Perhaps it wasn’t quite squarely in GRTR’s ballpark, but the last time bands with guitars dominated the charts, possibly forever, was when Britpop ruled. Led by the likes of Blur, Oasis and Pulp, the movement defined the sound and style of a generation in the mid nineties. It then fizzled out rapidly after the shark-jumping moment of Noel Gallagher shooting the breeze with Tony Blair over the canapés at a Downing Street ‘Cool Britannia’ reception.
One of the bands who rode the movement’s coattails for a while were Hounslow’s The Bluetones, who even scored a No 1 album. So while this might not usually be my first choice of gigs, in the current climate a trip to the Cabbage Patch’s Patchworks bar in its new Covid-safe layout was a must, to be in the presence of a bona fide hit maker- and local boy made good- in their former lead singer Mark Morriss.
He was casual and down to earth in a most un rock’ n’ roll and rather sweltering red v-neck sweater , seated on a comfy chair with only an acoustic guitar and large glass of white wine for company. He opened with one of his solo numbers in ‘Its Hard to be Good All the Time’ then a large cheer of delight from some old-time fans pierced the quiet, at the announcement of the first old Bluetones hit of the night ‘Marblehead Johnson’.
This contrast in response proved to be a running gag he played on, whenever he switched from solo songs to other oldies from the band such as ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Carry Me Home’. His sardonic and mordant wit was also applied to a table whose pizzas arrived mid-song just before the impressive ‘Surrendered’ and ‘Low Company’ took us to the interval.
The second set opened with the Bluetones first hit in ‘Bluetonic’ and surprisingly early he played their biggest hit ‘Slight Return’ (and, no, I also wondered where that title came from as it appears nowhere in the lyrics). Mark encouraged a singalong but our table fell victim to that cutting wit when accidentally applauding, thinking the song had come to a conclusion without realising there was a short coda.
Many of his own songs, notably ‘Digging a Hole’ and ‘The Beans’ had a wryly dark side to them though ‘Space Cadet’ was lighter in character. ‘A New Athens’ was probably the old Bluetones number I enjoyed the most (ironic that it had a slight REM feel to it) before the set closed with ‘Sleazy Bed Track’.
He encored with ‘So It Goes’ and ‘Never Going Nowhere’, the latter having a more instant hook than many of the songs, and segueing into an interesting treatment of the Eurythmics’ ‘Love is A Stranger’.
Britpop, along with several other short-lived fads, nevertheless gave us some talented songwriters who have had an impact beyond their relatively short time in the sun, and this night at close quarters with one such was proof.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
Josh Taerk’s latest Lockdown session was streamed on Sunday 25 October. More about Josh: http://getreadytorock.me.uk/blog/?s=%22Josh+Taerk%22
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 27 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 29 September 2020.
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Featured Albums w/c 26 October (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 HEARTWIND Strangers (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 FATES WARNING Long Day, Good (Metal Blade)
14:00-16:00 PADRAIG JACK Making Sand (indie)
Power Plays w/c 26 October (Mon-Fri)
LYKANTROPI Axis Of Margaret (Despotz Records)
LIONS SHARE Aim Higher (indie)
ALL RUNS RED What Good Would That Do (indie)
TRIDENT WATERS Six Feet Under (indie)
HOLDING ABSENCE Beyond Belief (indie)
DORIS BRENDEL Other Side Of The World (Sky Rocket Records)
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