Thursday, 8 August 2013

UK Subs - Another Kind of Blues (1979)

It seems peculiar to consider that more time has gone by since this came out than had passed for all those ageing teds to whom Charlie Harper sang this ain't the fifties any more. The UK Subs emerged at roughly the same time as a bunch of other supposedly second or maybe third wave punk bands who made even Sham 69 seem like old school veterans, or at least that's how I remember it. For the past million years I've tended to associate them with the Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects, and all those other later footbally types - a few decent songs here and there, but somehow lacking colour, and lacking colour even in comparison to Sham 69.

Stranglehold was one of those yappy singles with some guy barking about something punky over fuzzy guitars; She's Not There was just another cranked up version of some sixties record I hadn't even heard, the sort of thing clogging up a million punk covers compilations with expensively mohicaned models sneering unconvincingly on the cover; but still I would go into Midland Educational in Stratford-upon-Avon every weekend and look at all those albums I couldn't afford to buy, amongst which was Another Kind of Blues. The singles I'd heard hadn't been that impressive, but I was still pretty sure it would be worth a listen, and I thought the cover was great, and it was on blue vinyl; but the bottom line was that pocket money and the weekly fiver from my paper round wasn't going to stretch to taking such chances.

Decades pass and I don't spend too much time thinking about the UK Subs beyond the occasional discovery of some curious detail like how they were buddies with Crass in the early days, which seemed to reflect well on both bands, as did Henry Rollins turning out to be a big fan. Then my friend Eddy's band supported them at the Amersham Arms in New Cross, and Eddy - who can usually be relied on to slag off almost anything that isn't on top of its game - described them as a genuinely great live band, adding that Charlie Harper is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet. Then some comedy metal combo did a cover of Down on the Farm and so made Charlie a millionaire for life off royalties, which seems like karma doing its job for once.

Finally catching up, the UK Subs who recorded this album didn't really sound much like I expected them too, and definitely had many of the qualities I liked about other records I bought at the time. There's some of that slightly yappy texture of Stranglehold, but mostly it's cranked up rhythm and blues, very tuneful, very punchy, and very, very addictive. The lyrics might not be Shakespeare, but then if you want Shakespeare, looking for him on a UK Subs album is probably not a great start, and they do their job as well as you could wish for. Crash Course and TV Blues both stood out for me as tracks that have been conspicuously missing from my life for the last thirty or so years, but to be honest, there's not a single clunker here.

There's been a lot of utter bollocks spouted about punk in recent years, mainly by those who assume that as a phenomena it was only really happening if you were one of about twelve people seen frequently at the right end of the King's Road during August, 1974. Conversely, Another Kind of Blues, regardless of being a supposed latecomer to the party, is more like something you could call the real thing on the grounds that this album sounds exactly like it felt being fourteen in 1979.

A fucking cracker!

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