Billy Smith, "Out Of The Dole-drums"

Melody Maker, January 10, 1987, pp. 16-17



Free Trade Hall, Manchester

THIS was The Manchester Festive Party but I've seen more goodwill generated in a poultry packing plant. What was originally conceived as a day of free live music for the city's unemployed, quickly became an excuse for drunken charlatans to make speeches nobody wanted to hear, and in the end this event was only just rescued by the musicians everybody had originally come to see.

The Jazz Defektors performed with a flash and panache rarely seen in these parts and they were the first decent band of the day. Their intricate vocal harmonies were as consistently sharp as the cut of their suits, and as an added attraction to this marrying of precision and style, the stage would periodically be charged by a couple of jazz hoofers rollin' and tumblin' over a crazy samba shuffle. The audience loved them of course, though it would have been difficult to react in any other way.

ACR guitarist Martin Moscroft, he of the shining bonce and shimmering lick, has finally managed to boost his band into the worlds of taste and space, qualities so often absent from their work in the past. What was once a dirge of laboured funk is now a sparkling, rhythmic smack with Moscroft liberally sprinkling the magic dust from his guitar strings over Donald Johnson's bubble beats.

When The Fall launched into their opening number "Dktr Faustus", the whip came down and the cans remained in. Smith lashed at those responsible for the shower of missiles arriving on stage but the remainder of the band seemed peculiarly resolved to such a reception. "Faustus" ended suddenly and just as abruptly a blistering "Fiery Jack" started up. Now sparks really began to fly.

Halfway through the song, Smith spotted a suitor climbing out of the audience and making up to his wife. Brix was mildly amused, Smith was positively psychotic. Under a hail of punches and blows the young romantic was mercilessly booted off stage and when a hired heavy arrived to take control, he too received a healthy kick from Smith's jackboot.

Two numbers down and Smith was totally, totally wired. Not bad going. "At last we have something in common with you," he spat at the audience. "For we too do nothing all day." The place erupted with indignation. Relations could only improve from hereon in. They did.

"Lucifer Over Lancashire" was dynamite, even the most vociferous detractors silenced by its strange, diabolic power. The tables slowly began to turn. Hanley and Scanlon locked themselves in pandemonium during "US 80s-90s" to produce a wailing wall of sound, and the day peaked here. By the time "Hey Luciani" came round, the mob were mesmerised by this wonderful turnabout world. I couldn't believe it myself.

Vote Smith, I say, and rid us finally of dribbling rhetoric. So I'm the new puritan, but I see the lay of the land a little clearer now.