.  They are another great Spanish band whose noisy yet tuneful basic punk rock has elements of UK82 punk and early US hardcore. It’s rough and ready and really very good indeed. www.lavidaesunmus.com/
In something of a contrast, I downloaded the Pet Milk EP “Philadelphia Punklife” from their bandcamp page. If you don’t know, they have Paint It Black’s guitarist Josh Agran playing drums, but they don’t sound at all like PiB, instead they dish up a wonderful selection of C86 style indie pop. It’s glorious stuff.
I’ve also stumbled across a band from Brazil called Onde Eu Me Encaixo? who I’m really liking right now, and I will be trying to track down a copy of their self titled LP very soon.
I recently watched a film called I Need That Record, about the plight of independent record shops in the US, it made me realise that what I want to do when I grow up is work in a record shop. Not HMV or anything like that, but a proper record shop, with real records. Sadly I think the realisation has come 25 years or so too late. However it has planted a seed and I’m seriously considering starting the SD distro up again, but concentrating on vinyl. 
Right, with the admin out of the way I think I may have a little ramble...
In 1979 I was 13, the punk bug had bitten and my record buying habit was just starting to take hold. At that time I didn’t have much money, so records would have to be begged for or bought when a few week’s pocket money had been saved. To keep me happy I’d make do with borrowing and taping records from friends or my cousin, recording the John Peel show onto cassette or searching out the few music shows on TV (One day I’ll tell you the story of how a chest infection, a trip to Lymington and 1970’s daytime TV caused me to became so attached to The Clash’s “Give ‘em Enough Rope” LP). 
A friend had an older step brother who was going through his “punk phase”; he had a cool leather jacket with X-Ray Spex painted on the back, which I coveted and dreamed about nicking (I never did though). More importantly he’d buy records, and when he was out we’d sneak into his room and listen to his new purchases. One afternoon we discovered that he had two new singles, “In To The Valley” by The Skids and “Reality Asylum” by Crass.
I knew of The Skids, and had heard “In To The Valley” on the radio, so we gave that a spin and we loved it. At that time I hadn’t heard Crass, so “Reality Asylum” was a bit of a shock and we quickly flipped it over to listen to “Shaved Women”. I didn’t understand it at all, at that time I wasn’t ready for Crass’ message and didn’t grasp what this record was about at all. On that afternoon it certainly didn’t measure up to the punky greatness of The Skids, and pushed Crass to the back of my mind for quite a while. Little did I know that they, and the DIY philosophy they championed, would have a huge influence on me and what I’d spend a good part of my life involved with.
I can’t remember when I next listened to Crass, it was certainly a while before I bought any of their stuff. I have “Feeding Of The 5000” on Small Wonder, but I got that a couple of years after its release in a second hand shop. I did buy the first “Bullshit Detector” compilation when it came out, and I bought other bands’ records that Crass put out, I particularly remember getting, and loving, the Flux Of Pink Indians EP, but it was records by bands that Crass inspired that I was buying at the time, particularly Subhumans, Rubella Ballet, Hagar The Womb and then Lost Cherrees, Conflict and so on.
If initially the music of Crass didn’t inspire me, their DIY punk ideals certainly did, I loved it and both Gaz and me threw ourselves into it, leading to us starting Suspect Device zine and becoming involved with the local DIY punk scene.

Over 30 years later I found myself rushing up from Southampton to Shepherds Bush to see Steve Ignorant play Crass songs for one last time. I never saw Crass, they did play in Southampton, but only once and way before I’d caught up, and anyway I didn’t find out about the gig until long after it had happened.
I know some questioned why this Steve Ignorant gig was happening at the Shepherds Bush O2 Arena; playing anarcho punk songs in a corporate arena does seems strange at first, but seeing as the venue was packed it’s difficult to think of exactly where it could have been held to cater for that many people. Also, if this was Crass then I’d have had more of a problem with it, but this wasn’t Crass, and it was never billed as Crass, this was Steve Ignorant playing songs he’d sung while he was in Crass; I saw BIll Stevenson sing Black Flag songs in the same venue but I didn’t think I was watching Black Flag play.
I got there late after getting the 6pm train from Southampton, and rushed from the tube station to the venue, texting both Gaz and Pete Zonked to see where they were. Once I was in the venue I ran into the first security guard of the evening. Oddly enough he was friendly and good humoured. That negotiated I went into the venue to catch the last song and a half from Paranoid Visions, meaning I’d missed Andy T. 
When they’d finished I ran into a couple of familiar faces, none of them had seen Gaz, so I wondered around avoiding the numerous old punks walking around slopping beer all over the place. It was good to see the Sea Shepherds stall at the back, sadly that sort of thing happens so rarely at gigs these days.
I finally saw Gaz with Spud at the Bar (surprise surprise). Pete had replied saying he was stuck upstairs, and wasn’t happy about it.
While talking to Gaz and Spud The Cravats started up. Spud wasn’t into them, but I quite liked them; they aren’t a band I listen to a lot at home, but they were pretty good live.
Nath and Michelle were the friendly faces we saw after The Cravat’s set. Gaz and Spud were telling beer induced nostalgic stories, and after getting another load of beer slopped all over me I started to wish I could swap places with Pete. 
Then it was time for the main event.
It was odd to hear the loud cheering when the band took the stage, it was like going to see bands before a DIY scene had sprung up in Southampton, when Stiff Little Fingers, Siouxsie & The Banshees etc would play to huge crowds in a “proper” venue and the crowd would be chanting the band’s name and cheering loudly as they took the stage. For that one moment it seemed I was a million miles away from DIY punk rock. But, when the band started I forgot all that as they played a superb set. Steve Ignorant’s voice was sounding a little horse, but I think the emotion of the occasion was getting to him. Carol Hodge, on the other hand, belted out her songs in a strong confident way and sounded really great. 
As the set drew to a close members of Steve’s volunteer Lifeboat crew came on stage in full rescue gear while the band played “(West One) Shine On Me”, the old Ruts song. It  was done so well that it was almost my favourite moment of the night. The lifeboat crew looked a little ill at ease, but then I guess none of them had ever stood on stage looking out a thousands of old punk rockers jumping up and down.
A further surprise was instore for everyone when Penny Rimbaud walked on stage and sat down at a little drum kit to play “Do They Owe Us A Living” with Steve, just vocals and drums they way it was played originally. Following that Eve Libertine walked on for a powerful rendition of “Darling”. Eve also returned during “Shaved Women” to sing part of it with Carol, and that was probably the highlight of the set for me as these days “Shaved Women” is one of my favourite and most played Crass songs.
 In the end it all over ran, and although I’d arranged to meet Gaz at the back I kind of got caught up in a throng of people leaving and found myself heading for the exit. As Sarah was going to have to get out of bed to come and pick me up from the station in Southampton (engineering works meant trains didn’t go any further) I wanted to get a train back as quickly as I could. I sent Ga a text telling him I’d meet him on the station and hurried away. I got back to waterloo with enough time to grab a takeaway tea and got on the train. With minutes to spare Gaz arrived and we headed off home, both agreeing that it had been worth all the effort to get there, and we’d seen something special.
I still prefer smaller gigs, but I can’t deny that it was good to hear those songs played live, and played so well. I have to say I don’t think Crass ever played these songs as well; I know that wasn’t the point and that Crass were about much more that the music. Tonight was all about the songs and the performance, and the band Steve had put together were superb. 
I don’t think it tarnished Crass’ name or message at all. This was a celebration, an evening for everyone there to think about what Crass meant to them while having a good time. 
In the days following the gig I found myself thinking about how Crass influenced me, and how from that moment in 1979 when “Shaved Women” took second place to “In To The Valley” Crass had gradually, if indirectly, set a course for my life. I think even the people around me as I grew up were influenced by Crass, even if they never knew anything about them. My parents couldn’t tell you any of Crass’ songs, but I think that I was so annoying and self-righteous as a teenager that things slowly crept into their consciousness. They’re not ever going to be out on the street waving a black flag, it’s a little more subtle than that. They didn’t bat an eyelid when I became a vegetarian, they slowly turned into fanatical recyclers, had solar panels installed on their roof and my dad now drives a hybrid car. They’ve moved their money out of a bank and into a building society and this week my dad even spent some time searching the internet for vegan recipes so my mum could make me a cake. Anarchy and Piece (of cake).

