27 April 2013
It’s raining. It’s cold. And it’s the West bloody End. But it’s also The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing‘s biggest headline gig yet, so let’s check it the fuck out anyway. As we walk in, Reprisal are onstage, and making quite a splendid racket. Three longhairs, heads down, studiously cranking out some loud as fuck death metal riffs, while a massive skatepunk-looking dude bellows his face off at the front. It’s quite a winning combination, and certainly succeeds in warming up the crowd; especially one Mr Andrew O’Neill, of tonight’s headliners, frantically headbanging himself into a frenzy down the front. Big chunky bass and lots of wicked top-end shredding… yeah, that’ll do more than nicely.Bobby Conn trying to get a laugh out of the Manic Street Preachers, and succeeding. The revolution may not be televised, but it’ll certainly be hilarious. Catch them now before they sell out.
And then it’s time for The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, who have almost imperceptibly gone through a massive change over the last couple of years. It’s hard to put your finger on, but I think essentially it just comes down to… well, they’ve just got better. They were always great – great tunes, great gags, and great gigs – but now they’re FUCKING great. The sound’s filled out, the comedy and the metal have been more tightly welded together, the people singing along have learned more of the words (and, more importantly, tunes…)The reason The Men… are the finest steampunk band on the planet is quite simple – they’ve remembered the “punk” part. Yes, yes, I know, etymologically it’s just a holdover from cyberpunk, which stopped being punk a very long time ago – unless you’re Alec Empire, in which case you’re probably too awesome to care – but when you’re using “punk” in a musical context, it seems a bit shit to forget about, well, punk music. And politics. This isn’t your fey, whimsical “ooh, I want to fly the Royal Zeppelin” goth bullshit. This is “I’ve been working on that bloody engine all day and now I want to get fucked up and break stuff” rock’n’roll.
And it works so well it’s amazing everyone isn’t doing it. Having two comics in the band (a Bunty from April 1983 and that issue of Thor where he gets turned into a frog, as it happens… I’ll get me coat. Try the veal.) means the lulz are never far away, but they’ve evolved from being primarily a novelty act into an honest-to-goodness wicked live rock band. Using the steampunk thing as a hook, they’re like a finely-crafted comic routine, bringing in pop culture, rock history, world history, science fiction, jokes AND genuine concerns. It’s when they stop laughing that they become truly affecting – tonight we get a stomping and timeless assault on imperialism with “Blood Red,” and a performance of class war/actual war epic “Mutiny In The Common Soldiery” which is genuinely chilling, as well as a great new number about the Necropolis railway and the unaffordability of a decent send-off for London’s poor.coming on like a Victorian Derek and Clive during “The Common People’s Medical Adviser By RV Pierce MD,” The Men’s retro-fitted anarcho-Victorian punk cabaret owes as much to the music hall and bawdy house as it does to the workshop and adding machine, as amply illustrated by the singalong knees-up cor blimey wonderful stomp that is “Jesus Was A Cockney.” And, of course, we mustn’t forget the civil engineering songs. They play both “The Big Stink” and “Brunel,” and a thrashy blast through “Boilerplate Daniel” (a song which has been in my head on repeat since playing Bioshock Infinite and coming across the tragically murderous Handyman, a character who could almost have been ripped straight from that song’s lyrics). the one thing The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have been sadly lacking throughout their career so far is a song about gin. And now they have a song about gin. Called “Gin.” It is a thing of wonder and joy (and gin), and is eagerly swigged, supped, gurgled, and whatever other drink-related metaphors you care to use by the crowd, who help out by shouting, well, “gin” at appropriate, inappropriate, and basically all moments. It’s a stormer. And it’s my new favourite Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing song.
This was their biggest gig so far. Let’s hope they keep getting bigger.
-Words: Deuteronemu90210 likes gin-
-Pictures: Zoe Gillard, Medwyn Jones-