nomeansno– SOUND CONTROL, MANCHESTER –

There aren’t many bands that have been playing to mosh pits around the world for longer than I’ve been alive, but NoMeansNo are one of that distinguished few. Having formed in 1979, and released their first record in 1980, NoMeansNo have been a dark undercurrent in the world of rock music for more than three decades, and I doubt that they have failed to impress many people who have seriously listened to them.

 NoMeansNo’s oeuvre reminds me of a piece of music called the Rite of Spring by the composer Stravinsky – now celebrating the centenary of its first performance. It’s astonishingly complex, relentless and dark throughout. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t heard either it, or NoMeansNo to give both a listen – but not lightly. They are things which deserve and demand your full attention.

NoMeansNo probably won’t thank me for the comparison, as they seem to take the oft-made comparisons to jazz and the effusive praise of their (frankly stunning) musicianship and writing as a stick which people beat them with – or maybe with which they beat themselves. Perhaps it’s because they feel marginalised from those who they consider their peers in the world of rock music – but in many ways NoMeansNo are peerless.

It takes astonishing creativity and musical ability to create something so exceptionally challenging, which never ceases to be engaging (by which I mean it’s f***king heavy).

Arriving at Sound Control, I realise how infrequently I see punk shows in Manchester anymore – there used to be weekly punk and ska nights and gigs all over the place in the early 2000’s (back when Sound Control was still a music shop). Nowadays it’s either died down, moved away or I’ve lost touch.

Well, there are still people flying the flag tonight, and punks of all sorts, young and old gradually fill the room with denim, studs, black and bright colours, t-shirts, hoodies and braces, long hair, shaved heads, spiky hair and hair dye – but the only people I know here are undercover and wouldn’t get a second glance on the street. I guess it’s hard to hold down a day job with a mohican and a nose ring…

The opening act, Revenge of the Psychotronic Man are a Manchester-based high-energy hardcore three-piece. For the genre, this is pretty standard fare musically, although there are hints of Dropkick Murphys raucousness (though without the Celtic sea shanty feel). Some chunky bass playing forms the bones for RotPM, upon which shouted vocals, and the occasional face-melting guitar solo provide some significant meat.

Following RotPM, 2 Sick Monkeys have to work harder still, what with there being just the two of them, bass player and drummer, sharing vocal duties. They describe themselves as “death core and salsaness”, whatever the hell that means, and they keep insisting that it’s Christmas. I find their charm and sense of humour very endearing from start to finish – from their song that is “a true story based on a circumcision gone wrong” to the end of the gig, where they take a photo of the whole crowd giving them the finger (plus someone in the front row pulling a moonie… there’s always one, right?)

2 Sick Monkeys have a proper old school punk foundation to all the tunes they play tonight, but they incorporate a lot of the many faces of modern (American-style) punk (barring ska and emo). There’s lots of chordal bass playing, and overall, a more uplifting and melodic experience than RotPM. I wish I could think of more to write about them, cos I enjoyed the set.

An unexpected electronic beat heralds the introduction of NoMeansNo and the gig starts with ‘The River’ from ’93’s Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy? I could try to analyse this gig, but it wouldn’t do justice to something that grabs me by the throat, and pulls me in to the pit. There’s not much you can say to describe when something does that to you – it communicates on a level simpler but more powerful than words.

By turns it’s rousing, heavy and, well… extremely heavy. There are few elements of a rock gig that NoMeansNo don’t pull off tonight – stirring choruses, stabbing, almost ska-esque danceable licks and more pogo than a circus skills convention.

‘The Tower’ is fantastic, better live tonight than on Wrong, and seeking comparisons, I end up back where I started – it’s heavy like NoMeansNo. These guys, if they didn’t write the book, at least have a chapter to themselves.

It’s truly astonishing, and a privilege to watch the three of them play – I’m little over thirty and I can’t rock out like that for twenty minutes, and these guys are battering it out for over an hour, mental as you like, and they’re in their fifties. Props.

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.