Barb Wire Dolls
100 Club, London
Saturday June 22 2013
The 100 Club must have resounded to the blare of hundreds of punk bands
in the years since the Sex Pistols kicked it all off in 1976.
Right now, Charred Hearts are making a noise that has probably bounced off these old walls umpteen times before. They're a no nonsense, back to basics, kick-it-around punk combo with a history that goes back to 1981. Their racket isn't about to upset any particular applecarts in the twenty-first century, but they're not a bad bunch in a straight-down-the-line kind of way.
Louise Distras arrives
toting an acoustic guitar and a righteous attitude, and even though
she's a solo performer without a bunch of noisemakers around her, she has
enough gung-ho spirit to carry the crowd before her. No mean achievement
in the punk scene, which normally you'd expect to treat acoustic acts with
extreme suspicion. I mean, a girl singer and an acoustic guitar? Isn't
that a bit Joan
Isn't this hippy stuff?
But Louise Distras confounds all such assumptions by being about ten times more punk rock than the loudest electric warriors. She slashes at her guitar with a fierce energy, and lets rip with a vocal as gravelly as an unmade road, and as powerful as a soul diva in full cry. She's intense and focused and her songs are pointedly political, but she's disarmingly friendly with it. By the time her set ends in a flurry of resounding guitar strings she's converted every doubter in the audience into a fan.
I don't think anyone could ever mistake the Barb Wire Dolls for a hippy outfit. A cross between Blondie and the Ramones - yes, maybe.
Fronted by the spirited and combative Isis Queen, who manages to look rock 'n' roll glamourous even as she's goading the crowd like a firebrand rebel leader intent on storming the palace, Barb Wire Dolls deal in massive riffs and monster anthems.
Every song is full-blooded and thunderous, a string
of disdainful punk rock rants in the face of authority, all set to the churning
roar of an overdriven guitar and the powerhouse whump of heavy-duty drums.
The ingredients of the Barb Wire Dolls sound are familiar enough, of course, and their rebel yells are the stuff of rock 'n' roll tradition as much as genuine polemic. When Isis Queen hollers "I want to start a revolution!" she's following in the footsteps of many previous performers who've cast themselves in the role of anti-establishment rabble-rousers. It's still an effective schtick if we suspend disbelief and imagine, for a moment, that Barb Wire Dolls really might take to the streets with molotov cocktails and malice aforethought.
We know that's not really going to happen, of course. If loud, brash, high-energy rock 'n' roll really was going to spark a revolution it would have done so long ago. But it's easy to get caught up in the moment, swept along by the band's storming noise and Isis Queen's unflagging ferocity. The revolution might be an abstract concept, or perhaps it's meant to happen in our heads. Either way, you can't argue with the soundtrack.
GBH practically count as punk's equivalent to a classic rock band these days, given that they've been around for over 30 years.
remember the band as youthful hooligans, around the time of their early EP,
'Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne', a release which arguably helped to define
the brusque 'n' brutal street punk sound that has ended up becoming, to a great
extent and notwithstanding its umpteen other variants, essentially what punk
music now is.
So GBH are pioneers turned elder statesmen, in a way. And although they're now at least two decades too old for any acne to be in evidence, they can certainly set up a terse, no-frills racket that kicks like it's 1982 all over again. The set is all vintage stuff, all the crowd-pleasers: 'Knife Edge', 'Lycanthropy', 'State Executioner'.
'Do What You Do' is the newest song in the set,
and given that it dates
from 1984, it's not that new. I'm not sure why GBH have chosen tonight
to roll out the oldies - is it the anniversary of one of their early releases?
At any rate, the band bashes 'erm out with succinct economy and no messing
about. It's what the audience wants, and it all goes down well enough.
So, tonight was a gig of four acts and two halves. I think we saw the difference between the old schoolers reliving their finest moments - and having fun with them, for sure - and the newer artists intent on creating a few fine monents it the here and now.
The dear old 100 Club might not quite have seen it all, after all.
Barb Wire Dolls: Website | Facebook
Charred Hearts: Facebook
For more photos from this gig, find GBH by name here.