ROCK : Goths, weirdos and psychos

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The Independent Culture
ON TUESDAY they cut the power at the Powerhaus. The Islington club closed down, and there to administer the Last Rites were The Damned. Appropriate, really: they played their first farewell gig in 1978 and seem to have been doing them almost soli dly ever since. To make the mood even cheerier, drummer Rat Scabies dedicated the show to Peter Cook. The crowd wore black. But then, they always do.

As it turned out, it was one of those wakes at which everyone has a great time. The Damned collapsed after 1986's Anything. Tonight they were resuscitated and tore through their taut psychobilly with such energy that the small stage could barely contain them. And they unveiled some promising new material.

Their revival is largely due to the band's latest flamboyant guitar hero, ex-Godfather Kris Dollimore, who pinballed about like a man being electrocuted. Dave Vanian is still a magnetic, vampire-coutured frontman, and was in good Elvis-meets-Vincent-Pri c e voice. (He also now bears a startling resemblance to Suede's Brett Anderson). The new bassist, Moose, formerly of New Model Army, was presumably recruited to make Rat Scabies' name sound less silly. Add his machine-gun bass to Dollimore's guitar and Sc abies' superhuman drumming and you have to conclude that if The Damned had just formed they would be worshipped by the same indie kids who jump around to America's neo-punks Offspring and Green Day. They are definitely back from the dead.

Gallon Drunk should hail from a dusty, drunken, in-bred shanty town on the Mexican border, where vultures loom overhead and rattlesnakes hide from the punishing sun. Actually, they hail from Guildford. You wouldn't think so at the Camden Palace, though,

hearing the maracas, the Ennio Morricone twang and James Johnston doing his best crazy-old-preacher rant. He recently played guitar in the Bad Seeds, and could easily pass for Nick Cave's younger brother.

The Drunks, as I'm sure somebody calls them, hide simple chord structures behind dense, jagged, stop-start arrangements. An explosion of scratchy guitar is followed by a sudden change of instrumentation. It's normal at any one point during a song to see the trumpeter on guitar, the keyboard player on tenor sax, and the singer-guitarist holding a harmonica in one hand and playing the organ with the other. The result is fascinating, but doesn't quite work live. Not that the music was ever supposed to be exactly singalong, but tonight it is off-puttingly bitty, with the lengthy pauses between songs dissipating any momentum.

To complete the goth-horror theme, on Wednesday The Wolfgang Press brought their funereal funk to the Jazz Cafe. The most horrific thing, though, was the size of the venue. A Jazz Restaurant was needed at least. There was no room to nod, let alone dance,which is a shame, because TWP's journey from uptight, portentous techno noise to uptight, portentous dance groove has reached its destination.

This is a band with something for everyone: an electro beat as well as a live drummer, shimmering indie guitar, a mumbling, grumbling singer for Nick Cave fans, and even "A Girl Like You", a song recently covered by Tom Jones. The Wolfgang Press should at long last hit the big time: they're already too big for the Jazz Cafe.