Live Review: Newtown Neurotics in London

'...From the painfully personal to the politically pertinent, all done with intelligence and style...'

Chay Woodman

Date published: 2nd Nov 2005


All those years spent in the underground laboratory trying to perfect the working time machine seem to have been for nought. I mean, who needs a time machine these days... judging by some of the gigs I've seen lately I think time has started going backwards. Last few months have seen The Stooges, The Undertones, Chocolate Watch Band and Elvis Presley (okay, that last one is a lie... possibly... that guy n the chip shop DID look... oh never mind). But one band I REALLY thought I'd never see returned and delivered one of the best gigs I've been to in ages. Yup, the Newtown Neurotics! Now I realise many people will utter "who?" at the mention of their name, but y'know, you can sort that out quite easily in this Information Age we now live in. Oh alright then, the Neurotics are one of the (mainly) unsung greats to have come out of the early 80's UK punk scene (though by rights, they're more tail end of the 70's - just). Huge fans of the Ramones, though not sounding all that much like them to these ears, I s'pose the Neurotics can best be described as tuneful, intelligent protest punk. Their anthemic "Kick Out The Tories" pinned their colours to the wall, though I'm sure they never expected the Tories to finally get kicked out... and replaced by... The Tories (in everything but name... clever eh?!). This London show was part of a string of dates to mark the re-release of some of their classics as well as to play Atilla The Stockbroker's 25th year as a poet party. After the split in 1988, I really thought I'd never get the chance to witness one of the (few) early 80's greats live, but here it was!

So, up nice and early to the Boston Arms for a few pre-gig drinkies. As the karaoke started it was surely time to get the fuck out and next door to the gig room... the only time I've seen a queue to get OUT a pub! Everyone was obviously as well-versed in the horror of karaoke as I was! Surprisingly there were another 3 bands on the bill before it was Neurotics time. "Hmm, at this rate I'm gonna be very drunk by the time they come on" I thought... not that this was considered a problem. First up were The Negative Waves who I must admit I only caught the last couple of songs by. All the way from Spain too. Sounded okay from what little I heard though. Next were Armitage Shanks, who I last saw many years earlier in Edinburgh's esteemed punk rock establishment The Tap. I liked 'em then, and I like 'em now! Quite raw garage-punk, with a few choice covers (Clash, TV Personalities) thrown in to make up an entertaining set. Up next were Dustin's Bar Mitzvah who didn't quite do it for me. Just seemed a bit contrived, in a we-like-the Libertines sorta way. Still, possibly early days for 'em, so who knows. This is me being kind. This sorta stuff pretty much just makes me puke.  So, meaning that the last tube was not gonna be got, the witching hour saw what I'd been waiting (and waiting!) on. Steve Drewett, Simon Lomond and whoever-the-bass-player-was took to the stage, starting with the opener off the "Beggars Can Be Choosers" LP, "Wake Up". Only seconds into the gig and I knew this was gonna be a goodie! Ha, like it was ever gonna be anything else. The extended intro, then Drewett's ever recognisable vocals kick in... "It all begins at school when they tell you you're useless". Aw man, it was so great to hear/see The Neurotics right in front of me! "You gotta wake up and live!" rang out with the fairly small band of supporters singing every word. I kinda thought there'd be a bigger crowd of fanatics rather than what seemed to be more the usual Dirty Water Club regulars, but equally I dunno if that many people really knew about it. I'd stumbled across a ticket purely by chance on a previous visit to London. But those that were there were surely enjoying themselves!  I have to say the band hardly looked any different to their 80's selves, still had the energy and tightness needed as they belted out classic after classic of the mainly-early-stuff set. Have I said enough times how great it was to finally hear these songs live?!! It may have taken 22/23 years, but fucking hell it was worth it! Early singles "Hypocrite" and the more-relevant-than-ever "When The Oil Runs Out" showed just how quickly the Neurotics had mastered the catchy punk rock songwriting lark. Great lyrics too, that were head and shoulders above the moronic shit many other bands of the era were coming out with (can I take this opportunity to say Special Duties just FUCK OFF, ha ha ha. No, REALLY!). From the painfully personal to the politically pertinent, all done with intelligence and style. And great tunes! Yeah, fucking great tunes!"Agony", the punky-reggae of "Newtown People", "Wasted" (dedicated to DBM, though I dunno if they were really drunk or just pretending!) all still belted out with conviction.

Especially great to hear (since they were the ones that got me into the band, courtesy of John Peel) were the singles "Mindless Violence"/"Kick Out The Tories" and "Licensing Hours" (quite strange to hear in an establishment with remarkably GOOD hours!!).

The cover of "Blitzkrieg Bop" (complete with "updated lyrics") saw original bassist Colin Dredd join the band for a couple of numbers. Having left due to health reasons, it was especially good to see him back in his rightful place, though it was pretty much Hey Ho Let's Go - and he's gone! Still does the backing vocals spot on though!
Of course, the real crowd-pleaser was the Neurotics own take on the Member's "Solitary Confinement", renamed and reworked as "Living With Unemployment". Always an enticement for people to get up on stage, this one thankfully avoided the people-who-can't-fucking-sing-insisting-on-showing-us scenario.

Though actually one guy was doing a good job until Steve had a word with him, no doubt having many bad memories of drunk mic hoggers! Just stay in the fucking crowd and sing along! Actually, most people did and it was indeed a fine singalong! More beer was definitely going down my front then in my gob at this point. Possibly just as well. One of the many highlights of a gig that was one BIG fucking highlight! 

The encore kinda slowed things down a bit, finishing off with "Never Thought" off the later "Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks" LP. A great song, though maybe a little low-key to end on. But only a minor gripe! (There's always one!). It really just wasn't long enough! There were more classics to play! In fact, play everything! Then play 'em all again! But no, it wasn't to be. Still, what a gig... one of the best I've seen in a while, and fucking hell there's been some amazing gigs lately. An absolute joy to behold, and I can only hope I get another chance to catch 'em before they disappear again. Special mention too for the club on afterwards... loads of really great 60's garage and punk classsics! And open 'til 3am too! Possibly a connection between that and the hellishly-hungover Scotsman being sick in Regents Park the next day! Hey, it wasn't me, right? (it wasn't!) But huge respect to the Newtown Neurotics... one of the greats of the early 80's, and still one of the greats NOW!

Dave Gin Goblin