THE FALLEN LEAVES + CULT FIGURES + FRACTURED – THE PRINCE ALBERT, BRIGHTON 20.11.21
The Fallen Leaves were formed in Richmond in South West London in 2004 by vocalist Rob Green and guitarist Rob Symmons, to incorporate their shared love of 1960s garage music and gentlemen’s tailoring. Both had previously been in Subway Sect, although not at the same time. With a reputation for eccentric and engaging live shows, The Fallen Leaves have released three studio albums, along with singles, live recordings and a compilation on their own label, Parliament Records. The current lineup is completed by bassist Gareth Evans and drummer Brett ‘Buddy’ Ascott, who was formerly with The Chords. The band’s manifesto, quoted at shows and published on their website, includes the following:
“Simple Songs For Complex People. Punk Rock For Gentlemen. No Jeans. No T-shirts. No Cover-Versions.”
Tonight’s show at The Prince Albert is hosted by promoters Spinningchilli, and it was announced last week that all available tickets had been sold. It’s a particularly strong bill, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing all three bands.
First on tonight are Fractured who originated in Reading in the early 1980s, then reconvened in Brighton many years later. They released three albums before deciding to call it a day in September 2019. Retirement clearly didn’t suit them, as they announced earlier this year that they would return with a new bassist, and here they are, taking the stage dressed for the beach, with sunglasses, Hawaiian-style shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
The band are a four-piece, with guitar, bass, drums, and frontman Jeff Hayward on vocals. They open with a number called ‘Enemy’ and I’m hooked straight away. The sound is tight and punchy, with a new wave feel, and there’s plenty of space to hear everything, most importantly the lyrics, which are clever and very funny. I’m reminded of bands like Half Man Half Biscuit and Sultans Of Ping FC, or more recently The Humdrum Express. For a laugh, the set is interspersed with brief musical interludes called ‘Japanese Knotweed’. Like the annoying garden invader, they just keep coming back.
‘Not Dead Yet’ has a catchy riff and its theme of ageing probably chimes with most of the audience, including me. ‘Weird Man’ is a strange tale of paranoia on the golf course and at the bakery counter in the Co-op. A low throb from long-haired bassist John, accompanied by rim shots from drummer Dave, ushers in ‘All My Conifers Are Dead’, a tragicomic parallel of gardening disaster with relationship breakdown. ‘What. Ever’ hilariously relates the frustration of trying to communicate with sullen teenagers.
‘She Believes’ features a vibey, delay-soaked riff from guitarist Jamie, and there’s a lovely ascending bass intro to ‘App’. Yet again, the lyrics are superb: a long list of pretty much every human activity, followed by the chanted refrain “I’ve got an app for that.” A similar device is used to good effect in ‘I Can’t Get Out Of Bed’.
“I could be a champion ballroom dancer, but I can’t get out of bed. I should take that test for prostate cancer, but I can’t get out of bed.” The wry humour goes local for ‘The Preston Park Popular Front’, brim full of amusingly acerbic couplets. “The gap between rich and poor is incredibly stark, but all they care about is ‘Where do we park?’”
We’ve reached the end of the setlist, but there are a couple of minutes left. Just time for ‘Terry Smith’s Party’, the sorry account of that social gathering’s rapid descent into anarchy. It’s been a cracking start to the evening. If punky riffs and witty lyrics are your sort of thing, I recommend you check out Fractured.
Jeff Hayward – Vocals
Jamie Kirby – guitar/vocals
John McClafferty – bass
Dave ‘Citizen Skwith’ Askwith – drums
‘Enemy’, ‘Japanese Knotweed #1’, ‘Not Dead Yet’, ‘Weird Man’, ‘Japanese Knotweed #2’, ‘All My Conifers Are Dead’, ‘What. Ever’, ‘She Believes’, ‘App’, ‘Massive Missive’, ‘I Can’t Get Out Of Bed’, ‘Broken Heart’, ‘Japanese Knotweed #3’, ‘The Preston Park Popular Front’, ‘Terry Smith’s Party’.
Cult Figures formed in Birmingham in 1977 and released two well-received singles, including the classic ‘Zip Nolan’, before splitting up. Back together since 2018, they are now based in London. I’ve seen them before, and I’m looking forward to their set. Unfortunately, lead vocalist Gary is unwell, so a friend called Fraser has gamely agreed to deputise. A large and jolly figure in thick-rimmed specs, he wears a Hawaiian shirt that looks like he might have borrowed it from previous act Fractured. The rest of the band are more soberly attired, with Jon and Barney on guitars, Lee on bass, and Stuart behind the kit.
Understandably, Fraser has the lyrics on a music stand, but he’s doing a fine job. Fortunately, most of the band also sing, so there’s plenty of scope for sharing around the vocal duties. Drummer Stuart takes the lead on the bittersweet ‘Donut Life’, and there are some impressive harmonies on ‘Lights Out’, which moves along very nicely indeed. The music has a poppy new wave feel, and there’s plenty going on. For the ice skating themed ‘Silver Blades’, Barney moves to omnichord, a sort of electronic autoharp played on the lap. It’s a great song, with a poignant but catchy vocal line, plenty of movement on the bass, and some lovely chiming lead guitar, with Jon high up the neck of his Epiphone semi-acoustic.
Lead vocals move to Jon for ‘White Noise’, and to bassist Lee for a new number, ‘Concrete And Glass’ which has a more sparse and pleasantly languid feel. ‘Camping In The Rain’ stands out for impressive work by Barney on stylophone, another early electronic instrument played, as the name suggests, with a stylus.
