The Ordinary Boys / The Explosion - Manchester Academy - 25.2.05

It may be 2005, but for the next half hour or so it's 1977 as The Explosion bring back the nostalgic yearning for punk rock. The five piece Bostonian (is that what you call them) outfit are raw and uninhibited and have just released their major label debut "Black Tape". Their singer hardly pauses for breathe all night as he bellows his way through the short, punchy songs reminiscent of a rough and ready Clash. Sure the riffs sounds familiar, the influences are obvious, but being young and hungry for success goes a long way and with a single out in March I predict we'll be hearing a lot more from them.

The last time I saw the Ordinary Boys was in a packed tent at the Carling Festival in Leeds. Less claustrophobic in a sold out Academy, the Ordinary Boys return to the North once again. After walking on-stage 15 minutes late a subdued Preston tells us he's really ill, a fact he never tires of reminding us, the updates are too frequent and a bit too detailed. We get the message. Whadda want, a medal for bravery? Due to his malady his voice obviously suffers as a result, but that doesn't stop his constant whinging. Still the music's good even if the guy behind the sound desk can't quite get the sound right, it's all a bit tinny and amateurish if truth be told. All of the subtlety is lost live, but the single "Week In Week Out" reeks of class, melody and a Johnny Marr guitar masterclass which is always a good thing. On less well known tracks off their "Over The Counter Culture" album, a love of ska is well realized with Preston giving it some Weller in his homage to the Jam.

The sound improves as the gig makes the half way mark. New drummer Simon is tight and professional (quite a feat as he's only just joined the band). The first of the new songs "Thanks To The Girl" is a lot punchier and sharper than we're used to, but still epic and anthemic with a refrain of "I Don't Mind". After a cracking B-Side another new track, "Brass Bound", is performed. If their record company is reading this they should release it as their next single. Sure it's possessed by the spirit of retro, but with spiky guitar riffs and a chorus which the Killers would literally kill for...this review has now been interrupted by another medical update from (De)Preston. Apparently he can't eat for 36 hours on doctors orders. I'll certainly sleep much more soundly in my bed tonight after hearing such vital information....back to the gig and more brand new material is unleashed in the form of "Life Will Be The Death Of Me" and "Boys Will Be Boys". It's a side to the Ordinary Boys we all know and love, but slightly more layered. The latter track and next single even has a melodica solo. A cover by the Ramones ("The KKK Took My Baby Away"), the single "Maybe Someday" and for the encore "Seaside" end a patchy and uneven set.

Because of a poorly singer and an even poorer sound man (although towards the end he's nailed it, better late than never I suppose) The Ordinary Boys aren't firing on all cylinders and their performance is barely an hour long. On the plus side the new songs prove these youngsters aren't just one trick ponies and despite a lack of charisma tonight I still believe in this band and have a lot of time for them.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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