Since when was the old ‘style-over-substance’ mantra mutually exclusive? Here we have a band that looks like ‘a band’, yet clearly doesn’t think like most. Regardless of the name (they’ve one too many books on, amongst other things, ‘Nam), they are one world-war of a band. Since their last release the TR-606 has been replaced by a living drummer; a literal Big Black to Shellac progression. The trebly guitars and wayward vocal brilliance also suggest Mark E Smith is never far away, but given that he’s omniscient this is surely a let down on their behalf.
Front man Matt Abysmal can’t really sing, but he seethes poetry through every pore. The driving beat of opener_ ‘Bricks’_ is literate rock and roll at it’s most barbed; as tau(gh)t as cling film on an Oxford don. It’s a Guthrie-esque tale of a lonely industrial town without industry. Yet they manage to paint this unmistakably black-n-white-tawn firmly in fluorescence, and I want to move there now. Amongst the sugar towers of their native Bury St Edmunds clearly lies a fountain of empathy.
‘British Transport Police’ appears vicious, directionless, a white-heated attack on the graffiti world’s least favourite state servants. If it wasn’t an inherently comical little-man-takes-on-the-world yarn, corduroyed Marxists would no doubt suggest that, like Scargill’s striking miners, it’s just directionless working man on working man rage. But the defeatist Charlie Chaplin humour, the knowing naughtiness, the small victory it affords, the universal appeal of authority as shits, the lung scorching vocal… all foster more nostalgic sentiment for the railway system within me than Kerouac ever could. Beware though kids, a dual-fingered salute of “stack heeled Stakhanov / stack heeled Stakhanov / ………fuck off” when questioned over a sports-holdall at King’s Cross will likely result in a life-trip to the gulags.
However, there will certainly be those that, by dint of their cerebral clarity, lump them in the angry young street preacher man category. ‘British Theatre: 1956-1959’ is their pre-emptive retaliation. As self-conscious displays of impotence go, this story of how ‘the rebel without a cause became a spent force’ on a track which could easily be titled ‘British Music: 2006-09’ highlights a titanic level of self-perception. At least you can’t call them pusillanimous.
I would attempt to put the staggeringly intense 14-minute closing anthem ‘Crocodile Teargas’ into words, but it’s beyond me. All it deserves is the recognition that “they starred in their own eyes / in Che Guevara merchandise” is perhaps the greatest rhyme in the English language, and the reaffirmation that there at last appears to be some unfashionable kids in the riot.
So, the Khe Sanh Approach have got to the point where the war could be won. They just need to avoid Russia.
8Tom King's Score