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hang Ten

Some times I feel down, it’s always happened, some periods have been worse than others, the ‘80s for instance totally sucked. The whole decade was just so awful and I made some terrible decisions that meant I was pretty unhappy for a lot of those years; not that I would admit it to myself at the time.
Sadly, 2011 has been pretty crap, mostly because of work. Strangely I used to quite like my job, but this year I haven’t and at times I’ve had that gut wrenching feeling when it’s time to turn the light out at night and I realise in a few hours I’ll be going back to that place. Right now I feel trapped. It’s getting me down.
The one thing that has helped me during these down times has been music; the early ‘80s may have seen the death of mainstream music, but it saw punk rock blossom in so many different directions and as the years passed I began to appreciate most of it. It saw my immersion in the local DIY scene and, along with Gaz, my venture into punk rock fanzine writing. Musically 2011 has been a pretty good one I think, and I’m still discovering new music that inspires me, and every soften I’ve discovered some old gem that slipped past me at the time.

Inspired by doing an interview with Martin Sorrondeguy recently, I started to track down some of the South American bands he mentioned, which lead to me discovering lots more and moving on to Spanish bands, of which there seems to be innumerable good ones about at the moment. It was during one of these searches that I came across The X-Preys on a Bandcamp page. Four songs were offered as a free download, and they proved to be so ruddy good that I had to find out more about this band. Being from Madrid they hadn’t yet reached the radar of my buddy Paul in Malaga, but then his heart is in Mallorca, so I set out on my own voyage of discovery. I found that they had an album, and once that knowledge had reached my brain it became a quest; I’m a little short of money at the moment, but all common sense went out of the window and I had to have this album. This has happened to me before, instinct takes over and I won’t rest until I have whatever release I’m after. It was initially pretty frustrating, I found the album on lots of sites, but it was always sold out. Then I stumbled onto Rumble Records’ site and saw that the album was also available on CD with extra tracks. Normally I’d choose the LP over the CD, but as I said, instinct had taken over and my instinct was to get as many songs as possible as quickly as possible. So I fired off an email and got a pretty quick reply from Pablo, so I paypaled my money over right away. With my needs satisfied I relaxed while I eagerly awaiting the arrival of the CD, reveling in the late ‘70s style gloriousness of the four songs I already had; these guy and girls certainly know how to inject urgency into their songs. I love it... When it arrived Pablo had enclosed an X Prays badge as well, obviously he knows I am also a sucker for a nice badge. There isn’t a lot of diversity on offer on this CD, but I wasn’t expecting that, and didn’t really want it either; I got just what I wanted, 15 tracks of stripped down punk rock that presses all the right buttons for me. Check them out.

I recently found some old demos in a crate that I hadn’t got round to sorting through since our move (yes, I know it’s been over a year). One of them I was particularly happy to see again, it was by the old Brighton band Nux Vomica, who featured Allen and Sam from our old favourites Sleep. I connected my tape player up to my computer and pressed play, recording as I listened. It all still sounded really good, so I didn’t mind when the first attempt to copy it didn’t work and I had to listen to it all again. I instantly wanted to share it, so I sent Allen an email just to check that he didn’t mind me putting it on the SD site. It was so long ago (Summer of 1992 Allen thinks), but I don’t remember Nux Vomica staying around too long, I have this demo, and I remember seeing them live at The Joiners, I even have a T-Shirt, but my memory tells me they were gone too soon, although Pete Zonked says he remembers seeing them in Brighton without Allen singing, so there’s a chance they carried on playing longer than I remember. Anyway, it’s good fast hardcore stuff so go to the SD site and check it out.

We finally got SD53 printed, and apart from one little niggly thing that’s annoying me I think it came out pretty well. It certainly seems to be popular with lots of interest being shown and people sending SAE’s, so thanks to everyone who has asked for a copy, and if I have said I’ll send you a copy (copies) please be patient, I’m getting there, but postage costs so much these days. If you want one then send and email to suspectdevicehq@hotmail.com and we’ll sort it out.

