Frank Sidebottom RIP

June 21, 2010

Frank Sidebottom

There can have been few funnier sites than a middle aged man with a bulbous papier mache head arguing with a small puppet version of himself before treading on a microbe version of himself. Not only hilarious but also skewed and weirdly surreal.
Frank Sidebottom was one of the last of a breed- operating outside the rules and with a mind so brilliant that its restless genius was never appreciated. He put most modern comedians to shame.
And now he is no more.
It’s hard to believe that Frank Sidebottom is dead.
He seemed too surreal, too childlike, too cartoon strip to be bothered with tedious, boring stuff like dying. But its true, Frank is no more because his creator Chris Sievey died of complications cause by cancer on June 21st.
Of course we must not mix the two of them up. There is no truth in the scurrilous rumour that Chris Sievey was Frank Sidebottom. I interviewed the pair of them on the phone for my ‘North Will Rise Again’ oral history of Manchester book and after about an hour of brilliant stuff from Chris I asked him about Frank figuring he must know something about the nasally comic genius.
The phone went click.
Dead.
A few minutes later the phone rang and oddly it was Frank on the phone coincidentally ringing to sort out an interview. Where Chris was full of funny stories from the fringes of the music scene, Frank was plain weird and hilarious- like a psychotic child running amok in showbiz and through his humour tearing apart the stupidity of that showbiz world that had snubbed him for so long.
His tales of Timperley- the Manchester suburb where Ian brown and John Squire had lived in their youth- were brilliantly skewed pisstakes of the mundanity of the rainy day. I was once in a TV studio and watched him do this utterly mental but utterly brilliant musical set in Timperley with a pick up band of lunatics in cheap suits- it was like the ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’ bus trip.
The bizarre tension when you confused the pair of them was something that unwitting journalists had often mentioned and I wasn’t the only one with this experience.
Sievey hated talking about Frank.
There seemed to be some sort of rivalry between the two of them. Altrincham obviously wasn’t big enough for the pair of them or maybe they were the same person.
Now we will never know.
Chris Sievey had been on the Manchester scene for years. In 1969, as a 14 year old , after playing in teenage bands he had travelled to London and wandered into Apple records busking his songs to the later day Beatles. The George Formby loving George Harrison loved the songs but nothing happened as the Beatles were in meltdown at the time.
He was referred to Tony Visconti who would have done something but was too busy producing ‘Ride A White Swan’. Not disappointed, Sievey returned to Manchester, where he set up his own indie label way before anyone else had thought about doing that indie of thing.
He released loads of cassettes of his songs with half of Manchester’s musicians passed through his ranks- including a very youthful Billy Duffy from before his Cult days and future Simply Red members.
Sievey did the publicity for Rabid records in Manchester, was produced by Martin Hannet very early on and did some artwork for John Cooper Clarke. He was already a key figure on the fringes of the scene with his wild imagination and brilliant pop mind just too far ahead of everyone else plodding along in his wake. In pop, though, there are no awards for being great or first and Sievey was eternally frustrated.
His band, the Freshies, were perfect pop punk whose sole semi hit ‘”I’m In Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk”’ Got to number 54 in the charts in February 1981 and was lined up for a Top Of the Pops appearance. Sievey was denied his dream opportunity when there was BBC technician’s strike- the story of his life.
The single, is nowhere near their best song. His cassettes which I have a bunch of, were stuffed full of great songs. Classic melodic pop-punk- the kind of stuff that sells millions these days but was too pop for punk and too punk for pop in those stuffy, regimented days.
He even invented a very early computer game but no-one know what he was going on about- yet again too far ahead. His fervent pop mind was a good decade ahead of everyone else also inventing board games, songs, musical ideas, schemes and scams before eventually he invented Frank Sidebottom- his curious alter ego whose papier mache head, shabby suit and nasally twang were a perfect vehicle for a series of bizarre weird gags that were dark, strange and utterly hilarious.
Sidebottom was always around, one of those off the wall characters that fitted in perfectly on TV shows, at gigs and in recent years touring with John Cooper Clarke in one of those double bills of genius weirdness that are increasingly rare to find in world were fake comic ‘oooh I’m a bit mad’ replaces genuine genius eccentricity.
We heard about his cancer a couple of months ago which was shock and were cheered buy his never-ending gigs that continued and his Tweets that dared to take the piss out of the mean disease- joking about his papier mache head losing its hair!
Two weeks ago Frank Sidebottom popped up at Bruce Mitchell’s (Durutti Column genius drummer and real Manchester legend) 70th birthday party at the Manchester town hall- looking as fresh faced as ever with those big round eyes showing little sign of the cruel disease. To be honest Frank had remained unchanged since he burst onto the showbiz scene a quarter of centaury ago.
He even did a gig in my local pub the Salutation about a week ago. Funny as fuck to the end.
Manchester mourns another legend.

