Too Much ‘Democracy’: Should Ordinary People Choose The Deliverers of Justice?

The United States of America is the only nation in the world which enfranchises its population in the selection of the principal authorities for law and order. Currently, forty three states in America have an elected chief law enforcement officer: The most common nomenclature is district attorney, but, depending on the particularities of the state concerned, the role is also known by other titles such as commonwealth’s attorney (Kentuck and Virginia) and state attorney (or state’s attorney in Florida).  The role is akin to that of a crown prosecutor in England and Wales – falling under the aegis of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). For those remaining seven states, the state attorney is a gubernational appointee – meaning that he or she is appointed by that state’s governor. This means that of the total number of America’s most senior legal advisors and law enforcement officers, at State level, eighty-six per cent are publicly elected.

At first glance, this practice appears both democratic and, more insidiously, to be of negligible consequence. The common perception is that since laws are enacted by national and state legislatures, the power District Attorneys possess are largely constrained when it comes to representing a government body in the prosecution of a criminal case. Therefore, the position is viewed as more titular in nature. Put another way, it is often viewed that criminal cases will proceed in accordance with the due process and fairness which is codifided in said federal and state laws to which DAs are bound. But where DAs do wield a significant amount of power is in their decisions on which cases to bring to trial and the severity of the sentencing, and this should not be taken lightly. The factor that often gets overlooked is that elections confer a fixed term on a individual’s tenure in public office, and this reality affects the way those people behave. In essence, the office of district attorney has become an overtly political position.

As with politicians in the legislative or executive branches of government, at both national and state level, there comes the point where District Attorneys are compelled to fight for re-election. And, again, like politicians a DA will often become ruthless and bellicose in trying to achieve ‘quick wins’ which will play favourably with an electorate who will soon be going to the polls. This ultimately translates into the oft-trumpeted “tough on crime” maxim which often leads to harsher sentencing and underhanded tactics to increase clearance rates – criminal cases that result in charges being laid – and conviction rates at the expense of the balance between fairness and the conscientious prosecution of the law. For example, prosecutors will attempt to improve their clearance rates by forcing cases to trial which would, ordinarily, be dismissed due to insufficient evidence. All too often, this can ruin lives and reputations even when a conviction is not passed down. An extreme, but not unique, example of such misconduct in office was that of Michael Nifong: the Durham County District Attorney who was disbarred following his handling of the Duke University lacrosse team rape case in 2006. Nifong was found guilty of fraud, dishonesty, making false statements and lying about withholding exculpatory DNA evidence in the case of three members of the Duke lacross team who were falsely accused of rape.

Furthermore, while elections incentivise DAs to take more cases to trial, they also cause state attorneys to agitate for sterner prison sentences. A study conducted by Bandyopadhya and McCannon concluded that a District Attorney is almost ten per cent less likely to accept a plea bargain, and will instead take a case to court in the year before a reelection campaign. This figure increases by fifteen per cent if the election is contested. This trend has been cited as a contributing factor to America’s rapidly growing rates of incarceration and the overcrowding of prisons; and it is ominous another trend in the public selection of prosecutors that informs the demography of that overcrowding. A study in 2017, cited by Prison Legal News, revealed that 95% of elected prosecutors were white. More concerning was that 79% were white men. It cannot be ignored that such a composition among the elected judiciary could unfairly influence the treatment of cases relating to domestic violence (against a woman), abortion rights and sexual harrassment, for example. With such power conferred on these elected parties, it should be a matter of serious concern that the collective body of elected prosecutors is not representative of the population it administers through the nation’s law courts.

It is not just District Attorneys who are subject to voting contests; Twenty states hold elections to select trial court judges, while eight of those twenty hold elections at all levels of trial court. The term of office can be as high as 10 years in some jurisdictions (14 at state supreme court level) and like DAs, judges succumb to the machinations of the political machine when it comes to time to campaign for reelection. Under the current system it is self-evident that prosecutors are motivated seek contributions to their reelection funds and this can lead to interactions with interest groups and lobbyists whose involvement in such campaigns can blur ethical lines and compromise the fairness and decision-making of public prosecutors. Not to mention that all too often, some judicial contests descend into the mudracking and bitter quarrels which are symptomatic of the more traditional races for Congress and the Presidency.