Ellis at Static Shock has given the wonderful Brain F≠ LP, “Sleep Rough”, a UK release. It’s a great record, so go grab a copy right away.

This past weekend I went to see Steve Ignorant’s Last Supper gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire, but I think that needs a blog entry of its own, so I’ll wait while I gather my thoughts before writing about it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Nine Plan Failed

Money has been tight this month so I haven’t bought any new music, and the only thing that has come is the new self released CD from local punkers Chemical Threat, featuring my old band-mate Jonny Fry. I have to admit that in the past I haven’t been too impressed with their recorded stuff, but this is a lot better, the band seem more together and the lyrics appear to have had more thought put into them. I meant to pass the CD on to Gaz at the weekend, but forgot. I think he’ll be interested in hearing it so I guess I’ll be sending it Norfolk way this week.

Gaz, as you can probably guess, was back down South this weekend, and so were Si Briggs and his lovely wife Paula who were using the fact that Middlesbrough were playing Southampton as an excuse to pay us a visit. Along with Sarah and Becca we all took in the game; all but two of us left the game happy, but being the perfect hosts we didn’t once gloat.

On our way back we had to cut through John Lewis to get back to the car park. As we passed through I noticed what I thought was the first Specials album sleeve on a display; a closer look showed I hadn’t been mistaken it was that album cover, in their wall hanging section. Amongst the framed pictures and wall clocks they had a display of frames that you can display your favourite album sleeves in.
Not only did they have that Specials sleeve on the wall, but also albums by Radiohead, Velvet Underground and Sex Pistols amongst others. John Lewis had Never Mind The Bollocks hung up on their wall! How times change eh? Back in 1977 a shop owner was prosecuted for displaying the very same LP sleeve.
As well as selling these frames, they were selling the records they had on display and both Gaz and me couldn’t resist flicking through them; sadly there isn’t another shop in Southampton city centre where you can do this these days. I couldn’t help but pick up the Sex Pistols cover, it’s such an iconic sleeve and holds a special place in my heart; I can still remember buying it for the first time.
(I can feel a bit of nostalgia coming on)
Although I first heard the Pistols in 1977, I didn’t start buying records until 1978, so it was probably 1979 when I first got my hands on a copy of their album. As a proper band the Pistols were done by then, but that didn’t matter to me, this was like the holy grail. I had heard it, my cousin had tapped it for me, but that cassette was wearing very thin and I just had to have vinyl. I remember standing in the bus station with my mum and sister after having seen the record in Subway Records, it was something like £2.99 and I wanted to borrow some money and had to ask my mum, the conversation went something like this...
Mum, “What record do you want?”
Me, “It’s a Sex Pistols album.”
Mum, “Which one?”
Me, “Er…It’s called Never Mind.”
Now, for a couple of years the Sex Pistols were all over the newspapers, and my parents used to get the Daily Mirror delivered, and it was there I had first heard of this shocking group, and by 1979 my love for punk rock in general, and the Pistols in particular was well known, so I knew my mum was aware of them, and all the controversy surrounding them, and was probably well aware of what the album was really called.
Even now I wince when I happen to swear in front of my mum, so then as an 12/13 year old I would never have dared, and I’m pretty sure my mum was making me squirm and sweat a bit before lending me the money. But in the end she did, and I rushed in to buy it.
I could hardly believe that I now owned this album, and over the next few years I played it to death. So much so that I eventually had to buy a second copy; in all I think I have bought, or acquired two copies on vinyl, and three copies on CD, including the American release.
So now, at the age of 45 I was standing in John Lewis of all places, with my wife, daughter and three friends, staring at this cover I knew so well and feeling excited. You see it was the 30th Anniversary version, with a 7”, poster and CD version included. When this came out, 4 years ago, I didn’t get round to picking it up, I always meant to but never did. Gaz was just as excited by this record and as it’s his birthday soon Sarah and me decided to buy it for him, so off Sarah went to the till. She came back with two copies, one of them for me. You can’t imagine just how thrilled I was; it didn’t matter just how many times over the years I’ve played those songs, I was like that little kid again stood in the bus station.
I guess to a lot of people now the Sex Pistols don’t mean much, but I was lucky that I was at the right age to be really hit by what they were doing, musically. It may not seem like it today, but “Pretty Vacant”, the first punk song I ever heard, was the hardest hitting song I’d ever heard, it truly left me gobsmacked and kicked open the doors to a world of punk rock that has shaped my life for the last 35 years.
(sorry, I’m back in the now, er, now)
I have been checking out some new stuff on the internet and writing myself a shopping list for when I have some spare cash, and reacquainting myself with old bands like Betercore, Black Market Baby and The Vaselines. One band I have just discovered are Extinct who are probably the first hardcore band from Luxembourg I’ve ever heard. I have also been listening to bands from Spain, Sweden, Germany and Brazil.
Oh, and like everyone else I have become a fan of Terrible Feelings, and I’m gutted I missed their Brighton gig a couple of weeks ago.

The new issue of Suspect Device, SD53, will be out very soon.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Track 8

