“see ‘em at all costs” - Hugh Gulland, Vive le Rock
“a unique spin on punk blues” - Charles Shaar Murray, Guitarist
“extraordinary slide guitar … witty and original vocals” - Carol Clerk, Classic Rock
Gary Lammin - vocals & guitar / Martin Stacey - bass / Chris Musto - drums
As punk credentials go, The Bermondsey Joyriders’ boast a mightily impressive set. Founder members Gary Lammin (guitar & vocals) and Martin Stacey (bass) respectively cut their teeth with Strummer protégés The Little Roosters and Generation X precursors Chelsea, whilst drummer Chris Musto honed his craft in Johnny Thunders’ Oddballs, before coming onboard to complete the Joyriders’ line up last summer. On paper this band have the makings of a ’77 super group, but on second album ’Noise & Revolution’ they make a sound that tag’s nostalgic connotations just cannot do justice to.
While many with a part to play at punk’s point of impact hold vivid memories of the moment, and ambitions to re-capture its thrills, as honest as their intentions to retain the liberty spikes (nevermind the receding hairline), The Bermondsey Joyriders’ belong to a rarer breed. Still believing in people power and the endless possibilities that punk‘s uprising from the underground symbolised, the ‘Joyriders resist replicating a 70s blueprint to the letter, instead retaining a couple of the movement’s most intrinsic elements; the immediacy of aural direct action, and the excitement of seeing it in effect.
When Lammin and Stacey first put their ideas to tape on a self-titled debut released in 2009 they did so in the most immediate style imaginable, taking just 12 hours to record, yet producing a record which seasoned writers Charles Shaar Murray and the late, great Carol Clerk received with the excitement of teens pogoing at their first ’Pistols show. Now, given the necessary studio time, guidance from Depeche Mode & Cure producer Dave M Allen, and the benefit of Damned legend Rat Scabies’ drumming skills, the incendiary raw promise of the first record has been fully realized on ‘Noise & Revolution’; a quite extraordinary sophomore that honestly earns the right to wear its lofty revolutionary tag, set to be self-released on limited edition CD and vinyl and issued digitally via Cadiz Music on May 28th .
Though encompassing many classic elements, as it swerves from punk raw power into moody Small Faces / Stones territory with the aid of Lammin’s signature slide guitar and some boogie-woogie barroom piano from The Jim Jones Revue’s Elliot Mortimer, ‘Noise & Revolution’s overall formula is defiantly unfamiliar and definitely brave. An ambitious concept piece, the record is propelled along its fast-paced plotline by spoken word interludes from John Sinclair who, by virtue of his various claims to notoriety as performance poet, manager to the MC5 and counterculture icon so intrinsic to the story of 60s he’s the subject of a Lennon song, appears uniquely qualified for the role of guru-esque narrator.
Counterbalanced by a dose of very British humour, which sways the album from the brink of pretentiousness, Sinclair’s Detroit drawl develops the tale of a society eroded by greedy property developers and phoney politicians. Its saviour, says the great man, may just be honest, inspiring call-to-arms rock ‘n’ roll, if only the musicians with the power to rally the people can resist temptations to become just another set of decadent rockstars.
Far-fetched as it may sound, that’s really just the beginning of ’Noise & Revolution’s too-strange-to-be-untrue tale. After mapping out their arty concept the studio, The Bermondsey Joyriders only began bringing it to life when they took to the hallowed stage of London’s 100 Club in May 2011, instated Sinclair behind a lectern and performed the entire thing for a crowd who had not previously heard a note. The only thing one harder to predict than the mad move on the band’s part would have been the crowd’s reaction that night, which PureRawk.com summarised when reviewing ’Noise & Revolution’s live debut and calling “a shock Album of the Year contender”.
Next, the ’Joyriders then pulled the trick off again supporting Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg at Islington’s O2 Academy in June, when they left a roomful of punks out for an easy earful of nostalgia demanding an encore of the upstart openers. Although no recordings had yet been released, ‘Noise & Revolution’ was gathering momentum of its own by mid-summer, and as Sinclair comments when the album’s protagonists score a first gig at ‘Shakin’ Leaves’ club, one might have observed “it looks like something’s happening…”. When Chris Musto played his first gig with the band on August 6th - again at Islington Academy, this time supporting sharpest tool left in political punk’s top drawer Jello Biafra - things did start to happen very fast. Baptised by more cries for ‘more’ from Biafra’s tough-to-please following that night in Islington, The Bermondsey Joyriders definitive line-up was sealed at virtually the moment something far bigger began to happen in nearby Tottenham.
With rioting spreading across Britain in the following days, one witness to the weekend’s gig - politically minded comic, Guardian journalist and ‘Best Left of Centre Blogs’ award winner, Anna Chen - seized upon album opener ‘Society Is Rapidly Changing’ as the ready-written soundtrack to scenes unfolding on the streets. Approaching the band for the original recording, she created from images of the chaos sweeping the country what became the track’s official video, and a rapidly trending YouTube clip.
With a figure such as Chen endorsing the accuracy of ’Noise & Revolution’s commentary on the environment it was born in comes an implication the ’Joyriders really may be a group alone in times when “having something to say” is merely ‘the thing to say’ for extra punk cred. Proof of their singular sincerity might be offered with reference to the repeat invitations Lammin and Sinclair received to perform at the St. Paul’s Occupy site while it stood, or Lammin’s later appearance in Chen’s production for the Greenwich Maritime Museum dealing with tea, narcotics and an especially dark era in British Imperialism, ’The Steampunk Opium Wars’. More compelling evidence of The Bermondsey Joyriders’ uncontrived nature however may come in those activities not listed on any wannabe right-on punk’s agenda, which add up to this band’s genuinely quirky unique identity.
Though taking a pride in having promoted (during the week of that Occupy debut, no less) the first live music event hosted at Soho strip joint Sunset Strip in its 40 year history, the Bermondsey Joyriders won’t be in danger of diving into the clichéd rockstar territory their own album warns against so long as they shun the Jack to endorse an altogether less rock ’n’ roll beverage. First attesting to their fondness for a cuppa in live favourite ‘Proper English’, The Bermondsey Joyriders’ have now taken the homage so far as to make logo tea towels an unlikely merch stand best seller!
Truly a product of its time, in so far as it has been and born and then built into an underground cult onstage these past 10 months, ‘Noise & Revolution’ is by the same token left struggling for points of comparison among contemporary underdogs’ who made their breaks and found a following in cyberspace. Finding an adequate parallel for the album requires returning to the source, and to the seminal proto-punk Lammin and Stacey heard throughout the Stateside tour preceding their fortuitous encounter with ‘Noise & Revolution’ guru John Sinclair. Owing to overly brisk but unintentionally brilliant packing for that tour, the Bermondsey Joyriders had listened to virtually nothing but The MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’ for weeks by the time Lammin returned home and found he had been invited to provide guitar accompaniment to Sinclair’s imminent London poetry performances. Their chance meeting was the start of the stranger than fiction tale of a concept album which, like the MC5’s legendary live debut, was shaped spontaneously onstage, so presenting almost a story within a story. Hear it live and in full again at;
Thurs 24th May - LONDON Madame Jo Jo’s (‘Noise & Revolution’ release party)