21 October 2016
As the nights draw in in Old London Town, it seems everyone’s ill. The photographer, the replacement photographer, half the musicians… but that’s not going to stop anyone having a raucous old time at the debut live showing of Marc Burrows‘s Regency-punk outfit Before Victoria in a small though tastefully-appointed venue at the back of The Islington pub in, well, Islington.Martha Makes Mistakes, a busker by trade, so she tells us, but in this incarnation the purveyor of a bunch of great songs from the more rambunctious end of the singer/songwriter spectrum, minus all the post-modern MTV bullshit that seems to have largely poisoned the well of that particular once-proud genre since the ’90s. (I mean, being one woman on a stage singing about lots of men, she pretty much fails every part of the Bechdel Test, but that’s of little consequence to anyone except me, who thought it was a funny joke at the time and now I come to write the gig up can’t bear to let it go, even though it’s not as good as I thought it was when I was drunk). By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, but always VERY sweary, she’s kind of great. Next we have B-Movie Romance, who give us a cracking set of goth-tinged psychobilly surf-punk with awesome ’80s synth sounds. Which is much more fun and much less of a box-ticking exercise than I’ve made that sound. Bit of Cramps and a touch of Dead Kennedys on the guitar, a smidgeon of Siouxsie and a soupcon of How To Destroy Angels on the vocals (I’m not even entirely sure what a “soupçon” is, but I’m willing to bet by the time you read this the editor will have put in the little curly bit on the bottom of the “c” that I’m too lazy to figure out how to do for myself), this two-piece plus drum machine combo manage to chuck all this shit into a blender and make a wonderful new thing, name-checking Mickey and Mallory Knox alongside Sid and Nancy just to get one (or two, or possibly four) over on Serge Gainsbourg‘s lyrical reliance on just Bonnie and Clyde. A less abrasive gender-swapped Alien Sex Fiend, maybe, or maybe let’s just cut the lazy comparisons and say they sound like B-Movie Romance, and if any of that stuff sounds interesting to you, then they’re well worth checking out. I loved them. The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, bassist Marc Burrows has found a Wellsian Time Machine, and has used it to travel even further back, to the Regency era, bringing a couple of the Men with him (the timeless Jez Miller is playing drums, Joanna Khoo on bass and the ageless Andy Heintz is playing keyboards. With a quill pen. Which basically rocks even just as a concept). And in the Regency era, there is no crazy science fiction shit (BECAUSE IT’S BEFORE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION. This stuff does actually make historical sense), just a bunch of very smart satirical commentary that, as historical satire has a tendency to do, also works as very smart satirical commentary on the present day. Playing largely stuff from the awesomely-titled album Carry On Up The Chartists, Before Victoria deliver a storming set that, surprising nobody who’s familiar with Mr Burrows’s tastes, has something of the early Manic Street Preachers about it. I am aware this may be divisive, but fuck you, I love the Manics. Up to a point. (And that point is about halfway through Know Your Enemy, for what it’s worth). It’s a wonderfully energetic blast of pop-punk, with a brief comedic history lesson between songs. And an amazingly dark and hilarious digression about James Brown, which I’m not going to go into here, but suffice it to say it was as awkward as it was hilarious.
We’re also treated to a rousing rendition of TMTWNBBFN’s “Doing It For The Whigs”, as well as — and this is the point where I fall in love with this band — a completely anachronistic but utterly “who gives a shit” fantastic reading of The Ronettes‘ “Be My Baby”, considered by many (including both myself and Joey Ramone) to be one of the greatest songs ever recorded. And thus to be treated with caution. But they do it proud. And that’s high fucking praise indeed.If (like me) you don’t really give that much of a shit about the Regency period, don’t let that put you off. Before Victoria are a fucking great band, and you might even learn something. I mean, I learned loads. But I kind of forgot it, because cider’s a thing in every age. That said, I’m looking forward to learning it all over again next time.
-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Samantha Penny-