It's the moment everyone's been waiting for - the Members hit the opening chords of "Sound of the Suburbs". The atmosphere's been building throughout their set and now the place goes crazy. There's a hardcore posse of geezers moshing and slamming down the front - old punks, but not a thinning Mohican in sight: it's more Ben Shermans, brothel creepers and the odd builder's bum - they're singing along, know all the words naturally. It's one of my favourite singles of all time and when JC Carroll plays the little Shadows-like guitar fill mid-song, I'm in heaven. When JC and Chris Payne get to the line "Now they want anarchy" it goes really mental - Lee McFadden and his recording gear get swept aside in the frenzy and as the beer starts to fly one guy even lights up a fag (which ends up clamped between Rat Scabies' teeth), one of the more anarchic actions still available in health and safety land. It's great to see a crowd who aren't going to let a little detail like the passing of thirty years get in the way of their enjoyment or love of the music.
The night got going with a really good set from the Jetsonics. They've been building a reputation playing gigs round here at places like the Half Moon in Putney and I could see why people have been telling me to check them out. Despite starting their set to a pretty paltry crowd, they gave it everything from the beginning. The Jetsonics are a tight, punky rock'n'roll trio and over the course of their set they really demonstrate the old adage of "The Power of Three". When three guys can interlock and play like this, you don't need much more. Seriously tall singer Sam Day makes a striking front man, dwarfing his guitar, as he rattles through their songs and fires off a series of taut, economical solos. Bassman Adam Donovan looks like he's played more than a gig or two in his time, and drives the sound along, locking tight with drummer Dave Lombardi.
Fortunately the place fills up quickly and it's no surprise to see they've got a following already. The twelve song set includes all four songs from their new ep (get it on iTunes) - "Burn, Burn, Burn", "Somewhere Else", "Amazing" and "Satisfied". The dubby "Somewhere Else" is a real highlight and is a nice reminder of the West London punk/reggae crossover, started by the Clash and developed by groups like the Members and the mighty Ruts. Another highlight comes with "Seven Foot Drop", a dramatic tale of a local serial killer. There’s a lot of the Ruts in the Jetsonics sound generally - although at times there's a bit of Husker Du in the mix too, in the drive, tension and economy of their songs. Anyway, they got the night off to a fine start and showed they've got everything necessary to break out of West London and come your way.
Set List:- Push Up / Hard Copy / 90 Miles / Murphy's Heroes / Somewhere Else / Seven Foot Drop / Burn! Burn! Burn! / Satisfied / Amazing / New Romance / On Your Case / Caterham Blues
I managed to have a chat with JC Carroll before the Members went on - they're just back from playing a German tour and it really showed in the tightness and confidence of their set. It had been almost like starting out again, playing clubs and small gigs, and getting great reactions too. We're in the process of arranging a Mudkiss interview when a chap comes up to JC like he's an old mate. I stand aside, though JC's looking a bit puzzled. "You remember me mate? Lyceum 1983, you was on with 999, we had a beer next door...” - naturally JC handles the enquiry with total courtesy. It was that kind of night.
The Members are a trio now too. Sadly original singer Nicky Tesco is no longer able to perform due to severe arthritis, so the group comprises JC Carroll (guitar/vocals) and Chris Payne (bass/vocals) from the original line-up, with punk legend (and Brentford resident) Chris Millar/Rat Scabies on drums. Although the set is based around old Members' favourites, they're a long way from the cabaret-punk scene, as the inclusion of several new songs shows. "New English Blues"Midlife Crisis" (title track of the new Members' ep, available from itunes) are among the night's highpoints, and show that the group still go that extra yard with their lyrics. A slow, dubbed out version of Kraftwerk's "The Model" is the night's wild card.
The old songs make it clear just how important the Members are: powerful music with some really sharp lyrics and great choruses/arrangements. Everyone knows the chorus to "Suburbs" - but check the verses, they're almost like the opening of a short story (then have a listen to songs like "Brian Was" and "Sally"). Things start to really step up in intensity and audience energy with "Solitary Confinement" - again, there's a story there too as JC explains its account of moving up to London from the country as a hopeful young punk, only to find crap bands playing toilet circuit gigs and ending up living in bedsit exile. For a song written thirty years ago, "Offshore Banking Business" is incredibly prescient, and Chris Payne's reggae-marinated bass was just perfect. Alas there's no room for "GLC" tonight, but tunes like "Chelsea Nightclub" and "Working Girl" sound as good as ever. JC, Chris and Rat look like they're really enjoying playing together, sharpened by recent time on the road, and when I watch from the side of the stage for a while, it's fascinating to watch the precision and drive in Chris Millar's drumming. JC handles the guitar and plays the crowd like a true old maestro, while t'other Chris holds it all down on bass.
And then it's that "Sound of the Suburbs" moment...
The night ends with a surprise rendition of "Love Song" - from the drummer's old group, I believe. When we leave, Rat Scabies is outside on the pavement having a fag and catching up with all the old moshers. It was a really good night - I'd gone along expecting to enjoy hearing a couple of old favourites: instead there were two groups who played like they really had a point to prove.
Set List:- Muzak Machine / Soho a Gogo / New English Blues / At the Chelsea Nightclub / Working Girl / Ain't Gonna Be Your Bitch No Mo' / The Model / Solitary Confinement / Bleak / Sound of the Suburbs / Midlife Crisis / Love Song (encore).Review by Den