Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vic Godard: Dressed Like A Wartime Confectioner, But Still Opposing All Rock'n'Roll

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I don't really do punk nostalgia, as there's very little to be said for 50 year old men trying to recapture the spit and venom of their misspent youth, but Vic Godard has always been a special case. I saw him twice back then, with the Subway Sect. Once, supporting somebody (Elvis Costello maybe), and it was just at the point where punk became New Wave, and emetic fury became a blow-dried haircut and a skinny tie, and the Subway Sect came out dressed in dustbin grey, with coordinating rips in their jumpers, and they sounded like friction and sparks and art, with little shards of poetry squeezed out between the noise. And then, much later, I was camping in Paris and living on bread and pretending to read Le Monde in the tent and the rain, and I saw a poster for a concert by The Clash, who were playing at the Theatre Mogador, an ancient old wedding cake that was about to be demolished, and it was Sandinista!-era Clash, but that was OK, because I'd never seen them, and if you listen to that record there are enough great moments to make the indulgence worthwhile, and on the bill were The Beat and The Subway Sect, who by that time had turned into a French cafe jazz band, and Vic was crooning like Vic Damone, or Tony Bennett, or somebody, albeit with a less than expert control of the notes, and it was perfect, because this was Paris, and this was punk, and this was youth, and the Clash has a huge backdrop with ladders, and Futura 2000 was up there with his spraycans painting a graffiti skyline while they played. And it was great, a rush, and a thrill. And at the end, I was standing in the foyer, all ripped up with the strangeness of it all, when the Subway Sect came out and started handing out flyers for a jazz show they were doing later, but I didn't go, because the tent in the rain was waiting.
And so, a thousand years later, I go to see Edwyn Collins, who is great, and has a Muttley laugh, and a set full of songs that sound sadder than they ever did - like Falling and Laughing - because of Edwyn's illness. But at 8pm on the dot, out come Vic and the Subway Sect, dressed now like confectioners from a John Boorman movie about England in the war, and they play Ambition, their greatest song, but without the blooping organ, and it sounds rough and broken and spiky, and vital still. Later, on the stairs, Vic Godard walks past me, but I don't see him. I am still shook up, and surprised, and oddly happy. It is raining, obviously.