I’m the kinda guy that thinks Shamima Begum should be given another chance but can’t forgive the speed at which Idles became sanctimonious mouthpieces for mindfulness, banging on about sobriety while trying to flog their own brand of beer. And as has been outlined already in a Joyzine article; the comparisions between Itlaia 90 and Idles are unavoidable. Both political punk bands that rally against exclusionary politics, with predetermined outcome of winners and losers. So why have I found myself so drawn to Italia 90 over the last few years in London and so put off by the other? Well for starters Italia 90 always deliver live. A friend of mine once said the worst thing someone can say to you after you have played a gig is “you had good energy”. AKA the songs were shite but you didn’t fall asleep. Italia 90 have never once attempted to whip a crowd into a frenzy; becoming overly animated to communicate their dedication. Their use of lyrical repetition is charmingly stubborn as they perform like nonchalant members of the resistance. It’s also all too easy to fall into a game of lets compare front men. Italia 90’s band weave subtle finger picked bass and Joey Santiago esque guitar lines together in melodic crochet. Where many of their contemporaries churn out monotonous power chord riffs, with root note drudgery on the bass because Steve Lamacq will play it if it makes him feel young and Marc Riley will too if he knows your dad. Live Italia 90 are a well oiled machine. None of this: “well you know, live it’s more about the energy and sometimes I don’t even need to sing the chorus I just let the crowd chant.” If I wanted community spirit I’d have gone to the public library, I’m here because you’re supposed to have something to say and I’m supposed to be able to hear it. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, Italia 90 have an album out and I went to the launch night at the 100 Club.
The 100 club is easily missed on Oxford Street in central London. Just down the road from the sardine high life of Soho and the never ending circus of Harry Potter theatricals, is the round neon light proclaiming 100 club. Once upon the time the Stones played here but now it is frequented by Clinton Baptiste – that’s right the mystic from Pheonix Nights – so they’ve clearly got in a better booker these days.
In the basement on Oxford Street was a friendly bunch, young and old. Italia 90 came to the stage to triumphant strings and battle ready drums. With additional sax and keys they began with their album opener: Cut. By track three I mumbled to my friend that they were doing the gig in album order. ‘Very proper’ I thought. You wouldn’t screen a movie backwards on premiere night so why do anything different for your album launch. Fan favourite New Factory is still met by enthusiastic barks and I suspect it always will be. Newer numbers too have already been internalised and for album track Funny Bones the room came together in polemical chorus to berate the fictional character brimming with ‘home county energy’.
Shockingly front man Les Mis alluded to album track Does He Dream? being met with disdain since the album was released. It’s my personal favourite and confirms my suspicion that I am so out of whack with popular opinion that even at left field gigs I will find a way to disagree with the consensus. When bands do albums in full it’s a bit like watching the Star Wars prequels; I know how it will end. Luckily Italia 90’s debut album gets better as it goes it on and final track Harmony is what is technically known as a belter.
Italia 90 don’t disappoint live and now they have proven that they don’t disappoint on record. That’s no small feat in a world that promises so much and delivers so fucking little. Or is that just me?
Article by Patrick Malone