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Green Day Joan Jett live

June 17, 2010

Green Day remix

 

What is it about American bands and stadium gigs?
So many British bands get to this level and freeze just like the England team in the glare of the headlights, terrified to lose their cool in the haze of a million flashlights. A British band thinks that studied, sullen cool is the answer whilst an American band pulls out all the stops.
And Green Day certainly pull out all the stops. they don’ t miss a trick in a two hour set that starts off with a giant drunk dancing pink bunny and incorporates, knockabout humour, musical skits, a mental dancing drummer, endless energy and wild passion into an adventurous twisting and turning battlefield of great, melodic songs.
In a blur of powerful, anthemic songs, a stunning LED backdrop, hardcore rushes, massive ballads, serious commentary and daft stunts, Green Day arrive at the sold out 30 000 plus capacity Old Trafford cricket ground on a balmy Mancunian evening in a show of strength that seems to be beyond the mainstream media sense of belief. Whilst the band seemed to be ignored by most serious pundits and don’t seem to exist in the eyes of the heavy Sunday paper music press they have become the biggest group in the world. They happily enjoy the media sins of populist songs, a punk rock heritage and a fierce sense of humour. There is no fake studied cool, just a natural sense of entertainment that comes with a fierce liberal message that connects deep into the heart of suburban culture- just the perfect place to be delivered a genuine, heart left plea for some humanity delivered in a non bombastic and thrillingly exciting way.
   The band’s stunning, almost two hour show is 21st century rock n roll perfection. Somehow they have managed to scratch the fabric of their constituent sound and made it work in a variety of styles that would be way beyond most bands. Forging on from their roots in the San Francisco punk rock scene, they have the adventure of the Clash and the Beatles- two constituent influences but have very much moved in their own no barriers direction without the associated genre fear that hampers so many bands.
    Their song writing talent and ability to communicate with a huge section of the public has made them one of the biggest bands in the world today and they are using the space they have been given very well.

    There are moments in this spellbinding show that are simply beyond belief.

  Green Day have taken the emotional highs and lows of a rock n roll concert and turned them into something else. Somehow they manage to combine slapstick humour, goofy neo teen pranks, fierce pop punk, heart breaking ballads, blinding introspection and stadium bombast and sometimes all these in one song. They are at ease with massive anthems like ‘American Idiot’ that stick it to the right wing, pro war media jocks and was still a huge hit, they can deal out a massive ballad or a  hardcore thrash or on the neo marilyn manson glam stomp of ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ a rumbling stadium glam workout. They can also clear the stage and leave Armstrong on his own with an acoustic guitar and he still holds the audience in the palm of his hand.
That they can also thread these into some some sort of narrative is their true genius. Their current album, ’21st Century Breakdown’, which forms the backbone of their set is a triumph in modern american story telling. They can do the ‘Abbey Road’style bits of songs made into one huge, long, monster song thing with ease- they can also do this and make it a mosh pit friendly 13 minutes of musical nirvana really underlines their skill.

    The band can play tough, the rhythm section is superb and Billie Joe Armstrong is one of the best songwriters operating in modern rock n roll who, despite his mass success, still has the knack to communicate with the small town neurosis and paranoia that is at the heart of his huge constituency. Armstrong is a twitching presence with a low boredom threshold, disgusted at the world-  his songs are stuffed full of punk rock polemic but they also switch from style to style with a hyperactive ease. A green day song may start off punk rock but could switch anywhere within thirty seconds- it shouldn’t work but it does.

   All this is underlined with an incredible light show on LED screens that is easily the best I have ever seen. Stark, dark and comic book brilliant it subtly underlines the proto power of the songs and helps to fill the stadium with a sound and vision taking you onto a trip into the dark heart of America.   
Somehow Green Day manage to entertain and blow your mind…

    They are more than ably supported by Joan Jett who has been given some spotlight with the upcoming Runaways film. Joan Jett who still looks effortlessly sassy, sexy and cool at 51 has been touring her greatest hits set for years but still plays the songs with such a power and passion that they could have been written yesterday. Her supreme voice that sounds like it has been tarmacced by rock n roll cuts through the huge PA and the band’s glam rock n roll stomps makes her, oddly, the last survivor of that very British strain of glam rock that was the true sound of the early seventies. The youthful Jett would hang out in the glam clubs in LA in the mid seventies soaking up the British glamtastic rock n roll that was far different from the American glam that was to follow.