Phew, what a week. It started off ok, new music came my way and I was getting on with the zine well. On Monday night we were up at Southampton’s Sports Centre watching Becca play netball for the Under 16’s (she’s under 14), as usual; close to the end of the match she took a spectacular tumble. The game stopped and she sat crying, holding her wrist. Now, when I was her age I broke my wrist for the second time so I kind of thought I knew what was wrong; she’d have a hairline fracture, we’d be up at A&E for a few hours, they’d plaster her up, send her home and she’d have three or four weeks in plaster.
As it turned out she had done more damage than I had expected and needed an operation to have her wrist wired together. So, although we got to A&E before 8.30 that Monday evening, Becca didn’t leave hospital until about 11.30 on the Wednesday, and faces six weeks in plaster. It was, initially, quite a traumatic experience for her, but once she had been given some pain killers and had some sleep she took it all in her stride. At one point I was very tired and emotional while she just got on with it.
The nurses on her ward were all superb, they couldn’t do enough for Becca and did everything they could to make feel comfortable and happy; the care they gave her was just wonderful and despite their long hours and demanding patients they were never less than cheerful, attentive and helpful. And that was the same for every kid on the ward, some of whom had some horrible injuries and were, understandably, difficult to calm down (I’m not sure I’d have coped any better with a snapped thigh bone than the three year old on Becca’s ward). We live in a world where bankers can fuck up the whole world’s economy  and still pay themselves huge bonuses while there are these overworked and underpaid nurses actually making a difference to other people’s lives.
And seeing as I’ve touched on the subject - http://www.occupytogether.org/
Anyway, A couple of days ago Aston at Boss Tuneage, the good chap that he is, sent me their new Section 13 release, “Burning Bridges”, and holy flip what a great album it is, reminding me of bands like Toxic Reasons, Articles Of Faith and Dag Nasty. I was so taken with it that I contacted singer Ian right away to see if I could fit an interview into the new issue of SD. 
The zine is pretty much done and I’m just waiting for pay day to get it printed, but I was so taken with the album I felt I had to try to squeeze an interview in if at all possible. Thankfully Ian replied right away and I fired off some questions. All being well it will be in the zine, if not it can go on the website. If you haven’t heard this band yet, sort yourself out and get into it.

Boss Tuneage also have some great new stuff in the pipeline too, and are re-releasing the Political Asylum "Winter" CD that was originally out on Passing Bells in Finland.
Gaz got me a copy of the limited edition UK Subs single that’s been put out by the Subs’ Time & Matter website. “Product Supply” is a benefit for relief efforts in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami; they aren’t new songs, being recorded in 2005 (by  Haprer, Garrett, Gibbs with drummer Jason Willer), but I’m sure I’m right in saying that the only one of the three that has been release before is the title track that was a “secret” song on the latest Captain Oi released Singles CD Boxset. It’s a very good single on nice white vinyl; it’s limited to 250 copies, but it’s worth hunting down.
As mentioned last time Epic Problem have a new CDEP out; Mackie has now sent me the CD version and good stuff it is too, check it out at bandcamp and get yourself a copy here...
Friends and acquaintances have been recommending me new music, which is always nice, and lately I have been enjoying Terrible Feelings from Sweden, Aspirina Infantil and Warsong from Spain, Speed Kills from Brazil and Criaturas from the US. Have some fun and track these bands down.
Also, the newest Maximum RocknRoll compilation, “Nose Ordinance” is great. Pete  Zonked mentioned it in his SD column, and it was enough to get me interested. Comps are often hit and miss, but this one is a winner, I was especially pleased to find it included a song I hadn't heard from N/N too. http://maximumrocknroll.com/

Suspect Device 53 will be out soon, we just need a payday to be able to afford the printing. So far it has interviews with Martin Sorrondeguy, Crocodile God and The Destructors, plus the other stuff, of course and hopefully that Section 13 interview.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Magnificent Seven

So, were Night Birds any good? Holy flippin’ heck, they were so good. I was expecting to enjoy them, but they were so much better than even I had hoped; a perfect combination of great songs, a bit of fun and tons of energy. I’m just gutted that I forgot my camera, just like I did for the Punch gig; I took a few pictures with my phone, but it’s not the same and they didn’t come out too well. I really must get myself a smaller camera that’s easier to carry around.
Anyway, I got to spend a bit of time with Night Birds singer Brian; we’d exchanged a few emails and did an interview (Night Birds interview at suspectdevicehq.co.uk), so it was good to find he was such a cool guy, and it was fun to hang out for a while.
I also go to meet Alex from Grave Mistake Records, who was over with the band. He’s been good to enough to send us quite a bit of stuff for review recently, and it was nice to find he is also a really nice guy. He did offer to give me a copy of the new Brain F≢ LP (“Sleep Rough”) for review, but after all the free CDs and records he’s sent over from the US it was the least I could do to buy a copy of the record, and what a belter it is. I liked their singles, but this is so much better. They have a better sound on this release, but still retain the rough edges to their songs which makes them so interesting. The record is on lovely green vinyl too.
I also bought a vinyl copy of the Night Birds album, because I couldn’t resist having it on vinyl as well as CD.
There were friendly locals there too, and it was nice to catch up with Ralf, Darren and Buz, plusd Tom Hussey was there again and Tom Ellis too; no Pete though as he was sunning himself in Turkey. I probably feel more at home at gigs in Brighton than I do in Southampton these days; I probably go to more gigs in Brighton these days though.
Some local bands also played and it was the first time I’d seen any of them, hopefully it won’t be the last.
This gig was in the same place as the Punch one, and again finished early, so I was home and in bed before midnight. Now that’s rock n roll for you!
Other musical goodies include some new Epic Problem songs. Mackie has sent me the initial mixes of three of their new ones, and they are sounding really good. I liked the stuff on their debut, self released CDEP, but these push the quality bar up a few notches. I’m not sure what kind of release they’ll be getting, but hopefully you’ll all get to hear them soon.
A self released CD by four Bristol bands came in from one of the featured bands, This Ends Now, and I really like the DIY nature of the release, also God Given Ass from Finland sent their new 7”EP, which I haven’t played yet, but both releases will get a review in the new Suspect device, which is almost done.
I’ve also been playing C√≥lera a fair bit after hearing the sad news that their singer/guitarist, Redson, died from a heart attack on 28th September 2011; he was only 49.
Other bands that have been getting a lot of playing time from me this week include the wonderful Terrible Feelings from Sweden, Speed Kills from Brazil and old stuff from Amsterdamned, The Dishrags and Eyes. I particularly liked The Dishrags, a band I’m completely missed back in the late ‘70s, but I’m enjoying catching up now.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Six Guns

