Firing Blanks

Guns For Hire live review - Rock Garden, London

Paul Du Noyer - 'NME' - 2nd August, 1980


Guns For Hire toss off numbers like they couldn't give an expletive. In spite of being a band that's gathering a bit of a reputation for itself, they were happy to make this night's gig a casual shambles; they didn't betray a trace of ambition, nor care or anxiety to impress. And yet, in some confused and chaotic way, impressive is just about what they were.

The set was prefaced with an enthusiastic intro from compare Gary Crowley, complete with greetings to a Romford crew at the stagefront whose tired, emotional and voluble presence was felt throughout the proceedings. Guns For Hire, apparently special friends of this contingent, responded with a performance directed entirely for their benefit; and if the resultant atmosphere of rowdy camaraderie was enjoyable as spectacle, it did tend to leave the rest of us on the outside looking in.

But it doesn't matter; for all the cheerful boasts of incompetence and under-rehearsal, Guns For Hire gave a demonstration of that same promise you can detect in their first single, the argumentative "My Girlfriends Boyfriend". A frankly stroppy song, it shows off the band's exuberant aggression well enough, but it can be a mite misleading - it's punch-drunk ska feel is by no means indicative of their whole sound, which veers more towards a sort of modernist punk.

Line-up wise, GFH are your basic guitar-bass-drums outfit plus a singer who - whilst his onstage behaviour is completely in keeping with the band's (i.e. seems pissed) - lets the side down a trifle with some unnecessarily contrived vocals: basically a low, sonorous tremble, reminiscent of Bowie at his more ponderous, or Lou Reed anytime.

In between some unapologetic apologies like, "We ain't learned this one yet", they'd amble and crash through such numbers as 'Age Concern' and 'Product' - two songs, in particular, which sounded as interesting on the lyrical side as they're raucous on the musical. Unfortunately, it just wasn't the time or place, least of all in this packed and suffocating dungeon of a gig, to judge a comparatively inexperienced outfit's present abilities or potential.

Puerile Skins Fail To Dig Neo-Futurism Shock

Department S live review - Clarendon Hotel, London

Chris Burkham - 'Sounds' - 24th January, 1981


One of the problems with being a critic is that one tends to look too objectively at bands. One doesn't think about what they may be able to do in the future - a concert is too often treated as one complete act, rather than a reference point within a larger act.

Although they are under-rehearsed, Dept S are tight and solid with some beautiful funk(y) guitar playing from Michael Herbage. He plays in a style that's free flowing and breezy, creating a froth over the bass/drums rhythm section. The light wind that Herbage eases out of his guitar is marred only by the wooden and (over) simple synthesiser playing of Eddie Roxy. The sounds that he drags out of his synth are totally superfluous to the music that Department S are/should be aiming for.

The music has to grow more until a proper assessment can be made, but so far Department S are building something that could be worthwhile. Even though at the Clarendon they were faced with an audience of apathetic punks and puerile skinheads, interested only in pouring beer over each other's heads, Department S fought on. Once again we find we are back to the problem of atrocious concert venues stunting the growth of bands who have yet to find themselves. They must be radical, and not rely on cover versions of Bolan and Roxy songs (although I love them) to gain audiences appreciation. Too safe. They are not quite strong enough, they are not breaking new ground. Yet they must break new ground, they must, they have to - if only to survive.


Department S live review - Clarendon Hotel, London

Amanda Nicholls - 'Record Mirror'- 31st January, 1981


The atmosphere of a clandestine gig pervaded the Clarendon basement, with people overflowing from every nook and cranny. It's the type of place where probably half the audience is in some band or another. Department S had no problem in pulling a fair sized crowd, probably because the band have received more than the occasional airplay on the John Peel show, even though their name sounds more like that of a TV programme. Many of their songs were about vision, including television. They put all the crosses in the right boxes.

'Take a Bow' was an apt beginning, followed by the single 'Is Vic There' to fill your ears with music while the night is young. But there is not here. The vocals, guitars, and synthesiser blended together to give depth to their songs. A couple of cover versions were thrown in: an old Roxy Music number for one, and another, Bolan's 'Solid Gold Easy Action' fused in perfect unity with The 'Stones' 'Satisfaction'. Very clever, and very stylish.

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