Whilst many of the ironic, pre-pubescent and so-underground-we’re-overground are pontificating about the loss of the UK’s formerly premier marketing strategy Busted, two bands won’t be getting TOTP repeats and helplines set up by the Samaritans after their respective splits. The demise of Mclusky and Ikara Colt in the past few weeks, though, has not only meant the end of two rather-excellent-actually purveyors of lateral lyrics and hard, fast guitary shouting, but also marks the end of a scene that has been at least a bit poorly since the end of 2002; a love that daren’t speak its name, primarily because it doesn’t have one.
The Scene With No Name was, admittedly, another ‘movement’ invented by the N*w M*sical Expr*ss, presumably to have something relevant to write about as their 50th anniversary approached (new genres had become, in both meaning and grouping, increasingly desperate and unimaginative since the tail-end of ‘Fraggle’). Guy McKnight, hauntingly whey-faced ‘vocalist’ for supposed No Name figureheads The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, attributed the whole thing to “lazy journalism”, with scribes eager to follow previous year’s The White Strokes mega-hype, and indeed the only real link between each of the new guitar bands under the No Name banner was that, well, they were reasonably new and, uh, played guitars. Despite lack of a common thread, though, it’s difficult to think of a another 21st century musical movement that has endorsed such disparate underground bands, and I for one cannot pinpoint as exciting a time for guitar music since. There was the aforenoted TEMBD spewing forth a dark and demented form of no-wave swamp-abilly not unlike the sound of sticking a breezeblock in a cement mixer and letting some goths kick it for good measure. There was The Parkinsons, Portugal’s decades-delayed response to the filth and the fury of the summer of ’77 by sounding a bit like The Damned, gobbing in punters’ pints and getting nekkid. There was the electro-rock of The Cooper Temple Clause, the overtly and defiantly political mock cock rock of Miss Black America, the pop shenanigans of The Moonies, the leathers-and-indie rock hooks of Hoggboy and some band called thisGIRL. And then there was Ikara Colt.
The first time your correspondent encountered ver ’Colt was gaping open-mouthed at a transmission of the Evening Session in 2001, bowled over by ‘Sink Venice’ and all the shouty, feedback-y, bass-heavy jugger-pop of its closing minute (think, essentially, The Fall but several times as fast and unmistakably energetic). Not only did they sound the (chat and) business, they also looked it as well – apparently an important factor after New York’s skinny-tie thrift store chic made world domination status. There was vocalist Paul’s panther-in-the-headlights staring hyper-prowl, guitarist Claire of high heels, blonde bob, and itchy manicured string-fingers, drummer Dominic bashing away at seventy to the dozen like, as one distraught aficionado recently put it, “a postman on speed”, whilst bassist Jon tried collectedly to keep up. They were considered the scene’s founders, having been the longest-established act on the era-defining ‘We Love This Fucking Tour’ Tour, with TEMBD and the Parkies at the beginning of ’02 and, unsurprisingly, having made a relentlessly brilliant and gloriously urgent debut LP in ‘Chat & Business’. By the time 2002’s end passed by, though, they’d gone back into obscurity almost as swiftly as they’d formed, eager to push things forward on the next record.
Meanwhile, on the biting shoutysweatyscaryalt.rockfastandLOUD side of things were Mclusky. They were virtually precursors of this movement they detested so, having got ‘Rice Is Nice’ onto national radio in 2000 – a time when most of the indie media were wary of touching anything more cacophonous than new-found chart kings Coldplay and their ilk. But with amps back in fashion and second LP ‘Mclusky Do Dallas’ in the pipeline, Mclusky were shoehorned in with the scuffed ensembles of No Name and soon hailed as wry and bloodshot intimidators of an ever-welcoming underground genre. The wordy venom of their lyrics and song titles is also legendary, as anybody who’s heard ‘The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch’ or sung along to “All of your friends are cunts / Your mother is a ballpoint pen thief” will attest.
Alas, as with many fads, the explosion soon settled, with MTV2 turning in the direction of the Antipodes and the bigger acts from No Name being lumped in with the even more sweeping (and excruciating) moniker ‘New Rock Revolution’. Eighties Matchbox are (fingers crossed) still going, although they seem to have started writing material resembling actual songs rather than clattering, fucked-up noise passages like ‘Alex’ or even ‘Presidential Wave’. The Parkinsons are also still peddling the neo-punk, although very few are paying attention after controversy was bought by everybody from The Libertines and more recently Selfish Cunt. The Coopers made a frankly less appealing second album, and we’ve yet to hear a second LP offering from Miss Black America. thisGIRL went on to do… something (ask Sean). And, as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, Mclusky and Ikara Colt are no more. The former swapped drummers and made a slightly more refined (but still excellent) third LP, whilst the latter recruited a new bassist in the form of rockin’ Tracy Bellaries and went a bit electro on the collective arse with the even artier ‘Modern Apprentice’ (unlike the slew of current ‘art-punk’ bands spearheaded by Franz, all members of Ikara Colt actually create and exhibit art). But the both of them were still, at least to many of our ears, an exciting prospect both on stage and on wax, and would have maintained the ability to provoke awe in this listener and doubtless many others.
To say you liked No Name nowadays seems akin to blurting “I love being force-fed bullshit” or “I really miss the New Acoustic Movement”. But, in two now-defunct SWNNers, we had five great albums, hundreds of amazing gigs, an exhilarating lesson in economy and two thunderous examples of how to remove unwanted clichés from, for want of a less tainted term, rock and roll. Bye now, thanks for everything, we salute you.