Alvin Gibbs managed to pen one of my favourite books ever when he wrote about his adventures on the road with Iggy Pop.  Apart from it being a time in my life when I tried to absorb as much music and everything around it that was humanly possible it was also a record that I adored and a line up of Iggys that was incredible so all the stars aligned and Alvin managed to encapsulate the same feelings when his pen hit the paper so, when Tome & Metre said they were releasing his autobiography I ready Neighbourhood Threat, again and waited in excitement for the book to land on my doormat.  I’ve read it twice now and felt intimidated about writing my review for several reasons.  How can I pay Alvin the respect he deserves as a musician (one that I greatly admire and whose work I’ve followed from the Mid ’80s) and as an accomplished and excellent writer. I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t meet my expectations but if my words help one person read his book then job done so here goes.
Alvin doesn’t labour over the detail as I suspect most don’t want to know about the finer details of his childhood but an overview is provided and certain memories relaid to paint a picture. Its the birth into what would become the punk scene is where we begin our captive participation and Alvin gives his background and shines a light on his days with Brian James as the tales from behind the curtain begin to unfold and I find myself digging up the records that relate to the chapters as something of a background especially when Alvin talks about the recordings of ‘Diminished Responsibilities’ and ‘Endangered Species’ and it sort of opens up another dimension to what you’re hearing as the pages get turned.
Alvin is a fantastic writer and his education obviously helps with his descriptions and use of the English Language which I’m sure he’ll come to in vol two! but his relationships with his bandmates and the respect he has for band members and fellow musicians he’s shared a hotel, bus, plane and beer with also shines through as does his respect for the fine art he finds himself dedicating his life to.  Alvin doesn’t shy away from his flaws either and there is no airbrushing of incidents and behaviours that he might not look back on with 20/20 hindsight and offer scant hollow apologies and neither does he try and explain them away or blame others.  
What you get is the feeling that his life is a life worth living and one that has seen the vast changes in an industry and he’s seen the highs and the not so great highs but has taken them all as part of his education and life journey there are passages that made me laugh out loud as well as wonder what the other parties felt.
Obviously I can’t recommend this book highly enough but not just for fans of The UK Subs, Iggy Pop, Cheap & Nasty but for anyone who appreciates a well-written book by someone who writes with passion, honesty and fantastic use of the language – you get a snapshot of what it was like being part of a club that enjoyed some of the trappings of being a good-sized band in the ’80s and beyond about how the shark pool that is the music business works and how cutthroat it is and an ability to dust yourself down and fly by the seat of your pants (quite literally at times it would seem) and live your life with a mindset or joie de vivre that most 9-5 people would ever understand and people like Alvin do it for the rest of us, they’re modern-day pioneers, crusaders, adventurers, pirates even.
We need people like Alvin to document their time on this earth and show us what it was really like inside the beast of Rock and Roll. As soon as I got to the last words I began to wonder how long before we get Volume two? I get the feeling that Volume one might just have been the starter and the main course is to follow so strap yourselves in kids this is set to get way more exciting.  Absorbing, passionate and another mightily impressive book from the talented Mr Gibbs. Alvin’s life as a UK Sub is set to continue but his story is one we all need to read as he’s managed to eclipse ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ we’ve gotten to meet the man and understand his politics and what makes him tick and from my point of view have even more respect for one of the finest craftsmen in his chosen field. Musician, Songwriter, Author and a thoroughly good bloke, Alvin Gibbs I salute you and urge anyone whos made it thus far into my ramblings to click the link and order a copy of this book you won’t regret it for a second.

 

Buy ‘Diminished Responsibility’ Here

Facebook 

Author: Dom Daley

I’ll put my cards on the table here and admit that when I heard there was a new Subs album coming out I got excited then when I heard it was more covers I wasn’t too bothered. Subversions was a pretty decent effort and there were some great takes on there but, when I saw the tracklist for this I think I was half way through reading and I found I was reading through my fingers and gasping at some of the suggestions.  However, I have a varied taste and it would be boring if they happened to take on songs you would, or could, associate with the band. So I waited for my copy to arrive and would make my mind up yay or Nay after I’d heard the interpretations.

