UK Decay/Play Dead

The Marquee Club

Despite their rather dark and demonic aspect, UK Decay butchered no sacrificial lambs this night. No pagan symbols were etched into the masonry with human bone and no blood was drunk. In fact nothing even faintly fearsome occurred, which is something of a disappointment in view of their cloven hoof reputation.

It was a performance that not so much overshadowed as engulfed their support band, Play Dead, an interesting group but one whose character is obscured by their uneasy live work.

The material is grim faced and ponderous and songs like ‘Metallic Smile’ and ‘Pray To Mecca’ seem possessed of a monstrous weight. Vocalist Pete’s pendulum eyes swing to and fro and he tries hard to appear intense which leads me to feel that he’d be more at home playing the stand up comic.

But then maybe I’m being a trifle unfair. It’s just that his stage persona lacks real substance. Steve’s guitar churns out grinding variations of Nugent’s ‘Stranglehold’ riff and I struggle to take in the magnitude of it all. I’m surprised to note that they do neither of their two singles, ‘Poison Takes A Hold’ and ‘TV Eye’ as both would probably benefit from a live airing. One number finally makes me smile,

I think it could be ‘Propaganda’ as it conjures up the unlikely vision of Public Image doing the conga. It’s certainly bizarre. You could do worse that listen out for their upcoming Peel session.

Personally, I feel Decay are now lords of the niche once occupied by Adam and the Ants in those forgotten days before their prostitution to showbiz. They’re similar not so much in sound as in the spirit they engender. They smack of the unacceptable and perverse and wield a tremendous power. Cue the intro for ‘Unexpected Guest’, the stage is cloaked in emerald light and the dance floor erupts into chaos. The pattern is established. The first half of the set is dominated by the ‘Madmen’ album, the insistence of ‘Duel’, and the exuberance of ‘Mayday Malady’. Front man Abbo’s vocal chords twist around lyrics which almost appear to defy song (‘The white light danced through your stomach’!) and Steve Harle’s drums provide a relentless thunder. It’s impressive but lacking. The songs which form such a mesmeric tapestry on vinyl seem to lack the edge, the focus of their earlier counterparts. Its with such stalwarts as ’Unwind’ with its Kraken beat and ‘Dresden’ that they really shift into top gear.

Bathed in the sanguine lights Abbo’s arms flail like blades as Spon the lumberjack tortures his guitar. During the latter a studded belt wheels above the crowd in the crimson strobe. Not to be outdone the singer unclasps his – a hefty medieval affair – and both are soon swinging in unison. The effect is spectacular. The band leave to a roar.

Scant minutes pass before they reappear with ‘Stagestruck’ much tarted up with phased guitar and the ancient ‘Black Cat’. Squeals of delight greet it, but it’s taken just a touch too fast for these ageing ears. Off they pop again and the din continues until a second encore is granted, the marvellous ‘Rising From The Dead’. Abbo grins like a dolphin and Twiggy the new bassist takes it all in his stride. The omens are good. The night of the madmen is nigh.


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