Resident writer of all things punk, Ged Babey has reviewed Portsmouth act Night Of Treason, who have been billed as Pompey’s answer to The Flying Alexanders. Ged has done a double review, writing about their album followed by a review of their recent gig at The Queens Head in Gosport.
Album Review: Night of Treason - Gentlemen and Hooligans
Initially a covers band (doing everything from The Clash to Menace, Buzzcocks to Costello), they gradually introduced originals, gigged their arses off and at various gigs and festivals (Strummerville, the Alarms Gathering) have been joined onstage by heroes like Mike Peters (The Alarm), Billy Bragg and Mick Jones. The album is produced by Smiley, former drummer with Joe Strummers Mescaleros and features Mike Peters on Cool Hand Luke style harmonica.
It is indeed a great album but in a very traditional Boys Own ‘punk and new wave’ kind of way. It could have been released in 1979. Which should be taken as a compliment. This is pre-mohican, pre-Discharge, pre-Dead Cities punk rock which was in essence ‘pop music’ with bollocks and ‘sumfin’ to say’.
Rather than being total punk throwbacks, Night of Treason are keepers of the flame, archivists and re-enactors perhaps, but they capture the spirit and energy of those times and have preserved the essence; the joy, the naivety and the power of what was teenage music, but is now the urban-folk-music-of-choice of a generation (or two).
This albums strength is it doesn’t stick to one sound or style, it’s far from generic ‘punk’. There’s loads of variety. If You Wannit and Speed and Glue and Rock’n’Roll are ramalama Sham/Menace type stompers, songs about teenage years written and performed in the way they would’ve been back then. Violette –the story of a female WWII spy killed by the Gestapo; is slower, acoustic, with Hammond and synth. Skate City and Borrowed Time have a ska and Guns of Brixton–style reggae feel. Keyboards and brass give an uptempo New Wave sound to other songs.
What Became of the Boys Brigade? references Where Have All the Bootboys Gone and the Young Conservatives is an astute lyric concerning getting a desk job (at the UBO) – but worrying that people would think you’d become a Young Tory the minute you put on a collar and tie.
The key songs are My Town, the Ballad of the Teddy Boy (from Ladbroke Grove) and A Letter From the Front. They owe an undeniable musical debt to both the Clash and The Alarm. Teddy Boy has a tune that lodges in your brain for ages (an earworm as Shaun Keively calls ‘em) and the latter is based on the experiences of two of the bands grandfathers in World War I and avoids sloganeering with a personal narrative about the effect of war on real families.
Most reviews will tell you Night of Treason are from Portsmouth because its simpler and the place is renowned worldwide. The truth is, one of them is, but three of them are from Gosport – a dormitory town just across the water from Pompey with a long history & connections with the navy and military. I always thought it was a small suburb but it’s a full-scale satellite town with a population of 80 thousand. The reason it’s relevant is the amount of references to the military on the album and in the artwork. As well as A Letter From the Front and Violette there are other references to Queen & Country, a nutty corporal; The expression English Rose crops up twice. Rather than jingoistic it simply reflects their roots.
A very English album, a crafted, passionate, Strummer/Jones influenced roots, rock, rebel album which, you don’t have to be in your forties to appreciate it, but it probably helps if you are.
NIGHT OF TREASON / THE GOOD TIME CHARLIES the Queens Head, Gosport, Hampshire LIVE REVIEW
Launch night of the Treason album at the bands ‘local pub’, a Saturday in sunny Gosport. The place is packed full of forty-somethings, gentlemen, hooligans, ladies and just-turned 18’s. It reminds me of the pub scene in Up The Junction, but without the clouds of smoke. A real, friendly, good old-fashioned boozer (its good to see one still open).
The Good Time Charlies were on, tearing through self-penned garage rock classics like Hot Tub, Big Bad Boots and Everybody’s Going to the Beach (return of the old drummer means older material) which sounds fresher and tougher than ever. It was either very brave of, or proof of a complete lack of ego for Night of Treason to invite the Charlies to open for them, as they are unbeatable, top of their game and five-albums old rather than just releasing their first. Ending with a blazing Janie Jones threw down the gauntlet.
Treason though are on home grown, all their mates are there and know all the words to My Town. The sound is perfect, filling the cramped pub, fans dancing inches away from the indomitable Pinkys face. Stripped of the keyboards and brass, the songs sound leaner and harder than the album versions but retain the singalong tunefulness. There’s nothing quite like a band playing on home turf and especially when they’re buzzing from selling copies of their hot-off-the-press album and ironically signing autographs for people they’ve known probably known for decades. Bills guitar solos and Pats Thunders-style slides ring out and the la-la la-la’s of Boys Brigade echo round the places as increasingly pissed fans punch the air.
It’s a brilliant night and a fitting launch for the album.
They do it all again on March 21st at the 12 Bar Club in Soho at the London launch. (onstage at 7.15 )
The album is available from Amazon £7 +P&P delivery worldwide.