OK here goes, nothing ventured nothing gained I guess. First up is ‘Diversion’ and a jolly uptempo ditty it is too they give it a right good seeing to so I guess I can sit back and relax – for the time being.  Once again Pat Collier has done a sterling job on capturing the band and pulling out a fantastic live feel where everything is crystal clear and super vibrant.   I guess ‘White Light White Heat’ isn’t too much of a stretch and then that riff chimes in as they take on Led Zepplin and ‘Immigrants Song’ and if for hearing Alvin’s bass playing alone this is a resounding success.  Now I obviously know who Led Zepplin are and I have heard them many times before but I can’t say I’ve heard them covered by a punk rock band and sounding so good.  I often joke that Zepplin had a great drummer and a few tidy riffs I might be joking I might not but quite why they get so many column inches is baffling to me but this is one of their better tunes and this version is very well delivered and has exceptional qualities.

Joe Jacksons snappy ‘One More Time’ is afforded similar respect as the Subs do justice with a decent interpretation but it’s not as much of a stretch from the original. Vanilla Fudge ‘Season Of The Witch’ is up next and again kudos to Charlie’s vocals as the band really turn up a few stones to find songs to cover and take ownership of.  Put this one down as one I didn’t see coming but quite enjoyed, in fact, its the ones I was having the sweats over are turning out to be the ones I’m most impressed with.

OK so Alvin toured with Iggy and not the stooges so one of the more predictable covers and an absolute stone-cold classic and one you just knew they would slay and could never fuck up – obviously they don’t disappoint and knock it right out of the park.

Side two kicks off in style with a thunderous take on ‘This Is Rock And Roll’ originally from The Kids closely followed by a suitably sloppy ‘My Generation’ that gives the rhythm section of the Subs a chance to stretch their legs with some awesome solo breaks.  Take a bow Alvin and Jamie – sensational work. I bet nobody saw the Subs tip the hat to Tom Petty and the other Heartbreakers on ‘You Wreck Me’ and what a ball this one is.  As a band the Subs show just how versatile they can be and taking on a song like this and take ownership of the track is a real testament to just how good these boys are.

As we head into the home straight there are three big uns starting with the Neil Young anthem that is ‘Rockin In The Free World’ and rolling it round in the dirt and giving it some right yob treatment on the chorus is a joy to hear.  We know what the Subs are good at and this is them purring like an illite sports car – sure its easy to cover a song like this but you still have to do the right job on it and Straughan owns the solo by leaving it understated rather than running riot over it.  and the Riff is meaty which is nice. Great song great cover.  Now the song I feared most but to be fair the rest of the album is so bloody good I’m not bothered how ‘We Will Rock You Sounds’ but once the band stretch their legs and rock the shit out of it I’m chuffed to report that Charlie might not be Freddie he gives it a right seeing to. what was I worried about  The subs fuckin’ smash it so by the time ‘The Last Time’ chimes in I knew they’d do the Stones justice so finishing on a real high.  I can safely say that when anyone askes what does the Subs sound like doing Queen I can say without any irony or piss taking they do it very well and treat a cover with respect and a challenge check it out.  All thats left to say is I hope it’s not the Last time and there are more more more to come.  Long live the UK Subs. Buy it!

Buy subversions 2 Here

Author: Dom Daley

Hot on the heels of another kinda UK Tour the Subs have been into the studio to record some brand new tracks.  Not content with completing the A-Z compendium of records and releasing a pair of amazing box sets as well as a solo album from Alvin the Subs headed back into the studio and let the tapes roll to capture some more of that irrepressible magic.

‘Screaming Senile’ is five songs four new ones and one rework of an old but classic. opening up with the Gibbs penned ‘Crank It Up’ which as you can probably imagine from the title is a hard-hitting rocker. Complete with Alvin’s vocal leading the way this mid-paced tune has your usual sparkling performances from Alvin’s huge glugging bass line to Stevens great off-kilter solo that totally rules another great song for a band that keeps on delivering.

‘Geordie Ray’ is a ferocious humdinger as the Subs hammer out a real banger with a wonderful huge riff handled by drummer Jamie Oliver before heading back into the verses.  Superb stuff, really.  From the backing vocals to Charlie spitting out the lyrics to that killer riff over the chorus. what a tune! Geordie Ray is the ultimate superfan tribute.

Not a band to let the grass grow under their feet nor do they stay still and bask in their achievements ‘Hounds At The Door’ is another high tempo tune that would show most new bands a clean pair of heels.  This is how to do punk rock in the 21 st century – always something to say and always delivering, brilliant.

