Freeheat / The Parkinsons The Mean Fiddler, 29th November 2001
It's a dreary slow-starter of a November night, the LA2 , or the Mean Fiddler as we're now supposed to call it, is as sparsely populated as I've ever seen it, people lurking in shadowy corners, or slumped in the stale- smelling leather seats of the booths. Things aren't looking too promising for Freeheat's first London show in a year. This is Jim Reid, ex-Mary Chain, we're talking about here, where is everybody? Kitten is sad enough to be able to quote whole chunks of JAMC interviews circa 1986 and thus is both thrilled at the prospect of such close up access to a long time pop fave, and horrified by the apparent lack of interest here.
|Kerrrchanngg! The Parkinsons are in the house. Allriight, rock AND roll! Three whip-skinny dudes in drainpipe jeans plus a guitarist clad in boxers and elasticated knee-bandages spring onstage playing a raucous rock and roll tune which appears to go `Shut your face, shut up!' They are the evil love-children of Iggy and The Ramones hurling themselves around with insane abandon, dedicated to the cause in the same way as Rocket From The Crypt. Another song sounds like it goes `I want to live in the summertime' but they could be chanting their shopping lists and it wouldn't matter.|
|Within a couple of songs-worth of fast, furious ramalama garage punk rock, the whole band is topless, the sinewy quifftastic singer tipping beer over his head and rolling around the stage. He seems to be building up to something, worrying the belt on his skinny jeans, until, surprise! he drops them to reveal a pair of Parkinsons pants. Smart. Not to be outdone, the guitarist divests himself of those boxers, flinging them into the crowd (cheers) and prancing about with just his guitar to maintain his modesty. The audience smirks and taps its feet faster.|
|For the final song, the singer clambers offstage (to dive into this meager crowd would be rock `n' roll suicide) and monkey-like, clings to a bloke's back before staggering his way through the widely grinning crowd. Back up onstage, the song explodes to a finish, but the guitarist isn't leaving yet and decides to carry on playing as he makes his own little excursion off the front of the stage to visit his amused public. The rest of the band watch, laughing as he riffs away merrily before carefully (mind yer bits on the edge!) hoisting himself back up onstage. A last song thunders into life and to everyone's relief pants are put back on in a sorry attempt to end with dignity.|
|Okay, so after that, the second coming of Jim Reid is going to be a bit subdued, but hey, Kitten's a devoted lifelong Jesus and Mary Chain kinda cat and anyway, Jim and fellow ex-Mary Ben Lurie produced The Parkinsons forthcoming album. So Freeheat consist of the aforementioned ex-JAMCs on vocals and guitars with Nick Sanderson once of Earl Brutus (run for the hills!) on drums plus Romi Mori ex-Gun Club on bass and also the only member keeping up old traditions by wearing leather trousers (red ones, mind). Jim Reid is looking very casual in anorak, blue jeans and puma trainers, age seems to have mellowed him since his mic-stand flinging, stage-whipping, staggering streak of black, feedback spitting glory days. His voice is the same vaguely spiteful mutter, the songs are the same simple but affecting tumble of fuzz coated chaotic candy chords. To all intents and purposes this could be the Mary Chain if they hadn't imploded a few years back. Obviously, they're lacking the crazed might and silhouetted explosion of hair that was William Reid, and a Mary Chain without William is a Mary Chain without its fearsome, erratically beating black heart.|
|At least the crowd is looking a bit fuller, a gaggle of adoring faces crammed along the front of the stage and an endless succession of cameras flashing souvenir snapshots. Kicking off with `Baby G' (product placement anyone?) and its repeated `I love New York City' refrain, it seems Jim has either developed a previously unseen compassionate side and has penned a touching tribute to that beleaguered city, or, more likely, is still embracing all those delicious rock and roll lyrical cliches. This is confirmed by the slow burn fuzz of `What Goes Around' with Jim lamenting `I gone bad'. `Back On The Water' is The Archies `Sugar Sugar' crossed with JAMC's `Sometimes Always' all creeping bassline courtesy of Romi who's glowering rock cool from behind curtains of dark hair.|
|Jim takes a swig from a small whiskey bottle. Somehow it's appropriate for him to have this modest, slightly pathetic, nerve-calming drink rather than doing the rock god thing of ostentatiously swigging from a big container of Jack. However it's doing nothing for his guitar playing, as judging by his winces, frequent dodgy chords are struck. At one point he comments, `Those guitar lessons will be kicking in any minute now.' It's weird seeing him stuck behind a guitar, where once he used to stagger randomly, pull at his hair, crouch down, a hundred and one nervy tics to cope with having no instrument to hide behind. Now he's got something to do with his hands he seems even more uncomfortable.|
Despite this, the atmosphere onstage is a lot more relaxed without the infamous simmering brotherly tension which once hovered over JAMC gigs and it's odd to see Jim smiling. The whole point of Freeheat is apparently to `get back to basics' playing good old fashioned rock and roll with no fiddly technology or fancy stuff, and to this end they've succeeded. This is a lot better than I'd feared it might be.
There's blamming bass for `Facing Up To The Facts, sounding better live than the website clip I've heard, and squally guitar on the `Kill Surf City' style chug along of the strobe-blitzed `Get On Home', its feedbacking ending collapsing into the next song `Virtually Unreal'.
|`The Two Of Us' is introduced as `our hit single' before the finale of the slow and stately `Keith Moon', which reminds us the Reids always understood the power of the heartbreak chord change (see middle section of `Happy When It Rains'). The song comes to a false end before a fizzy fuzzing wig-out finish. Unfortunately, Nick seems to have forgotten this bit and gets up to leave until Jim and Ben griningly direct him back behind his drums to finish the song. The encore is the mid-period JAMC tune `Teenage Lust' sounding suitably menacing if a tad perfunctory. A girl does a bizarre grinding dance to it and I remember the thrill of seeing the whole of Brixton Academy jumping up and down to 'Blues From A Gun' and the scaryness of seeing my friend being yanked by the collar from beneath a moshing pile up of black leather at Kilburn National. I remember how much The Jesus And Mary Chain meant to me at school, and I realise they've never let me down.|
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