Continuing a furious pace of gigs this year – No. 19 on the year and we’re not out of April yet! – is this one, barely 2 days after the last… at least this gig’s free and local! Not that that would have mattered anyway, because I’ve said before that if Swindon’s finest, Raze*Rebuild, were from anywhere other than the ‘don and were playing much further afield, I’d pound the miles to see them without hesitation. So this one was a no-brainer – a trip up the hill for some dynamic, blue-collar US-tinged alt-rock in a sweaty pub back-room… that just screams “essence of rock’n’roll” to me!
A trundle up the hill then, nipping into a parking spot in the otherwise-full Vic car park just as someone was leaving, then hitting the venue for 8 to meet up with fellow RR aficionado Paul Carter (the 2 of us being RR superfans, judging by RR bassist “Paj” later asking when we were starting the Raze*Rebuild fan club!) for some pre-gig rock chat, as tonight’s acts soundchecked and set up. Canute’s Plastic Army were first on – an army of two, this time, the previous one-man incarnation being joined by a vivacious female vocalist with a big, soulful and expressive delivery, fully befitting this set of originals and well-chosen covers. I enjoyed the more haunting, dusky alt-folk tinged original numbers such as the eponymous “Canute’s Plastic Army”, more than when they diverted towards a more trad-country approach (viz. “You Can Kiss My Ass”, written by the vocalist about a row with her boyfriend), but a couple of covers proved set highlights; a stark, stripped back reading of Pulp’s “Razamatazz” was great, almost topped by a desolate yet impassioned cover of Bowie’s “Five Years”. Good start overall!
The Pigeons, next up in pretty short order, didn’t have as much to offer for me, I’m afraid… seemingly beset with equipment issues, they looked like a group ready to play covers or showtunes, instead delivering an oddly dated 80’s sounding set of mainstream, slightly countrified low-key pop. Shades of The Fat Lady Sings at their best, although I have to say that wasn’t often, they were pleasant enough but nothing really stuck, so I took a seat and girded my loins for the main event…
It didn’t take long before the boys were ready; I’d wandered down to the front of the stage before frontman Si Hall requested, “come forward… not you Dave!”, then the boys were good to go. As usual, they went 0 to 60-rock in seemingly milliseconds, powering into brilliant opener “Back To The Fall” with vim, venom and neck-bulging passion. Also, as usual I simply couldn’t help myself – despite a slightly sore back, tweaked earlier whilst tidying my errant daughter’s bedroom, I went for it from note one. And it was nice to have some company down the front, for a change – a pretty blonde rocked out beside me, and despite the fact that I had to politely rebut her attentions as she accosted me between numbers, and the fact that she seemed oblivious as to the concept of a “live” band playing original music (asking Si, “can you play some Madness or Specials,” then, when told, “ no, we play our own stuff,” replying with, “OK, how about some Blink 182 then?!”), she remained pretty much in situ throughout.
Following “Fall”’s triple false ending, Si announced playfully, “We’ve been Raze*Rebuild, goodnight!”, before ploughing into the herky-jerky “Jaded Heart”, and the bleeding-raw breakup ballad of “Kat, I’m Sorry”. An incendiary “New Leaf” was amazing, but by “All The Gear” I needed to stop for a breather – someone stole all the oxygen in the room! Luckily we had a newie tonight, the appropriately named “Poison Air”, sneaking quietly in then powering into an insistent China Drum/ Leatherface post-popcore groove, before melting into an almost hair-metal lighters-aloft denouement. An epic for the new EP!