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'London, The Islington, 24 November 2017'   

-  Genre: 'Alt/Country'

Our Rating:
This was my first time back at The Islington since the venue found itself mired in scandal due to some of its booking policies. To be honest, though they don't really affect the audience unless of course the band you wanted to see got bounced for someone else. That was not the case at this show to launch The Penny Black Remedy's new album Maintaining Dignity In Awkward Situations, so we can all maintain our dignity and have a good time.

I made it in time to see the second half of The Mothers Of Memphis opening set and soon wished I had got to see all of it. They are a trio of mothers from the deep south or Elephant & Castle if you prefer, oh and I don't know for sure if they are all mothers but better to make that claim than call them Gals in the current climate.

The first song I heard was Lucky Stars and I thanked mine as they played some really cool Countrified psychobilly that in places reminded me of the Horrorpops. Then, after a cool intro they were soon Howling At The Moon like all good Mothers do and it was really cool to hear some southern Hillbilly blues.

They proceeded to show us they like a good horror film with Chainsaws & Zombies which sounded like a normal day walking round East Street market and certainly got most of the crowd going. They then played another train song as apparently they do love a train song and who doesn't? In this case The Oncoming Train wasn't a cover of the Downy Mildew classic An Oncoming Train, but it sounded like they had amped up an old Brenda Lee tune. Although as far as I'm aware this was the band's own song.

They closed with Rattlesnake Oil that made those of us wearing Snakeoil Rattlers badges feel right at home and was another cool slice of Country rockabilly. It really rocked out pretty good and made me want to hear a full set while also reminding me a bit of The Long Insiders.

After the break the packed room welcomed The Penny Black Remedy onstage and I was very happy to see Barbara Bartz on Violin as she's always cool to hear live. They opened with Trying To Be A Slightly Better Person off of the new album with Keith Thomson and Marijana Hajdarhodzic sharing the vocals as they do throughout the set. The sardonic lyrics worked well in this red hued room.

They performed the slightly sad Signs Of Weakness with Marijana taking most if the vocals and Barbara playing some magical violin parts as Keith and (I think) Jeremy Mendonca on guitar keeping the rhythm going nicely.

It was then time for the first real sing along of the evening with a fine upbeat version of Nice Things Happen When You Stop Complaining. It introduced a ska inflection to the band's country pop sound which only made it sound like a bit of a hoedown.

Not totally sure what the next two songs were but most of the crowd seemed to know them. There was plenty of dancing going on by this point with Keith doing his best worst stand-up routine between songs.

They kept things good and sardonic on You Should've Left Your Money At Home with some cool plucked Violin If I've remembered rightly a song that sounds like they've re-worked an old prison work song to cool effect.

This Car Is Gonna Crash was played at breakneck speed like they were careening down a mountain road with hairpin bends at 70 mph and no brakes. I have the next song down as You Took Me In but it probably called something far better than that. Whatever, it was a cool song of redemption and involved some cool lyrics about salvation.

It's Dark Outside felt like the perfect song for the paranoid times we live in complete with the panic surrounding a little tiff in Oxford Circus earlier in the day. Having a song warning a woman of 35 that she shouldn't go out after dark was totally topical and sounded damn cool too.

Crawling My Way Out is what you would have done if everything had gone wrong earlier but instead it was a bit of a hoe down no matter how bleak the lyrics get.

It was then time for the bands next single Seventy Years, which comes complete with its own dance moves. The band's friends Imelda and Eva got up onstage to show us what to do and lead the dancing too so that you could almost imagine it will be next year's Macarena or more likely end up as a line dancing classic like Copperhead Road. Once we had learnt the moves they played the song a second time so it could be filmed for the video in time for the single's release next spring.

I have the next song down as Don't Count On Us, but whatever it was called kept the mood upbeat and a large part of the audience dancing. They then played the lead track from the band's last album Inhale...Exhale...Ok, Now You Can Panic! The quite brilliant Some People Just Don't Know When To Quit had pretty much the whole room singing along to it and when they took things down the audience just kept singing the chorus over and over until eventually they came back in...neat!

They closed with Bring Back Brando and who could either argue with it or decline to sing along as we all chanted the chorus. Yes they got a well-earned encore that I have down as I Don't Want To Die which brought the band's normal sardonic sentiments to the fore and was one more country ska inflected song to leave us all happy and smiling at the end of a really cool set.
  author: simonovitch

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