Sunday, 6 February 2011

782 THE MEN THEY COULDN'T HANG, Swindon 12 Bar, Wednesday 17 March 2010

Oh yes, they're back... The Men They Couldn't Hang, "80's punk folk long-stayers", according to the Guardian, who following a couple of poor gigs from bands of similar vintage last year, restored my faith in my musical heritage with a fun and rocking set at the 12 Bar. And they're back again, 6 months almost to the day, for a special St. Patrick's Night show to pay homage to their own Irish-tinged musical heritage!

So I wandered down, meeting up with Rich, Ady and an excited Phil, hyper happy that his second favourite band of all time (after The Smiths, of course!) were back for another go round here. Chatted and chilled in the bar while the support, a bunch of fiddly diddly old lags who'd evidently fought the pub rock wars and lost, played to a mostly empty venue.

We took a wander in and down the front for the entrance of The Men, a shade after 9.30, to a ¾ full but enthusiastic crowd. A very early surprise was that co-vocalist Stefan Cush (who Rich had given stick to earlier for being a Portsmouth FC fan!) announced they’d specifically requested to come back for this show, as they had such a great time and were so bowled over by the audience reaction at the last Swindon show! So the feeling was indeed mutual…

Thereafter followed another 2 hours of whole-hearted entertainment, easy and very funny banter and piss-taking, and splendid honest renditions of their Irish-tinged, punk-influenced songs of civil uprising, freedom and rite-of-passage, so familiar and evocative of my early 20’s. Sing-along versions of the likes of “Ghosts Of Cable Street” and a chilling “Shirt Of Blue” were interspersed with tall tales from TMTCH’s 25 years of rock’n’roll, such as the story of co-vocalist Swill jumping onto his drummer brother's back in an NYC bar, singing their then US tour anthem, "I'm a Homo Truck Driving Man", only to discover... it wasn't his brother!

The set took a similar pattern to the last 12 Bar gig, with Swill delivering a stirring acapella “Barratt’s Privateer” midway through, before “Smugglers” got the mosh (which Phil and I had occupied throughout) swaying along and singing lustily again. An unexpected “Rosettes” and a strident, punky “Going Back To Coventry” ignited the crowd again, but the absolute best was saved for last. Having been forced to omit “Ironmasters” (shame!) after they’d seriously run over time, a brilliantly stirring “Green Fields Of France”, a haunting and emotive anti-war anthem, closed out the set gloriously, with the crowd (some of whom had joined the band onstage) linking arms and singing along to every word. A real St. Patrick’s Day sing-along, tears-in-the-beers experience!

And that was two hours! Taking us to 11.30, I quickly grabbed the set-list and exited, with Stefan’s eulogistic words of praise for another great Swindon 12 Bar gig ringing in my ears. Another great night out thanks to The Men They Couldn't Hang; long may they return!

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