Recorded at their Wonkfest 2017 and released on CD & DVD its those mad bastards Wonk Unit at their beautiful best – live and unedited in front of a packed and enthusiastic home crowd.  Alex leads the masses on a crazed juggernaut of Punk Rock.

 

Wonk Unit you either give yourself over to the mind of Alex Wonk and hop on board for the ride or you are left outside scratching your head as to why all these people are wearing big fuck off grins and if you happen across a live show you’ll wonder why everyone is drenched in sweat.  Watch this video and it will become apparent or listen to the CD its fifteen full force Wonk machines of punk rock excellence you might wonder why its taken quite so long for Alex to get this out there but I’m sure Alex has also asked that question of himself but in fairness he’s been a busy boy.  They do get better and better that much is true but he’s had a baby – toured non stop – released more records. so the world kept turning but it seems it slowed down enough to get this finished. The video is a well shot (sometimes unstable) live show but it’s Wonk Unit of course the camera thats in the pit is going to be ever so slightly unstable. You will however get a good idea how bloody good these cats are at playing live music.  Anyone whose ever been to the Dome in Tufnel Park Norf Londun will know what a great room it is to see a band you get all the hits (cough cough) from the Wonk back catalogue you’ll be treated to ‘Lewisham’, ‘Go Easy’ and ‘Donkey Of The Damned’ but I did notice a flaw then as the DVD goes from ‘Je M’Apepelle Alex’  to the monster that is ‘Kings Road Sporting Heroes’ but thats fine.

Alex admitted to sitting on this for twelve months and it might not have come out at all after he wasn’t fussed about a live album but once he sat down to play the mixes he was blown away how good the desk recordings were (warts and all) so it came to pass thats why it was delayed but hearing the finished thing you’ll be glad it has seen the light of day.  The DVD has added wonkyness of commentaries as well as the bands promo videos all thrown in for VFM.

You have to love the brass and Cello on ‘Old Trains’ then to follow it up with the craziness of ‘Awful Jeans’ Tremendous stuff indeed.  If you are new to the Wonk family then treat this as something of a best of Wonk live and a good place to start then you can go pick up the jewson lot your life will be so much more enhanced when you give in.

 

Wonk Unit are a splendid example of punk rock in the 21st century and in Alex they have a genius songwriter who thinks outside the box in fact I don’t think he’s ever looked inside the box let alone be there.  Giddy up kids spend those Chrismas vouchers on something good for a change and ‘Live In Chapan’ is a jolly decent gift so go on treat yourself

Buy Live In Chapan Here

 

Seventeen songs in an hour reworked with a bunch of their friends guesting on a song each what a genius idea.  It features over eighty musicians from around the globe making it one hell of a logistical project calling in Friends from as diverse projects as Vic from The Slackers through Jim Jones (not quite a stretch granted) the son of Dave a Crash Test Dummy and previous work colleagues such as Wilco Johnson.  A truly epic and exciting undertaking but something I expect to truly show off the songwriting talents of Paul- Ronny and his band of ne’erdowells and zombie drummers.

The album gets underway with The Great Malarky tackling ‘Orphans Lament’ and putting a twist on the tune but keeping it totally Gypsy like so were eased in gently. whereas Jim Jones takes ‘Killer Sound’ in an altogether dark place with that piano sounding truly terrifying in its sparse run but as you might expect Jim puts in a stellar performance and incidentally he plays everything on his version which deserves a mention and a tip of the hat to him – exceptional stuff and someone that clearly gets what UVM are all about.  What a brilliant performance of a menacing song.  The Future Sound Of London asked Jesus for help and knocked out a wonderful ‘Help Me Jesus’.

One of my Favourite UVM songs (certainly live) would have to be ‘High Jeopardy Thing’ and Dr Will & The Wizards drag it through the swamp then shine it up not as good as the original for sure but it’s all about the interpretation and its good.  Whilst the delta blues thang gets turned up with ‘Bucket Of Blood’ from Son Of Dave for what is a truly bourbon-soaked bop n stroll for sure. the last couple of tracks have embraced the UVM mantra and run with it even if they’ve both headed off down to that crossroads and traded their souls for a shot at these tunes.

As for my favourite Urban Voodoo Machine song that can change depending on what time of day it is but I guess there are some I gravitate towards no matter when what or where and hearing these interpretations has twisted my melon man and put a new spin on the songs for sure. Tigre Blanco take ‘rusty Water’ somewhere I wasn’t expecting it to go.  Whilst Ledfoot takes ‘Emptiness’ into the void and in a strange way makes it warm and comforting.

To be fair none of these artists or songs they’ve chosen was ever going to make synth pop out of what they had to work with and for the most part, its around the mantra of Bourbon soaked Gypsy Blues Bop ‘n’ Stroll and what a creative and inspirational bunch of people have come together around the Gypsy Hotel and from the original germ what a community that now exists making wonderful sounds in all directions The Broadway Twisters smash it up on one of my favourite tunes and play a pretty straight rock n roll ‘Cheers For The Tears’ which goes to show you don’t have to dissect and reconstruct a tune sometimes just rip it up baby!

I particularly like TV Smiths take on the classic ‘Goodbye To Another Year’ and his cheeky inclusion of an extra verse well done that man – he clearly gets it. Then back to back that full-fat version with the beautiful and touching  ‘Loretta’s Lament’ performed by Katherine Blake to send a shiver down your spine.  Wait, Los Plantronics turning up the disco surf for ‘The Theme for The Urban Voodoo Machine’ oh look if you know you know.  Los Plantronics should be the music played over every tannoy in every supermarket the world over it would certainly make the experience more enjoyable (pitch that to the supermarkets)

To finish off we have the single ‘Heroin (Put My Brothers In The Ground) where Wilco does his thing all over this very different version than the one that was cut on the ‘In Black ‘n’ Red’ album and showing the versatility in the songwriting because its quite different to the other version included on this very album. which only leaves ‘Dirty Water’ to close off the album in fine style with The Inmates kicking up a shit storm as they sign off this love letter to old London town and all who sail in her.  Well done whoever pulled this together, its a testament to those who know and a better late than never to those just jumping on board.  ‘Friends & Family’ is an absolute blast from the first to the last it’s bursting with passion and talent and if you ever had a doubt then forget that just get out there and get it and whilst your waiting – get a bottle of plonk and a shot of bourbon and get ready to bop n stroll! majestic stuff indeed.

 

 

Buy ‘Friends And Family’ Here

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Author:Dom Daley