Pog Album Launch Review
It’s smokin’ in here tonight. Not because of the great music – the gig has yet to start – but because a beer garden BBQ seems to want to annex the entire world, its thick fug of acrid meaty smoke filling the bar like a Dickensian pea-souper. Wildebeest and Kangaroo, anyone? One man in a flat cap strides valiantly through the fog as if on a mission. Perhaps he’s a modern day Artful Dodger; he certainly seems to have gathered a retinue of semi-youthful ‘urchins’ around him. Or perhaps he’s the front-man of Pog, the long-established Brighton punk folk band launching their new album tonight.
Opener Lily Rae fucked the Queen. She almost certainly actually didn’t, but that’s what her T-shirt – promoting Lewes teen punks The Thlyds’ Jubilee single – suggests. This is a student in a sweary top, who comes from a musical family and put out her first single aged seventeen, singing folk songs about ex-boyfriends. On paper, everything anyone with sense would want to destroy. In practice, she’s so utterly adorable in her audience interaction and so utterly scabrous in her lyrics as to instantly disarm and delight the entire audience. Lily will be royally famous before there’s another Jubilee.
Away from the neon-lit fleshpots and gloomy scenester hangouts, a lot of Brighton’s best gigs happen in tiny room-above-a-pub venues like this. The half-arsed chandelier and peeling grandeur of the Caroline’s function room seem perfectly fitting for tonight’s roster: three acts who eschew superficial glamour in favour of perfect grammar and a lyrical hammer.
None more so than The Astronauts, who have been around since the heyday of punk. Or at least vocalist Mark has; his accompanying guitarist surely wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye when the band formed in 1977. This is the more lyrical and poetic form of the genre. The ungroomable front-man’s ire no doubt stoked by the impending Royal weekend, he delivers a rousing set, full of clarion calls celebrating activists who are at least “getting things done”.
In a way the opening acts, a fire-bellied youngster and a grizzled punk veteran, might be the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future for Paul Stapleton; the local fanzine evangelist, comic book artist, flat cap fan and DIY promoter who fronts Pog. His group, replete to begin with, are augmented here by an Astronaut on accordion and a member of local psychedelic folksters Spalien Acecraft on saxophone.
New album ‘Between The Station And The Sea’, whose tracks essentially form tonight’s set, is less instantly singalong than earlier material. There’s a noticeable absence of the band’s infamous “la-la-la” choruses, but it’s still full of catchy riffs, with often upbeat instrumentation backing mostly downbeat vignettes on the tribulations of everyday life.
Stapleton, whether dealing in words or pictures, is one of Brighton’s great social commentators, and every song tells a story. Cowley Clubista-baiter ‘Class War’ and ‘People From Around Here’ (largely about, y’know, turning a blind eye) are dispensed with particular venom tonight. The standout track is a delicate tribute to hard-pressed care workers, ‘Kings And Queens’, whose tear-jerking message the venue seems to empathise with in its affected elegance.
Pog play here regularly, usually only charging a couple of quid on the door. That the fiver demanded tonight includes a free lavishly packaged CD makes the evening a bargain in these cash-strapped times. With the final note still echoing in our ears, we pocket said musical snapshot of Brighton life, and follow the last wisps of charcoal smog out into the street.
Caroline Of Brunswick, Thursday 31st May 2012
Words By Adam Peters
Photos By Teq