The observant reader will notice that this review is filed under the ‘Punk Albums’ category. Perhaps that’s just through sentiment on my part, as back in the day VIC GODARD & SUBWAY SECT were always regarded as such, although more along the lines of being ‘different’ and ‘quirky’ as opposed to being overtly anarchic.
Over the years, the definition of the genre ‘Punk’ has been diluted to the extent that anyone wanting to appear ‘edgy’ but still ‘cool’ will try to cash in on the longevity of the tag. However Vic Godard was in on the inception of the punk movement and so this is where he belongs.
‘We Come As Aliens’ is the first release of new material from Vic since 2002 and may be regarded more as ‘lounge punk’ rather than the conventional form. But what it may lack in terms of the generic punk aggression, it more than makes up for with some clever lyrics and variety of influences that are integrated within the album’s forty-five minutes.
For the most part, Vic’s vocals are like a gentle snarl; flat, droned and mono-toned to the point of occasionally sounding disinterested. Which of course is just not the case, but it all adds to the inherent charm of the album.
Most of the songs on ‘We Come As Aliens’ have been evolving since the mid 1990s and several will be familiar to those who have seen Vic and Subway Sect play live. Opening track ‘Best Album’ is one of them. It sort of sets the mood for what’s to follow – mellow deep sounding backing harmonies supporting Vic’s lighter lead. Its hook is quite instant as it meanders along in a kind of Northern Soul style. ‘Take Over’ features a Sixties style guitar riff in the fashion of Needles and Pins’ by The Searchers. In fact, many of the songs incorporate that ‘tinny’ guitar sound, augmented in this case by some discordant solos and shouts.
‘Back In The Community’ seems to call for a return to a more simple, friendly and conscientious society while ‘Same Plan’ is a wonderfully chirpy, (possibly Latin American styled?) song with great backing in which he expresses his cynicism at some of politicians’ ‘plans’ for improvement, proving that the old punk ethos still burns deeply!
‘If We’d’ve’ sounds like chucking out time at your local boozer, especially during the ‘da da da da-da’ chorus. (Can I detect a little Beatles influence creeping n just before the chorus?) There then follows a song that Vic has apparently wanted to record since 1977! Francoise Hardy’s ‘Et Meme’ may appear a strange choice, but even though it’s sung in French it certainly doesn’t seem out of place here. ‘Rhododendron Town’ dares you not to sing along, before ‘That Train’ draws heavily from Gospel and blues influences. It’s one of the best, actually.
‘Somewhere In The World’ has definite Punk tendencies, and could quite easily have been one of Vic’s songs from the tail end of the Seventies. This one’s got the missing ‘aggression’ I mentioned earlier – and real ‘attitude’ to boot!
‘Ne’er’ is apparently the oldest track of the thirteen. Vic’s vocals take a rather plaintive turn on this one – for me, possibly the least ‘instant’ of all the tracks as it happens. ‘Out Of Our Zone’ is heavier in mood than the others, and quite melancholy sounding. ‘Life In The Distance’ however lifts the atmosphere and musically harks back to the Pub Rock days of the late Seventies, with its distinct R’n’B feel.
By his own confession, closing track ‘Music Of A Werewolf’ is “a step outside what I’ve done before.” It has a slow rumba dance groove, with gently swirling vocals. Yeah – different.
In a way, I think you could draw comparison between Vic Godard & Subway Sect and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Both play a sort of stripped back, quirky style of punk based music, with neither afraid of incorporating other diverse influences.
That in my book is good enough recommendation for checking out this album. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
(Released through Overground on 11th October 2010)
(8.5 / 10)