It's Valentine's day, and this rock 'n' roll boozer up the Holloway road is full of loved-up punks, ready to get romantic in the mosh. We have red light, we have beer - now all we need is a musical soundtrack. Bring on the first band...
fear Johnny Throttle won't be providing
a Valentine-oriented soundtrack of swooning violins and sweet nothings,
though. This band of authentically scruffy reprobates, who look like they've
mooched along to the gig after a hard day spent loitering menacingly on
street corners, play eveything at two volumes - loud, and bloody loud
- and two speeds - fast, and bloody breakneck.
Back in about 1982 I remember Vice Squad headlining the Lyceum in London - a large and ornate opera house which had fallen on hard times and was then hosting a regular series of punk gigs. But those days are long gone. The Lyceum is currently hosting a production of The Lion King (whether this represents an improvement on the punk gigs is highly debatable) and Vice Squad are playing a pub up the Holloway Road.
the face of it, that might look like Vice Squad are a band long past their
heyday, but in fact the Vice Squad we see before us tonight is a new incarnation
of the band, put together by vocalist and sometime punk pin-up Beki Bondage.
And a few things have changed this time round.
The new Vice Squad have developed a neat line in big, rocky, assertive anthems, while Beki has developed a husky, poweerful rock diva voice a world away from her old-skool punkette shriek. 'Defiant' is a musical v-sign waved in the face of anyone who gets in the way, while 'Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down', with its catchy, shouty, chorus, is a self-help manual distilled down to four minutes of stompy beats and powerchords. When a couple of old songs come up, there's a distict shift of gears, as suddenly the band launches into a punkzoid thrash 'n' dash that sits rather uneasily with the new stuff. The old fave 'Out Of Reach' is a 100mph punker-frenzy very much of its time - but it could've been a hit single, Beki remarks ruefully, if only she had not stood upon her punk principles and refused to let EMI, the band's then-label, give it the big push.
Rockers', Vice Squad's debut single from 1981, is still the post-nuclear
epic it always was - in 1981, every band was more or less obliged to have
at least one post-nuclear epic in their repertoire. Amid outbreaks of
unrestrained moshing and booze-fuelled auidience singalongs, everything
crashes to a suitably noisy conclusion.