Bull & Gate,
The Male Nurse + I, Ludicrous + The Bert Shaft Orchestra
The Venue comprised a youthful crowd, perhaps best described as 'Camden', in
so far as a weakness for woollen flares & peroxide. What they were soon to
witness was patently foreign to the ingrate who insisted on stamping my palm
in ink. Indeed, having performed this indignity, he then compounded his error
by implying I was part of the art mob, migrants from cappucino-supping
Islington, who included in their ranks a contortionist pretending to be a
photographer, & rather too much cheap dope. For the final insult, he then
proceeded to interrogate, stasi-like, on the purpose of our visit, as if the
prospect of 'The Male Nurse', sacrilegeously compared to The Fall, might be
the clandestine reason for our attendance. Swine! I, Ludicrous! I spat.
Curse the new generation! progressively fat & smug on a diet of press.
As the tension increased, we fought our way to the front, where Will & John constructed their stage show. The first pounding thud of 'Trevor Barker' heralded the advent of possibly the only band worth listening to any more, apart from two or three. Who is Trevor Barker? The students laugh! But how much will they laugh in their dismal employment, confronted with the terror of slick idiots, mogul-mad? The sound is menacing, mitigated only by the leavening wit of Will, who carries the aura of a man persistantly let-down by crass medias. John is a master-class in concentration, as he takes his guitar to new acoustic peaks, places men like Clapton can only dream about, because they are supremely boring.
How can two men make a wall of noise so encompassing, when there are at least eight members of Primal Scream, and Primal Scream are crap? There must be a reason, & Steve Lamack (sic) can doubtless supply one, because Steve Lamack knows everything about music, with the exception of Jo Whiley, who knows even more, before which combined nouse it is impossible to argue, since they depend on a vast storehouse of indie 'facts'. (I know all this since I had the misfortune to get stuck in a bar with the aforesaid, where 'Steve', dressed in a 'Green Day' t-shirt, bragged about the incomparable merits of pin-ball, disparaging darts as an 'old-man's game'.) Nonetheless, Will & John defy their lack of orchestral support, to improvise a sound built for a decent arena, which the Bull & Gate isn't, particularly.
Next up, unless my memory defeats me, is a rare treat for the fans, especially those fans like me, who missed the 'mysterious' (difficult?) second album, segmented between It's Like Everything Else and Light & Bitter. Alternatively, the song presumably entitled 'Tony Slattery', or something similar, must be an out-take from a forthcoming release. Either way, yet again, I Ludicrous have created a song expressing a salient truth that one has always suspected, but never before spoken of: namely, that Tony Slattery, in common with all the non-humour fathered by Ben Elton soundalikes, is not funny. After all, one supposes a comedian to know some jokes, but Tony doesn't know any, which isn't a good start. What Tony does is greasy innuendo, rehearsed to the hilt, a talent which now earns him a raft of satellite quiz shows, which very few people either watch, or indeed are aware of. After confronting his manifold addictions to pills, sex and a lack of wit, Tony now struts in Harrow, where he attends 'Irish' pubs in the hope of being spotted.
Will launches into a virtiolic number, recounting a former place of employment, in a song named 'When I worked at Textline'. With a characterisitic mix of cynicism & dismay, the lyrics reveal the true nature of life in the workforce - the nasty politics beneath the coffee-break, predatory manager-types and the cunning hoax of 'teamwork'. Some of the audience find it funny, but the bitter undercurrent lingers and, as one peruses the faces, you see many a youth bemused by this experimental tour-de-force.
The next song is kindly dedicated to any 'West Ham' fans out there and, judging by the response, there are at least two. And what a treat it is! John demonstrates his virtuosity on the keyboard with the sublime 'Clacton-on-Sea' organ of 'Eastenders'. Let's hope the scriptwriters for the soap are here in force, for there is enough material in this tune for ninety episodes of their puerile stab at 'London'. How the scourge of cartoon cockerney infests the muse of popular culture - courtesy of that dreadful lot from Colchester - yet who has the guts and nous to sing of it, except this band? John looks nervous on the old joanna, but there's no need - the rendition is superb, with a dexterity that would put Phil Collins to shame, if he were not shameful enough already.
The reader must forgive me if the order of the songs is jumbled, or wrongly assembled, but I was carried by the sheer pulse of the gig from start to finish. An I, Ludicrous song of beauty is a joy forever, with profuse apologies to Keats. Besides which, I cannot ignore the fact I was gloriously drunk throughout the evening. Anyway, on with the show!
I believe the next gem was The One, the song every decent person aged twenty-five or more can recite backwards, after copious slugs of alcohol. In my opinion, Ken Mackenzie (the author of 'Preposterous Tales') is the greatest comic invention in the history of performance rock, but that sounds so unbearably pretensious you might mistake me for a 'madchester' hack. Therefore, I can only say, with total honesty, that Ken Mackenzie has entered the lexicon - nay, the very psyche - of what can reasonably be termed the 'bloke'. Not 'bloke' as in 'lager', but the man who perceives Ken Mackenzie every day, in every pub, spinning his yarns. Indeed, isn't there a part of Ken Mackenzie in everyone? Isn't this ridiculous bore an intimate part of my own mind? Besides which, this lyric has bequeathed some many priceless quotes, no memorable pub conversation is complete without 'I've got my cashpoint card if necessary' (if necessary?) or 'what? at the same time, Ken - oh, that's preposterous!' And this crowd, or at least a large portion of it, knew every twist & flow of this underground classic.
At this point, Tim Knight (a fellow devotee of the band and obsessive angler from Staines) inadvisedly went to the bar, which meant he missed a significant part of 'Richard Madeley', a caustic homage to the tv favourite. Nonetheless, it was Tim's round and I needed a drink. Lighting yet another cigarette, I stepped back to view a band in their creative prime, because an intrusive photographer had parked in front of me. Over a simple riff, Will explains the often difficult path Richard has cut through daytime chat, and the enormous sense of achievement 'Dick' must have felt when he saw off Anne & Nick's show. Will documents how the strain of interviewing non-entities at 11.30 every morning drove Richard to pilfer silly things from supermarkets, even though he earns far too much money to make this necessary. And, like him or loathe him, and I belong unreservedly to the latter, Dick is an icon to our times, something B*** should consider before they eulogise 'Parklife'.
Unless I have neglected anything - and that is a fair proposition, since I was addled from brandy - the finale consisted of the I, Ludicrous World Cup Song, 'Football, Beer & a Cigarrette', which aptly describes this summer's preoccupations, as opposed to being 'On Top of the World', which is not something one associates with English football. For those that cried at 'Taylor's Dummies', this new found footie thang is - odd? But there again, why shouldn't we all join in the party! Yes, let's get aboard the boat for 'Cool Brittania'! After all, we are the envy of the world; we are enjoying our finest cultural renaissance, since the last one; we're all on a high - and if you don't believe me, go down the newsagents and buy a men's magazine - it's all there in black & white!
On the other hand, I think I'll stay in & play my new I, Ludicrous tape. And if you've got any sense kids, you will too, because it's a damn sight more interesting than lots of other things. Here's to you, Will & John: look forward to seeing you at the next gig.
Your roving drunken reporter,
Jon 'the Con' Bedwell, ably assisted by Mr Tim 'Fish' Knight, who got
the beers in for the last song.
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