‘Sick Liver Blues’
‘former Crazyhead and Gaye Bykers members still on fire…’
These days the late 1980s tend to be portrayed as a Thatcherite wasteland soundtracked by Madchester and defined by shock-horror Acid House tabloid headlines. But this isn’t the full story, because even as the bleeps were starting to bubble, a parallel scene was capturing the hearts and minds of degenerate rock kids who at this time, years before tribal walls collapsed, chose to remain loyal to grubby guitars rather than defect to spaced out beats.
This scene was as unfashionable then as it is now, sneered at by the era’s tastemakers and similarly airbrushed from music retrospectives by the talking heads of today. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Defined as ‘grebo’ – after a Midlands slang word for rockers – it offered a refuge for leather-jacketed kindred spirits, slightly older than the ravers but no less hungry for musical thrills. The imaginations of two Leicester bands, Crazyhead and Gaye Bykers On Acid, had been sparked by ’70s punk and were further fuelled by rummages into bonkers ’60s garage. They feasted on revved up guitar anthems and attracted large and loyal followings to their boisterous shows.
Fast forward 25 years. Key members of both bands have retained their appetite for lean, mean garage rock. Kindred spirits connect, one thing leads to another and a “mutant bastard blues” baby is born, an unholy alliance with Screaming Delta Anderson, Porkbeast and Rob ‘Vom’ Morris, all from Crazyhead, and GBOA’s Robber Byker at its core. This new creation embraces its heritage – Swamp Delta’s live set is peppered with popular Crazyhead and GBOA tunes – but the band is fully focused on now and, perhaps to put distance between itself and the past, proudly proclaims its own newly discovered LA (Leicester area) mythology.
After a long gestation period in what the band calls the South Wigston Swamp Zone, their debut LP has arrived, and for a record that – for reasons beyond their control – took 18 months to emerge, it all feels gloriously natural and exuberant; as the songs play you can almost hear the grins on the band’s faces.
Opening track Running From The Island Of The Dolls jumps out of the speakers, an eruption of low slung, almost metallic riffage. Meanwhile, Bitchin’ is a match for the greatest hits of both previous bands, Rob Morris hitting the drums with his trademark power, and Porkbeast’s bass runs blessed with a familiar melodic edge, Anderson’s “I love you dirty river” refrain sealing the song’s status as a fist-pumping live favourite in waiting.
With its rolling drums and rapid chopping riffs, the thrilling Cut Loose could easily be a lost gem from The Damned’s early days. By contrast The Hangin’ Man is a menacing prowl, while the slightly sluggish Heavy Water (“I’m a poor boy raised on the Wigston delta”) is boosted and propelled by a guitar solo to savour.
Neon Flag is a stomping rebel anthem with an infectious Pistolian swagger, but Sick Liver Blues itself is Swamp Delta’s pre-loaded classic, a crunching blues punk monster that acts as a defiant statement of intent (“Don’t tell me what I want, don’t tell me what I need”). When Robber’s guitar interlocks with Porkbeast’s bass and the pair let rip it’s impossible not to get swept up in the excitement and BELIEVE in the Swamp Delta dream.
After the previous track’s intensity, Talking To The Girls (on St 51) provides just over two and a half minutes of power pop delight, a welcome burst of sunny nostalgia before the raunch returns for the album’s thunderous climax. Touch The Sun is a trippy Link Wray rumble into wigged out psychedelic rock, phased guitars switching to freakout mode as the song stretches out, basking in its own glory as Anderson screams the vocal hook: “How can I touch the sun?”
Listening to this splendid debut LP, you can’t help feeling anything is possible.