In contrast to that of a DA, judiciary elections can be either partisan – where the candidates’ party affiliations and revealed alongside their name on the ballot – or nonpartisan (currently all District Attorney elections are fought on a partisan basis). Proponents of the partisan election method believe that affiliating candidates with a political party helps to communicate their core values and beliefs. This is ironic give that the rationale for the nineteenth-century reforms, which brought into being elected prosecutors, was that it would remove partisan politics and force those who were elected to be accountable only to the voting community. On the other hand, detractors cite the lack of obtainable information regarding a candidate’s personal and professional history as a crucial flaw which is especially acute where nonpartisan elections take place and voters cannot even attach their flag to the political party to which a candidate belongs.

There is also the convincing argument that eighty-five per cent of elections go uncontested, which challenges the ostensibly democratic values that supposedly underpin judicial elections. In Spokane County, during elections in 2016, ten of twelve superior court justices had their terms automatically renewed for a further four-year term due to lack of a challenger. In the 2008 and 2012 general elections, all twelve ran unopposed and this is an oft-repeated pattern across all the sovereign states of America –  this year, Florida saw 11 incumbent county and circuit court judges win reelection unopposed. How can judges be accountable to the people, if the people have no alternative candidate to hold up against the incumbent? Supporters of judicial elections can hardly call to witness ‘democracy’ in their efforts to defend the practice when the majority of incumbents are de facto lifers in office.

There needs to be a stronger and more united advocacy of a much needed overhaul of  the system of DA and judicial selection in American states: based on meritocratic principles with candidates appointed, and held to account, by nonpartisan committees. This would require significant amendments to state legislation which will be difficult to get through given that it is wealthy and powerful individals and interest groups who will ultimately lose out and see their influence curtailed. That the election format proves to be undemocratic, lacking in accountability and propagating a culture of politicking, especially when election time draws near, which compromises on fairness to the point of injustice in favour of political manoeuvering to curry favour with a population who applaud “toughness” on crime, should be evidence enough to stop the rot.

 

 

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Album Review: Molly Burch – ‘Please Be Mine’

The Austin, Texas-based Molly Burch delivers 10 delicately-crafted indie rock gems with her debut album: ‘Please Be Mine’. The record is replete with wistful lyricism and retro melodies which are reminiscent of the 1960s girl groups, such as The Shirelles, but it is also infused with a soupcon of Hope Sandoval-inspired shoegaze, this component being particularly manifest in Burch’s vocal style which betrays a hint of the Mazzy Star frontwoman’s hypnotic tones, except Burch’s delivery has more punch behind it.

Burch has drawn comparisons to compatriot Angel Olsen; the connection is apt as Burch, like Olsen, is another brilliant female artist who tantalisingly needles at the melancholy and forlorn in her songwriting. Even Burch’s voice holds similarities in the country music-style inflections and pitch changes she employs in her remarkable vocal range. But it is with Burch, and ‘Please Be Mine’, that I really feel that retro influence.

The influence of 1960s soul, R n B & Doo Wop is evident throughout the record. Tracks like ‘Please Forgive Me’ have a melody that immediately has me imagining The Ronettes or, for balance, The Temptations clicking their fingers to the rhythm, while swaying gently from side to side in a satisfying wave-like unison. The effect is that the entire record transports one through an incredibly pleasing sojourn to a desert island of introspection. Once ‘Loneliest Heart’ Kicks in you already have a sangria in hand and you’re swinging in a hammock while mouthing the words with your eyes closed. You can’t help but relax and feel nostalgic, but nostalgic for what, you never quite discover.

Burch occasionally dips a toe into the Dusty Springfield vocal pond – you know? The more pensive and sorrowful numbers in legend’s repertoire. The album is sandwiched between two perfect examples as both ‘Downhearted’ and ‘I Love You Still’ emulate the soulful panache of ‘The White Queen of Soul’, but instead accompanied with resonant electric guitar.

The title track, I think, is diamond in the crown of this sensational debut record. ‘Please Be Mine’ has a writhing and forlorn melody, verging on the torturous when Burch’s disconsolate vocals burst open with all the emotion of a crestfallen and unrequited love. It is a 5 minute piece of crystalline beauty from beginning to end and flawlessly prefaces the final track, the agonising ‘ I Love You Still’, leaving the listener in the final throes of catharsis, begging for part two of the lovers’ saga.