Well it’s been a little while, but I’ve been busy, honest. Apart from the usual work and family stuff I’ve been working on the new issue of SD, and I even got out to see a gig.
I have reviewed most of the stuff I’ve mentioned in pervious entries here, ready for inclusion in the next issue, and there hasn’t really been much in since. Except, of course, the new Night Birds album. Alex at Grave Mistake was good enough to send a copy over and it is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. It has all those elements that make for a great album, and how can anyone not love a record that brings to mind bands like Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange and Adolescents? I’ve been playing it a lot.
www.gravemistakerecords.com
My buddy Stuart Armstrong sent me a couple of releases put out by Retro Records. I love all that late ‘70s stuff, and I’m a sucker for the more obscure bands, so to have stuff by The Crabs and The Bears is wonderful. I really like The Bears’ “Wot’s Up Mate?”, but I haven’t given The Crabs one a proper listen yet. however I’m excited to have it here ready to listen to. He also sent me an album he had but doesn’t really listen to, “Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver” by The Nips / Nipple Erectors. I haven’t played this yet either, but I”m really happy to have it and very grateful that Stu was willing to be parted from it.
So, last Thursday I drove across to Brighton to see Punch. I went on my own, and I always find that a little disconcerting, but I knew Pete Zonked was going so at least there would be a friendly face there. As it was before Pete arrived that lovely fellow Tom Hussey from Attack! Vipers! turned up, and it is always great to see him. I also introduced myself to Punch singer Meghan, we had exchanged one or two emails recently, and had a brief chat.
I missed the first band, but caught another three, neither of which really did much for me, unfortunately, even Loma Prieta who share a couple of members with Punch.
I like Punch, as I think I mentioned last time and live they are a bit special; in fact they blew me away with their power and tight playing. It was a pretty short set, but I think with the style they play that works perfectly, even though I would have happily watched more. I picked up their second album and wanted a sweatshirt, but I couldn’t afford it.
What’s even better was that I was able to watch the whole gig, drop Pete home and still be back home before midnight. When you have a 60 mile drive after a gig, it’s nice to be able to do it when you’re not too tired.
NIght Birds are in the UK this week. My original idea was to see them in London, Leeds and Brighton. The Leeds trip bit the dust pretty early on, but London and Brighton were still in my plans. Now, however, finance and travel problems mean I’m going to have to miss London, but I will be driving back across to Brighton, as I’m not going to miss them altogether. 
Lastly; I probably should have mentioned this the last time (or even the one before), but I can’t let the sad passing of Chron Gen bass player Pete Dimmock go by without paying my own little tribute.
I don’t actually know any details, all I know is that Gaz sent me a text telling me he’d died, and even though I never knew him I still felt a little sad.
Chron Gen were a band that has a special place in my heart; they maybe weren’t the greatest, and there are plenty of bands that have had a more profound affect on me over the years, but the first Chron Gen EP is one of the best of the early ‘80s UK punk releases.
The memory of the day Gaz and me bought that first Chron Gen record is still fresh in my mind, even though it was 30 years ago. 
I’m not sure how we heard about the band, or why we were both so determined to get the record, but as I remember it on this day, the sole purpose of one of our regular trips into Southampton‘s record shops was to get this new record.
In those days Southampton actually had record shops, and not just the main chains either. Our well practised routine had me cycling to Gaz’s house, from where we’d walk to Totton train station for the short trip into town. Once there we’d walk up the hill to Subway Records, then to the old Virgin Records and the tiny (yes tiny) HMV before heading down through the parks to Henry’s and Underground. As far as I recall we bought the EP in Henry’s, then hurried back to Gaz’s house to play it. I could also convince myself that it was a hot day and we sweltered in our leather jackets and big boots, but we did that trip so often that it could well have been another time.
Anyway, I loved everything about the record; the front of the sleeve featured a “classic” punk rock picture of the band decked out in leather jackets, boots and studded belts stood against a wall. With the band’s logo across the top. Slipping off the clear plastic protective cover the sleeve opened out to feature a drawing of a coffin, a nuclear explosion and soldiers depicted as puppets with individual photos of the band members on the facing sheet. The back cover had the lyrics. I already liked the EP before we’d got off the train back in Totton.
In both the front cover photo, and the inner individual shot, Pete Dimmock looks cool; the blond spiked hair, the leather jacked and the boots; bass players are supposed to look like that, well they were in the early ‘80s anyway. On the front he stands slightly apart from the others, as though they aren’t quite cool enough for him.
On the cover of the follow up 7”, “Reality”, Pete Dimmock is staring into the distance, too cool to acknowledge the camera, and on the first album there’s a little smirk from him; he still know’s he’s the coolest.
Eventually he left and joined Chelsea and I bough the stuff of theirs he played on even though I was never a huge fan of that band. The Chron Gen connection was enough. 
We were firm Chron Gen fans right from the off, and went on to buy everything they released (even the post Dimmock stuff), and even if they maybe never quite fulfilled their promise they did put out some great songs, and we could always forgive them a couple of dud ones here and there. Even now we both still play Chron Gen records and would probably both put them in any list of our all time favourite bands.
RIP Pete, and thanks for the memories.


www.suspectdevicehq.co.uk

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Five Corporations

There was a French woman staying at the same hotel as us who looked exactly like Joey Ramone. It was uncanny, spooky even as she seemed to arrive the day I wore a Ramones t-shirt. From that day on she was always there; I’d turn a corner and she’d be there, or I’d look up from the breakfast table and she be walking past. It got a bit freaky, and I swear that on our last day when I happened to be wearing a CBGB’s t-shirt I saw a little twinkle in her eye.
Anyway, by Friday 2nd September I was ready to come home from Mallorca. I realised this at breakfast as I sat at a table and watched another idiot create a fire in the toaster by stuffing a croissant in it, despite the sign, in four languages warning that this really wasn’t a good idea. I wanted more toast, but I didn’t want to have to join a queue behind that numbnuts, or walk round the corner to another toaster and another queue. I wanted to have breakfast in my own house, where we know that putting anything other than bread in our toaster is a bad idea. I wanted a quiet breakfast and a decent cup of tea.
Just over 5 hours later I was sat, alone, on a coach watching the Mallorcan countryside zip by as we headed to the airport. There were 7 of us on this holiday; Sarah and Becca sat together at the front, and the other four paired off, so I walked halfway down the coach, found a seat, plugged in my head phones and let Paint It Black, OFF!, John Henry Holiday and No For An Answer drown everything else out.

