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Italia 90 @ The 100 Club (Live Review)

  • Published in Live

Italia 90

@ The 100 Club, London

Words and pics by Captain Stavros

I’ll never associate the idea of heading down Oxford High Street and having a good time but, like the ubiquitous free-living organism Bacteria, even the polished facade of the (failing) Great British High Street has a few spit-and-sawdust sanctums left in and around it’s crevices.  This fine evening after a pit stop at one said establishment, Bradley’s Spanish Bar to wet our beak, we head to another The 100 Club to catch Italia 90’s album release party for their latest cut, Living Human Treasure.

Our introduction to this raw and unapologetically political outfit months back was two-fold and quite by chance.  While at the Oslo covering label mate Flossing’s gig, which was an absolute banger by the way, we were introduced to Renton lookalike, Alfie; Italia 90’s frontman.  A serendipitous happenstance, as earlier in the day we were enjoying the new single, ‘Leisure Activities’.  Soft spoken, in contrast with his on-stage persona, his attention’s split between a World Cup match on the big-screen and receiving my compliments on his work.  Carelessly, he invites me to their album release which we slightly, only slightly, accept a tad bit over zealously.  This just about brings us up to speed, which is to say descending the stairs of The 100 Club.

We make our entrance to Alfie being chastised for chatting during the support act’s set.  Press Release’s drummer, Liv Wynter is having none of it.  For a notoriously hard to search band, they’re quite outspoken and, upon reflection, perhaps one to keep an eye on.  They’re followed by Scrounge, a post-punk duo that reminds us of an early Blood Red Shoes.  With the stage amply warmed up and with a full house an extended cabinet of seven band members (strings/keys/saxs and guest singers) march on stage to a Roman Gladiator ballad blasting through the house speakers. Uh-oh.

Although named Italia 90, perhaps they’d consider rebranding to Bosnia in the 90s because as ‘Cut’, the first track of the set and album, kicks off I’m catching a fuckload of shrapnel in the way of elbows and knees across my frail and withering frame.  The crowd has completely kicked off, literally.  The tune lurks like a dog pressed against a wall.  Its shadow spreads across the crowd as whoops and hollers ripple back to the stage.  The album is played in consecutive fashion with ‘Leisure Activities’ continuing to stoke the flames, I may add, with zero consideration for the absolute battering yours truly is receiving.

‘Magdalene’ is next and comes smashing over us much like the fists are descending upon my skull by windmilling maniacs in the pit.  A George Costanza lookalike to the right of me, after seeing me smashed and splattered across the stage, assures me he’s “got me” as I brace myself against a PA back into a standing position, but soon he too is also swallowed up by the relentless revellers.  Moments later, a redhead in a cocktail dress a full foot taller than me in fingerless leather gloves apologizes for elbowing me in the neck.  She smiles with a thin stream of blood reflecting back at me from between her teeth, the early stages of gum disease or yours truly falling in love?  Will I live long enough to find out? ‘Competition (Cawm Paw Tishun)’, an oldie but a goodie, is a longer tune which thankfully pacifies the crowd just long enough for me to catch my breath and fashion a tourniquet for my arm out of my backpack’s strap.

After taking a knee for a moment, Italia 90 roars back to full steam with ‘New Factory’, a tune like a car out of control on a motorway weaving between lanes.  The crowd’s jubilant response is a single undulating wave smashing against the rocks, or in this case myself once more being dashed across the stage.  A boot has now found its way across my face from a sole stage diver, none other than the George Costanza lookalike who’d promised to retain my virtue.  Up next, ‘The Mumsent Mambo’ introduces guest singer Sam the Plumber, who spits a few bars.  I'd later be introduced to Sam by way of more elbows and shoulders in the pit as he shared the mic next to me with Alfie off stage.  Sam’s hot, steamy breath splashed back at me, you wouldn’t have thought it, but it was a genuinely pleasant experience. Smelt of cloves, quite refreshing.

The last few memorable tracks to follow were ‘Golgotha’, one that Alfie acknowledges as a commercial weak moment but one that he and the band are actually quite proud of.  I agree, maybe not commercially viable, but great lyrics.  Speaking of lyrics, ‘Does He Dream?’, is perhaps my favourite of the set so far; “Intervenes stimulation/ production line titillation./ Mandatory consumption/ responses required”.  ‘Tales from Beyond’ was the last song we heard as we exited the pit, there would be one more, ‘Harmony’, followed by two more in the encore.  ‘Tales from Beyond’ had great flow and energy, not to mention this song was where Alfie’s talent as a vocalist really blasted through.  For us, this is where the set (should’ve) ended.

