Friday, 4 March 2011

Live: The Submission w/ Melchett - The Beer Cart Arms, Canterbury 3/3/11

Under normal circumstances, it would take something pretty special to get me to spend an hour and a half on various trains and cold platforms heading down to a pub in a quaint old town in the middle of Kent on a weeknight. That, or a mild case of solvent sniffing. Not that the Beer Cart Arms isn't a nice venue - it's a pleasantly spacious and atmospheric pub in the quaint town centre of Canterbury, certainly. But a midweek gig with a journey time like that? Well, it just so happens that tonight is one such special event: the return of one of my favourite bands in the local scene to action after a lengthy hiatus. The weight of expectation is hanging in the air like tense fag smoke. Don't call it a comeback? Well, what else can I call it? After four months or more of inactivity and a lineup reshuffle, it's hard to really know what to expect tonight. It could be a flaming, embarrassing disaster on a par with letting off an eggy fart in a crowded elevator, or a glorious success that makes Elvis Presley's '68 comeback special pale in comparison. Time to find out.

But before all that can take place, three dodgy-looking blokes step onto the stage, exchange knowing grins and dive headlong into a set of hook-infested hardcore punk shenanigans. "So this is Melchett (76%), then?" I say to Captain Bastard and the Scallywags frontman Andrew Keech, who is there along with several other members. "Yeah. Basically, they're like Snuff" comes the reply. And simplistic as it is, he's got it just about spot on, as the hometown boys proceed to rocket through their repertoire of chaotically fast melodic hardcore punk. Snuff, as well as perhaps some early NOFX genetically spliced in with a bit of Dillinger Four just about covers Melchett's sound, and it's a very entertaining sound too, delivered with plenty of energy. The drumming in particular is tremendous, and puts me in mind of Brandon Barnes of Rise Against - deceptively (to look at at least) powerful and precise. In between songs, banter is rife, and often the audience dictates what song will be played next; what, you thought they had organised their own setlist and stuff like that? Don't be so bloody ridiculous! There's plenty of gooning around and we-don't-have-a-bloody-clue-what-we're-doing banter, as well as some technical cock-ups, but it's all taken in good humour, and this shouldn't overshadow the fact that their songs are actually very strong. It's up to the band now whether they go on to fulfill that promise, and I look forward to seeing them again, whenever they may be.

So here's the news, then: The Submission (88%) are back, and frankly, I have no idea what the bloody hell I was getting so worried about earlier. In fact, such worries are brutally kerb-stomped to death within seconds of the thumping 'Number One Sensation' crashing into life to ignite the start of the set. Frontman Richard Harris expunges several months' worth of frustration within the first five minutes, flailing, jerking, thrashing and bellowing madly into his microphone with a ruthless, steely determination in his eyes. His delivery is explosive, his words evocative, his rage focused - just like old times, then. I guess some things never change, right?

But really, you've heard me raving on many times before about Mr Harris' stage persona - him going nuts on stage is about as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning, after all - so instead, let's focus on what has changed since we last saw Deal's finest. Well, the obvious place to start would be with the new boy, drummer Matt Browne, who in his first live performance with the band, simply tries as best he can to suppress the inevitable nerves and just keep up with the others, which is an achievement in itself when you think about it. To his credit, blink and you'd miss the two or three slip-ups he does make, but what's more important is that he really does find his groove on several songs, and we get a glimpse of the destructive power he has the potential to unleash when he really gets going. It only appears in fits and starts tonight, but give him a little while to bed in to life in The Submission and this may well become the norm, which is a real shot in the arm for the band's future prospects.

The other big difference is that the band have downsized to a simple power trio template, with no rhythm guitarist, and this has more of an effect on the group than you might think. Obviously the versatility of being able to call on another guitar to keep the riffs going whilst Rich goes all rock god and unleashes wailing solos is missed tonight, particularly on the classic 'I'm Lazy'. But having said that, no songs are that much the worse off for it, and the trade-off is that bassist Sadie Williams is thrust more to the fore than ever before. She's effectively tasked with holding the songs together on a tight leash all on her own, a responsibility she handles effortlessly and confidently; not that she ever had a problem with holding things together before, of course. It's noticeable that she has more of a spring in her step - perhaps she trod on the same mains electricity cable that Rich obviously had inserted up his arse earlier, because there's more carefree jumping around than previous shows, and her backing vocals are much more audible, serving to beef out the already muscular tunes on display. Alongside Rich's lunatic spazzings of energy, she is even more assured and comfortable than ever onstage.

Oh yeah, the songs themselves. It's not unfair to say that the setlist has a hybrid feel about it, with Matt still yet to learn the entirety of the 'Mission's vast back catalogue. Nevertheless, there are still old favourites to enjoy: 'I'm Lazy', 'Reggae Rock Rebel' and 'You Just Don't Know' are as catchy and addictive as ever. 'No Man's Land' gets a rare airing tonight, and their cover of The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' (dedicated to Captain Bastard himself, Tom Gardener) ends the set in stomping style. But really, it's the two brand new songs that steal the show. '...Sensation' is a brave but inspired choice to start the set, and it's gung-ho riffing drives the entire song forward. Both that and 'Sunkissed Paradise' show a marked evolution - they sidestep four-chord hooks for big, battering riffs full of muscle and melody, with evocative, snarling lyrics. Big targets are in their firing line now, and they're no longer restricting themselves to singing about not having a job or being a lazy tosser; not when they can take bold swipes at topics such as the troubles in the Middle East and beyond.

It's this limitless ambition and belief in their own abilities that gives an exciting signpost as to where The Submission will go next, but really, worrying about the future is for another day. Tonight, in the here and now, they successfully bury the months of frustration and dead-ends and re-ignite themselves as a force, and with the new drummer still bedding in and further songs and gigs in the pipeline, it's onwards and upwards from here. Welcome back, The Submission - we've missed having you around.

Headliner's Setlist:
  1. Number One Sensation
  2. Reggae Rock Rebel
  3. I'm Lazy
  4. Johnny Be Goode (Chuck Berry cover)
  5. Sunkissed Paradise
  6. No Mans Land
  7. What If I Give Up
  8. You Just Don't Know
  9. Should I Stay or Should I Go (The Clash cover)

No comments:

Post a Comment