Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Party time! Excellent!

At long last - my hazy recollections of the My Bloody Valentine-curated ATP Nightmare Before Christmas are up on Silent Words Speak Loudest, in three installments...




Ringo Deathstarr ate my hamster*


Another You! Me! Dancing! night at the Jericho Tavern (the third of the month, after We Were Promised Jetpacks and Wavves), so that must mean ... wot, no Japandroids?!! Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion instead? Oh well, one of SWSL's Top 10 Albums Of The Year for another - so can't complain. (The full line-up to be revealed in due course...)

Sealings - who (presumably) take their moniker from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' contribution to the Spiderman 3 soundtrack - are two young chaps by the name of Michael and Liam accompanied by their trusty drum machine. It's telling that said drum machine is probably the most dynamic onstage presence - neither of its human companions faces the audience directly (indeed, one has his back to us almost throughout).

Judging by the number of awkward nodding going on around me, either late-forty-somethings in Oxford have a penchant for a poor broke man's Big Pink with what seems like the odd bizarre speed metal interlude, or there are a lot of parents and relatives present. My guess is the latter. Y!M!D! clearly like them, though - they've been booked to support Vivian Girls in January. But if I end up going to that one, I might just have that extra pint downstairs.

As preparations for taking to the stage go, being accosted by a drunk in the toilets asking you if you're over here in search of your Scottish roots probably doesn't rank that highly. Elliott Frazier affably shrugs it off, though: "I've got a cousin in Derby. But he's a police officer, so he's probably a dick..."

I can't quite remember when I first came across Frazier's band, the marvellously-named Ringo Deathstarr - it may well have been on the ever-excellent Sweeping The Nation - but it was some time in 2007. One nibble of 'Some Kind Of Sad' - a rambunctious tribute to The Jesus & Mary Chain that sounded like the Texans chainsaw massacring Psychocandy - and I was completely nobbled. Their self-titled EP soon arrived complete with a lovely handwritten postcard from Simon of Spoilt Victorian Child (the personal touch - can't beat it), and an absolute delight it proved to be too, only denied the SWSL Single Of The Year award on a technicality (it couldn't actually be classified as a single).

Two years later (during which they've been taken under the wing of those louche Lord Henry Wottons the Dandy Warhols), and here they are - finally on these shores, fresh from a gig with the similarly influenced but rather more restrained The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at the ICA, and finally with new material to bulk out the set in the shape of September single and My Bloody Valentine homage 'In Love' and its woozily sensuous B-side 'Summertime' (dedicated tonight to "the Princess of Oxford", whoever she is).

As you may have surmised, Ringo Deathstarr won't be winning any prizes for originality any time soon. Indeed, there are times on the EP where they seem to flirt with parody - the title of 'Down On You' alone is suggestive of a humourless brothers Reid oblivious to double entendre, and as for 'Some Kind Of Sad's lyric "You taste like honeydew, just like honeydew"... But, for the majority of the reverb-fiends gathered here tonight, they're a raw delight. Frazier, incidentally, once claimed his dream gig would be "one where people are there to see us" - so he should be happy.

Winding up as hoped with 'Some Kind Of Sad', and Frazier lying his guitar on the floor in front of the stage and then lobbing it back into the drumkit (missing leggy bass siren Alex Gehring by a matter of inches), the set weighs in at just eight songs long - so you could hardly accuse them of outstaying their welcome. Even Wavves stuck around longer (just). But in this instance that old adage about leaving 'em wanting more couldn't be truer.

* Not really. Just thought it made quite a good title.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Enough Buff

The Buff Medways.
Tufnell Park Boston Arms Music Room. 15jan10.

It is not as though Billy Childish isn’t fond of a reinvention, having performed over the years as part of the Thee Headcoats, The Pop Rivets, The Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Ceasers, The Blackhands and most recently The Musicians Of The British Empire (The MBE's, pictured below at Rough Trade East in August 2009). However, for the past couple of months, there has been a kind of pre-invention, with the MBE’s immediate predecessor, The Buff Medways, rehabilitated for the stage.

Mind you, as reformations go, it’s hardly up there with Martin Luther nailing his ‘Top 95 reasons the Pope can do one, from Angry of Wittenburg’ letter to a church door. Nor is it Take That using the nostalgia market as a springboard for an AOR transcendence of teenage fashion. It is merely a product of circumstance with original Buff’s member Johnny Barker drafted in whilst MBE’s bassist Nurse Julie delivers her young.

Not that there’s a great deal in a name though as the dividing line between the Buffs and the MBE’s is so blurry you could go swimming in it. If The Fall can be summed up as Mark E. Smith + whoever (ex-girlfriend in tap-shoes, a load of blokes out the boozer or, famously, “yer granny on bongos”) then it’s fair to say Billy Childish’s last two incarnations share the same equation i.e. Billy + 2 (one of which is likely to be Wolf Howard on drums).

Both acts have also tended not to play too often outside the confines of the Dirty Water Club, the regular rock n’ roll night at the Boston Arms, amongst which they have long held a kind of monthly-ish residency. So, whichever bird’s plumage I was looking to admire I have, at least, caught them here in their natural habitat.

What you can always be assured of, whichever group is on the poster, is the witheringly dry between song wittering. This show began with a long Childish ramble about how, by way of protest about the quality of rider alcohol given to the band as opposed to the Dirty Water DJ’s, Wolf Howard would be making deliberate errors in his playing; “I don’t drink so it don’t affect me, but I ain’t no scab, so I’ll be making mistakes as well.”

Also, there is firm guarantee that Billy’s sartorial eccentricity will be on display, tonight being clad in Tam O’Shanter, fur vest and a nightclub comic’s ruffled shirt, his decorative rolling pin of a moustache still twirled proudly beneath his nose.

The musical blueprint is certainly very much the same for both groups, fired by an enthusiasm for Who and Kinks style beat rock n’ roll played punk; all frayed edges and a gung-ho lack of intricacy. Yet while the MBE’s set is usually chock heavy with songs from the Buffs era, there was little to nowt from more recent years in this Medways set.

Yet as Steady The Buffs was Billy’s finest recorded work of the last decade, it is hardly surprising that songs from it, such as Ivor, Sally Sensation and Archive From 1959 remain staples of his live repertoire.

However, with childbirth now wrapped up, and Nurse Julie due to return to the fold in March, The Buff Medways handle is coming to the end of its second shift. Rest assured though that the ringing of the bell and the changing of the guard will not see any discernable variation to either productivity or product.

Buff Medways @ MySpace
Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire review (March 2008)