    Instead of the clumsy appropriation of glam from the likes of Kiss and the LA hair bands British glam was stompingly dark albeit good time music with tribal beats and big choruses. No-one does this music any more apart from Jett, who adds a rock n roll vim and fire to the mix and has created a music that perfectly suits her no bullshit personae. A personae that has seen her lauded as one of the key mentors of the riot Grrrl scene and a cool elder stateswoman of the movement that is still strong at a grass roots level. Joan Jett wanted to play rock n roll on her own terms and succeeded. Her cover of the Arrows ‘I Love Rock Roll ‘- a ‘b’ side from the last great mid seventies glam band is still a totemic moment and one of THE great rock n roll anthems, when she does that guttural scream thing in the middle it still affects your groin in a strange and beautiful way, a way that is the key to all great rock n roll.

    Joan Jett rules and its now time for us to acknowledge this.

   Green Day, also have some history. The band may still look like teen brats but they have been around for over two decades.

  It’s been a long time since I was compering a gig at the legendary and just shut TJs venue in Newport. They were the first band on- some awkward, scruffy kids from San Francisco playing a speedball punk pop set to 20 fanatics at the bottom of some long, lost punk rock bill.    

    Green Day that night were plying their trade in that curious gap that existed just after Nirvana. Cobains band had reawakened interest in punk rock and a generation of kids were looking for a Nirvana of their own having just missed out on the visceral, raw power of the Teen Spirit band.

    Green Day had emerged from the Gilman Street scene in San Francisco- the ultra idealistic punk rock venue that started in 1986 a year before the band were formed.They were virtually the house band in the venue and part of the scene of bands who were shackling melody to the fierce power of hardcore. Gilman street was created out of the maelstrom of idealogical excitement that was at the core of UK punk rock and then American hardcore. An all ages gig, and a no drinking, no smoking, no sexism, no racism space that stood up against the conservative tied of rock n roll culture it still exists. Green Day can’t play there any more because they are signed to a major label but that’s fair enough- they don’t need this space any more taking the initial message to the stadiums of the world.

Hardcore had rewritten the American underground rules and had already spawned its own legends and its own its hardcore crews. Ignored by the mainstream and the mainstream rock critics hardcore has been the backbone of American rock for decades. Green Day, were never hardcore but were part of it’s idealistic take on punk rock and were very much part of the next shift- the Californian twist that added sweet melodies added to the hardcore rush. The initial holy trinity of hardcore Black Flag, Bad Brains and Minor Threat changed the way people thought about music and how it was made and propagated, they were the true punk rock moment in the USA. Green Day took this blueprint and mashed it with a love of the Beatles and created something else.

    They signed to local label Lookout records and toured their way up the punk rock food chain, their 1994 major label release of ‘Dookie’ saw the band hit the mainstream powered by huge international hit single, ‘basketcase’ .The twitching urgency of the song and the their live performance was a perfect assimilation of nervy teenage neuroses, and the band have somehow managed to retain that youthful excitement with a rapidly developing musical template that is documented in tonight’s show.

Sure they still play their harder punkier tunes, songs played with such feral energy that the dumb claims that they are not punk are swiftly thrown out the window. This had became very much part of the debate about green day…are they or are they not punk.
It’s an odd debate and one that hounds anything remotely related to punk rock. A couple of years ago Mr. butter ad himself, Johnny Lydon, was sneering at green day for not being punk and whilst they are quite removed from the filth and the fury of the sex pistols both bands were straddling the great pop divide. Defining what is or isn’t punk is a treacherous game played by fools and people not sure of how to define the indefinable. Punk is so many different things to different people that to call it as one specific sound style or genre is quite foolish. The argument kinda runs that Green Days success and capability of writing super catchy songs rules them out of the punk lineage but surely it would be the ultimate in selling out if Billie Joe Armstrong suddenly pretended that he could not wrote a catchy song that transcended boundaries and deliberately kept his band underground to attempt to appeal to the ultra snobby purists who have filled the movement with their own petty rules.

   The fact is green day write thrillingly catchy pop songs and deliver them with a ferocity that many punk bands seem incapable of. They are also the most influential guitar band of the last two decades with a whole bizarre cross section of young groups picking up guitars in suburban garages to the sound of Green Day- far more than pet bands like the Strokes. They hardly fit into the accepted story of How Things Are and hideous indie snobs run from them, scared of their capability to talk to a whole raft of people.

