Monday 8 September 2008

X-Ray Spex at Roundhouse 06.09.2008

When Cormac McCarthy coined the phrase ‘No Country For Old Men’ he wasn’t aware of this part of Camden tonight. When Television Personalities sang of ‘Part Time Punks’ they missed the mark as well.

Tonight the area is packed with the real deal, survivors from 1976-78 who kept the faith but also got jobs, raised their own kids and now run the country. So although we have bank managers with an unfortunate neck tattoo and head mistresses in rather fetching silk bondage trousers, there is a genuine warmth and positive vibe – the tribe is together again.

Before we get to the main event, we have to put up with the plastic pantomime punk of John Robb and Goldblade, who on most levels are cringe-makingly awful, but who play their whole set as cabaret and generally instil a party atmosphere. What is bad about them is their repeated insistence about how genuine they are and how we are all punks together, when, if memory and Wikipedia serves, they formed in the mid Nineties and have more in common with the cartoon Oi! bands of that period.

What is good about them, however, is their energy, and their ability to give this audience what it wants. By the end they have a chorus of ladies from the crowd cavorting on stage and everyone is having a fine time. More than this you cannot ask.

With the immortal words “They think little girls should be seen and not heard…” there is a flash of light and X-Ray Spex are here doing “Oh Bondage Up Yours”.

Poly Styrene looks absolutely fabulous tonight. No longer awkward, she is a happy, glamorous woman who is having a terrific time in front of a devoted and loving crowd. And her voice can still peel paint.

The rest of the band ultimately proves to be a bit of a bone of contention. My impression is of a very slick bunch of professional musicians for hire, who blast out the old Spex numbers impressively but soullessly, and with far more polish and power than the original band could ever hope to muster. It is sad to see that Laura Logic has been replaced by (a very proficient) male saxophonist.

However, I am chided by a nearby member of the audience, who tells me that this is very much a spur of the moment event and that all the musicians involved are essentially doing this for love rather than money. Which is certainly a happier interpretation.

The original Spex only had a single album to their name, and all the tracks from it are aired tonight. What is really impressive is how well the singles such as ‘Bondage’, ‘The Day the World turned Day-Glo’ and ‘Identity’ have stood up over the years. They sound modern and urgent.

Poly beams throughout, and everyone is having a good time. This may be a somewhat limited exercise, but it has been worth it. Well done to all involved.

For an encore, Poly brings her daughters on stage for a family blast through ‘Bondage’ one last time and, some ten minutes later, after tumultuous applause and stamping from the crowd, returns again for another run through of 'Day-Glo’.

It’s been a fun night. But let’s make it a one off.

Incidentally, another excellent review of this gig here


daft skunk said...

wrong on most levels mate.
Goldblade were awesome, first time I've seen them, they were tight, powerful and thrilling, just because they enjoy themselves doesn't make them 'caberet'. they may have formed in the mid nineties but john robb has been on the punk scene since the punk days and they have never beenon oi band, they dont sound like an oi band.for me they are perhaps the best live band in the country now.

Anonymous said...

i think he was right on most levels. goldblade are unoriginal, uninspired and cliched and were a bad choice of support act.

i think it should be mentioned that x-ray spex were out of time on occasions and poly's singing was not as good as it was - quite out of tune at times. it seemed a bit under-rehearsed. but that made it more engaging in some ways. i'm glad i was there. was a shame to see so many people leaving before the final encore.

also i'm not sure the gig was sold out. they were still selling tickets on the night and lots of touts were losing money outside.

was a great one-off and i don't mind poly cashing in on the current fashion for over-priced nostalgia as she has/had more integrity than most of her contemporaries and i expect she needs the cash like everyone else.

Wyldman said...

I have no beef with Goldblade or John Robb. I rather enjoyed the energy of their set on Saturday, as I hope the review indicates.

However, the concept of 'punk' means different things to different
people. I believe that the word should be synonymous with a free spirit of artistic expression and a willingness to challenge the norm. It stands for no rules and creative freedom.

I do not think that 'punk' should only apply to a rigidly time-specific dress and musical code, which has ultimately led to the spiky haired picture postcard characters who pose for tourist photos and an insular and regimented musical form that endlessly recycles a version of the first Clash album like a thousandth generation photocopy.

Or in other words, if you ever see someone wearing a pin saying 'Punk's Not Dead', they are likely to be the people who have killed it, stuffed it and mounted it.