damaged goods - The I-94 Bar
A re-issued collection of hits and misses from 2014 with extra tracks, “Good Things” is a revelation to these ears.
That really shouldn’t be the case with two members of The Prisoners on board. Power abounds with this UK trio on their 15-track effort, which is out on the always great Damaged Goods label, which is the home of the so-called Medway Sound.
Medway, you say? It’s the name for a style of beat-garage based out of Kent that takes its lead from the Kinks, the early Pretty Things and a host of similar bands that walked the rough side of the street in the ‘60s. Billy Childish is its most famous son, or titular head. Long may he rule...
Effortlessly cool instrumental soundtrack music by a band drawn from the UK Medway scene. The Senior Service make epic songs.
If you don’t know the names Jon Barker (organ), Graham Day (guitar), Darryl Hartley (bass) and Wolf Howard (drums and percussion), you’ll know the bands they’ve played in, like Billy Childish and the Buff Medways, The Mighty Caesars and The Prisoners.
Hammond organ to the forefront, The Senior Service march to a drumbeat made familiar by predecessors like Booker T and the MGs. This is their second album and it could have filled the soundtracks of any number of spy movies, film noir thrillers or whimsical British dramas.
He wears more hats than an international milliner’s house model but prolific UK musician/artists/poet Billy Childish keeps making idiosyncratic, vital music. Here’s his latest - and of course there’s a back story.
Childish put his band Musicians of the British Empire (MBE) on hiatus a couple of years ago so wife and bassist Nurse Julie could have a baby. CMTF is the reformed MBE and this four-track EP apparently announces a return to live shows.
This re-issue of a 1994 album by Medway’s finest sounds as brattish and vital as anything else around now, the perfect blend of punk rock and beat pop. Fashions come and go but Billy Childish remains a constant.
You think you work hard? By the time Thee Headcoats released this they had eight albums under their belts and fuck knows how many singles. Formed after Thee Mighty Caesars ground to a halt, they were an influence on everyone from Jack White to the Black Lips, Thee Oh-Sees and Jon Spencer.
How do you sum up the musical career of Billy Childish, England's finest, over two CDs or six sides of vinyl? "Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot" (translation: Punk rock is not dead) pulls it off pretty well.
The Childish oeuvre isn't for everyone. Across various groups - the Pop Rivets, Thee Milkshakes, Thee Headcoats, Thee Mighty Caesars, Musicians Of The British Empire, The Buff Medways and CTMF among them - Billy has been the poster child for low-fi, crudely-recorded, minimalist rock and roll.
Whip smart lyrics, sometimes confessional and often sardonic or profane, delivered in the voice of a street hooligan and set against distortion and dissonance. As a guitarist, Billy is no Steve Vai and for that we can all be eternally fucking grateful.
Billy Childish is one of those artists who lives in a special and hallowed musical place. Loved or at least admired by mainstream music taste arbiters and demographic setters, these people sit firmly on the fringes and don’t give a flying fuck. They do things their own way and that’s why the rest of us love ‘em.
Billy’s been courted by the music aristocracy and has shrugged his shoulders. He lays it all out in the surging organ-tinged opener “A Song For Kylie Minogue”, right down to a request from Beck to collaborate musically. “As long as I get to sing it, boy, and you just play,” isn’t arrogance; it’s downright genius. Who doesn’t want to co-write with that Loser and make a million bucks? Billy Childish! You want to use me poetry, Kylie? "Go ahead, girl, it’s all for free".
We’re not claiming to be a “hip” or “cutting edge” forum at the I-94 Bar but here’s the conundrum: No-one other than the readership of similarly backward-looking but worthy publications like Mojo or Shindig is going to know about The Galileo 7. And that’s shit.
At the risk of sounding like a haughty communications lecturer talking to a bunch of undergrads, the more media fragments, the more isolationist its bubbles become. Which means, dear Barflies, that YOU have to dig deeper to find stuff that’s not disposable, commodified or bland.
The Galileo 7 is none of the above.
One of those online dictionaries defines "freakbeat" as "a sub-genre of rock and roll music developed mainly by harder-driving British groups, often those with a mod following during the Swinging London period of the mid to late 1960s".
Fair enough. This review is written by someone who used "The Rubble Collection" of UK freakbeat as the soundtrack to painting a dining room wall. There are 10 discs in that box set and, no, it didn't all of them to get the job done. Almost.
The point is that if you don't know the tag, you'll know th sound. Odds are you've probably heard, latched onto and loved a freakbeat band without consciously knowing it. In which case, you're a candidate to be equally besotted with The Galileo 7.
Long term denizens of this scurvy establishment will need no introduction to the names Captain Sensible(nee Ray Burns) and Paul Gray. If there was such a thing as punk rock royalty (and I’m against it on general principle), these guys would at least be Grand Dukes or Princes or some such.
For those of you who are slumming it, Captain Sensible is the more fluorescent face of The Damned. His beret and toilet mat jumper has besmirched the covers of a good many picture covers of hit singles, including a surprise run as a solo star.
Paul Gray came to the world’s attention with fellow graduates of the class of ’76 Eddie and the HotRods. Paul has also had three runs as bass player in the Damned and the kind of resume that would have you blushing with jealousy. He played on Johnny Thunders’ “So Alone” so don’t you go comparing resumes. He’s Paul Gray and you’re not.