Wild Billy Childish and The Buff Medways - 1914
This, Billy Childish's number 100-something long player, is a thirty-five minute trip through the troubled mind of oor Billy and, as such, it's a fine and wonderful thing. It would be unfair to accuse The Buff Medways of not progressing musically, that would defeat the very purpose of their existence. That purpose is to kick back against the unrelenting demands and pressures of the so-called music business and produce music that's bloody minded in it's singular determination to create a vibe of muddy punk goodness thats raw and bleeding in its purity and, most of all, honesty.
It's not as immediate as the previous Steady The Buffs but does have a charm that's apparent on the first listen and it won't take many more to worm it's way under your skin. Opening semi-anthem Unable To See The Good has all the Buff hallmarks you know and love. Backing vocals, guitars with treble to the max and a throwaway chorus that belies the hopefully nihilistic lyrics. It's a jangly, raw, barely produced mess, but sounds absolutely great. One thing that this album captures better than the previous is the Medways' live sound. They often sound like they're playing through damaged, old equipment for the simple reason that they are playing through damaged, old equipment. The guitars sound slightly over distorted; the drums hollow and 'just about' in tune and the vocals have that slightly distorted top-end that gives a raw edge of Billy's, sometimes desperate, delivery. Close your eyes, and it's a crowded, sweaty, drunken Friday night at the Dirty Water club in the comfort of your own home but without the eclectic crowd of poseurs, punks and wannabies unless, of course, your house is a cooler one than most.
Calling The Buff Medways a punk band is something of a misnomer. Though they undoubtedly have that true punk sensibility of DIY ethics and a refusal to step in line, but the actual music owes more to the raw pre-punk era. Sonja Fagg could be a 60's garage band top ten single that never was, as could Nurse Julie while The Least Disappointed Man is a lovely punk stomp along with twangy psychedelic noise guitars. Highlights are the hilarious Saucy Jack and musical tribute to the WW1 hairstyle, the celebrated (by Billy Childish, anyway) Mons Quif. The lyrics are often hilarious in their timing and delivery. From Barbara Wire we get "Sitting on your father's wall/Feeling only two inches tall/You said you loved me/But you didn't at all" and the ranting polemic You Are All Phonies is a nice little sucker punch waiting on the tail end of the album for the unwary. It's simply great, a nihilistic rant against everything from hip-hop, garage punk, The Gap, mortgages, Small dogs, hedge trimmers, football stars, being cool, celebrities and even the song itself. It's pure Billy Childish at his best and most contrary, demanding to be a cornerstone of the live set and, what's more, he sounds like he means every word.
1914 is essential for anyone who needs a quick fix of solid, rock 'n' roll mayhem in their collection and, lets face it, who doesn't. Nothing new on here, though, and if you already own some Buffs, it's not that essential, but then, you would miss out on You Are All Phonies which is worth the price of the album on its own and, then there's Sonja Fagg and Nurse Julie and then there's...well, you might as well just get this anyway. Nuff said.