 

— Daniel Adshead —

 

 

 

 

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Vince Staples: The Rap Artist Who Can Subvert & Dominate the Genre with Clever & Innovative Freshness

Vince Staples’ existence within the milieu of West Coast rappers – born in California, raised in North Long Beach, California – is an act of rebellious dissatisfaction with the state of rap music and its current top crop of haughty, self-aggrandising purveyors. Staples has been open about his previous ties with LA gang culture, but confesses to never having never sipped a drop of alcohol, nor dabbling in illegal drugs. Now, he has since successfully extricated himself from the negative gang links, and is actively involved in speaking with the youth of South California on the dangers of succumbing to the gang lifestyle. This all runs counter to the rapper attitude that currently pervades the music landscape. Although rap has become less about glorifying oneself in the violent excesses that come with being a gangbanger, it still inflicts upon itself an odious scent of rap artist self-hype that seems to inform a lot of the lyrics. For example, Drake tells us in ‘Light Up’:

I’ve been up for 4 days
Getting money both ways
Dirty and clean, I could use a glass of cold Spades
Rolexes, chauffeurs and low fades

While Migos, humble as ever, in ‘Spray the Champagne’ want to remind everyone they be:

“Sprayin’ the Champagne on the sofa fuckin’ up the couch with Louboutin loafers
25 hundred nigga I put in the sole
Young nigga we got the crown and my neck looks just golden”

Both examples show a vapid preoccupation with vaunting their wealth while also constructing a sickly and outdated machismo image, rather than using their talent for more profound, and less superficial, self-expression. Rap artists are a fascinating cohort within music, not just in terms of their life experience, but their route into the industry is often more prolonged and seemingly impenetrable even by normal industry standards. Therefore, you would think that when the opportunity comes, they would have subject matter and concerns that are more visceral, and deeply-rooted to their own experiences, to jot down on scraps of paper and the backs of envelopes, rather than the size of their back balance (and, unconsciously, their cocks) and how much respect should be bestowed on them from their fans and peers. This idea around rap artists and perception is something Staples has, more empathetically, engaged with, stating in an interview with the New York Times:

‘If a rapper could drive a Toyota without getting clowned, then they would do it. It’s more about the perception: You have to be larger than life, you can’t be a regular person. They’re doing what they have to do to get heard and appreciated and not made a mockery of.’

Vince Staples, and a select few of his contemporaries, has endeavoured to fill the ‘serious rapper’ void in urban music. On his debut album, Summertime ’06, released in June 2015, 2 days before his 22nd birthday, Pitchfork detailed how Staples expresses ‘complex ideas’ in a ‘conversational’ rapping style, punctuated by ‘plain, hard sentences’. The record is a preservation of the old-school West Coast gangsta rap and listens like 20 vignettes on life in North Long Beach: exploring such varied themes as racial profiling (‘Lift Me Up‘), sex (‘Lemme Know’), teenage angst-driven nihilism (‘Jump Off The Roof‘), while, in the track ‘Surf’, Staples pierces our gaze, with a relentless calm, as he soberly revisits the daily carnage that torments those neighbourhoods afflicted with the threatening concoction of guns, drug abuse and poverty. In brutal fashion, and in just one verse, Staples laments:

“More black kids killed from a pill than the FEDs in the projects
In the planned parenthood playin’ God with ya mom’s check, you ain’t even been to prom yet
Sixteen, heard you wanna be a star girl
What he charge for the dream? Getcha ball girl
What’s the price for a life in this dark world?
Couple hundred where I come from, how you sleep when the sun down?
I ain’t really tryna judge, they be lookin’ for somebody you can love
He was lookin’ for somebody he could fuck
Took ya body, wouldn’t bother with you none
Spoiled rotten in the bottom of the slums
Caught up in the fun”.

You don’t get such jarring assessment of inner-city living in Southern California, from the likes of Migos and L’il Wayne. This bleak narrative comes from a lost hope, for many black Americans, in what an Obama presidency had promised would be positive change for poor, black neighbourhoods.