There was some new music waiting for me on our return home. My friend Izumi had sent me two records released by Goodwill Records in Italy, both 7”s, one a split between Signs Of Hope and Carry The Torch, the other an EP by The Headliners. I haven’t yet had a chance to play them, but I’m looking forward to giving them a listen and reviewing them for the new SD.
I also received the new Doggy Style CD. I have given this a quick listen, although not all the way through. It sounds ok, I think, but I’m not sure about some of the lyrics. Again, I’ll review for the zine, so will give it a proper listen soon.
In another package, I got four CDs; Margate and Super Happy Fun Club play radio friendly punk(ish) stuff with rock leanings that just leaves me cold and Huron play metal. I only made it through one Huron track before pressing STOP and deciding to find someone else to review it. As soon as I heard the fourth CD I thought of Si, so I’ve already sent it to him to review.

While I was away, Alex at Grave Mistake Records emailed to say he was sending a copy of the new Night Birds album for review. I am so excited, I’d have bought it anyway, but to get sent it is really cool and I’m very grateful. I can’t wait for it to arrive, and I’ve booked time off work to go and see them when they hit the UK later this month.

I’m currently listening to Punch, and I’m liking it. I don’t usually like screeched vocals, but there is something about this band that hooks me in. Maybe it’s because at times they throw some hook laden bits into their songs that cuts through the ear splitting thrash; or maybe it’s because of their lyrics? I don’t know but listening to them makes me feel good about who I am and the life choices I’ve made; that sounds weird, even to me, but it’s true. Something about Punch makes being into and writing about punk rock at the age of 45 seem like exactly the sort of thing I should be doing. I don’t know why they appeal to me the way they do, I don’t think it’s the X’s on their hands, I may not drink or all that stuff, but I’ve never really thought of my self as “straight edge”, so maybe it’s a vegan thing? Anyway, hopefully my buddy Andy Nelson can pick up a copy of their new 7” for me, that would make me happy.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Four Deadly Venoms

Believe it or not I'm currently sunning myself in Mallorca, which isn't really the sort of place I feel totally comfortable, but I wasn't paying, and it is nice to spend time with the family. The weather is hot and sunny, the sea is warm and choppy and it's also good to be away from work for a little while, internet access is slow and limited though.
This place is full of British numbnuts; way too many fat, loud families in football shirts, union flag beach towels and England t-shirts. Does another nation have so many people who like to show just how "proud" they are of the piece of land they just happened to be born on? On the evidence of the non-Brits here, no. One German kid is wearing a Leverkusen shirt, and that's it; no French, German or Spanish beach towels, no Polish swim shorts, no Italian t-shirts. In fact the only other non-British football shirts I've seen are Barcelona ones worn by British kids.
There are some terrible tattoos on show too.
Maybe I'm just grumpy, and the fact that I have a really painful bad back isn't making my mood very forgiving. I'm currently stuffing my face with as many pain relief remedies as I can get me hands on and just trying to find somewhere comfortable, which so far seems to be the sea, as long as I don't actually swim. Unfortunately the most uncomfortable place is my bed, so I'm not sleeping either.
I've been disappointed not to have spotted any lizards yet, but the bats give a good display around dusk, and there are plenty of fish in the sea, one of which had a little nibble at my ankle.
Right now I've just had an hour or so of hydro therapy, by that I mean I've been bobbing around in the sea, and showered, cleaning out the sand which seemed to have accumulated in every orifice.

Anyway, music. I started the week listening to OFF! and The Stupids, but after seeing someone wearing a Bad Brains shirt yesterday I'm currently listing to tracks from "Rock For Light" and the self titled CD. I love these songs, but I can't stand their later homophobic and sexist lyrics. Such a shame that such a great, ground breaking band proved to be so narrow minded and bigoted.

Speaking of t-shirts; apart from that Bad Brains one, I've only seen one other interesting shirt, an older guy wearing a Ramones shirt; older as in he was about my age, so there's a chance he has actually heard them. Oh, and Becca did end up wearing my Stupids shirt yesterday.

Elsewhere, most of the shops round here seen to be playing The Cure for some reason, with a couple of exceptions; one playing The Police and the other REM.

I have another week out here, we did hope to take in a footer match, but none of us fancy a two hour bus ride in this heat, with the possibility of not being able to get back, and no one has their driving license to hire a car; we also don't know if the Spanish games are going on this weekend. So with that out of the question it looks like we'll just have to keep avoiding idiots and I'll keep quaffing the pain killers, in the hope that I'll get some sleep at some point.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Crucial Three

