THE MEMBRANES + LUNA ROSA + SCARE TAXI + THE METATRONS – THE PRINCE ALBERT, BRIGHTON 23.06.19
Tonight’s gig was one of those special occasions that will certainly live long in the memory. Besides the fact that I personally hadn’t seen any of the four acts before, it was a memorable night on so many levels.
Firstly, on arrival I was very warmly greeted by The Membranes head honcho and founding father John Robb and none other than the Queen of Punk, Jordan, who were sitting together scheming on some cunning plan – all would be revealed later. Secondly, tonight’s venue, The Prince Albert just so happens to stock one’s favourite tipple, and thirdly, the punters were so warm and friendly.
The Membranes have had two outings, from 1977 to 1990 and then resurrected in 2009 when My Bloody Valentine invited them to play their ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ festival.
Interestingly enough, they were in fact the first band to be signed to Alan McGee’s Creation label, however the deal fell through when McGee could not afford to pay their studio bill for their iconic ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’ single. The fortunes of all concerned would eventually mark a vast improvement.
Wind the clocks forward to 2015 and The Membranes released their then best received album – ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ which was greeted with great reviews across the world, accompanied by a whole host of UK radio-play from Steve Lamacq, Gideon Coe, Tom Robinson on 6music, John Kennedy on XFM and Jim Gellatly on Amazing Radio.
Tonight’s Membranes personnel is made up of Nick Brown (guitar), Peter Byrchmore (guitar), Rob Haynes (drums), and renowned TV and radio pundit, and editor of ‘Louder Than War’ John Robb (vocals and bass).
Robb is certainly a most versatile man, he seriously looks and plays the part of a frontman in a ‘rock’ band, complete with bulging muscles and distinctive mohican quiff haircut, but also finds time to curate the ‘Louder Than Words’ festival, with the next one taking place this coming November – details HERE. Not content with that, this autumn he will also be releasing ‘The Art Of Darkness’, a book on the darker side of post punk, adding to his collection of best selling books on punk rock.
The Membranes are in Brighton in support of their brand new Manchester recorded and much touted 16-track album ‘What Nature Gives … Nature Takes Away’, which features none other than Chris Packham (on ‘Winter (The Beauty and Violence of Nature)’), Kirk Brandon (on ‘The Magical and Mystical Properties Of Flowers’), Jordan (on ‘Demon Seed/ Demon Flower’), Shirley Collins (on ‘A Murmuration Of Starlings on Blackpool Pier’) and the vocals of BIMM choir on half of the tracks. And get this, cosmetics company Lush will imminently be releasing a Membranes perfume called ‘A Strange Perfume’ after the album’s opening track.
‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’ is about the beauty and violence of nature and tonight Robb held a poll with the punters to see who thought crows were more intelligent than ravens. Crows won. Continuing on the animal front, we also had the debut live performance of the Killing Joke guitar-esque ‘Snow Monkey’, which is about those lovable Japanese primates, often seen bathing in those heated pools.
I have to be honest that I had no idea as to how eclectic The Membranes sound has become. They are not just a post-punk band, they are so much more, which I guess was reflected in tonight’s crowd, which ranged from beautiful punk peacocks to Joe Public.
It was a mesmerising set, with Robb leaping about the stage with the vigour of a man half his age. In fact I stated to him after the performance, that I had no idea where he gets his energy from. This was well received.
The revelation of what Robb had been concocting with Jordan outside the venue, came in the form of a special reading of a passage from Jordan’s highly successful new autobiography ‘Defying Gravity – Jordan’s Story‘. ‘Her Highness’ was invited on stage and proceeded to unveil text regarding that infamous Sex Pistols Jubilee boat trip down the Thames, whilst Robb and the lads plugged away at an improv dub number. Worked rather well I thought – I wasn’t alone. In fact Jordan, herself, was still buzzing after the gig, although it might have something to do with it being her birthday.
After her reading, Jordan rejoined us mere mortals and very soon both herself and your truly were blown away by Robb’s heavy dub basswork that blasted straight through our bodies. We both agreed that Jah Wobble would himself be very impressed with this. The track in question was a souped-up extra dubby version ‘In The Graveyard’, which can be found on ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ album. It was my fave of the night, with Robb’s gravelly vocals, it was like a long lost PiL track from ‘Metal Box’.