Will they play ‘Zip Nolan’? Of course, and I’m well up for a dance. I would suggest you go and listen to it, but be warned, its naggingly insistent ascending vocal refrain could be stuck in your head for days. The drums rattle along at the frantic pace of the eponymous highway patrolman’s motorcycle, with the guitar crunching through the gears. There’s a stop, traditionally filled with a corny joke, for which Lee chips in: “I’ll tell you last week. Do you want to hear a joke about time travel?” It’s not easy to follow that, but closer ‘Something About You’ is another briskly paced cracker, with Stuart sending fast fills thundering around the toms.
It’s been an impressive set, performed under difficult circumstances. At the end, Fraser gets a massive cheer for his efforts. Cult Figures have two albums available to buy or stream, and they are well worth further investigation.
Cult Figures tonight were:
Fraser Gillespie (deputising for Gary Jones) – vocals
Jon Hodgson – guitar/vocals
Barney Russel – guitar/omnichord/stylophone
Lee McFadden – bass/vocals
Stuart Hilton – drums/vocals
Cult Figures setlist:
‘Reactions Nil’, ‘Chicken Bones’, ‘Donut Life’, ‘Lights Out’, ‘Silver Blades’, ‘White Noise’, ‘Concrete And Glass’, ‘Camping In The Rain’, ‘Privilege’, ‘Zip Nolan’, ‘Something About You’.
Along with the usual preparations of putting out setlists and plugging in effects pedals, a Thermos flask and a shooting stick are carefully placed by the monitors. The Fallen Leaves are not your average band, and this is confirmed as they take the stage. Rob Green is stylishly attired in a brown tweed Norfolk hunting jacket complete with waist belt, topped off with a paisley scarf and sunglasses. He sings into a retro-styled ‘Elvis’ microphone on a straight stand. House left, Rob Symmons sports a brown jacket and check trousers, and plays with his Telecaster guitar slung high. Bassist Gareth rocks a frilly shirt and a Peter Tork haircut, and is getting some serious air beneath impressive star jumps. Behind the kit, the vigorous exertions of drummer Brett quite reasonably excuse a slightly more casual ‘Planters rig’ of a tailored short sleeved shirt.
Set opener ‘Did You See Her?’ is such a blistering blast of urgent garage rock, that Gareth breaks a bass string. Fortunately Lee from Cult Figures is on hand to lend him his white Revelator to continue the set with. The tunes are excellent, and their strong 1960s vibe makes them seem instantly familiar. “Simple songs for complex people. That’s what they are,” confirms Rob. There’s a new number called ‘Everywhere She Goes’, and one called ‘So Much More’ which has a similar feel to The Who’s ‘Pictures Of Lily’. The vibey ‘Funny World’ utilises an ascending riff in the broad manner of ‘Stepping Stone’.
For recent single, ‘Green Eyes FC’, the words to the chantalong refrain are held up on a sign, Ramones style. As if to underline that point, the reverse reads “Gabba Gabba Hey!” I don’t think Joey Ramone ever used a shooting stick to support his sign though. The field accessory is back in action during ‘Shining’, with Rob wielding it like a gun as his namesake wrangles some beautifully clipped flurries of staccato guitar. There’s a long wig out over some thudding bass, during which the frontman carefully removes his jacket, transferring the leaf logo armband to his shirt sleeve. In case you were worried that this might appear anarchically casual, he does have a rather smart Tattersall check waistcoat on, with a fob chain hanging between the pockets. The guitar is getting properly wild now, accompanied by vigorous drum fills and fretboard spanning bass runs. Centre stage, Rob calmly unscrews his Thermos flask and pours himself a cup of tea, an iconic and ice cool signature move.
There are more cracking songs and more stylish moves to come. ‘I Made A Mistake’ is performed whilst nonchalantly puffing on an e-cigarette. ‘The International Brigade’, dedicated by Rob to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War, has a soaring chorus and a breakdown underpinned by military-style drumming. Set closer ‘Against The Grain’ features a poppy refrain, manic rolls around the kit, and a super-fast guitar break of triplet strumming. It is truly wonderful.
There’s rapturous applause at the end, and a chant goes up of “One more song!” Rob holds up two fingers, and the demand is quickly revised to “Two more songs!” We’re back in with the gloriously busy bass line of ‘Sylvie Says’, which wisely counsels against the “Drink and dial” approach to relationships. Such an enjoyable evening needs something special to round it off, and ‘Trouble’ is as perfect a slice of garage rock as you could wish for. Its conclusion brings more enthusiastic cheering, and the band members collectively take a bow, like the true stars they are.
The style and panache of The Fallen Leaves has provided a fine conclusion to an excellent evening of entertainment. Thank you to Spinningchilli for putting it together. I’ll be travelling home very happy indeed.
The Fallen Leaves are:
Rob Green – vocals
Rob Symmons – guitar/vocals
Gareth Evans – bass/vocals
Brett ‘Buddy’ Ascott – drums
The Fallen Leaves setlist:
‘Did You See Her’, ‘Begin Again’, ‘Everywhere She Goes’, ‘So Much More’, ‘Funny World’, ‘Green Eyes FC’, ‘Shining’, ‘Is She Somewhere’, ‘I Made A Mistake’, ‘International Brigade’, ‘Against The Grain’, (encore) ‘Sylvie Says’, ‘Trouble’
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