Devilish Presley
All Gone Dead
Dead & Buried, London
Friday April 1 2005
~ review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Once more, dear friends, into that incongruous but friendly Irish pub in the Holloway Road, for another night of big hair and loud music. It's the first Friday of the month, and as usual the Dead & Buried club has taken over the north London drinker known to generations of Guinness-quaffers as the Lord Nelson for another night of deathrock DJing and live bands. Let's bring 'em on.

All Gone Dead are playing their first-ever gig tonight, but they've nevertheless got a bunch of enthusiastic fans and supporters clustered around the stage. It's not every band who can call up a fanbase before they've even played a note in public, but All Gone Dead feature two deathrock superstars in their ranks, in the elegantly-coiffed forms of Stitch (ex-Tragic Black, on vocals) and Darlin' Grave (DJ and cover star, on bass) and thus have an advantage over most new bands in that they're starting their musical enterprise from a few rungs up the fame ladder. There's nevertheless a slight air of first gig nerves about this performance. Eyes fixed firmly on fretboard and keyboard, the musician members of the band pick their way through the songs with meticulous attention, not quite confident enough to indulge in any rock 'n' roll dramatics. Maybe that's also the reason the stage lighting has been switched off. At any rate, the band appears indistinctly as vague shapes in the darkness and smoke, the white lightning of the strobe and the photographers' flashes bouncing off the haze. It's odd that All Gone Dead - a band who have clearly given much thought to their visual identity - should try to create a situation on stage where we can't actually see them, and where available-light photos are well-nigh impossible, but maybe that's another manifestation of those new-band nerves. It's Stitch who carries things visually, coming to the front, throwing out gestures and lurching around as if Dead & Buried's tiny stage is a rowing boat on a rough sea. The music is a slo-mo punkish grind, every song nailed to a mid-tempo programmed beat, the vocals enunciated almost English-punk style. It's almost as if All Gone Dead had decided to update Adam & The Ants' early style - the Dirk Wears White Sox material - for the laptop generation. That's actually a pretty cool concept, although, paradoxically, when they play an Ants cover it's the pop-star period song 'Ants Invasion'. There's one more cover to finish, Christian Death's 'Romeo's Distress'. 'This one goes out to Rozz Williams!' announces Stitch. (Deadpan voice in audience: 'They'll 'ave to play loud.')  It's the only fast song in the set, and offers a glimpse of the potentially cookin' combo that lurks behind All Gone Dead's neophyte hesitancy. All they need to do is speed it up and turn the lights on.

This isn't Ausgang's first gig - not by a long way. But it is the first time they've set foot on a UK stage for 15 years, and I'm willing to bet most of tonight's crowd know of the band only from various historical references in Mick Mercer's books, assorted big-ups on the web, and other suchlike second-hand sources. Nevertheless, the sudden surge of interest in all things post-punk means that Ausgang suddenly find themselves with a twenty-first century audience, and tonight that audience is primed and ready to rock. There's a roar of approval as the band, suited, booted, and looking like a bunch of rock 'n' roll gangsters, get stuck in to their tribal clamour. It's all a frantic rush of drums and vocals, Max spitting out the lyrics as if every word is an alien being erupting from his internal organs. The set is, inevitably, mostly old songs from the band's 80s incarnation, among them such steaming classics as 'Four Tin Doors' and 'Lick', 'Fat Vigilante' and 'Crawling The Walls'. But there's a brace of newies, too - 'Big Big Love' and 'Itchy Fingers a-Go-Go', which hint that Ausgang have plans to stick around and carve out a new career for themselves as a contemporary act. If that's the plan, I'm sure they could do well, for this is a band with enough energy and intensity to put much younger outfits to shame. I'd suggest, however, that they re-think their covers policy, for the set ends with a run-through of that hoary old rockers' standard, 'I Wanna Be Your Dog', a song which has been done and done and done so many times over the years by so many bands that it counts as no more than a crashingly obvious cliche now. Indeed, two bands on the present-day UK goth-gig circuit - Excession and the Screaming Banshee Aircrew - have recently featured this song as a live cover, and, frankly, Ausgang's choice of the very same number simply looks like they experienced a failure of imagination just when a fresh idea was needed. So, yes, it's good to have Ausgang back, and there's certainly potential here for the band to make an impact in the here and now. But future progress is going to depend on a hefty injection of genuinely original ideas. Old songs and old covers ain't gonna cut it for ever.

What's this? Devilish Presley headlining over Ausgang? London's upstart gung-ho rockers taking precedence over a classic band from the golden 80s? Well, yes. Sure, Ausgang might have the history behind them, but Devilish Presley have the current-scene profile and the guaranteed crowd-pull, advantages which they've worked hard to gain, putting in much effort and playing more gigs than just about any other UK band in recent times. That's what gives 'em the top spot tonight. This is also the last time Devilish Presley will play Dead & Buried: they've more or less been fixtures at the club for a long while, and both band and club have done very well out of the association. But it's always best to make a move before things get stale, and I suspect Devilish Presley have decided it's time to get out there and carve out an audience beyond the London deathrock club crowd. Hey, even Specimen had to stop playing the Batcave in the end. So, here come Johnny and Jacqui for one last time, attitude in full effect and guitars turned up good and loud. Naturally, it's exactly the kind of take-no-prisoners performance we've come to expect from the band: a raucous romp through 'Prick Up Your Ears', their ode to the great bard, 'Billy Rattlestick', and their instant-deathrock hit, 'Hammer Horror Glamour'. I'll freely admit I don't think this particular number is anywhere near Devilish Presley's best song, being as it's basically just a shopping list of deathrock-isms which sounds like it took all of five minutes to write. But what the hell - tonight, in front of a moshing mass of mohawks and ripped-fishnet merchants, it works. Mr Navarro leads the crowd up the garden path with a bit of call-and-response participation ('Everybody say hell yeah!' Audience: 'HELL YEAH!' Johnny: 'Everybody say antidisestablismentarianism!' Audience: confused mumbling) and  the riffs just don't stop...until, of course, eventually they do. A vintage performance, and while I think Devilish Presley are entirely right to spread their wings beyond the confines of the Dead & Buried audience, it's a shame we'll no longer be able to see them brewing up their unique storm in this particular north London rock 'n' roll hole. 

see all the photos from this concert here

Devilish Presley:


All Gone Dead:

Dead & Buried: