Johnny Reb, Record Store Day And The Membranes – Glasgow, April 15th/16th


I’m going to keep this medley of a review simple. The fact is all 3 bands mentioned are great in their own way and I advise you to go and dig out all three and crank those speakers up.

Getting stuff for free rocks and in the case of a free download of Johnny Reb’s recent offering The Portugal Years, this well deserves the northernline’s appraisal. The opening song ‘Nine on the Line’, hits my ears as an aspiring statement of what these boys are up to and not least hints at exciting capabilities.

Although instantly recognisable for the kind of tongue twisted and lyrical deliveries of a whole host of heady figures from Morrissey to Mr Doherty, the band often here achieve a structuring of songs that owes no debt to any particular icon or troubled soul. Angular sounding guitars jangle around the cheeky and melodic vocal drawls in a captivating fashion and I was intrigued to hear them live in Glasgow’s, Bar Bloc on Friday 14th April.

So they sound a bit like a lot of very good bands, but this is no tit for tat, ‘jump on the bandwagon‘ kind of an act. For starters, youth separates them from most of the influences that come to mind, which suggests to me that these guys know their verses. I detect an understanding of literature and enlightenment shining through words of broken promises and mischievous antics. With a freshness pertained throughout, ragged and shambolic tendencies only help add urgency to clearly well crafted tunes. So go give it a whirl and spare my petty tribulations… It would however be wrong to mention this band without saying it was recorded in Portugal by a certain legendary Baz Boorer, who formed The Polecats and more recently co-writes and produces some of Morrissey’s finer moments ‘Irish Blood English Heart’ and ‘First of the Gang to Die‘ to name only two.

The Portugal Years by Johnny Reb

So Glasgow was as entertaining as ever this weekend. After a few hours sleep I was up at the delicate and fragile crack of dawn on Saturday to head down to Monorail Records. Taking part in Record Store Day, the global extravaganza event in the world of independent record stores, meant that a hefty queue was gathering. People were forsaking breakfast in bed to get their dirty mits on some sexy repressed and limited vinyl editions. Personally I had to get my hands on a limited 12” re-release  of Nirvana’s  ‘Hormoaning’ Ep which coincided with the bands Australian tour of 92. I had made up my mind that watching and listening to ‘Son of A Gun’ blasting out of a brightly coloured vinyl was the order of the day. I was denied this privilege by all of 10 spaces in the queue or perhaps 15mins under the duvet and watched an old friend sleepwalk out of the shop still dazed by his purchase of the last remaining record and not quite believing his luck.

Shit happens… anyway there is a silver lining to every cloud and after slating the vultures who descend on these events, only to resell on ebay – it was where I headed to pay a hefty ransom to secure the transaction and with no regrets! Next year I think ill do without the queue…and many of these releases are still available at reasonable prices.

Mono café bar and venue provided the perfect atmosphere, for later gigs throughout the day to help mark the occasion as well as re affirming our love affair with independent record stores as opposed to sweaty and air conditioned high street chains…. (you know what I mean!) Unfortunately I was too late to catch a well received set by Frightened Rabbit but stayed long enough to observe, take in, and witness The Membranes in all their might and punk rock dizziness. Its true I had not come across this band before, but as I walked away smiling – I knew that was the closest I will have ever got to watching either the Sex pistols or The Clash. Fresh from years off the road… The Membranes are a fast and furious post punk outfit and definitely fit nicely into the end of the punk era…

The Membranes -Tatty Seaside Town

Tonight, There is an energy that lifts the music – a drive, and connection with the audience that intensifies their performance. ‘Tatty seaside Town’ is simply a punk anthem I have decided and sung for all the right reasons – have a listen and make your own mind up. Formed in Blackpool 1977, the band were the first signing of Alan McGee’s Creation label and a John Peel favourite… Whether the band have any agenda with this revival or whether they are just up for reliving the good times, I don’t know – but their music falls on a welcome reception and I’m liking what  I hear. Perhaps the legacy of bands like this, have helped to reshape the musical landscape in the guises of sonic youth, the choppy riffs of Franz Ferdinand and even the more distilled and radio friendly Arctic Monkeys. Anyway im off on a Tangent again, but this music definitely touches on alternative directions than purely punk, and this has maybe been celebrated in the Steve Albini produced ‘Kiss Ass Godhead’ album. ‘Lets take the Death Trip’ has that almost psychedelic warm fuzz that Sonic Youth epitomised so well – John Robb (not to be confused with Jonny Reb as above) does give an insanely energetic performance as he leads the band through this set -  jumping into the crowd midsong and displaying many wild gestures, that flavour the gig… The music is on the edge, it might not be safe… it certainly aint easy listening but it is definitely fun…

Jonny Reb – The Portugal Years
The Membranes
Record Store Day

By Tom Manley on April 30, 2011

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