   Old Trafford is a true triumph for a band that has it all. The scope in their song writing is breath taking, the switching of genres and styles astonishing and the way they manage it all within the parameters of the punk rock code is perfect. It’s the way that somehow they filter a whole gamut of pop culture and pop music through the sieve of punk rock and make music that relates to the fractured 21st century that is stunning.

And that they also do this with a great sense of humour and a willingness to engage with their audience that terrifies the snobs. it’s a way that is not only supremely effective but decidedly natural. The set is also full of pranks and moments of supreme silliness that are hilarious and engaging, Billie Joe is like a perpetual, hyperactive, five year old with mad staring kohled up eyes and a supreme warmth that defies boring stuff like rock n roll cool and its associated studied posing. The fact that his band rock so hard that it doesn’t really matter how goofy they become also helps.
Green Day also understand the value of acknowledging your audience’s existence and they also understand that fucking with very fabric of the history of pop, quoting classic songs at ease and dropping their own endless classics in there soundtracking the moment.
They are the ultimate small town band, for all the small towns in the world ganging up on fake city cool and winning. They are also thrillingly powerful rock n roll band the band who took punk rock to the mainstream and won and whose live show is the best stadium show in the world in 2010.

 

 

 


3 brilliant new bands from Go North festival

June 11, 2010

So here we are stood on an an island surrounded by the river Ness just a mile out from the Inverness city centre.
The island has been sculpted into a park, with an amphitheatre in the middle of it. It’s beautiful spot in the early evening haze of the late spring light and a perfect spot for some quiet hanging out…
But there’s some people here with a very different agenda.
I’m at the Go North music conference in Inverness. Having spent the afternoon on a panel about DIY music I’ve been led up the garden path so to speak and joined the merry throng on a magical mystery tour. We have been told to met at 5.30 outside a bar in town and our guide has walked us along the river through a thick woodland, past random joggers and dog walkers to this amphitheatre.
In the the middle of the space are two battered amps and two skinny dudes who are sat by a guitar and a stripped own drum kit and a mic attached to a broken branch of a tree- within seconds of us arriving they explode into noise.
It’s really wonderful.
Bronto Skylift an amazing group.
A duo from Inverness and the Orkney Islands- they make the same kind of self expression, free jazz-skronk- punk as the classic Glasgow/ Edinburgh, late eighties/early nighties death to trad rock noisenik scene of the Dog Face Hermans, Badgewearer, Dawson, Stretchheads. It’s the same kind of filthy, kinetic explosion of energy, the same sort of frantic drumming, the same kind of rat-a-tat frenetic cowbell action, the same sort of imagination and the same sort of wilful thrill of the electric power of the form. The same type of filthy imagination as the sort of bands I was documenting in my recent Death To Trad Rock book
The coolest thing is that they are totally unaware of this tradition of bands. Bronto Skylift have arrived here all by themselves.
That rules.
They got here via their rock routes and you can hear the filth of Black Flag, the explosive energy of hardcore and the detuned heaviness of grunge in their sound as well. It was like they are the only people in the world who understood that Curt Cobain was an experiMENTAL underground musician who was closer to the likes of the Ex than the mainstream.
They are also wilfully non conformist. They are part of an organisation called Detour Scotland who put gigs on in off the wall places.
This gig in the park is no one off event- they have played under the railway bridge in Edinburgh, a one way street in Glasgow and on the England/Scotland border, they have a website full of films of cool and weird underground gigs and they are utterly amazing.
Normally at these kind of conventions one off the wall band is all you’re going to get but at Go North a whole event is stuffed full of great bands.
Wandering back into town I end up in another venue which looks like a neon strip light strip joint- an atmosphere-less space that is swiftly turned into something special by Glasgow based band The Seventeenth Century who are described as folk rock which conjures images that are none too thrilling.
Fortunately the band, who are late teens in age, are coming from somewhere else entirely. They deal in folk melodies with their perfect harmonies and their frontman is steeped in the form with his parents playing him Incredible String Band albums from birth- a pretty col soundtrack to your youth! But they sieve the folk through a tough, dislocated bass and drums power that hints at post rock dislocation whilst their brass and violin also give a nod to the dark, brooding soundscapes of the recently reformed Godspeed You Black Emperor as well as the Dirty Three- whose story telling, violin plucking air of dissolution they also hint at.
They also ooze a cool and passionate intensity as they transport themselves and the audience to somewhere entirely different. Their sound is utterly original and the band is pure genius.
We will be hearing a lot more from them.
Just round the corner there is another fusion of styles going on from Mothercoat who have flown in from Tokyo to play Go North and then the neighbouring Rock Ness festival. The Japanese four piece are, like all the best Japanese bands, twitching with a bordello thrill at the possibilities of pop. Their songs zip from neo hardcore thrashes to intense, psychedelic workouts- one song sees their frontman pitch his voice to an alien high like pinky and perky squeaks that are oddly sad and affecting as the band bounce around him with krautrock rhymes and bubble bath melodies that really trip your head out.
They then lock into a monster grove that is stunningly hypnotic, the frontman twitches, grinning, oozing the charm of someone who is in love with the instinctive,shamanic power of music. They are so damn intense that you are hooked into their amazing, imaginative world. They sound like no other music on the planet and a glimpse Into the future world of a pop culture completely fractured with fragments of genius being bolted together by the children of the next revolution.
Fantastic.

