It has been a quiet week, which has been quite welcome after the recent deaths and sombre anniversaries that we have noted here at Pop Junkie, but it was far from quiet at the Hoxton Bar & Grill last night which presented a rather splendid and diverse triple-bill of The Masonics, The Priscillas and The London Dirthole Company, all with new albums for sale.
I have to declare an interest right at the outset as some very close friends of mine were among the performers lest you doubt my objectivity. Then again, what is a blog other than a starting point for correspondence and discussion?
The brainchild of Ashley Davies and Kirtsen Reynolds, Dirthole have changed direction of late. Kirsten was absent last night, which conforms to the band’s fluidity of personnel. Drawing upon a pool of around twenty collaborators, the line-up on any one night can range from six to a dozen, with a front line of three or four stand-up drummers. I have always regarded them as a lo-fi art project with a sound reminiscent of The Fall’s 1983 model, with a touch of glamour and an inspired frontman in artist Wajid Yaseen. Recently the live show has got heavier and louder, the drums more muscular (or blokey if you like) with the (hopefully temporary) departure of Elvina Flower. I don’t like them as much without the girls, though they do have Bongo Debbie (Headcoatees, X-Men, A-Lines, Nuns) as guest vocalist on Quicksand, which is very much to their credit. Highly recommended if your pop taste is at the Monks, Huggy Bear or Pavement end of the spectrum.
Next up were The Priscillas (pictured), with 6music and WFMU radio sessions under their belt, recently returned from a successful jaunt to New York and New Jersey and with a brand new album in the shops this week entitled 10,000 Volts. Now, I wasn’t in New York in 1976, and I don’t expect you were either, but heck, I could have sworn I’d been transported to CBGBs. This band is authentic US new wave power-pop in both image and sound. Now, that American stuff is not really my cuppa, but I can appreciate it when it’s done well.
The quartet are no longer an all-girl group following the recruitment of new drummer Phil Martini ~ a dead ringer for Blondie’s Jimmy Destri who fits perfectly into their Runaways/early Blondie/Cramps/Elastica vibe. They boast one of my favourite bass players in Kate Kannibal (not that I make a habit of compiling lists of favourite bass players), who also plays in the wonderful all-girl tribute to The Monks; The Nuns. I thoroughly enjoyed the set, mainly culled from the new album. It was a tad too loud, which prevented Jenny Drag’s New Jersey vocals from cutting through. Check out the clip below (note the Italian Spiderman backdrop) and maybe you’ll want to see them yourself in Cork on 5th & 6th March or in London at the Brixton Windmill on 3rd April or the Borderline on 14th April.
Now, the final band don’t really belong here. Pop comes in all sorts of containers of myriad shape and size, but The Masonics don’t really fit any of them. They’re a rock’n’roll band ~ English rock’n’roll; with its roots in Chuck & Bo, but also Hamburg-era Beatles, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, The Kinks plus early Damned and Johnny Moped. Grand Chief Masonic, or whatever, Mick Hampshire has been an idol since I first saw him with the Milkshakes in December 1981 (they gatecrashed the stage at my school sixth form Christmas party). I have just never tired of seeing Mick on stage, with his trusty Burns guitar, trustier sticksman Bruce Brand and Scottish bassist Ted Lard (another of my favourite bassists!). Not sure when they’re next playing after tonight’s gig at the Crown in Bristol, but can heartily recommend an evening in their company.
If anyone fancies a bit of ’77 punk tonight, I’m DJing at the Dirty Water Club in Tufnell Park.