UK Subs – Album Review

UK Subs – Work in Progress

Cherry Red Records

Release date: 22/04/2022

Running time: 41 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

Ladies and gentlemen: the UK Subs.  A fine collective of upstanding, noble samurai and no mistake.  Led by the indomitable Charlie Harper, the band have roots stretching right back to the origin of the London punk scene (and actually, a fair bit further than that).   The band are still touring and recording all this time later, albeit with changing line ups throughout the years, so their integrity and passion should never be in any doubt. 

Casual observers may not be aware that the UK Subs have released an album for every letter of the alphabet (plus more).  That’s no mean feat.  What is somewhat daunting, is that’s a lot for any new fans who want to collect everyone of those releases!  Yet fear not, music lovers: Cherry Red records have been gracious enough to re-release the 2011 album “Work in Progress”, on sexy double 10” gold and silver vinyl.  For anyone struggling to keep up, that means the punters have no excuse to at least have the letter W from the list in the bag.

And what will discerning music fans find within this sumptuous collection?  Why, fourteen songs of the finest punk rock vintage, of course.  That means a blitzkrieg of blinding rockers like ‘Creation’, ‘Radio Unfriendly’ and the brilliantly titled ‘Hell is Other People’.  Some bloke called Lars Frederickson, from a band called Rancid, co-wrote ‘This Chaos’ – another brain melter – and you can even bang your head to ‘Children of the Flood’, if you want to.

Punk rock unbelievers, I say unto thee: these songs do not all sound the same.  They are not simply constructed, amateur-hour noise.  All the tracks are full of energy and have their own identity.  There’s a hint of rockabilly on ‘Eighteen Wheels’, R&B garage rock on the bouncy Sonics cover ‘Strychnine’ and ‘All Blurs into One’ has an almost psychedelic sheen. 

The only potential misfires are ‘Tokyo Rose’, which at first sounds a bit too Hollywood Sunset Strip (but redeems itself after a few listens) and ‘Rock’n’Roll Whore’, which could be a bit – well, dated lyrically.

This UK Subs album admirably highlights a classic band who are still fighting on, taking their music to the world.  It shows the roots of the band in R&B, whilst also providing a link from the Ramones to US hardcore bands like Circle Jerks and Descendents, and ever onwards.  After all these years, the UK Subs are still a “Work in Progress” and show no signs of stopping.

Right, see you later.  I’m off to hang around in a graveyard with my old mate Dave Vanian.  Captain and Rat, you can only come if you promise to stop setting fire to mattresses.

You can find UK Subs on Facebook and Twitter.

Cherry Red Records have a website. Plus you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Bandcamp.

This review is a joint presentation from Ever Metal and Platinum Al.

Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

Hollywood Vampires + The Darkness + The Damned

Sunday 17th June 2017

Manchester Arena

It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester.  Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show.  It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.

First off the bat, our old chums The Damned!  This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records.  However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd.  And in such a huge venue.

Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance.  The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there.  I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.

Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years.  Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start.  Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…

Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke  who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game.  Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.

The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991!  Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro.  Fantastic.  There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.

Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly.  The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well.  From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.

I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot  their lines and The Damned get a gold star.

You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on.  However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed.  Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned.  Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.

Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger.  Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.

The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well.  Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are.  Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock.  For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.

I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless.  At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.

There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front.  This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).

And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase.  The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up.  Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy?  Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?

Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point.  Yes, they can play – and they can write, too.  It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.

The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade.  Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently.  It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.

Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly.  He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.

It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as  accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage.  It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is.  Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.

Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax.  Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang.  He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.

In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride.  Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun.  It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band.  Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it.  Which is what it’s all about, right?

Another Damned Gig Review

DamnedCHThe Damned

Thursday 17th September 2015

The Live Rooms, Chester

Hello, chums!  How about another review of a musical concert?  How about another review of a Damned musical concert?  Very well, off we go…

It was my birthday on Saturday, so it was very kind of The Damned to play a gig on Thursday night for me.  They are my favourite band, after all.  Not many bands would go to all the trouble of playing for their number one fan in a nearby locale.  I don’t know who invited all the other people who turned up, mind – wasn’t me.  I hardly knew any of them.

The Damned sold out The Live Rooms in Chester, which is pretty impressive.  The place was packed out with all manner of discerning music fans, and by golly those punk rock chaps put on a hell of a good show.

From the moment Captain Sensible uttered the immortal phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen, ‘Ow do”, I knew it would be a blinder.  Straight off into “Love Song”, a rollicking locomotive of a song all about trainspotting.  Then it was “Machine Gun Ettiquette” and “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” – top tunes all, and the running order gave something of a clue as how things would develop set wise.

The evening was an almost chronological journey to the centre of the Damned, with tracks following from the Black Album, through Strawberries and onto their later 80’s catalogue.  Until they messed that plan up by going back to the start with the always excellent “New Rose” and “Neat Neat Neat”.  I defied my OCD and enjoyed the travelling back through time regardless.

The band were on excellent form, Dave Vanian in fine voice and Sensible throwing some amazing guitar noises around (“Ignite” is always mental).  Pinch on drums and Stu on bass are in control and drive the machine ever onward.  Monty was, of course, his usual crazy and lovable self; always entertaining and adding an extra dimension with his keyboard skills.

A couple of “firsts” for me tonight – I’ve never heard “Alone Again Or” performed live, or the totally amazing “Nasty”.  This song was one of my earliest experiences of The Damned, when they roared through it on the Young Ones.  Relegated to a B-side and rarely cropping up on compilations, I’d given up on hearing this one in the flesh.  “Nasty” was dedicated to previous bass player Bryn Merrick, who had died recently.

Throw in another appearance of “Stranger on the Town” (see my last Damned review for how big a deal this is) and the song that kick started the whole fandom thing from my point of view, “Eloise”, and it was a quality set list.  Not to mention punk rock classics such as “Disco Man” and “Smash It Up” – what a result!

Any complaints?  Well there was no “Plan 9 Channel 7”, which is absolutely criminal.  Nothing from the two most recent albums either, which is a bit worrying – there’s some great tunes on those records.  The Live Rooms is a brilliant venue, but they seem a bit keen to send people home when they could’ve made a few quid more at the bar, if they’d kept it open half an hour.  Strange.

All in all though, it was a fantastic night.  The Damned threw me a very nice birthday party and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Wonder if they’re free same time next year?

Here’s The Damned’s website: http://www.officialdamned.com/

The Live Rooms web site is here.

You can read the set list for this gig here.

Here’s a link to my previous review of The Damned live: click me

R.I.P. Bryn Merrick