The Ordinary Army are out in force tonight. Wearing full Fred Perry battledress they rush to the stage hurling plastic pint pots and bellowing terrace chants. Their voices fill the hall before the roadies have even finished tuning the guitars. There is an air of violent anticipation as they wait to take communion with their leader.
Next we've got the mighty Bedouin Soundclash, three university friends from the States who meld 2Tone ska, Lee Perry dub and Joe Strummer swagger into a blazing punky reggae party. They could have teleported straight in from Coventry or the Westway circa 1978.
Singer and guitarist Jay Malinowski may sound a little too much like Sting for his own good, but when you have tracks as catchy as current single When The Night Feels My Song it ceases to matter. Unlike the American ska pretenders of recent years these boys know their roots.
Ending their set with a riotous medley of U2s New Years Day, The Clashs Guns Of Brixton and Junior Murvins Police And Thieves, Jay, Eon and Pat show they really know what its all about. Steeped in the classic tones of Jamaica they blow their British counterparts the Dead 60s and Hard-Fi out the water. Bedouin Soundclash will be a tough act to follow.
When the Ordinary Boys take the stage they are greeted with thunderous applause from their fanatical support. Despite the lukewarm reception for current album Brassbound, Preston and his gang are still adored by the young mods rammed up against the barriers and the old time scooter boys hanging round the bar.
Unfortunately their set is all over the place. Superb songs like Week In Week Out and Over The Counter Culture rest uneasily alongside little known tracks from their current LP. A great reworking of the Ramones The KKK Took My Baby Away is thrown in mid set when it would be better saved for the end. Recent release On An Island sounds like a poor Motown pastiche rather than the Jam style mod anthem its author must have intended.
Preston throws himself around the stage like a juvenile delinquent Pete Townsend but the band never reach the heights of their heroes. Not that the Ordinary Army seems to care. When the inevitable encore of Boys Will Be Boys kicks in the crowd goes berserk.
If Preston sees himself as the natural successor to Townsend and Weller
he falls some way short. While their first album had a couple of classic
singles their new material is substandard. They will always have a hardcore
following but, as the Arctic Monkeys storm the charts and pack the Astoria
with their take on young British life, Preston has to find some quality
new material or he risks being left behind. For a band that showed so
much promise the Ordinary Boys are now nothing more than ordinary.
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