Album Review: Chubby And The Gang – Speed Kills

By Live4ever - Posted on 26 Oct 2020 at 11:02am

Speed Kills 1

For a genre so simple (a guitar, three chords and the truth, to quote Harlan Howard), punk music has a lot of variations.

Green Day offered up ‘pop-punk’ as a title for their snotty efforts (pilfering from the Ramones whilst doing so), Oi! eventually gave way to ‘hardcore punk’ as practiced by Black Flag, and it’s best not to pull on the thread of conversation that is ‘post-punk’.

London’s Chubby And The Gang have gone back to the start, when punk in Britain evolved from what was dubbed ‘pub-rock’, as pioneered by Dr. John. On the re-released Speed Kills, they channel the early greats, with a Beano-style cover harking back to the scene’s bratty roots. Infused with youthful energy, it’s a candidate for debut album of the year.

In a similar vein to Primal Scream’s Loaded, the album opens with a speech taken from The Jimmie Rodgers show, extolling the virtues of both juvenile delinquency and rock and roll in a broader sense. Like the music which precedes it, Chubby And The Gang Rule OK? is a mission statement as a declaration of war: ‘I came into this world kicking and screaming’, frontman Charlie Manning-Walker (aka Chubby Charles) states over whip-crack guitars, drums and bass. The track’s immediate successor, Pariah Radio, moves faster than electricity in much the same way. Similarly, the rhythm section moves so fast on All Along The Uxbridge Road that it feels like they are struggling to keep up with themselves.

That song title, along with several others, offers a sense of the album’s mood. Despite their hardcore roots (the members plied their trade in Crown Court and Violent Reaction, among other bands), this is an English band singing about English situations, and primarily London. Bruce Grove Bullies sees the band rail against miscreants of Tottenham, while the subject matter of Grenfell Forever is obvious. The track itself is an album high point, reminiscent of one of the other songsmiths who came to rise in the 1970s, Billy Bragg. Consisting only of Charles, an electric guitar and an echoed voice making a fitting ode to the victims of the tragedy of 2017, a tonic to the raucousness that otherwise dominates the album, as effectively moving as the subject matter dictates it should be.

There are other opportunities for respite amongst the furore. Trouble (You Were Always On My Mind) sits at the midpoint and is more jangly and indie than much of what surrounds it. Moscow contains a brief guitar solo that hints at the possibility of wings being stretched in the future, while closing track Union Blues is garnished with spooky harmonica that adds an extra level to the band’s arsenal. Yet such is the intensity, as the band count in on the intro of the blistering Blue Ain’t My Colour, you wonder how much more you can take.

This is no bad thing. Clocking in at just over half-an-hour but stocked to the gills with pulsating slabs of British rock, Speed Kills should come with a health warning more detailed than its title.

Wonderfully out of step with 2020 punk rock, Chubby And The Gang channel The Damned, Ramones, Buzzcocks and several others from punk’s first wave to brutally and beautifully batter our ears.


Richard Bowes

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