The Lo-Fi Poet Band: Police Car – EP review and the rise of the ‘Southampton Mush’
The Lo-Fi Poet Band: Police car EP (Onion records)
Out 31st May 2013
Debut EP by sleazy groove merchants in a Mondays’ stylee from Sarf-amp-tun.
“Hey Muuuussssh! If you need to score and there ain’t no-one in sight…”
It’s great to hear the words “Hey Mush” in a song. It’s a local thing I guess. Mush isn’t a well-known term outside of the South, and it isn’t anything to do with huskies and it doesn’t just mean face as in “ a smack in the mush”.
Like anyone born into a working class family in Hampshire in the sixties I knew the word Mush as a term of address, used in place of mate and a noun instead of bloke, from an early age. My dad worked for Hampshire County Council’s road-mending Tarmac gangs and used it on a daily basis.
A mush always seemed to me to refer to a slightly disreputable chap, like geezer, but used in a more derogatory way. I now know the word is derived from the Romany/gypsy word moosh (for man) the same origins as the word chav (chavi is child).
After asking around it seems mush has been in common usage since before the Second World War in working mens’ circles (dockers and scaffolders all used it, for example) in Southampton, Bournemouth and the New Forest and a few other places. The only time the word has entered popular culture is through the comedian Tony Hancock (roots in Bournnemouth!) until now …
In Southampton, 2013 though “Alright Mush?” is an increasingly common greeting and has become “a signifier, a badge of working or non-working class pride” according to Marco the Lo-Fi Poet.
It seems to have come to mean a kindred spirit, a drinking, smoking lad-about-town, out-for-a-good-time. Southampton protest singer Sean McGowan, now a mate of Billy Bragg, has had a t-shirt printed up with MUSH in bold white lettering on black and his avatar of a stickman with bottle and cig in hand on the bottom.
Another t-shirt company sell Mush, Mushette and Southampton Mush t-shirts and babygrows!
Tommy from the Rising said “Until I was about eight I thought Mush was my name … it’s a great word”.
And now, finally it appears in a song, the Lo-Fi Poets re-write of Larry Wallis’ Police Car.
Marco the Lo-Fi Poet is King Mush; a man with a colourful past, an ill-deserved bad reputation and a love of herb and street-life. It’s taken him five years to assemble a bunch of like-minded characters mad enough to work with him.
Originally a ranting poet under the name Damage, he’s reached forty, mellowed-out a bit but is still in love with the Clash, the Stones, the Roses, hip-hop, grime, all the Rebel Musics as well as Kerouac, the Beats, the Merry Pranksters and so on….combined with his hatred of bigotry and the Daily Mail mentality, he is a real character, a trouble-magnet and full of contradictions…
You don’t get enough characters fronting bands nowadays. You get boring, nondescript blokes with beards with nothing to say pretending not to be posh, looking fashionably dishevelled by a stylist. Which is exactly why we need groups like the Lo-Fi Poet Band.
They describe themselves as “looking like a bunch of dodgy ravaged-looking old ravers… who play sleazy, groove-based poetic rock”.
The band members all have a history of misfortune of one kind or other. They share a love of horticulture, homeopathic remedies and cosmology… and could have only ended up in one band; this band. Their musical influences are many and varied. They can be shambolic live and their gear spends half the time in what Marco calls Crack Converters the local pawnshop.
Marco isn’t a great singer. The same as Mark E Smith, Bob Dylan, Shaun Ryder, Shane MacGowan, he is a vocalist, wordsmith, a poet and a great frontman but he ain’t no Aretha fuckin Franklin. Which brings me to his cross-dressing. If it was a gimmick, he’d adopt his persona of Chloe onstage. But he keeps it for the day-time when he does voluntary work for a Charity Shop.
A man who speaks his mind, Marco often finds himself misunderstood. A charity-shop tranny who’s hetero and married with kids.
Someone who confronts bigotry on the street in no uncertain terms, but a “chav and proud” (it seems from the Burberry scarf he always hangs from his mic-stand).
The Daily Mail’s worst nightmare made flesh, but actually a very kind and loyal bloke who’s put on three charity all-dayers over the past eighteen months, on a budget of nothing, to raise money for various causes.
I met guitarist, producer, sleeve-artist and all-round enigma “Jacques Schitt” many years ago (he was in punk band the Bitter Lemmings back in 1979) and he told me his personal take on punk was influenced by two people; Syd Barrett and Salvador Dali. Which tells you all you need to know about him.
Marco claims to have an almost telepathic link with Jacques when they write songs together.
Steve Submarine-Captain is the drummer who Marco describes as, “hyper, cheeky, up for a laugh, a real powerhouse behind the kit, I’ve him known since school.”
Phil E Stein, the bassist, is, “the quiet one, but he’s our secret weapon, he comes up with nearly all the tunes, he loves the Stranglers they are entrenched in his DNA.”
Travis Walton Jnr on keyboards is, “our nice-guy, a brilliant musician he has his own band the High T’s and provides the whiskey when we practice.”
“If we don’t fit in with (the local scene) then that’s a big fucking plus not a minus. As you reach middle age, you’re less fearless about who you are, I guess you can either conform or go your own way and accept you’re on the outside and celebrate your non conformity.”
Released on their own label and available from this Friday (31 May) on CD only (at the moment) the Police Car EP is a strange brew of Happy Mondays, the Doors, the Blockheads ….a bit like a Hampshire backstreet pub version of the Beastie Boys jamming but irresistibly likeable once you know where these guys are coming from.
The million ideas and influences that buzz around Marco’s head are difficult to capture on a budget of fuckall but after a couple years of dodgy demos they’ve finally got down their live, wayward, sleazy groove on disc.
The guitar-playing is inventive, the flowing keyboards the perfect counter-balance to the hoarse from too many smokes vocals and the groove is intuitive. It’s the sound of a jam session coming together and taking flight, with the music playing the musicians.
Police Car stands out as it’s a famillar song (to us old punks) but it’s just such a perfect song for the band. If you’re a fan of both the Stranglers and Happy Mondays I guarantee you’ll love it!
Darkside is the Lo-fi’s literally taking a walk on the wild side Lou Reed style, documenting their home city in the same way as Reed did New York’s sleazy underbelly. At the same time its a song full of soul and pain. Lines like “Crushing sense of melancholy keeps me sweating all night, hiding from reality under the comfort blanket” don’t come from having an easy time of things.
Gotta Get Thru too is an autobiographical diary entry set to music, bareing the soul of a man constantly trying to shake off a bad reputation.
“Sleeping pills and booze to numb me not for fun, on the run from past sins, so I sin some more, my life’s like a circus, or is it in my head, watch repeats of Corrie, can’t get out of bed.”
There’s a lot of years work, love and devotion in these real-life songs about Southampton’s marginals, hustlers and freaks (the Poet’s words, not mine) The fact that they are proud underdogs who attempt to put something back into the local community means that yeah, I’m biased in favour of a band who don’t have daddy to rely on to fund their efforts and have overcome the odds to make an EP to be proud of.
Get hold of a copy, mush!
The Lo-Fi Poet Band play an EP launch gig at the Bent Brief in Southampton on Friday 31st May with support from hot new Southampton indie-prog rock band the Harlequin.
The only other way to get hold of the band/ EP is through their Facebook page.
Live photo by Adam Barnes.
All words by Ged Babey. You can read more from Ged on LTW here.