Two releases from obstreperous punky types History Of Guns - and I say 'punky types' because this band certainly isn't just another bunch of punkers, although they've got plenty of attitude and aren't averse to kicking up some quality noise. In a way, they sound like a ramshackle Roxy Music from Romford, although it may just be the singer's over-enunciated yet geezerish vowel sounds putting that thought into my head. I suppose they represent the kind of bands you'll find all over the UK - reprobates in black T-shirts, getting together over some beers and Marshall amps to wallop ye olde rock 'n' roll around for the hell of it, in the game for the laughs and the sheer thrill of making a racket, squabbling and arguing, pulling together, pulling apart...and yet, at the back of their minds, each member of the band is secretly holding out a hope that they might just make it. It's a world captured brilliantly by cartoonist Pete Doree, in his Infernal Gods Of Electric Disaster comic strips. I've often thought that those tales would make a great film, and History Of Guns have almost gone and done it.
27 Paces captures a gig at Hertford Marquee - not the London Marquee, you understand: there's an almost beautiful bathos in the fact that History Of Guns never quite made it to the real Marquee. We see the build-up to the gig, including a lengthy sequence of the band setting up their gear - if you've ever wanted to know just how to place a keyboard on a stand, you'll find this bit fascinating. The band members are interviewed, separately and at length, on such weighty matters as whether History Of Guns represent post-industrial goth or not (the answer, by the way, seems to be 'maybe'). We gather, as if we hadn't already guessed, that most decisions regarding the band seem to be made while pissed in the pub. Eventually it's showtime. The stage beckons. History Of Guns rattle boisterously through a set of rough but righteous rockers, occasionally throwing in a curve ball of keyboards, which gives their unruly rock 'n' roll an incongruously sophisticated touch. It's good, ballsy stuff, and I found myself wishing I'd been there, beer in hand, hurling heckles at the stage, enjoying the show. At the end, the credits roll over shots of the band loading out their gear - as each band member emerges, weighed down by hardware, his name pops up on the caption, and we see everyone go their separate ways. Although it might have been unintentional, the fact that everyone goes their separate ways is really quite poignant.
The Whitby promo CD features some of the songs History Of Guns performed on stage at the Whitby Gothic Weekend in October 2006 (a gig which the band seem to regard as some sort of career milestone) as taken from the original releases, plus a handful of tunes that weren't performed, but which are included to represent previous History Of Guns recordings, and two tracks recorded live at Whitby itself. With me so far? Here, we gain a more comprehensive insight into the band's musical life, and they've certainly got a wider musical vocabulary than the amiable boozed-up rockin' of 27 Paces would have us believe. The band demonstrate their winning way with frayed-at-the-edges glam-punk anthems, but come over as slightly self-conscious when they attempt melodramatic gothic rockers. Oddly enough, they hit the spot with a selection of electro-stompers on which synths swoon and grind, voices slice in and out, and programming elbows its way to the front of the sound. It's highly effective stuff, as it happens, and you'll be hard pressed to believe that this is the same band we saw rockin' it up at the Hertford Marquee.
History Of Guns are probably an A&R man's worst nightmare, in that they come across like they're four different bands held together with gaffa tape, but that's all part of their rowdy charm. The Whitby promo CD is free to anyone who asks nicely, by the way, so by all means contact the band and blag one. You'll be getting a little slice of authentic British band life, in all its scrabbly, tangental, what-the-fuck-let's-go-down-the-pub, and occasionally inspired glory.