We should, and shall, begin with a thank you. Such has been the manic success of the likes of Transgressive Records and rockfeedback.tv (the pies that house other of our fingers) such beloved old pals like this very site and its once-monthly club night at Islington's Buffalo Bar haven't been paid enough attention. It's testament to you lot for knowing a cracking line up when you see one and packing these events out when they do occur, even if we haven't been bringing our club night to you on every promised occasion. From here on in, that changes. For the sake of completion, we'll recap two previous moments in a period of time when the Basement Club was more intermittently staged, but just as rapturously received as ever. We are teary eyed with gratitude for that.
Another thing we've mastered since we last spoke is time travel, and it's by utilising such a device that we're able to return to the beginning of '06 and recap with total clarity - either that or the bands just played such blinders that we can recall it as if it were yesterday. Opening up our first club night of the year were Stuffy and the Fuses, adorned with T-Shirts spelling out their roles (either 'I'm Stuffy' or 'I'm in The Fuses' appropirately) and featuring on the drums a man who would be known and loved by anyone who'd ever paid attention to the line up of Graham Coxon's live band. Stuffy's our Graham's sticksman of choice, and without any difficulty one can see why - not only is his work with the bespectacled one worthy of note, but with his own outfit he displays such rhythmic creativity and song writing prowess that it becomes clear to see why he's been nabbed to underpin all of Coxon's most recent efforts. The Fuses' own tracks have a ramshackle charm, one of brittle simplicity which may be a little too cute if they weren't held together by such a confident, raucous pattern of drums being hit with the kind of freedom you only hear when you're in the presence of what is definitely a drummer's band. Oh, also, other bands take note - handing out free , lengthy CDs to everyone on their way out is a sure fire way of making sure they'll turn up next time.
Speak to anyone who caught Absentee upon their last appearance at one of our nights and they'll most likely mention one word - potential. Where their previous set was full of rickety charm, tonight they absolutely nail it, the combination of vocals lower than the morals of all the deviants in attendance, woozy melodicas and charming, hushed melodies enrapturing all those in attendance. Being able to slip in a delightfully delicate cover of 'You're The One That I Want' from the Grease soundtrack and, in 'Something To Bang', a killer pop song containing their one moment of fast paced, feedback laden fervour were the two most obvious weapons in their arsenal, but whilst the attack here was more obvious, the rest of their fabulous time on our stage was more subtly hypnotic, more gently soothing, and utterly winning in every whisky soaked note it hit.
Rounding up January for us were the instrument swapping, audience arousing, smart jacket adorning Field Music, whose short, to the point, stop/start indie sensibilities complimented the haze created by the prior efforts of Absentee rather marvellously. With only three of them taking the stage, they become the first Basement Club act since Jamie T sat down on his lonesome months ago to actually make the spatially challenged stage look rather grand, but fill it they do with aplomb, standing rather motionless whilst their music jitters about through a history of all that is good about guitar music through the ages, recalling everything from Arthur Lee's Love to The Futureheads, a band with whom they share well documented ties. Setting them apart? That'll be their love of a melody, but it's an admiration of a tune that doesn't see them wallow in over orchestration or plush, unnecessary rambling through sound - it's a love used to compliment their own momentary, fleeting, edgy compositions - one that wins over Islington, and hopefully the rest of 2006.
We jet forward a few months, days after arriving back from a spell at (Texan music conference / overseas piss up) SXSW, and the stairs of the Buffalo Bar beckon us down in to our Basement Club once more. Only this time, there are flippin' millions of you hanging around Highbury Corner in anticipation. We must have pulled off something quite remarkable.
Oh yes we did. Carl Barat's post Libertines exercise Dirty Pretty Things chose our humble little get together to be the scene of a one off, secret show - one announced only days before and bereft of tickets almost instantaneously. Those who squeezed into our red brick cavern saw one of the great Basement Club moments - but not before GoodBooks threatened to steal the show.
For this quartet, if anything, added as much to the now legendary status of the occasion as what followed them. Mastering everything from sad white funk complete with impromptu brrr-eakdown sessions (recent sing-a-long-a-single 'Walk With Me') to quaint, distinctly English tales of bravery in a good old fashioned battles (the ineffably cute 'Passchendaele'), anyone with a hope left for the plight of interesting UK guitar music left with it pinned on to the collective lapel of these fine gentlemen. That, in appearance, they come across as similarly attired and no more self-important than anyone on the other side of the band / audience stage divide is something that, we hope, inspired each and every one of them to grab a guitar and start a band that doesn't sound exactly like Oasis. And, for the part of the evening where they joined disc jockeying forces with myself towards the close in a set consisting nearly exclusively of Prince records old and new, we make absolutely no apologies whatsoever.
Time to forget we're in London and huddle up to one another in genuine, sweaty, uncomfortable anticipation. Not only does everyone seem friends with each other, but such is the greatness of Dirty Pretty Things, we all feel like we're close personal friends with the band as well. Just like the old days, then. But not exactly as we remember them.
For there are a few new faces here - Didz, Anthony - and a host of new songs. But in losing certain, notable bodies, Carl Barat sheds nothing of what made the Libertines such a fun, communal, raucously joyous experience. Their second set of the night, it's this feeling of a group all fighting for one unnamed cause in such an intimate, secret setting that makes tonight a winner - the pressure's completely off (along with many a t-shirt), and as such proceedings are completely devoid of pretence. It's just a bloody good rock and roll show.
Future classics such as 'Deadwood', 'Bang Bang You're Dead' and a particularly virile 'You F**king Love It' share a seat alongside those of days gone by (both 'Death On The Stairs' and, to close, 'I Get Along' are given welcome airings) without looking at all out of place, coming as they do from a similar mindset, the same creative endeavour, the identical attempt in an as yet unfinished endeavour to make things about life make a little more sense through the process of writing a song. It gets to the point where the walls are sweating as much as the people they house. Another triumph for the Basement Club, but that's nowhere near as much of an achievement as it's been for Barat to coax something this vital out of the wreckage of what preceded it. Here's to us, them, and you, then. Aww.
Photo Credit -
GoodBooks / Dirty Pretty Things - Patricia L Brown
Stuffy & The Fuses / Absentee / Field Music - Beamon65.com