The title may be ironic – a band who have persevered in making music for 40 years despite various calamities over their four decades. However, their Covid-disrupted 12th long-player shows no signs of pessimism in its delivery, from the opening pounding drums and bass plus guy/gal vocal, as percussionist Fliss Kitson joins frontman Robert Llood on ‘Sunlit Uplands’, a bright and brassy opener.
‘I Heart CCTV’s twanging guitars are a little reminiscent of The Birthday Party, while Robert Lloyd’s drawl evokes that frontman’s Aussie snarl. However, bear in mind that not only are Lloyd and crew Brummies, they predated Nick Cave’s arrival in the UK by five years – Lloyd an attraction on the infamous ‘White Riot’ punk tour with his first band The Prefects, before forming his current act. This tight-knit four-piece, in its longest-established lineup, is driven by Andreas Schmid’s rumbling bass and James Smith’s spidery guitar lines, notably on classic Nightingales hoedown ‘Spread Yourself Out’.
Some readers/listeners may be familiar with Lloyd’s work thanks to comedian Stewart Lee whose documentary about the band, ‘King Rocker’, toured cinemas last year. That film is a good primer for newcomers to the band, who share their celebrity comic fan’s laconic dry wit, and this long-player follows the corresponding soundtrack album which acted as an impromptu ‘best-of’.
Here, it’s this all-new material which shows that Lloyd and cohorts are just as vital and energetic as ever despite their advancing years; their live shows are often one long medley without a pause between numbers. The twanging cow-punk of ‘Frances Sokolov’ is a tribute to the late contemporary and mentor musician Vi Subversa of anarcho-punks Crass, while ‘Mark Meets No Mark’ is a jerky punk rock rant, possibly a nod to another contemporary, The Fall’s Mark E Smith, that descends into swirling keyboard morass.
Bang on form and garnering new fans aplenty thanks to this new-found lust for life, Lloyd might indeed have The Last Laugh.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Portsmouth News.