I've seen some bands.

Saturday evening, Portsmouth's premier flamenco skatepunk combo Strict Machines opened for American blues influenced goths The Human Value.

Exactly why a signed band from Los Angeles touring England should play a small pub on the south coast, I'm not sure. But they did, and they were bloody good.

Strict Machines, though I love them dearly, were not so good. Mainly because guitarist Paul, after being gently persuaded to not turn his amp up to full, stopped the band in the middle of a song so he could make his guitar louder.

And then did it again the next song. So we were treated to a half hour set of rhythm guitar, with drums and vocals somewhere in the background.

As The Human Value set up, I was preparing for the worst. The drummer was an enormous black guy with wrap-around shades who didn't so much hit the drums as pulp them, and the guitarist had a plate of effects units the size of a small table. It looked like we were going to get 30 minutes of white noise thrash.

What we actually got was a succession of melodic indie pop songs, with pounding beats, grinding Joy Division-like basslines and great hooks. The female vocal style reminded me of Joan Jett, or maybe The Epoxies. It was a big, rich, expressive voice.

You know how some musicians secretly think they're too good for their fans? It's a secret that becomes obvious pretty quickly.

Well THV turned out to be warm and switched on people, circulating while Strict Machines...erm, played their second set.

They were perhaps a little embarrassed too that 40 strangers who'd never heard of them before had fallen for their work on first hearing. They sold a lot of CDs.

Watch out for this band - I think they're going to get a big hit and a big following soon.

Then on Monday, I get invited (by Strict Machines members, as it happens) to see Sonic Boom Six. They had a spare ticket, and they thought of me. I am the spare seat man.

There were three support bands. First up, Lost on Landing, who after one song managed to keep up ten solid minutes of banter while their bassist failed to repair his bass and borrowed one from another band.

There was nothing wrong with them. They were just...boringly competent rockers. Record label talent spotters must get very familiar with the feeling of seeing a band who play very well, write good songs, and have all the innovation of karaoke night.

The second band...I remember exactly nothing about.

Then Pickled Dick - a trio of university students who think they're sixth form students who think they're, like, totally mad man. They played a kind of surfpunk - all poppy hooks and powerchords.

I'd have liked them a lot more if (a) the guitars hadn't been permanently on maximum distortion and (b) they hadn't been such dorks between songs.

Then came Sonic Boom Six. Can you imagine Punk-ska-hiphop? Neither can I, but that's what they are.

Fronted by a diminutive Indian lady with a singing (and speaking) voice straight out of bollywood, backed by rhythm and bass guitarists who are also strong singers. And all three can rap - they do it well and in unison, which is practically unheard of, and really impressive.

Plus drums of course, some backing tape samples, and occasionally a trombonist who recalls the brass sound of 80s reggae, and wields his instrument like the most phallic of guitars.

Some bands like you to see how skillful and well practiced they are. SBS make immense skill look easy.

Imagine 50 teenagers, half shirtless, most extremely drunk and/or stoned, frantically bouncing and moshing to the sound of...Asa Bhosle and Public Enemy meet The Specials via The Sex Pistols.

The bassist from Pickled Dick joined them for one number, reading an impromptu rap from the back of an envelope. And wearing a wedding dress. Interesting.

Can it be, that after 15 years of stagnation, pop music is finally getting interesting again?


  1. Hello, Captain! Just a courtesy visit. I don't have much time, unfortunately... I've taken your «Ultimate Death Test». Drop by and read all about it!
    Best regards from Lisbon to Portsmouth!

  2. That's a lot of bands to see!

    The Human Value sound great. They seem to have been gigging for an aeon. I saw The Police in a small pub once ... arresting people ;)

    The strict machines guitarist sounds like he needs a good talking to. Your job?