The Rezillos bring a crowd from all over South Wales and beyond to Aberdare’s Jacs live music venue.
On a cold, wet, Valentine’s night, there is a warm welcome in the valleys for punks old and new. Jacs is a pub in the back streets Aberdare. Not content with having a stage in the back room for ‘fabulous vocalists’, and ‘sensational singers’, a lot of time and effort- not to mention money – has been put into making this a proper live music venue any city would be proud to have.
You can count on one hand the number of venues in the valleys trying to do what Jacs is trying to do – bring quality music to the valleys. But facilities wise, Jacs has them all beaten, hands down. (And I’m not saying this just because the studio for Dapper Fm / Peppermint Iguana Radio is out the back).
As we arrive we immediately see that the beer garden is full of old faces that have travelled across several valleys to get here. Some have even come from Cardiff (you dont see that very often). As the night progresses we even chat to people that have travelled from Wigan and Birmingham for the gig.
I hasten to add, there is also a strong local contingent in the hood, all smiling to see their town put on the sat navs.
First up are Fatal Blow. With local lads in the line up these guys have an international pedigree, with ex members of legendary anti-fascist oi band The Oppressed in their number.
Whilst we have been following them on Bandcamp for a while this is our first time to catch them in the flesh. As expected they are clean cut and no frills. Typical SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) attire.
Knowing their background we have subconsciously filed them under ‘Oi’. But seeing them live it is clear they are far more than that. Whilst they have songs about skinheads and the terraces, front man Cobley actually sings, rather than shouts terrace chants. And he, along with the rest of the band, show that during their time served on many stages, they have picked up more than the standard three chords.
They are definitely from the ‘oi’ branch of skinheads though, this is strictly street punk, with no hint of rude boy ska showing through.
Alongside the skinhead cultural references we get songs with an anti-fascist, anti-Tory and pro-working-class theme. Growing up in a former mining community, singer Paul Cobley has obviously been paying attention to what is going on around him.
Despite being on first they play to a packed room and get approval from the uninitiated as well as their mates.
Next up come Pizzatramp, who are under the impression that Caldicot is better than Aberdare, arriving on stage with a ‘Good evening you valley C**ts’.
Their irreverent humor is a big part of the reason these guys have become so loved on the punk scene in South Wales and beyond. But they are far more than just a laugh. Between the comic banter they wedge in some serious riffs and some furious energy, having mastered the art of still hitting the right notes even when pissed. They dont let being on stage get in the way of drinking and beer bottles are even utilised as a guitar slide.
We get songs about CCTV, imaginary clairvoyants, their take on the Tory government, nights of over indulgence and about the singer’s back being poorly. All played at breakneck speed but still with a discernible rhythm.
Whilst the Rezillos have obviously pulled a crowd, there are a fair few that, like us, have actually come to see the ‘Tramp. Being Aberdare and with an older element here for the headliners, the crowd is a little more sedated than when the ‘Tramp are in full flow somewhere like Newport’s Le Pub, but some shapes are thrown and and some moshing is done. The crowd is well and truly warmed up. A tough act to follow.
Back in the day, before punk started splintering into a thousand post-punk directions, anoraks (like me) used to split the scene into Punk Rock and New Wave. Rightly or wrongly I always thought of the Rezillos as New Wave. They certainly did not have the rebellious political edge of many on the scene and they weren’t as full on as many of the harder edged bands. I might be getting picky here, but back then these things mattered far more than they do now.
I was more into yer Slaughter and the Dogs and The Damned back then, so whilst I inevitably found myself listening to the Rezillos, I was never a massive fan and certainly haven’t heard any of their recent material.
But, in an effort to get into the mood I gave the first album, ‘Can’t Stand the Rezillos’ a blast and actually their early stuff has stood the test of time and I cant help think that I might have misjudged them in my punk-snob teens.
They hit the stage looking as I would expect them to. Fiftys Science Fiction B-movie chic, complete with wrap around sun glasses and flat top quiffs. Slightly older, it is fourty two years since their first appearance on Top of the Pops after all, but they dont look particularly ancient.
They kick off with Destination Venus and the years fall away. The old punks in the crowd forget they should know better and mix it with the young uns bopping away with abandon.
There are ‘new’ tunes (post 1980) in the set I dont recognise, but they are one of those bands that you forget how many of tunes you know. Flying Saucer Attack, My Baby Does Good Sculptures and of course Top of the Pops get an outing. Their brilliant rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight has the crowd singing along, making Fatal Blow’s terrace flirtations seem mild in comparison.
They eventually get old school and actually leave the room and wait for the baying crowd to call them back for an encore. They have always been good at covering the right songs, making them all their own, and their version of the theme tune to sixties TV classic The Lone Ranger (William Tell Overture) is the perfect way to wind up their irreverent, tounge in cheek set.
And so it ends, old heads chat and hug with kids who weren’t born when the Rezillos were at their peak. But whilst eyes roll at the thought of the Stones doing yet another tour, this didn’t feel like nostalgia, it felt like cracking live band that just happen to have not worried the charts for a few decades.
Long may they continue to keep if real.