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:: Moco :: Urchins ::
04 June 2010 / Wigan Social Club (AKA The Legion) / Wigan
By Cath Aubergine

All good things have to end at some point, and bands are no different. Forget, for a minute, those blown apart by a member's death or even the sort of irreparable interpersonal disputes which have ended the careers of many: sometimes nobody dies and nobody goes off in a huff, and in these cases - whether the trajectory has been one of triumphant achievement or just-missed opportunity - it can be so much harder to know when to let go. Thus the Academies continually play host to once-bright has-beens, who know as well as their declining fanbases that that last album really wasn't much cop; meanwhile scattered around the smaller venues' listings you'll find names that have been there far too long. The occasional Pulp or Elbow finding fame and fortune after a decade or more, or the Parva whose last-chance-saloon name change saw Kaiser Chiefs treated as a new band, are rare and exceptional cases: the unfortunate reality being that wherever you are after a few years is generally pretty much where you're going to stay. Here at MM we're forever finding brilliant new bands, supporting them as they trawl the backroom venues and cheering on those who find the breaks: when some years after clocking the talent of the teenage Rick Boardman Delphic hit the top ten, it was an emotional moment for us. The downside is the far greater number who never get to headline The Ritz even though we know full well they were as good as many who made it, and that eventual farewell. So it's in philosophical mood that we park up outside a traditional social club tonight, knowing that by the time we drive off again something will have ended.

In a parallel universe, we're not here at all. We're probably still in Wigan, because surely any band that's proud of where it came from would want to bow out on home turf, but we're waiting in a massive crowd at somewhere like Haigh Hall while the cameras flash around the backstage entrance as a tall man with a rubbery face explains to Edith Rentapresenter how they've done everything they wanted to do and yes that third gold album will be the last, but there'll be the requisite live DVD and B-sides compilation out soon. Far-fetched and fanciful? Not really.

There was a time, in the early part of the last decade, when it really looked like Moco were going to make it. We can't remember exactly when this was, but it might have been the time NME gave them Single Of The Week. That this legendarily knocked both Oasis and The Strokes' latest efforts down the page made it even more sweet. Oasis represented the old guard of North West guitar indie, selling millions by festering in a 1995 timewarp whilst the young and hungry Chairsmissing (quality up-and-coming bands night hosted by MM founders The Sov Twins) generation - Moco, Jackie O, FiLo Radio, Politburo and even some bands whose names didn't end in "o" such as Red Vinyl Fur, Oceansize and The Sonar Yen - sought to redefine what being from (or near) Manchester stood for: the popular FUC51 blog sadly confirming it's a battle still being fought today. The Strokes meanwhile made great, energetic, punk-splattered yet pop-hearted garage rock which was also selling by the truckload and we laughed because we knew Moco - whose birth predated the New Yorkers' fame, so there could be no accusations of coat-tailing by those who knew the facts - had better tunes. And now it seemed the music press thought so too. Any minute now the foursome's technicolour antics would be all over Saturday morning kids' telly and the glorious headrush of "Where She Goes" would be blasting out of the Apollo's PA. And then the ship never came, the record labels decided for whatever reason that it wasn't to be, Gang Of Four and Devo replaced The Stooges and The MC5 in the must-have influence list and Moco retreated to Wigan to soak up the stomping Northern Soul that still echoed around the town and make some damn fine records hardly anyone actually heard. And so it came to pass that on 2nd June 2010 after a decade of gigging, Moco revealed that their headline appearance at their own (typically deranged) club night the Roaring Psychedelic Octopus would officially be their last. MM's weekend plans were duly ripped up, this was a gig not to be missed.