http://www.detour-scotland.com
http://www.myspace.com/brontoskylift
http://www.myspace.com/theseventeenthcentury
http://www.myspace.com/mothercoat


Mick Hucknall to join The Faces!

June 7, 2010

 
 
 
 So there you have it.
  You decide to reform one of the key swaggering rock ‘n’ roll bands of the seventies, a band whose very name is the bench mark in slovenly rock n roll excess. A band who was fronted by one of the great, gravel voiced singers and a band who oozed a louche charisma and a band who almost matched the Stones at their pomp and at their own game.
  The trouble is your ex singer is not keen so you have to draft in a new vocalist.
  Not easy.
  It’s a problem that faces many bands over the years.    
  It comes at that point of time when you just want to rock n roll for one last time but you can’t quite get the rest of old crew to agree- especially the singer whose by now and international superstar. Getting a different singer in is the hurdle most long-term rock bands have to surmount sometime and some get away with it.
   So you cast your eye around the scene. There’s plenty of charismatic, dishevelled, gravel voiced waifs out there so what do you do?
   You phone Mick Hucknall!
   Yup, the Faces reunion has hit a stumbling block.    
   Instead of Rod Stewart who, younger readers may not be aware, was one of the totemic rock n roll singers of his time, the band have somehow asked the flame haired Manchester white soul boy into the band.
   Now this is not an anti Mick Hucknall rant.    
  There’s a lot of really good things about him- apart from the fact that he is technically a great singer- taht he coolly doesn’t blab on about. He used to run a great dub and reggae label called Blood and Fire that made sure the penniless originators of the form were paid after years of neglect. He is an encyclopaedia of music and a proven stadium filling success.    And it’s not like he not an old rocker- he was one of the Faces on the original Manchester punk scene and a big Clash fan.
   Meanwhile musically, even if Simply Red are a touch to polished for a pair of underground ears then his former band, from back in the mists of Manchester punk- the Frantic Elevators cut some fine records.    
   Nope, this blog is not anti Mick, this blog is just a bit shocked at this most unlikely of couplings, Mick Hucknall and the Faces are many things to many very different people. The Faces were the prime example of hooligan blues in the superyob seventies whilst Simply Red soundtracked a more sedate suburban grown up audience. There is very little common ground between them and the pairing will have promoters feeling nervous.
 
  It isn’t the first time a band have tried to patch up the line up and try to catch some of the old magic. Maybe Faces were thinking along the lines of Queen and Paul Rogers or even the rumoured Aerosmith and Billy Idol partnership that didn’t eventually happen, maybe it was the Led Zeppelin crisis when Robert Plant decided against more shows after the O2 comeback- there was all manner of crazy names in  air for the Zep job but luckily Jimmy Page saw sense unlike the Faces who it could be said have maybe strayed a little too far from their hallowed hometurf with this decision.


