A new venue in a new town for me tonight. Quite a few times I’ve seen gigs advertised in Preston and thought “naaah, that’s too far away!” But this week I learnt from Google Maps that it’s exactly 1 hour from my front door, about the same distance as Liverpool or Manchester in fact and I go to gigs in those cities all the time.
But what a great venue The Continental is. Extremely friendly staff and a brilliant selection of beers. A shame I was driving really, I could’ve easily have stayed all night. This was a local gig for my good friend The Lancashire Toreador so he was happy to attend despite his assertion that Scott and Charlene’s Wedding is really shit name for a band.
Before the gig, I had a prior engagement DJing at a children’s Halloween party where 200 creepily dressed kids insisted that all in attendance should watch them whip and subsequently nae nae. That meant I arrived too late to see Vukovar, a St Helens band which shares some bandmembers with wizards favourites The Bordellos and takes its name from the scene of some of the worst atrocities in the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s. Vukovar’s latest EP is an intriguing listen and is available as a “name your price” download below.
We did catch the next band, Liverpool’s Ohmns and very good they were too. I read somewhere that they are following in the footsteps of other Liverpool psych bands such as Dr Phibes and The House of Wax Equations. I loved Dr Phibes and was lucky enough to see them live before their tragic demise but they didn’t sound the slightest bit like Ohmns.
Ohmns were a much heavier and hairier proposition altogether. The bass player is surely the progeny of either Tony Iommi, Derek Smalls or both. One of the songs was a Gories cover and many of Ohmns’ own songs are in similar dirty punk territory. Most of the best songs had little repetitive lead guitar lines (listen to the “Boil D. Rice” and the end of “Paul Is Sure” on the EP below). They started with a song that sped up and finished with one that slowed right down so bonus points for symmetry. The 2 guitarists and the bassist know their way around a pedal board and all 3 seem to have purchased one called The Make-The-Whole-Fucking-Room-Vibrate-o-matic which they used to tremendous effect in their last song.
But last words about Ohmns must go to the drummer. With a snare wound tight and sounding like a gunshot, he was a ball of energy and gave the kit a right good seeing to. If he were to ever get onstage with the drummer from fellow Liverpudlians Mind Mountain there’d be a city-wide epidemic of perforated eardrums. The lead vocals were shared around the band quite a lot and most of the best songs were sung by yer man on the drums. But no matter who was on vocals one thing remained the same: you couldn’t make out any of the words and IT DIDN’T MATTER AT ALL. Definitely worth catching live if they’re playing anywhere near your Ohmn-town.
Onto the headliners, the wonderful Scott and Charlene’s Wedding. Their album “Any Port In a Storm” was our Official Trust the Wizards Album of the Year™ in 2013 and we reviewed their Liverpool gig back in August of that year. They’re led by Craig Dermody who writes clever, reflective, honest, sometimes amusing, mostly autobiographical lyrics and sings with great passion in a voice reminiscent of Jonathan Richman or a male Courtney Barnett. They’ve released a great new LP “Mid Thirties Singles Scene” a couple of months ago and most of tonight’s set came from that.
The opening song of both the new album and tonight’s gig was “Maureen” an homage to a lady who lives in the country and communes with spiders. Here was the first of many great solos from lead guitarist Gill with her fantastic 70s Chrissie Hynde hair and bomber jacket.
Next up was “Don’t Bother Me”, probably the catchiest song on the new album in which Craig touches on the subject of depression, not for the last time this evening. “I’ve seen days turn my world black, black, black, black, black. Now these little things they don’t bother me.” Or “don’t sweat the small stuff” as my Kiwi mate Tom puts it. In this song Craig also reflects on his inability to dance and compares himself to a crab. As long-suffering fans of at best mediocre football teams, The Lancashire Toreador and I particularly enjoyed the verse that goes:
“When I’m at the football on Saturday
I look at the scoreboard like it was world affairs.
And there’s just one team that we never seem to be able to beat.
But the beer still tastes the same at the end of the day to me.”
Amen to that. I long since stopped going to football matches with any genuine expectation of enjoying the actual match. Treat the match as an excuse to catch up and get pissed up with friends and if the team play well or win, well, that’s just an added bonus.
Soon after, one of my favourite tracks from the debut album is played, the magnificent “Gammy Leg” which starts with Craig working on a building site and ends with him moving to New York, all the while being hampered by a persistent “zombie” leg injury that won’t heal. This was followed by another older song “Footscray Station” a story of truck driving and redemption through music set in the band’s hometown. Fantastic stuff.
“Distracted” is another catchy tune from the current album. It’s uptempo and sounds very cheery but if you a listen a little closer it’s about fighting off depression. Great call and response vocals from Craig and Gill on the chorus here.
Another song from the new album “Hardest Years” was probably my favourite song of the night. It starts off with a verse about a loved one (his dad?) in a wheelchair who “laughs the biggest laugh that I ever have heard” and the chorus “I take my hat off to that”.
The next verse is worth quoting in full I think:
“Now when I was a teen we didn’t get on so much
When I left I ran, we just lost touch
All them years, running round the world, I never looked back
When I returned all unannounced the door was open
and all you said was “Mum’s cooking dinner, it might be bad but there’s beers in the fridge”
And that is all we ever ever said about that and I’m grateful for that”
I could easily go on because the next verse is brilliant too. An exceptional song full of heart-on-the-sleeve writing, once again touching on the theme of depression and battling inner demons.
As they started the encore, Craig explained that today was the 10th anniversary of the band’s first ever gig. Apparently the other bandmembers weren’t in the band back then but they were at the gig. In fact I don’t think Craig was the only bandmember there tonight who played in Liverpool 3 years ago. The band apologised for being jet-lagged and explained that they would play one more song which was “an Australian classic”. What would it be we wondered? The Go-Betweens? Nick Cave? AC/DC? Scott and Charlene’s duet “Especially For You”? It turned out to be a cover of “Live It Up” by Mental as Anything, a 80s hit on the back of the film “Crocodile Dundee”
I didn’t particularly like that song 30 years ago and despite Gill’s stirring guitar solo, their cover didn’t do a lot to make me change my mind. It seems a shame to play a cover when they’ve got so many great songs of their own. Earlier this year the band released a 4 track EP “Delivered” which features 3 truly brilliant tracks.* It would’ve been great to hear one of these songs or something else from the first 2 albums to close the gig.
The Preston gig was the first one of the tour, check out their other tour dates here. They’re off to Holland, Germany and Spain next before coming back to UK next month.
Other Scott and Charlene’s Wedding stuff on our website:
- Review of Scott and Charlene’s Wedding gig, Liverpool 2013
- Podcast number 7
- Podcast number 17: Kicker’s Best of 2013
- Podcast number 18: Chorizo’s Best of 2013
- Kicker’s Monthly Mix: December 2013
* The 4th track is a cover of Elton John’s “Benny and The Jets”, a song that stands out as being particularly irritating and shit even amidst the huge pile of irritating and shit songs that comprise the Elton John back catalogue.
Bonus Mental as Anything fact: Lead singer Greedy Smith’s real name was Andy. He earnt the nickname Greedy because in 1979 he ate 15 pieces of KFC “chicken” before a gig. Sounds like the banter-ometer must have been off the scale in that band.