Steppin' Out Again
The X-Men

The X-Men

The Green Door Store, Brighton - 22nd May 2015
We really had thought we had seen it all and there were no surprises left. So many bands have reformed over the past few years that we thought nothing would ever shock us again. The Mary Chain playing Psychocandy? No problem. The Pop Group at Sticky Mike's? Well, it makes sense. Mott The Hoople at the O2? Logical. But never in our wildest dreams did we envisage standing in the Green Door Store in 2015 watching The X-Men playing 'Do The Ghost'. Or anything else for that matter.

We had bought that band's legendary debut single in 1984 as the sixth release on the fledgling Creation label. It was a blistering psychobilly romp with an archetypal sinister laugh at the beginning, classic B52s backing vocals, slashing rockabilly guitars and plenty of crowd-pleasing 'whoos'. It didn't sound like anything else the label produced, though it sold well enough to be re-pressed with a different colour sleeve, and the band followed it up with a second single 'Spiral Girl' the following year. At the time they were pretty active in the London live circuit, but tied to a publishing contract they hated, the band only recorded one more record, a mini album deliberately made up of covers, entitled Lillies For My Pussy, released on Media Burn Records in 1986.

The X-Men reformed in November 2014 to play a gig at the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea, making this their second UK performance in 28 years. With some whirling keyboards added to the classic band line-up, the X-Men look in extremely fine fettle, with singer Mark Stars sporting only a slightly smaller quiff than in his glory days. Though he struggles to read the set list after removing his glasses, with his bandmates prompting him which song follows which, it is clear he can still move with the best of them and the crowded stage at the Green Door Store is hindering him from more frantic activity. He does attempt to join the audience during the opening number, but only manages to send his monitor crashing to the ground so thereafter behaves himself whilst making the most of the floorspace at his disposal.

Of course we are treated to 'Do The Ghost' and 'Talk' from the first single, along with 'Spiral Girl' from the second, and the songs sound as fresh as the day they were released. There has obviously been plenty of rehearsing going on as there is barely a hiccup and The X-Men sound as tight as you like, though drummer Debbie Green (who also featured in Thee Headcoatees) gets one intro wrong much to Stars' delight. The audience are loving every minute and bopping along nicely and it is a long time since we have seen a GDS audience so involved, or one containing such a wide variety of age groups.

'Don't Break This Heart Of Mine', 'You I'll Be Following', 'Leave This House' and 'Hard Coming Love' are played from the mini album, along with The Sonics' classic 'The Witch'. Newer band compositions are added to the mix debating the struggles of life on the Kent borders, while the set can only be concluded with 'Do The Ghost' followed by a brilliant version of The Revillos' 'Yeah Yeah' which gives all of the band members – guitarist Tom Cullinan, bassist Tim Hosking and vocalist Sue F – a chance to shine. It has been a hour-long set, pretty good by any standards, but the band are enjoying themselves so much they look as though they want to play all night.

It has been great evening, aided in no small part by support acts The Sine Waves, all white coats, masks and classic instrumentals, and The Hillmans who don't have quite enough songs to fill their allocated time slot, though they do provide the only double bass of the night. What is left now to shock us? It would have to be good to top this. Perhaps Glenn Miller flying in for a turn at the Albert?

The X-Men
Words by Adam Hammond
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