The Newtown Neurotics, The Three Johns -
The Funhouse Keighley live review.
Reviewed by Don Watson
I suppose it had to happen sooner or later - punk revivalism is here, at The Funhouse in Keighley.
The Clash and early Siouxsie And The Banshees are on the disco, and the dear young darlings of the dance floor (who were wearing their safety pins in their nappies when this stuff was filling our lives) are leaping on one another in an exuberant flush of sublimated sexuality - excuse me, is this your bondage strap or mine!
Imagine the culture shock as tuneful spiv-boy songster Vince Berkley takes the stage to croon 'Blue Moon' to his own rather nifty acoustic accompaniment. It's like Bobby Vee falling through a time-warp into the bar-room monster scene from Star Wars.
This meeting across the decades is the build up for the showcase of Leeds-based militant Tendency label CNT, an organisation named after a Spanish Civil War anarchist group and dedicated to the reactivation of the values for which The Funhouse is a museum.
With the bravely-named Redskins unable to appear due to the recent theft of their gear, it's left to The Three Johns to start the CNT attack. I once suspected that The Three Johns' only deadly weapon was John Langford's vicious Mekon rant, and the happy anarchy of their early performances did little to change my mind.
Suddenly, though, it appears that some truly powerful material has emerged from the improvisation - despite the temporary absence of the main vocalist John Hyatt. Songs like 'Lucy In The Rain' penetrated the thick wall of audience apathy to shatter my premature condemnation. A sinister opposition to the musical romanticism of drugs, 'Lucy In The Rain' provides a slow contrast to the splintered subversabilly of Heads Like Convicts, whose madcap Northern hustle drives The Three Johns clearly out of the shadows. Setting the decline of Western capitalism and the mass media next to a Berkley-fronted rockabilly rant, The Three Johns' corrosive dosage of Art, Law and Marx is something to be profoundly grateful for.
"We make noise, we break strings, we go out of tune." The 'we' in question are the happily human Newtown Neurotics, who announce their presence with a haphazard tumble of guitars which retriggers the 'good natured celebrations on the dance floor. You can stuff that seen it all before cynicism where this band is concerned, though. The importance of the Neurotics is not their musical format but the fact that they're slinging the sad baggage of ambiguity and uncertainty of their musical neighbours the Oi movement out of the window and bringing a new clarity of vision and strength of direction to the crazed metallic bash.
The Neurotics don't whinge about unemployment - they present instead the blunt, direct battle cry of 'Kick Out The Tories'; they don't hide behind the woolly all-we're-saying-is-it-'appens attitude when it comes to mindless violence - they call for an effective redirection of energy in an anthem which drives it's point home with the power of a crashing melody.
The Newtown Neurotics are striking a rebellious stance without recourse to a coagulation of clichés from the James Dean scrapbook (HI Kirk!), and they're advocating energy without sinking to pointless cerebral mutilation - the disturbance they and The Three Johns are creating may not be large, but every little helps.
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