Not content with simply reframing the what the purpose and focal point of rap lyricism should be – if it even still existed before he exploded onto the scene, Staples is also plugging the huge chasm when it comes melodic composition. With Particular attention on his second album, Big Fish Theory, (released in 2017), Vince eschews the monotonous templates of beats and melodies that plenty of rap artists re-use over and over, and instead demonstrates an innovative flair and unique vision when experimenting with this much-neglected aspect of the wider mechanism of rap music recording. Historically, lyrics have always been of prime importance within rap, and they should be, but that should not subjugate the melody so much so that the words are laid over the same lazy, hackneyed beat sequences. Staples recognised this early in his career, understanding that a track with a carefully cultivated sound can often augment the musical whole and deliver an urgency and intensity of poetic messaging to the listener.

This sophistication in the marriage of sound and rap language has been exemplified in Big Fish Theory, which incorporates avant-garde, dance and electronic influences that sit alongside Staples’ philosopher/provocateur rap lyricism. (Listen to ‘Love Can Be…’ or ‘BagBak‘). On this record, Staples stairs into the fishbowl of the rap ecosystem, exploring, as Staples himself puts it: “how rappers are perceived and perceive themselves”, which harks back to my opening musings at the beginning of this article. Staples manages to unburden himself on this record in quickfire proclamation tracks lasting, on average, only 3 minutes. The secret is tempo, and Staples mutates from his previous tranquillity on prior records, to an artist exuding a manic energy. It’s a very bold and unorthodox rap album. It’s Vince Staples’ boldness and unconventional style that the rap world needs to embrace, and encourage, in order realise its full potential and purpose, and escape the insipid perception it communicates to a global music audience.

— Daniel Adshead —

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Album Review: The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension

The Big Moon – an all-female awesome foursome from London – have released their debut offering ‘ Love in the 4th Dimension’ during a stimulating, almost paradigm-shifting, though nascent era of guitar music. They are taking their place in the exciting firmament where fellow guitar rock revolutionaries, like Honeyblood, Blaenavon and Black Honey, are also occupying a prime position. ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ is the latest brilliant example of stripped back, unpretentious Indie rock being ushered in with the objective of erasing a lacklustre division of rock music which has tried, and miserably failed to subvert the chart dominance of the R&B and ‘Urban’ music outputs, over the course of the past decade. This section of Indie rock tried too be clever: combining genres, on the one-hand, conditioned by artistic intelligence, and unorthodox chord progressions, and on the other, a post-punk revivalism which, bizarrely, became besotted with awkward keyboard instrumentation and excruciating synth pop – which has tragically enjoyed a resurgence about as welcome as a giant Donald Trump covered with spiders.

This album, and the band themselves, reach us mere listeners on a nostalgic level. It’s hard to escape comparisons with Indie’s bygone 90s golden era, when so much of the rock magic of Britpop, 90s American Indie, and their immediate aftermath, is drawn upon by the band and deftly reconfigured to produce a sound that is their own. Elastica, Mansun, Sleeper, Pavement, they’re all in this album, but the individuality of The Big Moon is powerful enough to contort these influences to make them almost unrecognisable, as they turn the Britpop-inspired rock t-shirt inside-out and back through its own grunge, shoegaze, punk beginnings.

The opening track – ‘Sucker’ – is a testament to the stripped back, inside-out 90s Indie that the band aim to capture. A slow, fabulously dirty guitar intro that rises and declines in volume and tempo, in a more understated take on the Pixies-cum-Nirvana formula. Juliette Jackson’s vocals have the mellow, “don’t give a fuck” kind of cool attitude that Justine Frischmann teased from her lips back during Elastica’s heyday, and the backing vocals and occasional harmonies are reminiscent of a Banarama pop hit.

The weaknesses in the album are virtually non-existent, but if I was to offer any negative it would be in some of the transitions from strong verse composition to a slightly weak chorus which depletes the overall track: ‘Formidable’ is one such example, but even ‘OK Computer’ had ‘The Tourist’, no band is perfect. If any track from ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ best heralds in an exciting future for guitar rock, it’s ‘Bonfire’, a standout track that pays homage to punk energy, grunge despondency and Britpop cockiness with faultless effect.

