Live Review: Vive Le X-Mess at The Water Rats!

'Tis the season...for a good ol' punk rock Christmas party!

Whatever the Vive Le Rock crew are on, we want some. Not only have they been able to keep a quality music magazine thriving in an age where print journalism is virtually dead, they’ve also found the time to put on a Christmas gig to see out the year in fine style. Five (and a bit) bands for only a tenner? In central London, no less? We’ll have some of that. 

The Electric Shakes play dirty, fuzzed-up garage rock, at times reminiscent of The Hellacopters or prime MC5. They’d be the ideal soundtrack to a long drive in search of revenge. Y’know, hunched over the steering wheel, shooting daggers through the windscreen, up to your eyeballs on cheap speed? No? Well, suffice to say that the nagging, insistent riffs of ‘Phoney Highs’ and ‘White Wine Psychosis’ deservedly get a few bodies shaking (but maybe not electrically) down the front, even at this early hour. 

The Electric Shakes, Water Rats, 6/12. Pic by Alex Goose

The Priscillas are arguably the most sharply-dressed band of the night, with their shiny red and black aesthetic, and they’re armed with quite the sense of humour – how else to explain the fabulously catchy ‘TFL Chris Didn’t Know Liberace Was Gay’? Blondie might seem like a lazy comparison, but The Priscillas certainly share Debbie Harry and co’s pop nous, and can similarly craft magic out of glam, power-pop and a sprinkling of 60s girl group harmonies. Why can’t all bands be this much fun?

The secret guests of the night turn out to be US/Canadian/British punk supergroup (although they’d probably hate that term) Ultrabomb, who play a brief but invigorating couple of songs, including a vitriolic rendition of the Husker Du classic ‘Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’. Any remaining post-work cobwebs are well and truly blown away by this point.

The Priscillas, Water Rats, 6/12. Pic by Alex Goose
Ultrabomb, Water Rats 6/12. Pic by Alex Goose

Do The Speedways have any bad songs? If they do, they certainly don’t play any of them tonight. Are they rock n’ roll? Are they power pop? They’re both, actually, but who cares about such labels when the tunes are burrowing their way into our subconscious (hey, they’re welcome). Only a well-rehearsed band could play as tightly and confidently as they do, but they make it look so easy as they rip through a succession of anthems for the hopeless romantic in all of us. Their t-shirts say “if it ain’t Speedways it ain’t worth your love”. Well, they are definitely worth your love, and your money too.

The Speedways, Water Rats 6/12. Pic by Alex Goose.

Remember the days when most punk bands were pissed off and had something worthwhile to say? Well, the flame of punk rock fury still burns brightly, and that’s thanks to bands like Desperate Measures. Frontman (and VLR head honcho) Eugene’s venomous delivery would surely get the likes of Johnny Rotten and Jaz Coleman nodding in approval, and indeed, the songs run the gamut from straight-up punk rock bangers (‘Sublime Destruction’, ‘Back To The Rats’) to brooding, atmospheric post punk (‘Flowers At Your Door’).

The highlight, though, has to be ‘Seven Sisters’; all chiming guitars, tribal drums and snarled vocals, and surely destined to take its place among the many great love-hate odes to London. 

Desperate Measures, Water Rats 6/12. Pic by Alex Goose

Our recollections of the evening all get a bit hazy after that, but we remember – in no particular order – copious amounts of booze, tributes to Shane McGowan (RIP), ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, Paul-Ronney Angel on guitar, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, and nearly being sick on the tube home. 

Hats off to Vive Le Rock; this was an excellent finale to a year of countless great gigs. Same time again next year, yeah?

All pics by Alex Goose.

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