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U.K. SUBS - 'Subversions' Album Review


1. Kick Out The Jams

2. Train Kept A Rollin’

3. I Don’t Need No Doctor

4. Boston Babies

5. Tired Of Waking Up Tired

6. This Perfect Day

7. Get Out Of Denver

8. Feel Good Hit Of The Summer

9. Bomber

10. Roadrunner

11. 1969

12. Suffragette City

The U.K. SUBS need no introductions, being one of the founding fathers of the first wave of UK Punk. I was intrigued by this album as it is their first ever covers album, with tracks that inspired the band throughout their career. I am not usually a fan of covers albums, unless the covers are significantly different, it sometimes seems like a karaoke album. The U.K. SUBS are currently led by founding member and vocalist Charlie Harper along with longtime members Alvin Gibbs on bass and Jamie Oliver with newcomer Steve Straughan on guitar they have served up a slice of raw authentic Punk, but the question is, did they choose the songs wisely, as many of the tracks have been covered many times before by many bands.

They open the album with 'Kick Out The Jams' originally recorded by psychedelic outfit, MC5. This is a great version of this track, Charlie's swaggering vocals are accompanied by frenetic guitar and manic drumming, all being driven by some great baselines. I especially liked Jamie Oliver's drumsticks tumbling to the floor at the end. I was interested to see how they would cover 'Train Kept A Rollin’ originally by The Yardbirds. The guitars had a heavy Blues riff and there is some great mouth organ action, from the beginning of the number. As a cover I think they have kept the right balance of the original Blues and their Punk sound. The late sixties vibe continued with 'I Don’t Need No Doctor' which although, recorded by Humble Pie, I feel this was a nod to WASP's Metal version. The backing vocal and guitars really make this track.

The next three tracks on the album were originally recorded by their Punk peers, starting with the brilliant 'Boston Babies' originally recorded by Slaughter and the Dogs. It felt as if the U.K. SUBS were more comfortable with this style of track, as the arrangement did not need too much tinkering with. The guitar playing is very good in this song and this is classic 70's UK Punk. They followed this with 'Tired Of Waking Up Tired' recorded previously by The Diodes. Charlie's vocal technique is a bit theatrical on this one, and it reminds me of Ronnie Biggs on the 'Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle'. You are not likely to encounter a song that ends as abruptly, not mid sentience but mid word! 'This Perfect Day', originally by the The Saints is a frantic number played at a blistering tempo, with heavy percussion and slides down the fretboard.

So now we are in full 70s Punk the U.K. SUBS mix it up by covering Bob Segers 'Get Out Of Denver'. With a punky Rock 'n Roll vibe they really pull this one off, even if the tempo is turned up a notch. The harmonica makes a welcome return too. One of the strangest covers on the album is 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' originally by Queens of the Stone Age. Alvin Gibbs' bass line is sublime, and this sounds very much like the original, perhaps, if anything without the distortion of QOTSA. It is nice to see a tribute to the much missed, and hard rocker, in all senses, Lemmy, with the U.K. SUBS version of Motorhead's 'Bomber'. This gives Steve Straughan a real chance to show off his axe skills.

The end of the album is puzzling to me as the next song to get the cover treatment is 'Roadrunner' by The Modern Lovers. This was famously not covered very well with a forgetful Johnny Rotten on the 'Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle'. Having said that the U.K. SUBS give a good rendition of it with that unmistakable guitar riff going through the track. The penultimate number is '1969' by The Stooges. Charlie captures the spirit of Iggy Pop. The percussion is really good on this track, and there is a great guitar solo. The album closes with Bowie's iconic 'Suffragette City'. I guess for a Punk cover it had to be this or 'Rebel Rebel', which is cited as his most covered song. I am not sure that the U.K. SUBS carried this off so well.

Some might question the need to do a covers album for such an established band. But I kind of like the fact that they chose songs that were influential for them. There are some cracking versions on this album, and I think that they did better with songs from there genre, such as 'Boston Babies', 'Tired Of Waking Up Tired' and 'This Perfect Day'. however it was interesting to see how they would deal with the more Bluesy numbers not to mention a cover of Queens Of The Stone Age!

This will not go down as a classic album, very few cover albums do, and in most cases the arrangements were pretty similar to the originals. It is however a glorious slice of authentic first wave, snarling Punk, and you don't get that everyday do you?

Review - Tony Creek

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