It’s been quite a week. It started well enough when a UK Subs boxiest unexpectedly arrived from Captain Oi. This is basically a UK Subs singles collection, featuring just the A-Sides; there are only probably two or three of the tracks I don't already have, but the boxset looks great, the songs are spread over two CDs and I was genuinely excited when it arrived.
Next my buddy in Finland Jallu sent me the second 1981 EP; I’d been looking forward to this ever since he said he’d send it, as I’d heard good reports of it from my friends in Brighton. Of course that’s not surprising as the first EP was great as was their split with Surrender. I wasn’t disappointed, it’s another great 7”.
To carry on the good musical week, the new HDQ CD that Boss Tuneage have just released, featuring “You Suck” and the “Hung Drawn & Quartered” 12”, dropped on to the doormat; I’d ordered it from the Boss T site and got the bonus DVD too. I have loved HDQ since I first heard “You Suck” way back in 1987, the fast, yet melodic music and the posi style lyrics really hit a chord for me. “You Suck” was my introduction to them and I bought everything after that, but never went back to their first, self titled 12”, which had a different line-up, Dickie Hammond aside. So I was excited by this release, even though I already have “You Suck” on vinyl and CD. The first 12” tracks are better than I was expecting too, so I have been playing this a lot.
Then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better Aston sent me another three Boss Tuneage releases to review. I was most excited by the new Violent Arrest  album, which is as angry and pissed off as you'd expect from these veterans. The new Crocodile God album is probably the best thing I've heard from them, it's speedy, melodic and has real snotty vocals. I wasn’t really won over by the first Geoffry Oi!cott album, but this new one is a lot better, and the sleeve art is great. http://www.bosstuneage.com
If all that recorded music wasn't enough I've roused myself to two gigs, in a week, something that is a rarity these days, but was probably made easier because my daughter was off at camp for the week. Although the house was a lot tidier, it was very strange not having her around, and not having to be somewhere to either drop her somewhere or pick her up.
First I went to Portsmouth to see OFF! And it turned out to be a great evening. Ed Wood weren't really my sort of thing, but I surprised myself by really enjoying Attack! Vipers! In the past I've always been impressed by they way they do what they do, and of course they are friends, but on the night I was really, genuinely impressed; they are the best band of their type I've ever heard, and they are still one of us, still our band.
OFF! blew me away. I like them a lot and was expecting them to be good, but jeepers they were awesome, so powerful, so tight and just gob smackingly great.
What made the evening even better is the amount of friends there were there - the Brighton contingent of Pete Zonked, Ralf Opiate and Darren Tadpole, Joe and Tom from Attack! Vipers!, Luke, Nath, Alan, Jack and Kev, among others. Definitely one of those special nights, and I even bought a vinyl copy of the Violent Arrest album off Darren.
That meant I spent at least the next three days constantly playing OFF! 
After raving about Culture Shock last time, this week the Subhumans rolled into town. It had been a bad day at work, and as 6 o'clock rolled round another problem reared its head so I didn't get away until 7 pm. I dashed home, grabbed something to eat, then went back to work to check things were ok, well, not so much "ok" as "not getting any worse". From there I went on to the gig, even though I felt completely shattered. I missed the first band, but got there in time to see local anarch heroes Haywire, then Liberty. I've seen Haywire hundreds of times over the years, but I'd never seen Liberty, who now feature local boy (and compared to the rest of the band he is but a boy) Luke. They were good too, very good in fact, but my tiredness probably stopped me enjoying them as much as I probably would have done otherwise. 
At some point between the bands I went and picked up the Subhumans’ “Time Flies / Rats” CD; I have the vinyl of both, but felt the need to pick up the digital version too. I can’t help it, I’m an addict.
The Subhumans are always good, they are energetic, funny, tight and the songs are all great. At one point in the set, after they'd played "Peroxide", "I Don't Wanna Die", "Work.Rest.Play.Die" and "Til The PIgs Come Round", all songs from the early ‘80s, someone behind me shouted "Play something us oldies will recognise! Why won't they play what people want to hear?" When the next song, "Mickey Mouse Is Dead" (From their  first album, released in 1982), had finished, he shouted "Play something old!" He was being serious too.
At 11.40 pm after almost an hour of Subhumans I was flagging badly, so I left after hearing Dick say that it was their last song (I think that's what he said anyway), and struggled to keep my eyes open on the drive home. I was so tired that I even turned down Sarah's offer of a cup of tea when I got in and went straight to bed.
I have now started work on the next “proper” issue of Suspect Device, so I will put reviews of most of the music mentioned here in that. So far I have interviews with Martin Sorrundeguy (Los Crudos, Limp Wrist, N/N, Needles etc) and, thanks to our buddy Stuart Armstrong, Crocodile God, but others are planned. I also have some great new zines to review - Zonked!, Gadgie, and Artcore.
After enjoying all that noisy punk stuff, I’ve spent this evening listening to some old UK indie stuff - Shop Assistants, Darling Buds, Primitives, Soup Dragons, Wedding Present etc.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Second Time Around...

I'm beginning to think that a weekly blog may have been a little optimistic, maybe I shouldn’t have given myself a deadline, I’ve never been any good with those. But we'll see how it goes. 
I am pretty unhappy at work at the moment, probably more unhappy than I've been for ten years or so. Sadly I can't see a way out, I like my life outside of work, but that life needs a certain income, and I'm not sure I'd get that anywhere else. I don't get paid a huge amount, certainly not as much as Sarah, but it's enough to help enable us to live a pretty decent life. I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it and let punk rock help take the pain away....
I’ve spent a lot of time since the last entry here putting together a PDF to add to the new Shorts songs, collecting the lyrics, info and some photos. I also added a front and back cover in case anyone wanted to put the songs on a CDR, they could then print out that page and have a cover. We would have liked to have give this “EP” more of a proper release, but we just don’t have the money; Suspect Device is no longer in a position to release stuff, and I can’t see anyone else wanting to put our stuff out. So a download seemed like the best way to make them available. You can download “Skinned Alive” from the SD websit, or visit http://theshortsuk.blospot.com and get it from there.
New music has been a bit thin on the ground since I last wrote, at this time of the month I don't have the spare money to go buying all the music I want, so I was very grateful when Gaz Suspect bought me the Culture Shock CD boxest that Bluurg and Active have put together. http://www.subhumans.co.uk/ - http://www.activedistribution.org
It really is a thing of beauty, and certainly got the heart racing as soon as I picked up the package from the door mat and saw the Active stamp on the back of the envelope; I instantly knew what it was.
I remember Culture Shock well. As much as I'd loved the Subhumans the first Culture Shock mini-album came like a breath of fresh air, the songs seemed bright and Dick's lyrics were as great as ever. It was ska-punk before ska-punk had been corrupted by hoards of bands playing what I came to think of as pseudo ska, hundreds of horn driven songs with nothing to say except "pick it up, pick it up."
Culture Shock got by with the usual guitar, bass, drums, voice combo and what they played was certainly a departure from what the Subhumans and A-Heads had been doing, but not such a leap that it alienated people, like me, who'd been into those bands. Having Dick's familiar voice and lyrical style helped, but the songs stood up on their own.
We interviewed them in Suspect Device. Instead of Dick sending his answers back written out on paper, he answered via cassette. LIke the Culture Shock songs, Dick's enthusiasm shone through. 
Listening to these songs again certainly brought fond memories flooding back. I saw them live several times, including a particularly memorable gig at the Labour Club in Southampton where I remember watching them though a haze of strange smelling smoke! I met Dick for the first time that night, he remembered doing the interview and was as friendly as I've always found him to be, the few times I've met him since.
Anyway, this package is really neat; three CDs, the first with "Go Wild” and "All The Time", the second "Onwards & Upwards" and the third with their two demos. Tracks from compilations are included too, as well as a booklet featuring lyrics and a band history told using answers to zine interviews.
I don’t remember if I had the demos, I’m pretty sure Gaz did, so there’s a good chance if I didn’t have them (and I will be digging out the two boxes of demos I have at the bottom of a cupboard to look) I at least heard them, and we did feature them on “Life On Earth”, one of our compilation tapes, with tracks from the “Reality Stop No.44” demo.
I have found myself playing this most of the time, but I have found the odd moment to play a few other things...
Adam & The Ants. I have everything the band released, yes even “Ant Rap”! But it’s the early, pre-pirate, stuff that I really like, and of that early stuff it’s the songs they recorded before the “Dirk Wears White Sox” album that really excite me. I never owned the bootleg LPs of their demo stuff, but I have hunted them down and I love the early versions of songs that went on to get the two drummer treatment. Good as those songs became I like the stripped down versions better. There are also songs that didn’t make it further than demo stage, and I’m a sucker for all that stuff.
Also, a friend in the U.S. has sent me new recordings he’s made with a band he was originally in twenty-odd years ago. I can’t say too much more about it, but the band sound as good as they always did, despite the passing years. 
I’ve just ordered Boss Tuneage’s re-release of the first two HDQ releases, so I hope they will arrive soon and I can talk about them next time.
I really need to get some reviewing done soon, and think about putting together another “proper” issue of Suspect Device.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Here we go now...

