(review by steve rastin)

The good ol’ Dudley Arms has been suffering of late and it’s all the fault of promoter Red Mamba. He’s been persisting with a policy from the g(l)ory days of Bar Blu of mixing and matching musical styles and it just isn’t working anymore, at least in terms of punters willing to pay their admission.

Having an ideology of trying to break down the ghettoisation of music is all very well, but it can only be sustainable for as long as the punters are willing to tolerate it. Last Saturday’s gig at the venue underlined just how true this is, as The Dudley had its best Saturday in terms of punters through the door for a good few weeks simply because all three bands are punk influenced, letting the punters know what they were getting. And what they got was very good with three bands at the top of their game hitting the ground running and delivering blistering sets.

First up were Like I Care?, a north-western three piece who have immersed themselves in the musical heritage of their birthplace, added their own very idiosyncratic touches and who now serve up the resulting brew at boiling point.

There are detectable influences from the likes of the Buzzcocks and The Fall in there but did Pete Shelley or Mark Smith ever write a song entitled ” I Wanna Be A Welsh Porn Star”? Precisely! It’s all about taking a couple of primary influences on board and using them as a starting point rather than an end in themselves, adding their own personality and offering a new take on the old ceremony.

Like I Care? do that and have the technical capabilities to do things their own way, with bass player Ffi in particular standing out in this respect.

Are Like I Care? punk………post punk……..does it matter?

Enough to know that they’re bloody good and will be back in this neck of the woods by the end of the summer.

The Shadowcops played the last set and blasted through a half-hour of amphetamined anthems that were every bit as slick as the matching bowling shirts that the band wore onstage. The word “slick” is used here in the positive context of the band being absolutely on the mark from a technical perspective rather than with any negative connotations, because this band obviously work hard at what they do and it shows. Meld the fire-in-the-belly aggression of early Stiff Little Fingers with the absolute pop perfection of Green Day and you’ll get some idea of what The Shadowcops sound like but it doesn’t convey what you get from them in a live setting.
From the opening blast of “We Are The Shadowcops” to the final chords of the encore of Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down”, the intensity never lets up for a second and it’s an inevitability that you get carried along on the euphoria that is generated – bloody hell, they made Freddie Mercury seem cool for three minutes or so (don’t worry, the effects soon wore off!!!).

The Stilletoes played the middle set and I’ve deliberately left them until last for a couple of reasons. Firstly, The Stilletoes are many things but they aren’t slick and that is a central plank of their appeal and one that differentiated them from the other two bands on the night. I was fortunate enough to be around in the early days of The Slits when that band’s gigs veered between musical brilliance and a full-blown fist fight onstage and The Stilletoes give me that same sense of teetering on the very edge of (de)control and it doesn’t half get the adrenalin pumping around my system!!!

Part of the reason lies in the fact that the band approach the punk rock template from some very strange angles, the guitar frequently sounding jagged and running against the grain and this leaves none of the comfort zones that most bands can enjoy. It’s also to do with dynamics though, because The Stilletoes have grasped the idea that live gigs are about theatre rather than being note perfect and so Efa and James thrash, stomp and roll around the stage in a state of near dementia. Technical excellence will occasionally be compromised but so what, it looks as cool as fuck (as did the “Love music, hate racism” T-shirt that Efa played in) and ensures that you won’t forget the band, whether you actually like them or not.

There are musicians out there who can make their instruments talk but who say nothing with while The Stilletoes make theirs roar and say plenty – I know which I prefer!!!