The Dancehall of Your Dreams
I'm not the one that should be writing this, but no one else is bothering. Others will be better qualified and able to put it better, but it has to be said the new Subway Sect LP is great.
It's great that the new Subway Sect has as much to do with Timbaland as the Velvets. And it's great that a record named after an area down Battersea way is such a great London record. It's great that it's a great London record in the way say Big Audio Dynamite's No. 10 Upping Street is such a great London record.
Has anyone else listened to No. 10 Upping Street lately? Remember Strummer and Jones reunited and brewing up a mad mix of rhythms and beats and romance and wit and wisdom, with melodies so sweet and poignant that 15 years on it still breaks your heart.
Anyway, this is not misty-eyed silver jubilee punk romanticism. Sansend contains what seem to me to be some of Vic Godard's sweetest, strongest, strangest songs. In particular, there is what I will call a sweeping Subway Sect song suite that wryly complements the stories I have heard down the years of this most mysterious of groups.
Sansend's Subway Sect song suite is wonderful, and will have you whirling round the room to its mix of rhythms, beats, romance, wit, wisdom, and melodies so sweet and poignant. And okay, it's not authentic, but authenticity can mean being as dull as Shadow if you know what I mean.
If at times Sansend makes the listener think of Lionel Bart and Alexander Baron, it should also make that same listener think of A Tribe Called Quest and Steely & Clevie. For this is London in the 21st century, the only show worth listening to is 'Rampage On The Radio' (now Thursday evenings on BBC London 94.9), and Vic likes his short cuts enough to appreciate the potential of playing about with a computer.
Appropriately the same day I bought Sansend, I picked up a copy of the amazing Honest Jon's compilation Watch How The People Dancing: Unity Sounds from the London Dancehall 1986-1989. This is music produced in London by a group of kids, with the same DIY "punk" enthusiasm the original Subway Sect had making their racket. So, one lot set out to outdo the New York New Wave, while the other set out to surpass the first wave of bubbling Jammys Sleng Teng rhythms. It's the same thing.
Honest Jon's have put together a brilliant package. The Unity Sounds story is a great one, and this compilation a great soundtrack of a specific time. Music produced essentially with a cheap Casio and little more, but which sounds great in the same way as the best cheap and cheerful punk records, the best homemade hip hop tracks, the best bedroom based electronica experiments. Aww, there's a moral here that has been told so many times.
© 2002 John Carney