Stay tuned into these rock empresses, they may be the standard-bearers for Indie rock’s recapturing of the airwaves.

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Roxanne de Bastion @ The Roundhouse, London – 3 May, 2017

A hush surmounts the murmuring of an audience waiting in eager anticipation as Roxanne de Bastion skips onto the stage with a beaming ray of sunshine spread across her face in the guise of a sweetly innocent smile. You can tell she has been itching to kick off her album launch tour for her debut LP – ‘Heirlooms and Hearsay’ – as much as we have been twisted in excitement to see her perform. The cosy and hauntingly intimate confines of the Sackler Space within the famous Camden venue is the optimum singer-songwriter gig territory: and, tonight, a space where Roxanne is to begin softly commanding every square inch with her epic lullaby to family history, home and relationships. But first, as a prelude, she opens on stage, solo, with the fan-favour ‘Red and White Blood Cells’. The up-tempo strumming has everyone gently bobbing their feet and heads. We obligingly participate in the chorus backing without needing any encouragement, although Roxanne’s heavenly grin is altogether inviting.

After thanking the crowd, she invites her fellow touring band members onto the stage, although I don’t remember seeing them emerge onstage as it is hard not to be transfixed by the folk singer’s giddy schoolgirl enthusiasm. I am also strangely, in love with her knee-length t-shirt. One, I believe, designed by herself: all black with a white cartoon graphic image of herself on the front. I kind of want one, as it is refreshingly understated from most band or artist apparel which I normally eschew for its gaudiness. I hope it becomes merchandise in the future, but I digress – I warned it was hard not to be intoxicated by her presence on stage.

The Berlin native, and her band, take a different tack to the normal album promo tour as they populate the setlist with the occasional non-album track. ‘Somewhere Upon Avon’, for example, is a track that reminisces over Stratford Upon Avon, where her grandfather resided after fleeing Communist Hungary, following the Second World War, and the birthplace of her father. Like the tracks that reached the album, it is an organic offering, resplendent in beautiful simplicity with uncomplicated lyrics of candid sentiment and sincerity. ‘Some Kind of Creature’ is another rogue on the setlist. Its tone deftly straddles the line between upbeat and contemplative, which makes it a standout track of the gig and one that is particularly well-received by the audience.

A thematic coalescence develops as Roxanne plays tracks from ‘Heirlooms and Hearsay’, so that they become distinct from those occasional non-album treats. Many of the songs from her debut record appear to be elegies to her late grandfather – ‘Run’ being especially moving, the emotion and atmosphere that envelops its performance being augmented by the backstory that Roxanne prefixes, and the solitary tear that glides down her cheek as she tells it. Many of her songs, as the evening trots gracefully along, are accompanied by equally personal revelations. The songs from the album explore familial relationships, family history and touch upon the many places de Bastion calls home. On the latter subject, particular attention is given to her native Berlin, of which ‘Wasteland’ – a lamentation of the destruction of the East Side Gallery portion of the Berlin Wall – seems the most frankly heartfelt and soothing in its delicacy.

Each song, and the way in which de Bastion elegantly performs them, reveal an innocence, akin to a child’s poem, but with the depth and tenderness that can only be conveyed through a life lived and feelings truly felt. Roxanne is delightfully charming and funny throughout the performance; wonderfully engaging with her audience while also replete with anecdotes and amusing tour tales. You’d be forgiven for feeling as if you were alone and on a first date, standing with a glass of wine captivated by a beautiful woman’s captivating persona and fascinating life story.

The set comes to an end with a genuine wail of disappointment from the audience, and de Bastion herself, at how quickly the evening has passed. But we are rewarded for our devotion with an unscheduled encore, but I sense the reward is mutual as, I believe, Roxanne is reluctant to exit the stage as she appears to be enjoying herself so enormously, the smile still painted on her face. She invites requests, but eventually settles on an impromptu acoustic version of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya!’ Her rendition lends a solemn aura to the original, the lyrics seem clearer and more profound when spoken from her lips to the gentle and soft strumming of her guitar. The crowd join in at the chorus, projecting a still but haunting howl of ‘Heeeeey Yaaaa’, almost like a Pagan incantation. It’s a perfect end to what has been a seductively intimate night of live music. Roxanne now embarks on the rest of her UK album tour, but I can’t help feeling there was something uniquely special, and unable to be replicated, that occurred tonight.