Other firsts for me at a gig was Rob Haynes use of an old milk churn to accompany his drumkit and also guitarists Nick Brown and Peter Byrchmore both using Aeon String Sustainers. I don’t ever recall having seen these before. They are basically hand-held electronic bows that generate infinite sustain on a string using a magnetic field – clever stuff indeed!
You can now absorb yourself in everything Membranes as their entire early discography is now available in one box set, entitled ‘Everyone’s Going Triple Bad Acid. Yeah!: The Complete Recordings 1980-1993’.
It includes their five albums recorded in the 1980’s as well as all their singles, B-sides, EP’s and extra tracks. It boasts a mere 99 tracks, most of which appear on CD for the first time, from their contribution to the ‘Blackpool Rox EP’ in 1980 right through to their final recordings for the band’s original incarnation in the early 1990’s.
I would urge you to check out more info on the band HERE.
I have to say that putting on four bands in such a short space of time might have been a logistical nightmare, but in this instance, it was not the case. All of the acts swiftly and effectively got their gear together and as a result there was a swift turnover on the night. The music kept flowing with barely time to grab a beer and toilet break in between acts, which is how I think it should be. A positive consequence of this was that the tempo and expectations remained at a high level all night and no-one was disappointed.
The evening was kicked off in style by The Metatrons who had travelled down to perform from Hertfordshire, Hitchin to be precise.
Although they formed eight years ago, tonight was my first live encounter with this striking quartet, which consists of Polly (vocals), Rico (bass), Steve (drums) and Simon (guitar).
The band set the tone and bar very high for an opening act. I really enjoyed them and dutifully purchased both of their albums at the end of the night. Their debut being ‘Between Planets’ which was released in 2011 and the follow-up ‘Patterns of Chaos’ saw the light of day in 2016. I understand there’s a third on its way.
After their set, I spoke with Polly and conveyed my appreciation of her Strawberry Switchblade look as well as their delightful bubblegum fuzz-pop sound akin to The Primitives. Immediately Polly’s face lit up and she produced a tote bag with the words ‘The Primitives’ emblazoned on it. I was clearly on the same wavelength. Turns out that they have played live with The Primitives. I added that there was also more than a nod to Penetration and The Rezillos, which was met with further approval. I would also add West London’s Colour Me Wednesday in order to finalise their sound.
Next up were Brighton based trio Scare Taxi who seem to be popping up on the scene with some regularity these days, having recently performed with Electric Six last month in Lewes and Art Brut at The Haunt in February. They are set to return to The Prince Albert next month, when they will be appearing on the same bill as The DeRellas. Clearly a get-up-and-do band.
The Scare Taxi are headed by none other than Alexander Boag, former frontman of 1990’s chart worrying These Animal Men, who in their time secured three Top 100 albums and five Top 100 singles. It’s no wonder then that spikey-haired, Johnnie Fingers (Boomtown Rats) style clad Boag certainly knows how to throw a pose or twelve!
Boag regularly shares vocal duty tonight with captivating bassist Tara ‘Guitara‘ Harley, who offers varying facial expressions whilst singing and also seriously reminds me of an enchanting former work colleague called Ruth Yeomans – I wondered whatever happened to her? Completing the line-up was new boy drummer Mark Allsop Nelson.
It’s fair to report that Scare Taxi offer up catchy and hook laden riffs (spotted some Sex Pistols in there) but with satisfying musical variations and thus they are difficult to pigeonhole into just one genre. They themselves state that they play Trash Rock and are purveyors of Art Trash.
The main support slot tonight fell to Northamptonshire’s young male quartet LUNA ROSA, who are Rory McDade (vocals,guitar), Aidan Furey (guitar), Jack Connolly (drums) and Charlie Thorneycroft (bass).
I noted that tonight’s concert promoters, Angel Promotions, (who incidentally were putting on their first ever Brighton gig tonight), came into the room in order to watch LUNA ROSA perform live and I can see why there is some shared interest in this lot. They have bags of energy accompanied with verbal attitude and not necessarily in the way they dress either. Their sound was surprisingly very tight for ones so young – clearly these guys have seriously been practising.
Their raw energy and intense passion would get them top slot on any ‘This Feeling’ tour and you can observe why audiences are and will be drawn into them. There are smatterings of IDLES, Oasis and Brighton’s sadly missed Morning Smoke going on during tonight’s set and I’m sure that they are on an upwards projection.
Find out more and listen to them HERE.
Overall, a fab night out with great bands, fab beer and awesome company! Thanks to everyone involved!
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