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A sell-out 02 crowd welcomed back homecoming Midlands heroes tonight concluding their four consecutive nights’ ‘Sleigh The UK Tour’ (slay, get it? Ho Ho Ho! 2013 tickets on sale already.) What a damnably nice bloke JJ’s Mike Edwards is – just as well given the antics of stunt keyboard-breaker, BarryD. Imagine if, after ‘Revolver’, Lennon/McCartney had time-warped into the Indie Dance scene and said, ‘We’ll have some of that!’ Jesus Jones may be some sublime approximation of that possibility but very much on their own terms.

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The set kicked off with the equivalent of a Space-freighter stuffed with Christmas tree lights having a dump on stage as ‘Never Enough’ chainsaw riffed in at hyper-speed. It never got any slower. The bitter/sweet psychedelic-funk vanity-rant of ‘International Bright Things’ drew massive applause as did chorus participation to ‘Real, Real, Real’s’ hypno-groove. ‘Right Here, Right Now’ was Pop melodic, guitar choral heaven with a side-extra of barbed-wire blistering riffs.  Last song, after many affectionate thanks to oppo mates, Poppies & Stuffies,  got mental with ‘Idiot Stare’ which, frankly, should’ve been a Bond film opening titles number years ago. Now then – come on then you Grebos – if you think you’re hard enough!

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The Poppies’ Grebo anti-aestheic of manipulated ‘Found sounds’ i.e. all and any manner of rapaciously robbed and sampled, layered, looped, magpie-mugged and all mashed-up to go-go was outrageously innovative, highly influential and much copied during the analogue 80s. Indeed, even after all these years, retro champions of unpolitical correctness gone mad, they continue to practice what their motto preaches viz. -‘Sample It, Loop It, Fuck It and Eat It.’ Tonight, ever free from the bondage of self-irony, undiminished by age, their Black Country, bulldog bollock-biting megaphone aural anarchy was mercilessly reassuring. It ought to be a crime to be so cuddly.

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Cranking things up – the stage was Blitz-lit drenched to the vocal sample of ‘Music is the most powerful medium in the word.’ With the Poppies of course, ‘music’ and ‘medium’ are relative terms whereas ‘powerful’ proved to be absolute. Original founding member, Graham Crabb, vox, with Mary Byker, co-vocalist, really ought to know better than to behave like this at their age (12). However, in spite of, no – because of this – it’s all the more gratuitously satisfying. So, we’re bludgeoned with the appositely titled opening number ‘Back To Business’. The testostero-sonic rapid-rap of ‘Dance Of The Mad’ goes down nicely – then again, any image of PWEI going-down is positive horrendous. Although, with Mary B on megaphone chanting tribal mayhem, perhaps a new perspective on oral gratification should be tolerated.

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At this point it’s best to mentioned the back-line crew: bassist, Davey Bennett, sprouting a hysteria of blond dreads and kohl-black eye-liner is sort of what your Nan might look like if you spiked her black-pudding with opium. Tim Muddiman, utter war-horse on guitar and effects was kept far too busy to create any mischief of his own. And, Jason Bowld, not so much drummer as an octopus with amphetamine enemas keeping time to an earthquake. And, so it went on. ‘Ich Bin Ein Auslander’ was a toss between a nuclear-reactor with PMT or pogoing in a minefield. The ambiguously ‘romantic’ ‘Ruff Justice’ closed the set. Simon Cowell – you lead a sheltered life.

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How nice it was to see littl’ old wine swigger Miles Hunt smiling! Still as sarky a curmudgeon as ever, he nevertheless, preened and pouted with relish raking in the heaving swarms of stalls and balcony adulations. Or, perhaps that was because of the fiddle-bewitching brilliance of lady in red, Erica Nockalls? All the crowd-stomping favourites were there played with a heave-hoe-down Celtic Folk/Rock relish and anthemic Jig grandeur. ‘Size Of Cow’? The mosh-pit was a no-go area for any sensible soul. ‘Welcome To The Cheap Seats’ was prefaced by Miles Hunt’s dedication to Kirsty MacCall, who featured on the 1991 single release with backing vocals. ‘Unbearable’, inevitably threatened balcony casualties as punters went nostalgia delirious, whilst one or two of us remembered with fondness, The Cod Club, circa 1987. Who would’ve thought? An outstanding night at Def Con One Danger level enjoyability.

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Gig Review by John Kennedy
Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

Visit the band’s websites: The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Jesus Jones

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