 

—Daniel Adshead—

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Partisan @ Dublin Castle, London 31/03/2017

As I survey the interior of this Camden live music institution – a venue that helped establish bands and artists who, in turn, helped establish the pub as a rock ‘n’ roll nirvana to imbibe quality live music performances – I wonder why I have yet sampled this spot during my 18 months in London. This is where Camden locals, Madness, unleashed their 2-Tone/Ska manic performances during their nascent days in the 1970s; Amy Winehouse, another Camden native, was also a frequent visitor to the pub. Now, at 9pm on a cool Friday evening, hoping to emulate the success of those aforementioned artists are Partisan. They take to the stage with a confident and breezy aplomb, which is characteristic of Mancunian artists who know they possess a certain je ne sais quoi  that will send the masses reeling into rockin’ rhythmic frenzy.

They open with the thoughtful ‘Two Lovers’, which is a more melodic, and lyrically rich, track in the group’s repertoire. It is a relic from the heydey of Six10Repeater – the previous band fronted by lead singer and guitarist, Stuart Armstrong, but sounding much more mature in it’s present form. The pulsing drumbeat has feet-tapping rhythm and all is beautifully complemented by Armstrong’s wailing vocals.

I have been following the musical journey of Partisan‘s lead singer and guitarist for nine-plus years, from the days of Six10Repeater and the modest success they enjoyed  including being named ‘Best Unsigned Band’ of 2009 by XFM radio station as well as supporting slots with fellow Mancunian rock group, Nine Black Alps. The group disbanded in 2012, but I continued to follow Stu when, the following year, along with fellow band members Dan Albon (bass guitar) and Leo Stanfield (drums), the current rock incarnation was formed.

Juggernaut is one of the latest singles released by the band. A powerful rock anthem that teases with deftly smooth, calm but quick verse instrumentation, before expanding, during the chorus, into energetic strumming and drum-beating, accompanied by Armstrong’s characteristic wailing, which sometimes seems on the cusp of being a yodel. The song flirts with the sound of post-punk revivalism of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Subways bent, but the band keep just a short enough leash to maintain the song’s melodic charm. It is clear that Stuart’s musicianship and songwriting has evolved rapidly, since things came to a close on his previous project, as the sound is much more polished.

However, the rip-roaring, garage rock-type crowd-pleasers are not wholly abandoned. The band’s pen-master still remains true to his rock ‘n’ roll songwriting beginnings. Ashes with its jangling guitar intro explodes into a molten rock number and as we get to the meat of the set list, the band begin interweaving punk and, conversely, post-punk elements. Oxygen settles us back into the richer an deeper melodies that the band are crafting, supported by Armstrong’s gorgeous wails. The pulsating bass and drum-beat that are the scaffolding of the track, would not be out of place in a Royal Blood album, who are prominent purveyors of this foundational rock formula.

The past two years, or so, have been exciting times for the band as they have worked with renowned producers, Jim Spencer – who has previously recorded with legendary Manchester artists such as New Order, Johnny Marr and Liam Gallagher – and Mike Bennett – who has iconic bands/artists such as Sham 69, The Specials and Ian Brown among his collaborators. They continue to release new singles, and I, for one, am hopeful of a debut album, soon, but, as the set fast approaches its close, the band go back to the vault and rattle out another pumping rock relic from Stu’s S10R past. Today Somehow, which was one of two of Armstrong’s songs to appear on an early version of the Pro Evolution Soccer computer game, is a raw ejection of frenetic guitar shredding, punctuated by a winding electric riff in the middle, before being sandwiched between another slice of rapid-fire guitar energy so manic, you think the strings will suddenly combust into flames. It’s my favourite track, possibly because it was the first I heard.

The band lay down their weapons of musical pleasure-giving following the final track that is among the most abundant in its instrumentation, there’s a hint of The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun and I am left elated and stunned at the musical strides the band has made. This is their first UK tour since returning from a monumentally successful US tour at the back-end of 2016. There are plans for another trip stateside and after tonight’s performance, you can see why new audiences are yearning for their sound. This is the kind of band that can steal back the airwaves from the plastic music generation of marketability over substance and rock soul. I am wishing them every success in the future, by God they deserve it.