Speaking to Stoya, The 100’s bar manager, between sets about why so many cups were hanging across nearly all the taps on the bar he confided in us.  “I hate advertising something I can’t sell, if you see it, we want to sell it, but we just can’t get the product.  We’ve been struggling for weeks”.  The product in this case being beer.  This reminded us of the precarious position music found itself in not too long ago between 2020-2022.  Being able to get music but not at a venue, it just isn’t the same.  Italia 90’s show left us weak in the knees, in more ways than one, reminding us not take these experiences for granted and that the pain is temporary (in most cases) so get out there.  Italia 90s album is out now and they’ll be swinging by London way again soon, wouldn’t miss either if we were you.


Skinny Pelembe @ The Social (Live Review)

  • Published in Live

Skinny Pelembe

@ The Social, London

Words & pics by Captain Stavros

Here’s the Skinny, sometimes bad feels good.  We’re watching a captivating set rounded off with ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’, a track tilting the spotlight in the direction of xenophobic ideologies.  So, why is my head carelessly bopping back and forth to the beat?  Why isn’t anyone around us cringing?  Simple, everyone here understands music is confrontational.  Perhaps that’s an over simplification.  It takes a bit of finesse to pull this off as seamlessly, and as enjoyably, as we’re witnessing here tonight but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  Let’s dive deeper into Skinny Pelembe, what he’s saying and how he’s saying it but, before we do, let’s rewind a few days.

As usual we find our inbox which is, more often than we’d like to admit, neglected and overflowing.  It’s bursting at the seams with a multitude of great new Artists and Singles looking for exposure, a break, or just a reminder that they exist.  Shuffling through the heap, something tugs us towards a new one, ‘Oh, Silly George’ by a yet unheard of (only by us because apparently there’s much critical acclaim regarding) Skinny Pelembe, by day known as Doya Beardmore.

Doya’s new single, and set, has got us by the ear from the get-go but by the third song’s intro, ‘4 Year Curse’, he has my respect.  “Can we get the pleasantries out of the way”, as he begins to introduce the band, “cause I’m not into that. Let’s imagine we’re at the end of the gig thinking, that was mega!”.  Spoiler, it would be and it was.  A refreshingly unapologetic, let’s cut the shit, style that’s a welcome break from the usual beg-pardon of the daily English standard is still as charmingly disarming as it is self-reflexive.  What a breath of fresh air.

It’s quite difficult for us to pin down what’s going on onstage, not because we’re in our cups, this set has a children of Hamelin vibe to it.  The cymbals tickle our eardrums with their loosey-goosey, jazzy vibes, handing over to a Roland/Moog synths for further tenderizing.  They relentlessly rattle our skeletons within their fleshy cages.  Finally, the Maestro compels us with his elliptical forms of language, frantic genre defiant with elements of hip-hop, psych-rock, rap, and spoken word, wrapped in wavy surfy/cowboy twangy guitar (a-la-Tarantino) tunes right in to our frequencies.

The set was a stand-alone winner, the first of the year (sorry Peel Dream Magazine), but why?  Well, for starters there was a sort of restrained madness to it, like Cujo wearing a muzzle.  Frothy blind rage only tentatively being restrained behind a thin leather strap, in this case a guitar strap.  The same restraint, to be fair, was written all over Doya’s face when his music hit the mark sending woops and howls throughout the audience, keeping the well-deserved smirk on his face from peeling away into a full-blown smile.

Final thoughts?  A mind and music with the complexity and elegance of fractals.  As unimaginable as it was for my mind to fathom its conception, it's still 100% approachable and docks effortlessly and automatically.  Beware, as enjoyable and easy to move to as it is to listen to, a darkness lurks just beneath the tunes that is sorrowful when you pull the music from the lyrics, buried just below the surface like the pistachio filling in a cannoli.  How then, do such hard and bitter truths that form the narrative of this work get swallowed up along with moral obligations to our fellow human by an audience, in a word?  Craftsmanship.  Wavy tunes let the subconscious do the heavy lifting.  I’ll leave you with Doya’s final words of the night to his audience.  The feeling of the first album is all shiny and fun, but it’s the second album that reminds people that they should still give a fuck.



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