Cardiff Bogiez, October 2012

According to Wikipedia "Steampunk" is...and I quote..."a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. The stories are often set in an alternate history of the 19th century's British Victorian era in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream usage".

In truth, not something I'm normally interested in. However, having reviewed (and liked) the second release of TMTWNBBFN - "Cannot be Killed by Conventional Weapons" - I thought it my duty to attend the gig of Britain's foremost Steampunk band when they played Cardiff.

Formed in 2008, by Andrew O'Neill and Andy Heintz, the band describe themselves as "Crusty punk meets cockney sing-songs meets grindcore in the 1880s." Their debut album, "Now That's What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1" was released on 2010. However, in January 2012, they were given three working days to change the title or face legal action by EMI over trademark infringement due to the similarity of the title to the label's shit compilation series "Now That's What I Call Music". To date they have released two singles - Sewer and Free Spirit - on wax cylinders (I kid you not) being the first such UK releases in this format since 1922!

On entering the venue I'm struck by the fact that a large proportion of the assembled throng had come dressed appropriately, looking like they just stepped out of a twisted Jules Verne novel. Wearing all manner of ancient garments, there was a plethora of waistcoats, jackets, cravats, capes, pith helmets and obligatory goggles. Certainly different, but rather in character for both the look of the band and the upcoming Halloween celebrations.

I think its fair to say that, professional though the band may be, they are aware of the comedic side of their act. Indeed lead singer Andrew O'Neill is a stand up comedian of some note and shortly to appear on "Never Mind the Buzzcocks". The mood of the evening was set by the support act being west country comedian Will Hodgson, coming apparently from the "People Republic of Cheltenham".

When THWWNBBFN take the stage it is instantly apparent from where the fans take their dress sense. Drummer Jez Miller looks like a young, rustic, Bob Marley dressed in a waistcoat and top hat, whilst Andrew O'Neill resembles a rather emaciated, tattooed, Ross Noble. Singer Andy Heinz can only be described as a cross between Caractacus Potts and Jimmy Edwards, whilst remaining member Marc Burrows reminds me of David Walliams in quasi militaristic uniform. Some look!

And then quicker than you could say rickets, scurvy and syphilis, the band transported us to a time when Victoria sat on the throne, the Thames was full of human effluent, the Whigs and Tories vied for political supremacy and the prominent medical diagnosis of the day was that all ailments were a direct result of masturbation.

Musically they cover many genres, but primarily punk and metal. The fact that they may have alternative careers does not detract from the fact they are more than competent musicians, with members having seen service in other bands such as Creaming Jesus and Lords of the New Church.

As for subject matter, as you'd expect, it very much revolves around the great and good of an era when Britannia truly ruled the waves, as well as the dark underbelly of 19th century Victorian society.

So you have their tribute to the civil engineering genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel ("He built me bridge and he built it well. He was Isambard Kingdom Brunel"). Followed by "Victoria's Secret", the metal homage to Queen Victoria's love for the deceased Prince Consort, ("Albert is back, but Albert has changed, Albert is hungry for commoners brains. Zombie Albert").

From the unlikely mash up of a Chas & Dave intro of "Margate Fhtgagn" suddenly metamorphosising into a song that a Norwegian black metal band would kill for (literally), to the almost Oi! influenced political observations of "Doing it for the Whigs". They delve liberally into their latest release, but do not forget to include the highlights of their debut, including "Boilerplate Daniel" and "Goggles".

However for me the two outstanding numbers are the "The Peoples Common Sense Medical Advisor" and "Mutiny in the Common Soldiery". The former is based on a book of the era by R V Pierce MD that counseled Victorian gentleman that self pollution, or onanism, was the source of all their ills. Funnily, I too had noticed that my own eyesight had been failing of late, but had put it down to old age. I think I will lay off the five knuckle shuffle for a while!

The latter song showcases their more serious side and allows the dexterity of Andy Heinz to come to the fore, featuring as it does a musical saw. The number relates the age old story, seen through all generations, where the working class are dispatched to the front line, whilst the wealthy and powerful remain a safe distance from the action. Rather touchingly it relates the feelings of a Tommy that "I have more in common with the bugger on my bayonet, that the Toff whose telling me to stick it in his guts". Truly wise words.

So there you have it. Certainly a unique band, both in look and musical content. However undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable nights I've had of late, a sentiment shared by the goodly crowd in attendance. Not only that, having had a long conversations with both Andy and Jez, I can vouch for the fact they are top blokes to boot. So I thoroughly recommend you dig out your top hat and goggles and take a trip back in time with The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.


Many thanks to Alison Bateman at Work Harder PR for her help.