The Star Spangles Oxford Zodiac 03/04/03
Like a load of rats from a sinking ship, we scurried aboard the trakMARX bus - gleefully clutching Rizlas, bottles of Coca Cola & at least one copy of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (in a picture sleeve). Wheelchairs stashed & securely locked down - youngsters to the left, oldsters to the right - the hip, the hep & the last remnants of The Hop.
Present: Encoule, Suburban Kid, Dansco, Olly Little & Phil Williams.
The journey is passed listening to Hot Hot Heat, who seem to have enjoyed cramming their LP with post punk references almost as much as we enjoy nailing them down. Never thought Id find myself saying, Reminds me of Joe Jacksons Stepping Out. There is some dissent, but no more than there is disinterest. HHH come recommended by just about every old skooler we know - & theyre on Sub Pop thats gotta count for something, I reason.
Oxfords Zodiac is an admirable little venue. Were in the smaller of the two rooms tonite, & arrive just in time to catch Police & Thieves pack their equipment away (wonder who they sounded like?).
Weve only been in the building 3 minutes when The Star Spangles explode into the room. Ian Wilson scowls his way around the centre of the stage, subconsciously? fiddling with the superfluous handcuffs adorning his right wrist. He looks uncannily like the demon love child of Nick Cave & Bianca Jagger. Guitarist, Tommy Volume, is operating in a space way to small for him. He slashes as he turns & his strings simply burn. The sound of a thousand Johnny Thunders massed on the border of guitar city, NYC. Bassist, Nick Price, resembles a refuge from the Small Faces going through his difficult Wombles phase but doesnt let that affect his excellent bass playing & four to the mic backing vocals. The show is moved along in urgent fashion by drummer, Joey Valentine, who looks just about old enough to be here tonite. He bashes seven shades of shit out of his kit. He is always in total control. He has confidence & ability beyond his years.
The Star Spangles remind me of The Heartbreakers, with a touch of The Clash thrown in for good measure (maybe just a bit too much, judging by the tune that reworks the riff to Capital Radio, or is it Boy With The Replaceable Head?). Debut 45, Which One Of Us Is Gonna Burn This House Down, is chucked away early & warms the cockles of the sparse crowd. We move a little closer to the stage & spot Victor Torpedo of The Parkinsons propping up the Mills barrier.
The continuity of the set is somewhat compromised when the band invite various members of Police & Thieves onto the stage to help out on backing vocals. I could of lived without this particular rock & roll moment but not the next: Victor Torpedo joins The Star Spangles on stage & the joint noise the 2 guitarists make just about blows the fucking roof off the venue (Im reasonably sure that this particular exchange of volume was responsible for me not being able to hear anything at all for 2 days).
One encore & its all history. Done & dusted in just under an hour. If its good enough for your bifocals, its good enough for me. Some of the Spangles tunes may need a little time to grow yet, but much of that could be down to a vocal drowning PA system. Judging by the sound of new 45, Stay Away From Me, the LP is going to set the year on fire. The Star Spangles havent invented the wheel here, or anything, you understand. To many they will come across as just another bunch of spotty young herberts with loud guitars & second hand threads but to those of us who have been around the block a few times, they remind us of better days, louder PAs & stronger drugs. It sure as hell aint progressive but I guess progressions best left to people obsessed with, erm, moving on (i.e. - keeping up with the Joneses). Me, Ill just stay right here, if its all the same to you. Ive been hanging in the same damn room so long I may as well be part of the furniture. The Star Spangles are my favourite new band & I dont give a flying fuck.
The Star Spangles Stay Away From Me is released by Parlaphone Records on 7 & CD on 7/04/03. Buy a copy.
Jean Encoule tmx.com 07/04/03