I’d been trying to think how to introduce VIC GODARD of Subway Sect fame to the uninitiated. Having just received his new album WE COME AS ALIENS, it was proving difficult to sum up the talents of this sadly overlooked genius of the punk era. But thankfully the great man himself came to my rescue with this abridged history of his musical career……

Vic Godard has forged his own unique trajectory since emerging from the 100 Club punk scene of 76 where Subway Sect debuted alongside contemporaries The Clash and Sex Pistols. Their garage sound and sense of melody set them apart from the usual run of the mill punk acts that joined the conveyor belt that year. Indeed, by the time their debut album ‘What’s The Matter Boy?’ was released, Godard and the Sect had tempered their sound to a more pop based (but nevertheless still edgy) mix.


The 1980s saw Vic Godard experiment with swing and Motown. However, it is his association with Orange Juice and Fire Engines (of the Scottish label Postcard) which defined the Subway Sect as purveyors of abrasive, catchy melodic punk pop. Indeed, the great Edwyn Collins has long championed the musical genius of Godard, producing three albums for him (Long term Side Effects and In Trouble again in 1998 and End of the Surrey People in 1993) and inviting him on board to provide backing vocals on the classic Collins hit ‘Girl Like You’ in 1994.

The successful release of ‘1978 Now’ in 2007, the second on Overground Records (the first in 1996 was We Oppose all Rock and Roll), saw Godard and Subway Sect return to their initial punk sound deconstructing the earliest songs to their initial primitive roots.

Whilst the Sect have had a revolving door approach to members over the past three decades, they have now a relatively settled line up. Other than Vic himself on Vocals and Guitar, there is Mark Braby (Bass/Acoustic Guitar), Kevin Younger (Guitar/Piano/Organ) and Gary Ainge (Drums/Percussion). Not to mention the fact that when Gary was unavailable to complete recording the new CD, they called on a certain Paul Cook, from little known punk band the Sex Pistols, to complete the drumming!

Punk has now backed its self into a dead-end by having to sound a certain way (i.e. Oi/Street Punk style). So it was refreshing to hear a CD that reminded me of the early days when punk was more a state of mind, rather than a distinctive sound. The record has a myriad of styles and certainly benefits from the wide influences of the band members (Northern Soul, 70’s pop, Johnny Thunders, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles and Mose Allison) that mix together to create a unique overall sound..

In his biog Vic makes reference to working with Orange Juice and opening track “Best Album“ highlights the debt Edwyn Collins owes vocally and stylistically to Mr Godard. Quite honestly this would have not seemed out of place on Collins’ most successful album Gorgeous George, that bizarrely also had Paul Cook drumming on it.
Next track “Take Over” has an almost 60’s Byrds style tambourine intro. Lyrically its content seems to be imploring direct action, not far removed from the Paris student riots of the same decade, albeit with Vic’s wrath firmly directed at the modern day banking fat-cats of Threadneedle Street.

“Back in the Community” is a catchy number, resplendent with quirky guitars and sprightly drumming. Also I can’t remember too many songs name checking characters from 70’s comedy show “On the Buses” (e.g. Blakey and Butler).

“Same Plan” highlights Godard’s unique nasal based singing style. The song has a lounge lizard feel, complete with organ and what sounds like maracas. Again this proves the diversity of his sound as it is nothing like any other track on the album. And I rather liked the backing vocals of “Bah! Bah! Humbug”. That’s not to say the rest of the lyrics are infantile and the record as a whole has subversive words if you listen hard enough.

A sing along intro ushers in “If Wed’ve” and the feel good factors continues throughout the number. But just when you thought you had the sound of the album nailed down along comes a track entirely in French! Most songs on the album have been evolving since the mid 1990’s, but this song, a cover of Francoise Hardy’s ‘Et Meme’, Vic has wanted to record since ’77. Now I have to own up that I had never heard of this particular lady, but apparently she is a French singer, actress and astrologer and an iconic figure in fashion, music and style. All I can say is hats off Vic for singing totally in French as it sure beats "Ça plane pour moi “ by Plastic Bertrand.

Similar to Take Over, “Rhodedendron Town” has the initial feel of a 60’s song with hammond organ to the fore, which gives it a distinctly bouncy quality. Infectiously catchy it’ll have you singing chorus “go get the sound…Rhodedendron Town” for the rest of the day. If I had a favourite track it would be “That Train”, which sounds like it should be sung in a Baptist church down in the Deep South of the good ole U S of A. Other than “The Sound of Sinners” on the Clash’s Sandinista, I’m hard pushed to think of another punk album containing a gospel song. If you could imagine the Blues Brothers at the 100 Club in 1977, this is what they would be singing. Amen.

And just as quickly we’re switched from one musical style to another with “Somewhere in the World”. Probably the closest number to punk on the album, it reminded me of the sound of countless DIY punk singles I would eagerly buy from such places as Good Vibration, Small Wonder and Rough Trade records back in the late seventies. Not to say that it is unprofessional, just that it’s the fresh and uncomplicated sound that existed before all punk music had to be a wall of sound. For some reason Vic’s voice reminded me of Ed Borrie’ from underrated 1990’s New Wave of New Wave band S*M*A*S*H, so if you liked them you’re sure to like this.

“Ne’er” is perhaps the most downbeat of the tracks and quite understandably so given that its dedicated to Vic Godard’s pal, the writer and long-time Subway Sect fan Paul Reekie, who unfortunately passed away last year aged 48. RIP.
What seems like a song dedicated to the futile waist of young lives in foreign wars appears to be the central theme of “Out of the Zone”. Referring to “a daily foray around Bastion, needing to pray” highlights what I’m sure large numbers of squaddies daily think in the dusty fields of Afghanistan.

When Subway Sect were managed by punk Svengali Bernie Rhodes they used the Clash’s nerve centre of Rehearsal Rehearsal in Camden Town. They shared the premises with another band The Specials, and maybe a bit of Coventry’s finest rubbed off on them as penultimate song “Life in the Distance” has more than a touch of ska about it. Nice organ intro gives way to a bouncy number with an almost rockabilly guitar solo in the middle. As a Mr J Strummer once observed “you’re my guitar hero!”

Last track “Music of a Werewolf” has a floaty, ethereal quality. I’m not sue exactly what it’s about, but references French Artist Theodore Gericault’s painting “The Raft of Medusa” and Horace’s poem “Nil Desperandum”, so perhaps the intellectual meaning is lost on a thick Welsh boy like me! Good song nonetheless.

And there you have it, a rarity in today’s market, a punk album with both light and shade, which references all genres of music and yet contains some killer hooks. Certainly one of my favourite albums of recent times and well worth an investment of anybody’s hard earned money.

If you fancied going really retro and purchasing a vinyl copy then they are only available direct by mail order from Vic. He can also provide you with a new fangled CD if you need to be modern. Send your orders to: gnuinc@hotmail.co.uk . He also has a wide range of back catalogue ready to be loved in previous releases such as “1978 Now” and “Blackpool e p”. Or just check him out on www.facebook.com/vicgodard or