review archive

Fonda 500 / Chris T-T/ Pagan Wanderer Lu / The New Royal Family – The Good Ship,
27th October 2006

Three cheers for Paul, of Maps webbozine, who has put on a series of gigs in the name of raising cash for Oxfam (called ‘Oxjam’ – ho!) So here we are being cheered on our arrival by an ‘exuberant’ David Barnett (who’s cheering the arrival of every familiar face) and marvelling at the weird layout of this Good Ship place. The stage and ‘dance floor’ are in a sunken pit (like the Blue Peter sunken garden, possibly), so that people on the higher bar level can gaze down in a kind of wall of death / coliseum type way. It’s a tad disconcerting, but not as disconcerting as when The New Royal Family take to the stage.

Spend your cash on looking ...like a victorian undertaker

Wild nobility! The Boyfriends’ bassboy David Barnett is here to present his side project and mentalness pressure valve The New Royal Family. It’s a place where tunes about '‘the first time a girl touched my cock'’ and the sharing of biscuits (‘Anyone Fancy A Chocolate Digestive’) can be aired with glee and vigour.

No method in their madness! The band have had but two rehearsals, but no matter, we’re in capable hands what with Alex Luxembourg coaxing howls of outrage from his keyboard, Richard Boyfriend restricting his string twangling talents to the bass, the heart-warmingly smiley Jen on drums and woo! for once a real live guitar heroine in the shape of Bonnie Prince Charley in a tiara.
Just pride about their manner! Alex models a string of pearls worn with a ‘God Save The Queen’ tee-shirt and alarming leopard-print breeks. Then there’s the stove-pipe hat, frockcoat and drawn-on side-burns decorating a crazed, lanky Scotsman lurching around/off of the stage, microphone a-clasp in a Bertie Anderson manner!

Mr Barnett makes a great Queen/frontman pirouetting and bouncing, rambling and hollering. Offering the audience a packet of chocolate digestives (see aforementioned song) and performing a gradual striptease as the set progresses; off come the frockcoat, the shirt and tie to reveal an ‘Elizabeth Rules OK’ tee-shirt (‘Elizabeth Rules UK’, surely?). Luckily the songs run out before he gets ‘down below those dandy clothes’.

The music? Oh yeah, the music is how I imagine The Horrors to sound – a counterpoint to Zombina and the Skeletones of bubblegum punk and garagey organ riffs. (Let it be noted that I haven’t actually heard The Horrors, I think they look perfect as a pop-art statement, no need to listen to ‘em.)

We are The Family

There’s plinky-plonky piano careening ever faster towards a demented climax for the cock-touching song, and a general sense of barely controlled trash pop mayhem and all round fun. It therefore pains me to write that I am first offered BRIBES and then issued with sinister DEATH THREATS from Mr Barnett, who is eager for a good write up. Luckily I have already hidden in the lavs to write down my thoughts and am thus incorruptible.

Next up, it’s Pagan Wanderer Lu, a kind of lo-fi laptop Billy Bragg for the 2000s whose guitar keeps conking out and whose keyboard tippy-taps out freaky beats. He does a good song about hospitals not having enough beds and then a lo-lo-fi one with just a one-fingered keyboard accompaniment. A mashed Scotsman beside me (not Barnett) mutters menacingly in my ear, ‘Is he really good, or is he taking the piss?’ I don’t understand the question, let alone know the answer so I runs away.

Chris T-T Then there’s Chris T-T, a troubadour with integrity. Every so often I see Mr T-T play and it’s always a pleasure to listen to his songs with or without band. This time he’s playing solo, just him and a guitar, which is great because you get to hear his lyrics; cutting, pointed, witty, thought-provoking. It’s good to hear someone with a political conscience speaking up amongst the mishmash of consumer culture, pleasure-seeking inanity we’re generally blasted with. Songs such as ‘A Plague On Both Your Houses’ offer some reassurance that there are still folks out there getting outraged by the actual things that matter, ‘unfashionable' as it may be. Listening to Mr T-T’s songs doesn’t involve receiving a dour hectoring, though, these are tunes riddled with a wry humour and playful imagination and that makes all the difference.

To end, he drops the guitar and sings ‘M1 Song’ a capella, loud and proud. It sounds exasperated and touching, a true folk song for our times. Finally, despite time-constraints, audience pressure brings Chris T-T back to play ‘The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin’, the rabble-rousing one that goes “Now the Countryside Alliance / We'll call them 'the cunts' for short” and eruditely points out what repulsive hypocrites they are. As ever, it goes down a storm.

Finally, to top it all Fonda 500 amble on and make me dance the same way that Super Furries make me dance, i.e. like a fackin’ mental. At first things look bleak, the sound is a bit dodge and Simon Fonda seems kind of grumpy, though its hard to tell what’s going on under his woolly eared hat. But then it all comes good; folks start dancing merrily and suddenly we’re at an allnite disko party sound-tracked by beatboxin’ body poppin’ crank pop. Indiscriminately throwing shapes to new songs and old and ‘Computer Freaks Of The Galaxy’, blasted on spacedust and digital hymns to heaven knows what, we all have a high old time in the name of cheridee. "You knob jockeys!"
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