MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG - 21 Years of Love & Hate {Secret} Long before REAL MCKENZIES and FLOGGIN MOLLY, and as contemporaries of THE POGUES, THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG was the forefather of what could now be called Folk-Punk. The band released a string of great albums which paired the fervour of the JAM with the politics of Billy Bragg and a musical direction of Elvis Costello jamming with the POGUES. At one stage, the band was tooted as being (admittedly, one of many) the next CLASH and it’s easy to see why - the politics was similar, both bands were willing to accept change and both bands - at full throttle - displayed a unique energy. This live show, recorded at the Islington Academy in London 2004, celebrates the band’s 21st Anniversary.
The show itself is a typical MTCH show - energetic, raucous but also subtle and poignant with mood and tempo changes a-plenty. It’s a quality recording too filmed on multi-cameras, alternate focusing and a crisp, uproarious sound but clearly live. Highlights have to be a spirited ‘Ghosts Of Cable Street’, ‘Wishing Well’ that sees the band virtually self-combusting with energy, a poignant ‘Company Town’ that’s a telling statement of capitalism that many cities face today, the frantic pairing of the classic ‘Ironmasters’ and ‘Rosettes’ which could be the show highlight and possesses an energy the McKENZIES can but only aspire to and the mournful final song ‘Night To Remember’ which is a harrowing statement of war and war dead. The newer tracks lack the conviction of the early songs and, the only real negative of the whole show is that the opener, ‘The Day After’, comes across as laboured. The song had all the signs of a bunch of old men reuniting for a soulless money-grabbing exercise based on the band name alone. Thankfully the rest of the show disproves that theory.
There are good extras too - the most obvious being a 40-minute interview with the band. The interviewer could’ve done his research a bit better as he gets a couple of early key facts wrong but, as it progresses, the band relaxes somewhat and provide some interesting points - especially regarding major labels and how they wouldn’t touch one now. It seems Warners wanted the band to change its name and do a cover version as its first release.
You also get an intimate rehearsal version of ‘Company Man’ and some soundcheck footage which is probably only of appeal to the die-hard fan.
Often these live shows offer something only for those who are already into the band but this - with its broad range of career-spanning songs and such a high quality recording - could prove to be a really worthwhile starting point for those looking at sampling the band. And for those who are fans? Well, I guess you already have this and love every minute (bar the first song!).

THE MISSION - Sum And Substance {Cherry Red} I always had a soft spot for these wine guzzling 80s UK Goths. I think a lot of the attraction was the very public dispute between main MISSIONary, Wayne Hussey and the pretentious, weedy Andrew Eldritch who used to be in SISTERS OF MERCY with Hussey before the band split. Both Hussey and Eldritch wanted to name their post SISTERS... outfit THE SISTERHOOD and so the battle commenced. Hussey would be seen regularly in the music press, drinking out of a bottle of Blue Nun and berating Eldritch only for Eldritch to do the same the following week - but with much less panache. It was a fun time to be aware of Goths - which reads like an oxymoron in itself. As for the the DVD...
This is made up of promo videos and thankfully, THE MISSION was, for a couple of albums, a decent band that was not too proud to parody itself. It opens with the classic debut single, ‘Serpent’s Kiss’. The video is full of neo-hippy imagery, vibrant colours and is wonderfully irreverent. The song was one of the band’s finest moments. From there you get a further 14 videos which peak with what remains (for me) the band’s best: Wasteland’. From the ringing haunting intro, the song explodes with a pulsating bass line, tribal rhythms and a euphoric chorus. The video captures the band live in a smallish hall (thankfully not the cavernous Wembley Arena where they ended up a year or two after) in front of adoring fans. It’s cut up and spliced with some stark, barren panoramas. ‘Tower Of Strength’ is probably considered the band’s crowning glory. It is to this day a virtual Goth anthem and is full of Eastern melodies and sultry fervour. The video is cinematic, doused in neon-tinged colours and sees the band, with Hussey in a Cleric’s dog collar, exorcising some very crap looking demons.