So I thought I should start a weekly(ish) blog where I waffle on a bit about the music I’ve been listening to, not necessarily new stuff, and anything else interesting that’s happened to me. My life is pretty run of the mill so I guess this will mainly be about music, which is just as well really.
In case you don’t know, the title of this blog is from the Elastica song “Waking Up”; not my favourite Elastica song, but my favourite Elastica line. Not a day goes by where I don’t drink tea and listen to music, even if I don’t always “put a record on”, I’ll be listening to music in the car or at work, or while I ride my bike. I’ve probably listened to music every day for over 30 years, most of it falling under the punk rock umbrella somewhere. It’s my addiction; I often get the feeling of needing to buy new music RIGHT NOW! And I must have spent thousands of pounds on my habit over the years, but unlike someone addicted to drink or drugs I can take two steps from where I’m sitting right now and put my hand on a record I spent money on 25 years ago; my money has gone on things I still have and can still enjoy.
This week has been a pretty standard week; up early, work, hate work, home, run Becca to  places - dancing and rounders this week - plus a family meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant in town to celebrate my nephew’s 21st birthday. But after a couple of days of work my gloomy mood was remedied by finding an LP sized package on my doorstep. 
First Ellis, the bass player in Shitty Limits and all round good egg sent me a couple of records; I’d bought the Smart Cops LP from him, and in the package he’d sent me a Deaf Mutations 7” to review. Both great records, with the 7” being pretty damn great. 
I also ordered the new Phoenix Foundation LP and 1981 / Surrender split 7” from Stonehenge Records in France. Haven’t had a chance to play the 7” yet, but the Phoenix Foundation LP is probably their best release yet, really great melodic punk rock.
A 7” from Finland also arrived by Lebakko. These were a new band to me, and they’re from Turku, the same town (City?) as The Phoenix Foundation and 1981, and I think there is some crossover of members between those bands. I had a search around the internet for them and I saw the term “pop punk” applied to them, but the 7” doesn’t sound like that to me, just great punk rock. I like the early Adam & The Ants style sleeve art, too.
Boss Tuneage Records have put out a Wanton Thought CD, a compilation of EP, comp and demo tracks. It has been years since I listened to this band, and as soon as payday came around I sent off some money to Aston and the CD arrived pretty damn quick. It was great to hear this stuff again, and be transported back 20 years or so.
I have also purchased a few things from iTunes, which is a rarity for me. My buddy Stuart Armstrong sent me an iTunes voucher ages ago, and like vouchers I get for HMV I can never find anything to spend it on. I realise I’m difficult to buy for, mainstream music outlets aren’t likely to have anything by Limp Wrist or Endless Grinning Skulls, so I do appreciate it when people give me these things, but it takes me ages to use them.
Anyway, while laying out Gaz Suspect’s interview with Shane Baldwin for the SD website I happened to notice that the X-Certs’ “Rated XXX” LP on Bristol Archives was available on iTunes. It was one of those all too regular moments where I had to have the record NOW! But having spent quite a lot on records already I decided to use the voucher that had been propped up in front of me for a few months. It was pretty cheap so I had some money left over and a brief search threw up The Hoax “...And So It Went 1979-1981”, and as I’m a sucker for those more obscure punk/new wave bands from the late ‘70s I got that too. There was still a bit of money left over, and I was on a roll, so I went and got myself “Secondary Modern 1976-1979” by The Users.
Getting those three albums set me off on a frenzy of playing old stuff by bands like Fast Cars, Accident On The East Lancs, Acme Sewage Co. And the wonderful “Bored Teenagers” compilations.
There are a couple more things I’ve been sent to review recently; the new Zounds album, “The Redemption Of Zounds” reached me thanks to the networking of Pete Zonked, and I was very grateful because it’s a great album that manages to sound like Zounds without sounding dated. It’s released by the always interesting Overground Records.
Also, Endless Grinning Skulls sent me their new LP, and it’s a monstrous beast of an album, definitely one to check out.
Back in the early days of Suspect Device zine we became friends with Vince who did 20th Century Saints fanzine. I hadn’t heard from him for 20 years or more, but he emailed me out of the blue, and offered to send me a comp CD he’d put out on his label Released Emotions. It’s a tribute to The CLash, Sex Pistols and The Damned; I haven’t had a proper listen yet, but I’m not a huge fan of tribute albums, and the songs covered here are classics that should probably be left alone. We shall see.
Most of the things I’ve talked about here are (or will be soon) reviewed on the Suspect Device website.
Right, time to make a cup of tea.
Tony Suspect