Sunday, September 7, 2014

Born To Be A Rebel

It is surely a testament to the brilliance of Vic Godard that, nearly forty years - and almost as many incarnations – after the first gig by his band, Subway Sect, he still has the enthusiasm to be an energetic and creative musician and performer. On stage at the Brass Monkey in Hastings last night, as part of the Trash Cannes punk festival of music, film and art, the ever-contrary Godard threw himself into both the Northern Soul sound of his new Edwyn Collins-produced album, 1979 Now, and the raucous coruscations that made Subway Sect the most interesting of the crop of bands from ’76.

After a tentative start with an instrumental-cum-soundcheck, the first half of the set was mostly made up of a selection from the new album, which is a re-working of songs that Vic and the Sect wrote in 1979. Some – Holiday Hymn, The Devil’s in League With You – surfaced on later albums, but others, Happy Go Lucky Girl and the amazing Born To Be a Rebel, appear on the new album after a 35-year hibernation. Having been performing the tracks live, and recording them at Collins’ studio, over the last couple of years with the core band of Mark Braby, Kevin Younger and Yusuf B’layachi, they sound tight and impassioned.

When Vic announces halfway through that things are going to sound rawer from here on in, you realise why Edwyn Collins describes the Subway Sect as “the best punk band - fact.” They rip through early classics such as Chain Smoking and Parallel Lines and, as Vic straps on his guitar, he recounts a Spanish soundman telling him “the band make the music, you make the noise.” Introducing the debut Sect single, he says to forget about Mark E. Smith and How I Wrote Elastic Man, he wrote Nobody’s Scared as a distillation of an essay on Jean-Luc Godard he penned at college in Ealing - that’s how. With the line, “no-one knows what they’re for, no-one even cares”, he could have written it today for our listless times. It is the song’s second outing of the evening: fantastic support band, the New York Dollies, a female ukulele doo-wop trio (oh, yes!) covered it in their set of punk classics. If that seems improbable, the Dollies reminded me that the sound of the Ramones and the New York Dolls was more rooted in the 50s and early 60s than in the 70s.

When I saw Vic Godard last year at Brighton’s Green Door Store, 2010’s We Come As Aliens supplied the majority of the set; but only two numbers, Best Album and Music of A Werewolf, featured from that album last night and there was a little gem in the appearance of Common Thief from “an obscure album, Log Term Side-Effect”. Not obscure round our house, Vic! And as befits the headliners of a festival that is a celebration of art school punk, the nihilism of legendary Rough Trade single, Ambition, brought down the house.

1979 Now is released on 6th October on AED.

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