Randolph Swain at Millstone Rocks 2015. Photo credit: Facebook

Randolph Swain at Millstone Rocks 2015. Photo credit: Facebook


I like it when the stars align the right way. I mean, is it a coincidence that Randolph Swain and The Red Lights almost sing to the latest ‘Blood Moon’? Don’t think so. I want to believe. The truth, in this case, is inside The Castle Hotel in Manchester. Another gig, another planet. Literally.

“You could be in any other place tonight, but for some reason you’re here”, duly informs The 99 Degree’s singer and orchestra leader. This outrageous band supports Randolph Swain and the Red Lights’ new album launch, Half Life.

Before that, an affable acoustic troubadour called Tramping Artisan “kicks where he comes from”, which is Oldham, if I’m right. There is certain trapped, sour sadness in his eyes-closed-singing, despite he tries to convince the audience that he’s “really a happy man”. His irregular voice, full of intention and soul, might be better for a Sunday evening. But it’s Saturday night and The 99 Degree seems to notice that. This noisy four-piece entertain us with their funky-grungy business. Watching the peculiar, at times camp dancing of the singer, I suddenly experience a Sex Pistols moment: “If he can do it, I can do it too”. Judging by the rough, proudly-out-of-tune voice of him, I guess that they’d never pass the first casting of any X-Factor extravaganza. And that’s why I like them: because they would never win that kind of programme.

Dressed for success through a black holes trek, the so-called Randolph Swain’s NASA-Yamaha outfit inevitably attracts crowd’s attention. As soon as he starts the rudimentary ‘Persulphocyanogen Lullaby’ (from their debut album New Planet), the name of David Bowie comes to light. Certainly, there is much of Ziggy Stardust and all the other characters in Randolph Swain’s sound and extra-terrestrial appearance, but at the same time, it appears to me as something completely and genuinely different. According to an interview with Silent Radio* two years ago, he referred to his music as “mock rock”. Well, he must be kidding. It’s seriously pure rock n’ roll… from outer space.

The forcefully disturbing ‘We Are Scientist’ introduces the bone-crushing crew of Randolph, consisting of James Rigg on guitar, Fitz on bass and Craig Rostock on drums. “We are scientist (…) You are chemistry…”.

Allegedly from Manchester but surely raised somewhere else between the Mancunian and the Milky Way, Randolph Swain sings to ‘This Old World’. Despite his artwork is mainly inspired by vintage imagery, he’s an astronaut of this digital era, as he uses a tablet to create stellar atmospheres, as well as to play us recorded brief stories or announce where to buy band’s T-Shirts and some other useful tips.

‘Outside’ brings piercing guitars that Swain translates into words, “There’s no heaven or hell, there’s no place for us to hide, there’s only the outside.” ‘Little House’, from the previous album, has something that connects straight away with my wrecked orbit.

Back to the spatial crew, with all these sweeping guitars and propulsive drumming, Mr. Fitz’s bass is the last bond to the gravity law. After discovering the mysterious ‘New California’, they switch to poppier sounds in ‘Venice ‘The Rocket’ Renko’, which Mr. Swain performs with a permanent grin in his face, as if he was inviting us to a nice stroll through Eris.

On the other (dark) side, ‘Marianne’ is a painful ballad that inevitably sticks on your soul. Riding drums for a stratospheric kind-of-reloaded-Leonard-Cohen, “It’s up to you, Maaaarianne”. Spot on. Then they give us a good piece of advice in ‘Don’t Get Caught In That Hole’.

Don’t ask me why, but the aptly titled ‘Late Night Hot Tub Party’ vaguely reminds me of Joey Ramone. They end the show with a brand new, unreleased song, ‘Daddy’.

I can’t help this bittersweet feeling after suffering the behaviour of some bloody drunk earthlings and their bloody ‘selfies’, literally invading the tiny stage to the point that the guitarist has to hold up the gear skilfully while he keeps playing.

Ey, Captain Randolph Swain, Earth sucks, innit? Is there any room left in your spaceship? If so, I’m in.

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(*)Read here Randolph Swain’s interview with Silent Radio: https://www.silentradio.co.uk/01/28/who-are-ya-randolph-swain-and-the-red-lights/


Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!