The Men They Should Never Hang!

Posted on March 27, 2013

I went down to The Joiners in Southampton last night to watch The Men They Couldn’t Hang for the third time in the last eighteen months and as usual, they did not disappoint.

Southampton as a city is relatively alien territory to me, a North Hampshire boy brought up out in the sticks of Baughurst and now living in semi-surburban safety just south of Basingstoke. I didn’t realise what a tough old place it is; parts Southampton makes Popley (a Basingstoke London overspill estate) look like Knightsbridge.

Before the gig, we went in one pub that (and this true) had no beer left, attempted another that was shut down, before finally finding one that was like walking on to the set of Shameless. It had Guinness, Carling, Stella or nothing. It was a really humbling experience to see with the naked eye what poverty is really about; strangely though, there was no threat of violence because everyone in there was either too weak, totally malnourished or far too pissed to fight themselves out of even the the soggiest of brown paper bags.

TMTCH came on stage at The Joiners at about 9.00pm and kicked straight into action with “The Ghosts of Cable Street” the tale of Jewish and Irish immigrants barricading Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists (The Blackshirts) march towards East London in 1936. “Jack Spot came through with a chair leg made of lead, and brought a crushing blow down on Moseley’s head” is one of the many great lines in this song that if you hear the lyrics in full, is quite brilliantly put together.

TMTCH in Concert at The Joiners in Southampton last night.

That’s what you get with TMTCH, a musical history lesson through songs such as The Crest (the tale of a World War stretcher bearer) Shirt of Blue (The 1984 Miners Strike) and Ironmasters (The Rebeca riots in industrial Wales). It’s hard describe how they come across as a music genre, the closest I can come to is a meeting in the middle of the punk rock rebellion of The Clash and the folk sound of The Levellers. I have heard it called Folk Rock and Punk Folk, but the best description I have come across is Cowpunk.

What I like about TMTCH is that their gigs are always chaotic; the band is generally fuelled by alcohol and contains an eclectic group of musicians who seem to come ago with each track. Sadly, there was no Bobby Valentino (formerly with The Bluebells and The Style Council among others) last night, so they nicked the young female violinist off the support group and taught her some of their tracks in the dressing room shortly before they were due on stage. How cool is that?

TMTCH never reached the level of popularity of their Cowpunk peers such as The Pogues (Shane McGowan named a Pougues song Shanne Bradley after TMTCH founder member) but they have a fiercely loyal support base that they connect with in a unique way; it all seems to be a team effort between band and audience and that, despite any musical flaws they may have, is what has attracted me to them. TMTCH are there to enjoy themselves as much as anyone else, not just to pick up a cheque and fuck off in a stretch limo.

I cop a lot of stick my kids and some of my friends for the type of gigs I like to go and watch and I often stand wrongly accused of being a miserable old git when it comes to music. Whilst there is an element of truth to this myth, I actually can understand why the likes Ollie MursTake That or whoever are more easy on the ear than the TMTCH to most people; and I am not totally ashamed to admit that I don’t actually mind a few small doses of pop music myself. Pop is just another genre alongside Punk, Soul, Disco, Ska and Reggae, all of which I listen to and enjoy to varying levels.

However, if places such as The Joiners (it has nearly shut down a few times) and independent bands such as TMTCH disappear for good, we will all stand guilty of letting the Simon Cowell pop factory succeed in its bizarre quest for total dominance that will leave us in a world of music that lacks the creativity, energy, enthusiasm, ingenuity and raw aggression to inspire the next generation to play from their hearts and not a contrived song sheet knocked up by an X Factor executive with the aid of a synthesiser.

That’s why I will keep going to gigs like this (Stiff Little Fingers next) I feel like it is my own little stance against the music industry abuser (Cowell) who pulls his trousers up far too high to make him trustworthy.

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