The Popguns

The Prince Albert, Brighton – 21st June 2013

Going to see The Popguns used to be one of life's great pleasures, and a regular one at that. Hailing from Brighton, you could always find some town in Sussex where they would be showing their faces, the only confusing thing being that the band hadn't been swept away in a wave of national euphoria and carried off to the capital to develop massive cocaine habits and frosty attitudes. For the words 'underrated' and 'criminally' were almost invented for this band; in the late eighties and early nineties they released a series of EPs of quite untouchable quality and why they weren't embraced with gratitude and open arms by the then-mighty music press remains an unfathomable mystery. But in the end mainstream success eluded them and for many years now The Popguns have been little more than fond memories until the recent spate of resurrections thankfully touched the south coast and the 'Gunners once more threw themselves into the fray. Eighteen odd years is quite a long time to go between seeing a band play and it was fitting this long wait was ended on the year's longest day, as the homecoming kicked off upstairs at The Albert, one of the city's smallest but most welcoming venues.

The key to The Popguns' brilliance was that their lyrics touched you in all the right places; they evoked familiar and powerful emotions while their jangling indie pop delighted the ears. Surely most bands would give their right arms to be able to kick-off with a song as stunning as 'Landslide'. Take a look at YouTube to catch the somewhat wobbly and seldom seen video of the single and there is the comment, "Without doubt, the best song ever written." An exaggeration maybe, but not much of one, for this is a song that kicks at your heart and to hear it live again is a thrilling experience. And the great tracks keep on coming with 'Down On Your Knees' and 'Leave It Alone' following on. The band sound in fine fettle as they peel off the classics; they seem to have acquired a new backing vocalist which works well on the songs that were double-tracked on record such as 'Waiting For The Winter' and there's plenty of smiles as bad notes are hit, rock star poses assumed and the passing of time acknowledged. "We called this song 'Down on Your Knees' as we used to go down on our knees at the end of it," declares singer Wendy Morgan. "We can't do that now as we wouldn't be able to get up again."

The best news of the night is that the band have new songs to play, meaning this reunion is likely to be longer lasting than a few happy get-togethers. "Long long long ....', 'Leaning On The Backline' and 'Something Going On' all slip nicely into the set which otherwise consists of the band's very best material: 'Someone You Love', 'Waiting For The Winter', 'Because He Wanted To' and the band's greatest ever moment, the heart-wrenching 'Every Dream'. The audience is loving it and bouncing along; a full house in the Albert does mean temperatures bordering on meltdown however and as the gig heads to a close with a couple of later songs, 'Those Other Things' and 'Don't Smile', it really is stifling and bassist Pat Walkington is completely blinded by the sweat running into his eyes. A last chord leads to a quick dash outside for oxygen but the crowd is insistent and the Popguns return to bash through a wildly acknowledged 'Bye Bye Baby' before finally retiring to cooler climates.

It's been a hugely enjoyable evening full of huge tunes and huger grins. We're just happy that one of life's great pleasures is there to enjoy once again and we can't wait for the next time. The best band ever to emerge from Sussex? Without a shadow of a doubt.

Words Adam, Photographs (with apologies) Gary
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