Sound Live at the Rum Puncheon
First, there's the band name, which is taken from a now-defunct local radio station, the one my school bus used to drive past every day, and whose 'Department of Youth' I would listen to religiously on Saturday nights when just too young to get into gigs, revelling in the latest underground punky sounds from Swansea and area. The station now sadly deceased, swallowed up by corporate bland greatest (s)hits programming.
Then there's the album title itself. It's not a live release at all, and is named after a local working class pub, famous, amongst other things, for being a hangout for the so called 'most dangerous man in Britain', namely Class War's Ian Bone. The pub now also long closed.
And then there's the musical influences. I can detect obvious echoes of McCarthy, Heavenly (whose bassist Rob Pursey plays guitar and wrote the songs), Talulah Gosh and of course The Pooh Sticks, whose Hue and live co-conspirator Amelia make up half this band. Occasionally you might think some of the tracks are indeed lost 'Orgasm' era Pooh Sticks numbers; it's in the wistful male / female vocal harmonies, the understated jingling guitars and in the way Ian Button's 'Subbuteo Drums' somehow periodically mimic a drum machine. And the deliberate sonic and lyrical references. And the self depreciating suggestions that the band can now be seen 'in Swansea Museum' (recently spotted hanging alongside some R*E*P*E*A*T contributions).
But, don't be fooled! There is so much here which is totally contemporary, essential and indeed brilliant about this record. Given their composers, it's no surprise that the tunes reel around your head like a train stuck on a circular siding; they bubble with life, twisting and turning, relentlessly writhing and pogoing, living earworms. I've not been able to get them out of my jigging brain since I first heard them on Adam Walton's essential Radio Wales new music show (the nearest thing we now have to a 'Department of Youth'?). Then there's the lyrical content, as abrasive, witty and cutting-edge as the Pooh Sticks ever were, and, in their own laid back way, as the likes of IDLES and Bob Vylan are today. A righteous upper cut, cloaked in candy floss. Targets of their scorn include racism, underhand multinational takeovers, second hand emotion, Spotify and the greedy digital grave robbers, corporate indie, and an all out assault on bland and blind acceptance of stupid fools who stand in line.
'Freedom of Speech' is a particularly pertinent attack on ageing pop stars (two in particular) who really should know better than to lend their faded glory to far-right bigots:
Stage-managed spats / MAGA hats
Rock'n'Roll Void, a worthy contender for 'punk pop song of the year', is a brilliantly anthemic mix of (yes) nostalgia but also a current call to arms, for 'Indies of the World' to unite, stand up and be part of the solution to current crises.
Someone apparently once wrote that indie-pop is a Clarion Call for socialism. I'm not quite sure about that that, but this record is certainly a force for good, a push for change, a time for action.
What are you waiting for?
Live at the Rum Puncheon can be ordered on vinyl, CD, digitally and On Tape here. It is proudly not available on Spotify.