… rock and roll will never die. So sang Neil Young. And so far, that seems to be the case. I have favoured and explored many forms of music in my life. As a teen, punk, rock, and metal caught my ear. My formative years saw me turned on to folk-punk hybrids, gothic moodiness, and post-punk pioneers, people who would pave the way for everything from shoegaze to indie to the accursed Brit-pop. As I got older, I found an appreciation for folk and Americana. I realised that pop had some great moments (though sadly not so much of late), and I even, on occasion, took a shine to early hip-hop.

But one sort of music has always stuck with me: Rock and roll. Not rock, although that also had some excellent moments, but rock and roll. The sort of music made by people who consider The Stones minor deities, Johnny Thunders a prophet and Nikki Sudden its wandering minstrel. Music that swang, grooved, boogied…cut a rug, flipped a wig, threw shapes.

And, as evidenced by both my review pile and some cracking live shows I have attended of late, the type of music I’m talking about, FONMHDNNMRNR (Foot on the monitor, heads down, no-nonsense, mindless, rock n roll), the genre is alive, healthy and up for a fight.

Firstly, it was great to catch Marc Valentine live and do so within walking distance. With Last Great Dreamers on a break, both main songwriters (the other being the excellently named Slyder Smith) have put their own bands together, and both are getting great reviews. Future Obscure is the latest full-length release from Marc, and it is jam-packed with rock and roll grooves and power-pop moves. It kicks off with Last Train Tonight, a song that any rock and roll band worth their salt would wrestle you to the ground to get their hands on and from there, it offers a non-stop salvo of great tunes.

Mornington Avenue is punchy and pop-aware, the Wreckless Eric co-write, Linear Slopes, has a sort of new wave feel to it, and Broken Satellites is infectious and effortlessly sing-a-long-able. (That is a real word, honest.) Ghosts of Amsterdam is about as groovesome as it gets, with staccato slashes of guitar lifting a pop tune into rock realms. And that is Marc’s great skill, mixing melody and pop hooks with the right amount of power and punch. And, as I can now testify, it doesn’t hurt when you have a great band around you.

Slightly out of the blue, a lovely vinyl copy of Gunfire Dance’s Witness To The Crime landed in the review pile, thanks to those lovely people at MuleFreedom. I’m sure I saw the band at least once (a friend suggested it was supporting Bang Tango at Bristol Bierkeller, but it was all long ago now.) But here they are, their debut album for the first time on vinyl, repackaged, and with a few additional post-GD songs, sounding cleaner and better produced but no less sleazy.

It’s a testament to how great the songs are that I can remember many of them from a cassette of their demos I once owned. Burning Ambition is still an incendiary anthem worthy of classic era Hanoi Rocks, Bird Doggin’ low-slung and sleazy and Gimme Back My Heart is The Stones on speed! And, of course, the album ends with the fractured and fragile Archway of Thorns. No, Darlin’ Anne (I still hear the cowbell in my sleep), but you can’t have everything. An excellent record, one that seems to be 50% built of swagger and attitude, 50% music, one for fans of The Stooges, New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers and a worthy tribute to their dear departed singer Ant.

Both albums need to be on your Christmas list…if you can wait that long. Actually, why wait that long? Treat yourself now, I’m sure you’ve earned it…

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Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.

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