It’s an unfeasonably, unseasonably warm October evening in Preston as we take a trip back in time to when young men wore cardigans and Margaret Thatcher was the uniting hate figure for all awake guitar bands in the UK. In a revival of the Twang Club- the eighties indie night in Preston when angular young men played angular riffs at least the angular riffs have returned.
Tonight is part one of a two season celebration of the sort of music that John Peel used to play on his show with a couple of the bands on the bill being big favourites of the late DJ. Promoter Rico has been doing a remarkable job in Preston putting on these sort of evenings and celebrating a time when independent music actually meant independent. God knows how he makes it work but powered by the kind of enthusiasm that powered those Death To Trad Rock bands all those decades ago he is a one man reminder of how it all worked back then.
Great Leap Forward are the surprise openers tonight with former Big Flame vocalist and bass player Alan Brown playing acoustic versions of the songs from his follow up band to the discordant cult underground noiseniks. Alan hasn’t aged a day and his voice retains that velvet croon that was crucial in making sense of Big Flame’s wilful discordant racket before being allowed to breathe in Great Leap Forward. The songs themselves, oddly, sound better acoustic.
He is joined at the end of his set by the two member Sarandon as they merge into their own set of frantic, dislocated, high octane DTTR pop/noise. They sound fantastic- like a perfectly preserved living fossil of time when wilful disengagement from the mainstream was what independent meant. A short, sharp shock from a time when there was a marked battle line between the alternative and the mainstream. Sarandon have been doing this for a long time, an on off project they seem to be more energised than ever tonight and their frantic songs sound fantastic, really invigorating and thrilling. They also chuck in a cover of Death by Milkfloat and then the Membranes Spike Milligans Tape Recorder.
Bent Moustache have been with us a long time as well but have suddenly morphed into something quite thrilling. Before they were a pretty good, bass driven, Fall-esque combo but have now flowered into a post My Bloody Valentine dream pop thing and it’s really quite spectacular. The softer sung vocals are really effective and the wall of sound, mesmerising guitars are like an avalanche of emotional skree. Oddly, though, its the last song in the set when they switch back to their bass driven older sound that really stands out but that is a red herring from their really effective new direction.
Bearsuit are the kind of band Peel would have loved if he was still with us. They have a discordant sensibility but also write great pop songs. The Norwich based band are four albums in and have recently re-ermeged with their spiky, keyboard driven mix of twee pop, boy/girl vocals, post punk rule breaking and wilful punk sensibility with charity store riffs and tough, tight drumming that gives the whole thing a vague krautrock air. If that all sounds a bit too art school, don’t panic- you can also dance about to them and there is a real joy to their music making. It’s good to have them back.
June Brides were the band that nearly made it in our scuzzy, fuzzy eighties fanzine world.
They certainly had the songs and even Morrissey was name dropping them at one time. They got close. Damn close. But suffered from that thing that the closer you get the further away you really are. Their trumpet driven pop stands the test of time and their bright, shiny classic pop through a fuzzbox wears well. Their almost hit, Every Conversation gets the biggest welcome of the night with its take on the Fire Engines’ Candyskin take on Trex’s Ride A White Swan- a more perfect pop lineage would be hard to find.
There is a joy in their playing, a thank fuck we can still get up here and do this and they still sound so fresh with the magical elixir of classic pop taking its effect.