Sophie Jackson, Post War Wage Slaves

Oxjam Live Music Night
Mello Mello, Slater Street
25th October 2008

Reviewed by Matt Rimmer

Children in Need, Sport Relief, Comic Relief. All things which promise entertainment in the name of a good cause but usually deliver, say, the cast of Holby City break dancing dressed in Dalek costumes. Or something. Post War Wage Slaves Oxjam night at Mello Mello proves a much happier experience.

Only £2 to enter. A bargain, and for charity. The venue is aptly named - a genuinely cool coffee bar on Slater Street, safely away from the bright lights and massed hordes of pissed up revellers. In fact the venue doesn’t even serve alcohol. If this was France a Gallic shrug of the shoulders would follow everyone staying sober and sipping on miniscule espressos but this is Saturday night in Britain and trips to fetch supplies from the off licence have been made. Hence groups from across the age spectrum sit sipping cans of Fosters as a DJ plays some electro and dance tunes. PWWS drummer Patrick satisfyingly surveys the chilled, genial atmosphere though concedes a couple of bands pulling and an AWOL PA have made the lead up “a bit stressful.”

Sophie Jackson kicks of the evening’s live proceedings with an acoustic covers set and admits she’s a little nervous, having “never followed an electro DJ before.” Sophie’s performance is in some contrast to the mellowness of venue and evening so far as she has a powerful, deep and strong voice tackling both male and female tracks, but hey, you can only stay slouched coolly to electro for so long. Her song selections show some predictability – Paul Weller, U2 and inevitably ‘Valerie’ but also excellent taste as she tackles The Smiths ‘There Is A light that Never Goes Out’ and a beautiful rendering of Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ which is the highlight of her set. Everyone sings and whoops along enthusiastically especially to ‘Valerie’ which seems to be still held in high affection in its ‘home town.’

A couple more tinnies and dance tunes later and Patrick ‘announces’ PWWS presence on stage by taking his seat and banging along to the tune the DJ’s playing. Its very atmospheric and enough to summon not just David and Andy to the stage but also 90% of those in the venue who amass around them. PWWS and their fans, many of them mates down from their native Huyton enshrine the very definition of the punk spirit- the boundaries between band and audience completely stripped away - all affection and pretension gone as their enrapt followers swirl around the unassuming band on the stage. Some even jump on and dance along with the band.

The music is not obviously punk, the lyrics are not obviously political – what they stand for is convey inexplicably by the band on stage, the raw, unaffected power and by the cause they support – the way they go about things generally really.

They are far from a standard indie band and in full flow they make much of that and lyrical references to chip wrappers and buses etc seem affected and irrelevant. Yes they have a few mid-temp sing along numbers which might be levelled indie rock but the integrity and passion never lets up thanks in no small part to David’s vocals. He conveys fear, pain, sadness regret, anger and passion – the songs are obviously cathartic but they are unabashedly haunted and what slips out are snatched images of questing relationship uncertainty - “Are you all mine?” “When we used to say live forever’”, even lost childhood innocence in the mention of “daisy chains.”

When the band are most awesome is when everything slows down to a primeval swamp of bombastic drums, menacing bass and David’s howling vocals – this is something timeless which goes back to the essence of rock n roll and blues.

At the end after a 45 minute set the audience are still dancing, laughing, and hugging each other. This is very much there band – a shared, celebratory experience which will be with them forever. But it’s one which should be spread as wide as possible.

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