NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN - "B-sides The Seaside" - Brighton Concorde 2, 23 July 2016
Let’s not think too much about time, or its dreary passing. Or what this is. It’s a summers day at the seaside. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin make their first appearance here since November 1994, and it’s a special, one-off appearance ; admittedly, averaging three gigs a year, all Ned’s shows are somewhat special, but this is the first Ned’s show ever to eschew the usual greatest hits, or ‘album in full’, with an unusual set made of largely obscure non-album tracks, live premieres, and generally obscure stuff targeted solely to the hardcore Ned’s fan. After all, over half the set comes from long lost 12” singles
These days, it isn’t just about seeing the band. It’s about an excuse – no, a reason – to go to some farflung town, see friends who only ever meet at gigs, talk, drink, laugh, eat fish and chips, and jump around a bit to songs we loved when we were half this age. We’re all scattered around the globe – or Europe mostly – these days. We’re all in a world with kids and illnesses and age and the real world getting in the way, and yet, we’re still trying, dammit to be who we are ; and not who the world forces us to be. Even the band, who squeeze these shows in inbetween work calendars, annual leave, team rotas and parents evenings.
I generally tend to tell you how great this band are, despite the name and the fact most people think of them as a comedy band. Because we all had awful haircuts and terrible clothes in 1992. I love the sound this band has, and the honesty of the lyrics. Though I grew up in near enough the same town the band did at the same point in time (with the same cultural reference points), it's only now,outside of it, I realise that seeing people from Top Of The Pops and the cover of the NME in the club in town was weird. It just felt... normal. It was my normal, anyway. Seeing this band felt normal, and regular. It still is.
Shorn of marketable anniversaries (apart from a 21st birthday for final, and commercially unsuccessful, BrainBloodVolume), the approach is simply a day by the seaside of b-sides. As a result, they open with “Take Me To Cleaners”, which hasn’t been played since… 1994? “Saturday Night” hasn’t been played… ever. And probably never will ever again. (Shame. It goes down a blinder).
Aside from that, the set is either made of rarely, or never played obscurities – most of which were last played 25 years ago – or a handful of hits. Where the Neds were always under-rated, trapped inside a box they never deserved, they were smarter than they were given credit for. In this day and age, the songs themselves have aged well : the unique two-bass-and-guitar configuration, where the bass ride on two separate frequencies, and the guitar is often the underlying rhythm that matches the drums makes for a particular, and rare combination of noises. Frankly I love it, and I can’t pretend I don’t. Some of the very early songs are somewhat slight – “Plug Me In” is probably the best Ramones song they never wrote – but even then there’s a charm to them, a naivety, or if you prefer an innocence. If we could capture that and bottle it, we’d be rich. The best we can hope for, really, is get these two or three minute wormholes in time back to another age. In this moment, the songs speak to me as I am, and who I was. It’s a joy to hear them again. And there’s also an assortment of the well known hits. And I can’t remember the last time I saw this band and they didn’t play “Until You Find Out.” Or “Stuck”. The last time I remember “Faceless” being played live was.. December 1991. It may only be a one off show in a glorious seaside town where you can turn one way and see the band, and the other way you can see the pier, and a beach. In another world, this band would have stayed huge and Blur would be touring a 25th anniversary of “Leisure” in full for three nights at the Dog & Duck inbetween their day jobs. No justice.
Not that I am nostalgic – I have never, actually, been happier in my world than 2016 overall. I may have been younger, hairier, thinner… but not happier. It may only be 75 minutes in a joyous time capsule of songs that were, in many cases, last played live when John Major was Prime Minister, my mother was alive, before Minimum Wage, and when I didn’t earn enough to pay tax, but it’s not about the passing of time, but how true you are. You shouldn't pretend the past never happened. Or be stuck there forever. It was what it was. One night in the life of 400 or so people. Where a band played songs that they hadn't touched in over 20 years in many cases, and where setlist trainspotters are excited about the first, only, and last performances of some of these songs. A moment that lived, breathed, and died, that now exists only in memory, as they all do, and always will. This, this fragment of words I just an attempt of feel the sand slipping through fingers. To see the songs as they live again. Happy?
Take Me To The Cleaners
Plug Me In
Not Sleeping Around
Walking Through Syrup
Grey Cell Green
45 Second Blunder