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"NO" MEANS NO, CHILDREN
:: No Arm :: The Children :: No Standards ::
11 November 2004 / The Witchwood, Ashton Under Lyne / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

It's another good crowd in the Witchwood as John Lever's one man mission to shake off the club's Dead Men Walking & Tribute Bands image gathers pace. Opening proceedings tonight are No Arm, one of the best unsigned bands at the moment. They do, quite definitely, have arms. If not quite the full complement of working fingers - the singer's got a couple strapped together following a dispute with a lamp post. Mark E would surely be proud. All right, I promise that's the last time I will ever mention the Fall in relation to No Arm. Yes there are odd bits here and there that resemble the Marc Riley era of Manchester's most persistent, but so much more. Some explosive stop-start punky thrashes that sound like Pavement at warp-speed. Their Wire-like ability to blend spiky post-punk with slivers of tuneful hook. They look good, standing in classic power trio formation, bassist stalking about in his corner and prettier-than-he-sounds frontman hammering at his guitar over on the left. It's rather hard to tell what any of the songs are called as they seem to change their mind quite a bit - no matter, they're all good. The bass drum pedal flies off somewhere. They finish on the quite brilliant "Unsound" (I think) - a chaotic wonder that all comes together at the end. Surely this band’s days propping up the bottom of bills are numbered.

So, do No Standards have standards? Hard to tell really, although they certainly have the biggest crowd of the evening. They play very fast paced, fairly traditional punk rock of the kind that’s always gone down well in the Witchwood. Singer Melon, whose onstage persona is best described as a gibbon on speed, hurtles around the stage and venue as if he’s on fire, addressing his people like he’s headlining at Wembley Stadium. In an elongated pause whilst the guitarist breaks a string and has to borrow a guitar from No Arm, thanks everyone from the soundman to the bar staff. And that’s just one song in… Lyrics are generally indecipherable over the onslaught of 1977 riffs, frenzied drumming and the odd psychobilly flavour. To the uninitiated the tunes all sound rather similar with the exception of one slower track which is still faster than 99% of most peoples’ record collections. Strictly hardcore, as John Robb might say.

Finally, The Children revive a different era of music past - bluesy pub-rock, with a bit of garage rock dirt and prominent slabs of Doorsish organ, which at times recalls the rougher, pre-Tom Hingley Inspirals. They have the dubious hair to go with it, with singer Benjamin Carcamo likened by one cruel punter to a Hobbit… He’s got a voice that far outweighs his small stature though, the seasoned sound of late nights and inadvisable encounters with moonshine and the wrong women, and a brace of lyrics about such down-at-heel pursuits. They’re impressively skilled and tight for a six-piece, playing off each other as if they have been doing it for years. Whether there’s a market for them in 2004-5 remains to be seen, but I doubt that will put them off - so many bands trot out the line that they just enjoy playing their music, but this band clearly do. And I suspect if they were scrawny pale Americans playing exactly the same set they’d already have a six figure contract.


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