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The Men They Couldn’t Hang, The 100 Club, London, January 15th 2010

January 16, 2010

Walking into the 100 Club was like walking back into West London in the late 80s – the sound of urban punk-folk with an Irish inflection. The Pogues were the leaders of this non-movement (and to some extent Elvis Costello before them), but the more English band The Men They Couldn’t Hang ran them a close second. Back in those days, folk music had been almost wiped from music’s collective memory – I remember going to see Bert Jansch and John Renbourn play at the Railway in Clapham to an audience of about twenty – so TMTCH were unlikely to achieve widespread success. But that didn’t seem to bother them or their radical roots. So a stirring evening of politicised punk-folk was what was in prospect and was duly delivered – Ghosts Of Cable Street, Rain Steam And Speed, Ironmasters and more showed a defiant radicalism, but what I’ve always liked about TMTCH is that they do their thing with humour, unlike more crusty agit-proppers such as The Levellers, whose po-faced righteousness leaves me cold. And any band that uses the fine services of fiddler and wannabe matinee idol Bobby Valentino gets my vote every time. What’s more, TMTCH also pepper their set with traditional folk songs, a capella broadsides and lusty ballads. A fine evening.

“I was woken, from my misery, by the words of Thomas Paine, On my barren soil they fell like the sweetest drops of rain.” Colours, The Men They Couldn’t Hang

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