One of my photos

A night on the town

June 14th, 2011 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Music · 1 Comment · Life, Music

On Saturday I made a rare visit to London.  I realised that I have not been in central London for a long time: the last few times I was in London it was only Hammersmith for Sunday night comedy.  It must be more than a year since I took a train into Victoria.

What finally got me back up there was a concert in Camden – Department S and Spizzenergi.  I have actually lost count of the number of times I have seen Spizzenergi now, but I had never seen Department S.    Stalkers may remember that I was going to take Chrystal up to see Spizz in December, but Crawley got snowed in so she had to go on her own.   Much to my surprise she actually liked it.  She had never shown much of an appetite for punk rock before, but said that she had a great time.

Department S were interesting.  I never really knew much about them at the time although obviously I had heard Is Vic There?  I was glad to get the chance to hear them play it live because it is one of those iconic songs.  There are a few punk/new wave bands who never really reached much beyond their core audience but had one song that everybody had heard, or at least heard of – like Bauhas with Bela Lugosi’s Dead, the Ruts with Babylon’s Burning, the Psychedelic Furs with Pretty in Pink or, I guess, Spizzenergi with Where’s Captain Kirk?

They did do the big hit, but I found the rest of their set to be excellent too, even though I didn’t know any of the songs. The singer has a real presence and they are still writing new songs, which is good to see.  I thought the end of the set was strange though: in the last song the singer put his jacket back on and did the “we’ve been Department S, goodnight” bit and went off stage, but the song carried on for what felt like five minutes after that in an extended instrumental.

Spizzenergi were exactly what I’ve come to expect.  Part of me would like to be surprised by new material or a very different selection of songs, but the other part of me quite likes to hear the same songs.  That is not to say that it is always identical, the arrangements gently evolve over time rather than get a radical re-working.   The highlights for me are Soldier, Soldier, Central Park, Kirk, the Model, Virginia Plain and Island.

I think I’m largely responsible for Island to get on the set list.  Years ago Spizz gave me some copies of old demo and rehearsal tapes from the Spizz Oil days and there was one track on there that had never been on any record at all even though, to my ears, it was better than some tracks that had been released so I asked about it and it ended up in the repertoire, despite the rest of the band not really liking it much. I think.

Thinking about it, there aren’t really many other songs they could include.  Quite a lot of the older stuff is really quite experimental and arty.  Much as I love the Do A Runner album, a lot of it probably wouldn’t work live and a lot of it was quite keyboard-centred.   I wouldn’t mind hearing Dangers of Living though.  I reckon that would sound good with this line-up.  A couple of the football songs would go down well too, even if they are a bit too specific to past tournaments.

It was all good fun and it gave me a chance to try out the Flip video camera, with mixed results.  I learned a couple of things about it.  Firstly it has trouble focussing in very low light, which is true of most auto-focus camera I suppose.  Secondly it doesn’t like it when a really big bloke stands right in front of you.   I only filmed two songs – here is one of them:

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One of the things I like about the band are thet they all seem to be really enjoying themselves, and it was a pleasure to be able to share the evening with our daughter, who seems to be loving life up in that London.  I don’t think there is much chance of her moving back home after her course finishes.

Now I’ve got the taste I mustn’t leave it another year before going up to town.  Maybe I’ll pop up to see that vorticists’ exhibition at Tate Britain and see a few other sights.  Perhaps take Jayne up the eye [[Oops.  That came out ruder-sounding that it was supposed to]] or pay a visit to the zoo?

One thing I won’t do is make the mistake of walking from Euston to Camden again.  What a depressing area the hinterland of Euston station is!

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