So it's Moco's night, but it would be unfair not to mention Urchins, who (along with drinks at real social-club prices) get us properly warmed up. A month ago at a Night & Day with a stand-in sound engineer struggling, they sounded like they had potential; here with a decent one they sound great. Still a bit Bees-like, but with great tunes and sharp edges that just weren't apparent that night. The singer's fifties-rock'n'roll vocals (with quiff to match), the lovely slidey twangy guitar, the sort of rockabilly basslines that are crying out for an old-school stand-up instrument, they're tight and pacy and really rather good. It's quite interesting that there seems to be a bit of a reaction from young bands right now against both the indie and electro scenes, and a yen for something completely different: whoever it was stuck them on that N&D bill with Crooked Rooks and The Janice Graham Band was possibly onto something. Kind of saying something when a band can get a far better sound at a social club in Wigan than one of Manchester's most famous venes, though, isn't it?

The orange velvet stage curtains are drawn; from behind them there's a guitar sound and a drumbeat, and someone eventually remembers to open them. Singer Steve Jones is a healthier looking shape than the strip of elastic with sideburns of a decade ago and wearing the sort of stupid hat people go line-dancing in; drummer Simon Misra and guitarist Anthony Rigby now have haircuts whereby we can see their faces as opposed to the respective Fraggle mop and Afro-ball of their younger days, although enduringly hirsute bassist Nick Higham still looks he's just been scraped out of a particularly seedy rock'n'roll drinking den. Alongside the original foursome there's Lindsey Holden who's been playing organ since Dave Rybka went off on his own equally strange path with Victorian Dad. And they bang out every great song they ever wrote, one after another, all of them sounding as brilliant as they ever have. Those life-affirming early garage-punk singles "Where She Goes" and "Miss Mantaray" still fizz with energy and so does Steve, getting his chest hair out for old times' sake, bending his long skinny legs in all sorts of directions and pulling a variety of daft faces. It's a shame in a way that the venue is largely laid out with tables and chairs, although a few people (ourselves included) hit the dancefloor for one last jump around. A mop-headed young lad slides across the floor on his knees, a look of sheer delight in his eyes. There are obscurities for the time-served, such as the filthy and frenzied "Loaded" from their first EP, and strong soul stompers from their later years with Lindsay's organ sounding like it's being beamed in from another time. And "Baby When You Die" - the great if largely overlooked single that marked their transition from garage-punk to garage-rock'n'soul, ends with the sort of drum-roll from Simon that you rarely see outside of cheesy metal gigs. they say they'll do a couple more, but only if people get on the dancefloor.

A reviewer's place is generally to observe, not to get involved. But this isn't your regular gig, and soon we've grabbed the abandoned microphone shouting "come on, show some Moco love!" as others drag their mates from seats; we will have this dancefloor full! And by the time Nick pokes his head out from the wings, lit cigarette in his mouth (which will stay there for the encore - naughty naughty!) the little square space is rammed full and ready to go. There are two songs they haven't done yet so it's one last triumphant outing for "Flooky Wonderland" - as explosive a debut single as anyone made in the '00s - before they end, as they have done pretty much every gig they've played - on the rabble-rousing "New Official Truth" with the jumping mass helpfully shielding Nick's fag from anyone who might care and Steve jumping in to join us. The band stretch the song out a little longer than usual, sweat dripping from the ceiling now, but it can't go on forever. Some people are on the dancefloor, they think it's all over; it is now.

Out in the street the knee-sliding lad is in near shock: "I can't believe that's their last ever gig and I've just seen them for the first time, that was the most fucked up thing, I would kiss their shoes!". We wish them well and head back to the car. Their Myspace page contains the line "Moco hail from Wigan, home to Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, the mighty Wigan Athletic and pea wet. They set their sights high and wanted to be added to this illustrious list.". To us here at MM, they always were.


Another Day No Dollars E.P - Stunt Monkey Records
Where She Goes (single) - Poolside Records
Miss Mantaray (single) - Poolside Records
Baby When You Die! (single) - Skinny Dog Records
Out To Go (Album) - Skinny Dog Records
Out To Go (Album, USA) - Pit Pony Records (San Francisco)
Out To Go Bonus EP (USA) - Pit Pony Records (San Francisco)
Twice Bitten, Once Shy - Townsend Records
Freaks - Lupine Records


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