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NME (26 Feb 1994) IPC

NME (26 Feb 1994)
NME (26 Feb 94)
written by Johnny Cigarettes
photos by Andy Willsure
transcribed by Vu
sent in by Peter Stanley



"BACK TO where my friend died, to the scene of his ugly suicide…"

Welwyn Garden City. Always sounded horrible. Not as horrible sounding as Bletchley Goole or Grimethorpe, admittedly, but more representative of the respectable blandist terrorism that pervades the small town which are the Thatcherite kitchen. And sure enough we step off the train straight into an unspeakable fake marble shopping mall, a temple in which to worship the dullest exceses of consumerism.

Kitsch ornaments, working girls' monotone dresses, nice modest shoes and nice modest jewllery. Screeching toddlers and punch drunk mothers career across the floor as classical versions of Whitney Houston songs pipe from the walls. After this, a Center Parcs holiday might seem like getting away from it all. But others try more desperate, more permanent measures. Ed S*M*A*S*H's friend Kevin threw himself off the tope of this very building three years ago.

Out of the frying pan and into… Legoland. Or rather Welwyn town centre, from which you fully expect to be plucked by a giant child's hand and imprisoned in the red-brick bungalow. But no, we are whisked off in a taxi, driven by John Major's shell-suited cousin, with Phil Collins quietly trickling from the stereo, on past scores of human rabbit hutches, Sierras and Austin Maestros to a brutally faceless council estate.

Bloody Hell, it's a moment!
printed in NME (26 Feb 1994) IPC

Here, the Ludwick Family Club is evidently the centre of inactivity. It seethes with a grey glow of resignation to its function as an 'Oh well, we can always go down the Family Club' kind of place. But this is one of the few venues where the unfortunate offspring of New Town man can go for kicks (or rather, slight leg twitches) and naturally, it's under threat of closure, thanks to our government's sympathetic social policies.

One thing is wonderful about Welwyn Garden City, however. S*M*A*S*H live here. And that is perfect, since S*M*A*S*H are the antidote to everything Welwyn Garden City is: angry, passionate, beautiful, intelligent, sexy, and knicker-wetting exciting.

Hence the swarms of 16-year-olds besieging the doors a mere three and a half hours before our homecoming heroes take the stage. The atmosphear is something approximating a school disco where too much booze is allowed and teachers' and parents' places are taken by a handful of tattooed old punks standing at the back, still waiting (waiting, waiting, ever waiting…) for the Clash to reform.

But S*M*A*S*H are not the Clash, and they don't want to be. A Sky News TV crew wanders around muttering about how they expected to be gobbed at and assaulted like they were in '77. They're missing the point, as in their job at times like these.

Who dares Welwyns! Ed S*M*A*S*H strains to break free from Legoland
printed in NME (26 Feb 1994) IPC

Sure, until the moment they dive into 'Shame', you half fear that S*M*A*S*H are going to be screaming, unfocussed punk cabaret embarrassment. But 'punk' in 1994 means a blast of positive anger and attitude, not a sad grunt of retro defeatism. Hence titles like 'Lady Love Your C---', lyrics like "I'm not sad and you're not dead", and T-shirt slogans like 'F*E*M*M*E', 'S*O*U*L*B*O*Y', and 'SMALLTOWN G*I*T' and 'ENRAGE'. Like the Manics, they're there to piss you off, suck you off and fire you up, to kick your personality awake. And that means Individualism and style, not just a wanky scene and Sunday supplement fashion.

S*M*A*S*H sing political love songs; soul songs about their life, your life and what matters. They may be angry, but they're never nihilist. They sing and play as if their family and friends are being held to ransom, as if it's all they know how to do, because they care too much about you to even contemplate watching telly and getting stoned while people burn. And, again like the Manics, they succeed way beyond logic just by the blaze of passion and impossible urgency behind them. Their tunes aren't classics yet, but their nagging riffs, their bruising rhythm and their seething provocation will hammer away at your brain until you form your own band and say your own thing.

And occasional pogoing is more a case of trying to catch a glimpse of Ed's vein-popping face than the silly charade it sounds like. You have to jump and stare, because S*M*A*S*H are about being beautiful and ecstatic, not about looking acceptable, feeling vaguely contented and settling for grateful third best all through your life. Just look at them. Ed's cheekbones and murderous stare! Salv's ludicrously cocky, glammy strut and sneer! Rob's brutal, of course, just like Iggy, Bowie, Rotten, even Morrissey. And you love them. Or you're tedius irrelevance.

After half an hour we're sent home to our insomnia with 'I Wanna Kill Somebody' and hitlist of Tory ministers. Plus questions like "What was all that 'indie music' about anyway?", "What is the point of Pearl Jam?", "What have I been doing with my life until now?", and the indelible conviction that, as someone said earlier tonight, "I'm not sad and you're not dead". Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.