A drizzly Thursday evening sees two of England’s finest from the 90’s alternative music explosion deliver a delightfully contrasting evening of music (and in the case of Jim Bob, an added injection of comedic gold) for the motley cast of throwbacks and new disciples present to witness their return to our shores at The Triffid.
First up, we’re regaled with the lean and self deprecating presence of one half of sardonic indie rebel-rousers Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, a man for all seasons – Jim Bob. Without the presence of the band’s other regular component, Lesley ‘Fruit Bat’ Carter’, one is not quite sure how an already stripped down dynamic will represent in the live realm. All is revealed when Jim Bob saunters out with just an acoustic guitar in-tow, ready to kill fascists with his urgent, stripped back re-workings of classic Carter USM tracks. It would be fair to ponder whether an extended set of stripped back Carter numbers will have enough mileage across an entire hour, but what becomes abundantly clear very quickly is just how urgent and vital tonight’s ‘fan fave’ set list transposes across this lean sonic journey. It seems as though a lot of these tracks could have been written this way, before morphing into their more well-known guises with the addition of the drum machine and glam-punk guitar of Carter’s original, full band guise. And for that we can all feel well privileged to experience these lyrically biting gems in such a different, yet equally satisfying way.
It’s nigh on impossible to fault Jim Bob’s song selection across his incendiary time on stage – ‘A Prince In A Paupers Grave’, ‘Glam Rock Cops’, ‘The Only Living Boy in New Cross’, ‘Shoppers Paradise’, ‘Bloodsport For All’; all of this and more gets the stripped back treatment with singalong urgency and a self depreciating wink. Between song banter becomes a hilarious exercise in rambling audience bonding, as Jim Bob unloads with a truckload of piss-funny anecdotes on topics as diverse as the royal family and Ed Sheeran. Going out with high watermark tracks ‘After The Watershed’ and ‘Sherriff Fatman’, our man exits the stage to rapturous applause. Tonight Jim Bob and his guitar really were killing fascists in a way that Woodie Guthrie would approve. To steal a Carter song title, Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere..
From one extreme to another, the scene is now perfectly set for the wide-screen mayhem about to be unleashed, as the six headed, genre blending hydra that is Pop Will Eat Itself leap forth and pummel us all into a frothing mass of delirium. Known for their kitchen sink approach to musical genres, The Poppies can never be accused of doing things by halves. They open proceedings with the unmistakable strains of ‘PWEI vs the Moral Majority’, with ‘PWEI-zation’ and ‘Can You Dig It’ delivering early set highlights to get the boisterous crowd up and pumping.
Founding member and co-vocalist Graham Crabb rallies his cohorts with jump up and down energy, as the rag-tag bunch smash out a high octane set across the journey. To his left, we’re treated to the (rare these days) presence of original guitarist Richard March, looking like a rockabilly throwback and stylishly pumping out heavy duty rock riffs as the rest of the band detonate their unique and influential industrial, hip hop, big rock, dance-sample hybrid. The fist pumping energy reaches fever pitch on incendiary numbers such as ‘Not Now James, We’re Busy’, ‘Preaching To The Perverted’ and ‘Dance of the Mad Bastards’, while ‘Wise Up Sucker’ delights long-time fans of the band’s 90’s video clips as Crabb shouts out the chorus via the song’s trademark megaphone.
The band conclude their main set with the heavy duty ‘Ich Bin Ein Auslander’ tipping their hat to original co-vocalist Clint Mansell, (whose role tonight is handled with aplomb by long-time current co-vocalist Mary Byker), before returning for a searing three song encore, including a fist pumping reading of classic number ‘Def Con One’. And it is within this track that the band’s manifesto is perhaps most perfectly encapsulated – a searing amalgamation of big riffing (March channeling The Stooges ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’) married with dance floor grooves (insert the keyboard motif to ‘Funky Town’) while dropping in a sample of The Twilight Zone theme music, in the process concocting a sonic template that has oft been copied but rarely bettered. In short, an utterly unique and high energy triumph..