I personally lost interest in THE MISSION after the second album, although oddly some of the highlights here come from the band’s last few singles with ‘Into The Blue’ especially mirroring the sound of ‘Wasteland’. The band, as if trying to renounce its ties to Goth, appear all in white and Hussey looks and sounds really quite bitter. The following ‘Never Again’ is also impressive with a throbbing dance beat and epilepsy-inducing strobe lighting. The live version of ‘Deliverance’ (from the band’s debut album) is huge too - and I think filmed at the Glastonbury Festival. It ends on a negative though - the ‘Armageddon Mix’ of ‘Beyond The Pale’ just seems pointless and contrived.
This was a fun DVD and brought back a few memories of the late 80s for me. I enjoyed the first 5-6 EPs and debut album so much I made a few trips to see the band. Sure, it wasn’t Punk and the band wasn’t screaming for change, but there was a drive and exhilaration about the band (plus an obsession with Blue Nun!) that attracted me. On the strength of this DVD, it seems as if those early songs still hold a place in my heart. Not something I’ll watch daily, but a reminder of how good a Goth band can sound when its pissed off and out to prove a point.

BOB MOULD - Circle Of Friends {MVD} There are few who progressed from US Hardcore to write, record and perform with such integrity and musical aplomb as BOB MOULD. He may not be thrashing out the apocalyptic, fuzzed chords of ‘New Day Rising’ while treading the boards like a caged and enraged rhino, but he is still playing a guitar that makes the hair stand up on the back of the neck and writing songs that are HIS vision - not a corporate record label’s. And thankfully, those songs are still bombastic slices of top-notch tunesmithery.
This live show features a whopping 23-song set recorded on multiple cameras back in July 2005 at Washington DC’s legendary 9:30 Club. The tracks span Mould’s entire career from ‘Zen Arcade’ era HUSKER DU, through SUGAR and most of his solo albums (except ‘Black Sheets Of Rain’ for some reason) right up to, and predominantly, the ‘Body Of Song’ album.
Besides Mould on guitar and vocals, there is a keyboard player (who adds some interesting textures, but sometimes stifles the guitar attack), Jason Narducy from ROCKETS OVER SWEDEN on bass and one Brendan Canty on drums who you should know was/is the drummer in FUGAZI.
The show kicks off with a rather light version of the SUGAR song, ‘The Act We Act’. This is a prime example of the keyboards stifling that huge guitar attack which makes the song so instantaneous. ‘A Good Idea’ follows, which sees that trademark ability of Mould to make his single guitar sound like a rhythm and lead all at once. Other highlights include a hypnotic take on ‘Circles’, an absolutely blazing burn through ‘I Am Vision, I Am Sound’, the solitary song from his classic ‘Workbook’ album in ‘See A Little Light’ and the fantastic set closer of ‘Man On The Moon’ which employs those droning, ringing chords that only Mould seems to be able to play.
Then of course there’s the HUSKER DU stuff. One of my favourite HUSKER tracks, ‘Could You Be The One’ sounds way too pop and light but ‘Hardly Getting Over It’ is sedate, mournful and colossal, more than makes up for it and provides what is arguably the highlight of the DVD. It’s not all sobriety though as ‘Chartered Trips’ in particular destroys and displays Mould reverting to a mindset of over 20 years ago and reliving one of the great HUSKER tracks. Canty certainly brings something new to these older tracks and it works incredibly well. His drumming seems more tribal and pulsating than Hart’s blitz of bright, bouncy drumming.
There is little, if anything, in the way of extras. Before the live footage starts, you get some brief interviews with all the players. Mould himself reveals that this band went on tour after just five practices. The interviews are all lightweight deals and see everybody considering Mould to be quiet and reserved - until they got to know him! Each player speaks of Mould with reverence and of their own good fortune be in this band.
Given how little official footage there is of Mould (besides this, I can only recall a live HUSKER DU video from years ago), this does make great viewing and given the fact the song choices span the man’s entire career, it makes an obvious place for the curious fan to get acquainted with Mould while the diehard fan will simply lap the whole thing up - repeatedly. I know I have!!