 

— Daniel Adshead —

 

Listen to Partisan here: https://soundcloud.com/partisan77

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Buzzcocks @ Élysée Montmartre, Paris 25/03/2017

I absolutely must open this review with at least a soupcon of hero worship for Steve “I wanna hear you blow the f***ing roof off!” Diggle. At the not so tender age of 61, still has the rapid-fire punk energy coursing through his Mancunian veins. Shredding with youthful exuberance on his guitar, throughout the gig, you could be mistaken for thinking it were 1978 at the Manchester Apollo, as Diggle screams that classic punk refrain: ‘Mad, Mad Judy!’ Lead singer/Guitarist Pete Shelley is his usual stolid self on stage, although now rather more rotund than in the bands halcyon days, but, fair play, he too can still keep step with a 27-song tornado of pure punk rip-roaring power pop that ensues.

Upon sauntering to the stage, the band rip into ‘Fast Cars’ and the crowd immediately rain beer on the chaotic circles of arms legs and banging heads that opened up as effortlessly as a tin of Heinz baked beans. Before you’ve even blinked Pete wails ‘My mad love battery – wants to charge you!!!!’  and we’re already into the second number of this Paris-based punk cyclone with the energy from the crowd gathering a scathing velocity, but the mosh pit does not truly erupt until the thumping drum introduces the power-pop anthem of ‘Orgasm Addict’ – the first single released by the band 40 years ago. I have been to many rock gigs, but this is the first time I have watched a group of near-pension age blokes whip up such a storming, body-slamming orgy of…well, near pension-age blokes! Until they perfect time travel, this raw three-chord Punk rock detonation is the closest you will ever get to visit, or re-visit, the 1970s Punk scene.

And while glimpsing a 90-minute sojourn into 70s Britain, via Paris, to celebrate 40 years since Buzzcocks’ first E.P (‘Spiral Scratch’) and debut single release, I bumped into another historical figure of note among the leaves of the Adshead family tree: my 17-year-old father (or rather, my 55-year-old dad thinking he is 17). I had never laid eyes on a man so giddy in excitement to see the favourite band of his youth, even more unexpected that the pogoing, sweaty body-slamming oaf was my, usually poised and inscrutable, old man. As the band tore through its back catalogue, like a punk freight train, Maurice Adshead sufficiently dealt with every other would-be mosher, like a schizophrenic bear pitted against a motley assortment of mildly manic bears. The whirlwind of sweaty bodies was reaching peak carnage by the time the pop-rock crafted ‘Promises’ was ejected from the stage by Diggle’s buzz-rattled guitar. Howls of “oh-Oooh!” requited by the 800-strong crowd to Pete Shelley’s call of “These promises!..Are made for us…!”

The nostalgia from portions of the crowd, who are old enough to remember the band in their heyday, feverishly palpable. Much of the perspiration spattering across my person is being violently beaten off the brows of the age-45+ by their generational peers in the now beer-sodden and sticky mosh pit. However, the audience, as a whole, is inspirationally a rich mix of age and gender: probably 60% were under 40. While the young and old revel, together, in the phonic delights of one of Punk’s essential pioneers, Steve Diggle, during various points throughout the gig, brings his guitar slaying right up to the sweat-glistening, hot faces of those up front, posing for the ubiquitous camera phone shots and uproariously plastering high-fives and fist bumps to any outstretched limb. It is undeniable that the band still take great pleasure in playing to crowds, and while the old and new still yearn for Punk’s bygone days, Buzzcocks won’t have to lock away their plectrums in the memory box anytime soon. Punk is not dead, but it certainly smells…musty.

Before the band finally exit the stage, the crowd are propelled to nuclear heights with blood vessels throbbing and feet bounding to the unrivalled punk anthems “What Do I Get?” and “Ever Fallen in Love With Someone” – hell of a way to ‘wind down’ a set. The beer-stained floor has barely begun to rot the soles of my ill-chosen shoes before the band return to the stage to a flurry of cheers and applause for 3-song encore that climaxes in a drunken mob pub style sing-a-long to the chorus of “Boredom! Boredoooom!”. Needless to say, the band left us in a state of anything but.

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