The Gunners, London N5
11th October 2014
Ian Canty checks out the reformed Midlands Class of ’77 glam punks Neon Hearts and comes back a-glow.
When I heard that the Neon Hearts were back doing gigs it was like Christmas coming early and a total no-brainer: I had to be at one of them come hell or high water (actually the high water bit was quite accurate, a fair amount of flooding in the fields as the train edged its way slowly through obscure parts of Hampshire and Surrey before arriving at Waterloo). Though I was a bit too young to have seen them first time around, I had gradually picked up the singles like DIY Punk classic “Regulations/Venus Eccentric” (in that lovely 8” inch sleeve) and the solitary LP “Popular Music” in the early 80s second-hand and they quickly became favourites.
I missed an earlier gig they did for Dirty Water but when this one came up the decks were cleared and away I went. The Gunners is a pretty nice pub venue (unless you’re Glenn Hoddle) and the perfect setting for a roots punk rock gig. Unfortunately I arrived late and managed to miss the Proud City Fathers who I heard were good, but I did manage to catch the other two support bands and very good they were too. Emergency Bitter played a great blend of straight-forward catchy 1977 style Punk mixed in with big singalong Oi Oi choruses. Very enjoyable and the cover of Beautiful by Christina Aguilera has to be heard to be believed! Good stuff.
Now Atomic Suplex, the point on the graph where high comedy and lowdown Rock ‘n’ Roll meet. An uncontrolled and uncontrollable stop-star garage punk assault, if you can imagine Johnny Thunders done up as a biker playing guitar in oven gloves but otherwise foregoing any concept of Health and Safety whilst he bumps into and falls over Mickey Pearce from Only Fools and Horses on bass, well you’re halfway there. Amid the chaos there are some great shouty hooks. Atomic Suplex aren’t quite the totally unorganised force they first seem, even if one song falls into another like a wheelie bin being emptied into a tipper. A truly one of a kind outfit: once seen never forgotten no matter how hard you try!
Which set things up perfectly for the Neon Hearts themselves and they subsequently hit the ball so far out of the park it was last seen heading to Mars by the International Space Station. Cannily bookending their set with both sides of their debut single, but in between it’s a fantastic display of controlled but exciting pop punk stuffed with old favourites and promising new material (a free 4 track CD came gratis with the gig that only cost five pounds to get in: can’t get value like this anywhere else these days, nice one Brad).
“Dangerous Planet” is full of restrained power and energy and “I Sleep With The Enemy” showcases Tone Dial’s Punk rock version of “Bowie as Tony Newley” vocals which are just as strong and individual as ever.
Though missing the saxophone of the record it is more than made up for by ex-Circles Keith Allen’s thunderous drumming, Martin Ratcliffe’s Wilko Johnson influenced choppy power punk guitar and newcomer Ed Bol manfully filling in for the sadly departed Paul Raven (they are pretty big boots to fill).
They are on truly great form and the classics keep coming “Armchair Thriller”, “Answers”, “Worthless Without You” all insanely catchy, perfectly delivered and exciting. The should have been a hit “Popular Music” is just one of many highlights and when it comes to an end with a stupendous version of “Regulations” you know this is one band who haven’t made a mistake in coming back after so long.
It’s trendy to slag off reformed bands and it has become fashionable for ageing stylists to have a go and say “I only want to hear new music”. Well it’s all new music if you haven’t heard it before,times and dates mean nothing, in the here and now the Neon Hearts are playing brilliant gigs so get in there.
All words Ian Canty. Photo by Alison Ratcliffe.