Obsessive Compulsive…great new Manchester rock

June 5, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive

I don’t know if anyone saw that rant in the Guardian about Manchester living in the past by Fuc51 but day by day I’m hearing band after band that proves this rather elevated pub rant wrong.
The city is full of great new bands of all styles and if you actually bother to go out you get to see something quite special shaping up.
Obsessive Compulsive really break this perceived mould.
Manchester has an oddly lopsided history of rock.
When is say rock- I mean loud, feisty, high decibel, life affirming fierce music dressed in fuck you freak clothes- The high decibel, extrovertly dressed world of Kerrang and associated noisenik areas.
Everywhere you go in the city there are tribes of rock kids, emo kids, punk kids, noise freaks, long hairs and neo goths. There are countless bands and many rock nights across the city and the north off England. Rock is huge in Manchester, the arena will generally only sell out to rock bands whilst indie groups struggle to fill venues half the size. In the surrounding towns rock is the currency- the real folk music of these times.
So how come there is no big rock band from round here?
Arguably there has been a kinda rock core to the sea of indie that dominates the area. Joy Division are ostensibly a rock band, their influence is huge on major rock bands and key in the goth scene. Without Joy Division there would be a very different major league rock scene from the USA with the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Marilyn Manson documenting an influence from the band. The Buzzcocks are one of the key punk bands and there have been a handful of other noisier groups breaking free from the jangling soundtrack.
And apart from that?
Nothing.
Maybe it's because the indie bands get the leg up from a indie friendly media and the rock bands get ignored, maybe its because the rock bands are generally fans trying to emulate their huge American cousins, maybe it's because no one is looking here for noisy action. Maybe the rock youth are in awe to the American band juggernauts…it could be a combination of these factors. There have been some really good rock/metal/punk bands from up here but they can only get so far when there ostracised by the media and left off the transatlantic gravy train.
Well that could be about to change.
Obsessive Compulsive have got everything that's required to buck this trend. Their tunes are tight, tough and anthemic. They are heavy but pack a punk rock energy to what they are doing. Their songs are catchy as fuck and connect directly with their fan base. You listen and you know that this sounds like a potentially massive band who easily transcend the local band syndrome. They have the emotional raw power and they have the songs and they have the smarts and the work ethic to make this work.
Oh and they also have a charismatic front woman in Keli who Mancunian gig hounds may know from working at the Academy venues in the city. Keli has an amazing voice, somewhere between a powerful guttural and yet soulfull shriek and a throat scraping scream that also caries the great tunes from the band. Her voice is the sound of exuberant lust for life and rainy day frustration and it cuts though the bullshit like a knife.
She is a star in the making, she looks great and she lives the high decibel life. Her band are rock solid noise droogs who spew out a thundering and perfect racket and they got the songs.


Freebass

June 3, 2010

Freebase
Fac 251
live in Manchester

There’s some bass instinct going on in the house.
Two of Manchester’s most iconic musicians are driving their new project to an atmospheric, powerful climax. The perpetually gruff yet good natured He-Viking of Lord Hook and the permo cheeky, loveable Mani are creating something quiet special here and on this their first mini tour are creating quite a stir with their latest project, Freebass.
The songs a mange to reference their pedigree whistle pushing forwards. There is that brooding northern dark psychedelia meshed in with the effortless guitar pop shakedowns.There is also that twist if the twin bass assault and a welcome celebration of the 4 string.

Anyone who grew up in punk will know that the bass guitar is the king of instruments. Infact nearly everyone I know who grew up in punk learned to play bass. Albeit a one string bass technique that Peter Hook has turned into an art form!
There was a surfeit of great bass players in the late seventies from the iconic Simonon and Sid vicious schools to the bass heavy rumble of Jah Wobble to the greatest bass player of all time JJ Burnell.
This is worth considering when you watch Freebass, the band formed by Peter Hook with Mani from the Stone Roses and Andy Rourke from the Smiths. That’s a lot of bass players to have in any band and you wonder how all that low frequency is going to fit.
We may never find out. Andy Rourke is not here tonight but there is more than enough bass action to make up for it. Hooky, of course, takes the lead with his distinctive bass sound copyrighted through years of New Order still sounding perfectly crisp- those laconic, melancholic lines still cut to the soul whilst Mani, as ever, the cool as fuck ragamuffin provides that sturdy funky bass end that he made his own since the prime days of the Stone Roses through Primal Scream.
The overall effect is kinda like early New Order dashed with a flavour of the moody better end of early Goth that Hooky has always, cooly, been so fond of. I can hear some of the magnificence of the very early Southern Death Cult in there and some pure Manc classic pop, the Haven boys who have been bolted onto the band, provide the youthful intent and glorious soaring ovals and the whole experiment is very successful.
It’s easy to rest on yer laurels in rock n roll and the prime participants are out playing their back catalogue at other shows so its cool to see them trying something new.
Both bass players have earned the reputation by re inventing the instrument, they both sound great in Freebass but there are also couched in great new songs.
That’s Freebass can still sound as invigorating, energetic and inventive as this is a testament to their hunger and imagination.


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