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Wreck the Place

“Let’s party like its 1984”: picture ‘black mariahs’ – the term used for unmarked white vans with blacked out windows and steel grills over the windscreen – racing through Handsworth down to Orgreave Colliery ferrying Thatcher’s trade union busting army of Metropolitan cops, currently under investigation. More recently, Tony Benn spoke about harnessing the anger against injustice and nurturing a hope for a better future as the fuel for the ongoing challenge to decades of neoliberal free market economics. Steve Allen’s project reminds me of those days and such sentiments.

I remember when the Centre Against Unemployment and the Saddle pub down from the Limit Club on West Street (sadly no longer there) swarmed with the NUM, Greenpeace, CND, the unemployed, generally disaffected and slightly unhinged. What days. Have things changed that much? Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg. Yeah, let’s wreck the place! But, hang on, hasn’t the damage already been done?

Steve Allen (also known as Dr Robeatnik) is angry and expresses this with understated irony. He has created some unique songs and produced them single handed and remarkably well. His songs and the attitude propelling them perhaps reflect the mood of all those angry young people who have been singularly let down and abandoned by much of the political class. Wreck The Place chugs along, accented by frantic passages that conjure up a mosh-pit of jumping, spring-loaded anarchy.

There is a punchy acoustic-punk energy to this album. ‘Don’t You Dare’ has all the comedy and lairy sarcasm that is a nod and a wink to Half Man Half Biscuit and their great anthems ‘Trumpton Riots’ and ‘National Shite Day’. Musically, Steve’s efforts are on the way to having the twinkle and sharpness of songs like ‘Johnny Appleseed’ (The Mescaleros) with a hint of Billy Bragg.

He just about gets away with his gruff vocal and singalong melodic phrases. The jingly acoustic guitar riffs are upbeat and keep you hooked, but the songs seem to be hankering for a touch of the brooding electric guitar that kicks things off in ‘Destruction is a Virtue’. I shall certainly keep an eye out for Steve Allen’s next gig in Sheffield, even if wrecking the place might be a tad beyond an average night out for me these days.