‘Keep On Running’ gets a freshen up. Apparently, this is closer to the original written by Alvin in ’81 as it was Garret who insisted on the picked guitar part rather than Alvin’s Thunders styling that he originally intended and it’s only ever been released on 7″ so a good chance to own it again on vinyl I guess.  Great songs are great songs no matter how they’re recorded and this is certainly a great song.

To finish off this EP we have ‘2000 years’ which is a slower more measured tempo with a Stonesy like riff and has some honking Charlie harmonica all over it another reason to pick up a copy of this EP.  Again the Subs release a must own EP that shows their exceptional talent and ability to pen great songs.  Snooze you loose on this one folks.

Buy EP Here

Author: Dom Daley

Over the years I have witnessed dozen and dozens of performances with almost as many lineups but I think its safe to say that the current line up is right up there with the best ever if not the hands-down top of the pile although I appreciate that is open to debate.  Stephen Straughan has been in the band for several years now and to put it one way – is part of the furniture and adds the required bite to proceedings which the current Subs line up deserves. Alvin and Jamie are without a doubt the driving force and an incredible powerhouse rhythm section that is up there with the best anywhere.  As for Charlie.  what can you say about the guy?  An incredibly likable frontman with an insatiable lust for life and one whose talent shows no sign of abating.

Of all the times I’ve seen the band I think this was my first foray into Bristol but I wouldn’t swear by that and with a healthy crowd inside the exchange on a school night the Subs casually saunter onto the stage and proceed to knock out a fantastic set with the required amount of mainstays and some very welcome additions to the ever-evolving set list.  Let’s be fair they have a bazillion songs to choose from yet always seem to throw up a new gem or two every tour. This one is no exception. 

 

They could easily get away with playing for seventy-five minutes and do the best of but they keep writing new material that is as strong if not stronger than their impressive back catalogue.  Tonight begins with the likes of ‘Fragile’ followed by ‘Quintessentials’ ‘Mouth on A Stick’ then to follow that up with ‘Ladt Esquire’ from the first album was some excellent choices. It then became apparent that this decent-sized audience that some down the front wanted to hold up their blessed camera phones which rightfully got Charlie’s goat a little, to say the least.  Sure take a few pics I do but that takes a few seconds then it’s gone but I’m also baffled as to why somebody would go to see a show and spent the entire evening watching it through a phone screen!  When did that even become a thing? Charlie became more and more perturbed by the actions of a few but he wasn’t the only one.

Anyway, the songs came hard and fast and the heat was raised by the time we hit a purple patch of classic Subs tunes and one to add to the list has to be ‘City Of The Dead’.  Not that the crowd needed warming up but to follow that with ‘I’ve Got A Gun’, ‘Emotional Blackmail’ and ‘Another Cuba’ was exceptional. I’m sure there are many who would say that their favourite album is ‘Endangered Species’ I flip-flop from one week to the next putting this at the top of the pile so it was great to hear ‘Fear Of Girls’ but when they chime up with ‘Bitter & Twisted’ I’m loving ‘Quintessential’ but enough of that their cover version of ‘Here Comes Alex’ sounds as bright as the first time I heard it.

We head into the home straight and from here on in its a sing-along classic fest.  ‘Teenage’, ‘Party In Paris’ they all lead to that classic bass line and ‘Warhead’ signals the crowd participation as some people lose their collective shit.  It is great that these songs we’ve possibly heard too many times still hit the spot and tonight ‘Warhead’ sounds as fresh as it ever has and as relevant as it ever has.  I guess our leaders have learned nothing over the decades.

For an encore tonight we’re treated to the trio of UK Subs classics in the shape of ‘C.I.D’, ‘I Live In A Car’ and to send us into the cold Bristol night its the ‘New York State Police’ and then we’re gone.  Another night in another town with the same familiar songs sounding as fresh as the day they were written watching a band killing it time after time and night after night already I’m checking my diary to see when I can catch them next and Cardiff Tramshed in 2019 it is. Phenomenal band phenomenal back catalogue and still giving, new EP and then there is Alvin’s solo album to look forward to – bring it on – the more the merrier.

Time & Matter

Buy UK Subs Here

Author :Dom Daley