This has to be the most out of the way venue I’ve ever visited, hidden in the suburban wilds of Jordanhill. Then again, Vic Godard has always been a stubborn sod, releasing a swing-influenced album and appearing in a tuxedo at the height of punk. Accies Social Club is exactly what it says on the ticket, a packed L-shaped room, lined with the names of members past and present who have gone onto greater things or fell in two world wars, but the atmosphere is good, the audience a real mixture of ages; from old punks to kids, some die hard fans including members of The Pastels and a later recruit to the Bunnymen and the curious.
Vic and his three cohorts take the floor (literally – apart from a raised section on which the drums sit there is no stage) and launch into ‘Rock And Roll Even’, complete with some frantic harmonica playing. It becomes quickly apparent that tonight is to be vintage Subway Sect. Vic, ever the contrarian, is at present re-recording an album of his early songs, many of which date back to the mythical ‘lost’ first album. However, while many ‘punk’ era survivors are content to perform around the toilet venues of Britain as a sort of low budget, punk version of a chicken-in-a-basket cabaret act, Godard has one hell of a back catalogue, most of it unavailable, hidden up his sleeve. There’s no slacking here, they burn through songs such as ‘Birth And Death’, the wonderfully titled ‘Derail Your Senses’ and ‘Stool Pigeon’ with all the ramshackle exuberance of a fresh young band (Godard and original drummer Mark Laff must be fast approaching fifty, indeed Godard resembles Woody Allen these days). Truth be told, Subway Sect were always more garage Mods than orthodox punks with their sharp, concise, literate songs, scuffed suits and French New Wave influences. Even their chosen moniker recalls an unholy marriage between Jean Luc Godard and 60s beat-band the Downliners Sect. Vic Godard and the Subway Sect just never really fitted in anywhere, to original and obtuse to be ‘proper’ punks in the 70s.
Introducing ‘Watching The Devil’, Vic apologises for the ‘archaeological feel’ of tonight’s set but he needn’t have done so. It all sounds so damn fresh – vital even. A greatest hits album by a band that never had any. Only two songs, ‘Stamp Of A Vamp’ and ‘Stop That Girl’ are played from the later albums, the rest either predate or appear on their 1980 debut What’s The Matter Boy?, released four years into their strange career. ‘Stamp Of A Vamp’ is a beautiful, jazzy track from Songs For Sale, ‘Stop That Girl’ a shambolic reading of a song from 1986’s excellent T.R.O.U.B.L.E. and one of my favourite songs of all time. Godard and Laff busk through it (the new recruits haven’t learnt it yet) as part of a well-deserved encore. That they hadn’t rehearsed it but played it anyway for tonight’s promoter as a special treat speaks a lot of the generosity of Godard who is a thoroughly entertaining host throughout. At the end of ‘Stamp Of A Vamp’ Godard apologises for his stage outfit – he’s wearing his posties outfit as a dare – and promises to bring his tuxedo next time before the band perform a blistering version of ‘Stool Pigeon’.
The night finishes with (I think) a new number ‘That Train’ which is a driving, clattering beast of a song, a souped up cousin of the Yardbirds ‘Train Kept A Rolling’ and it brings a wondrous set to a thundering climax.
It’s a perfect night. I leave feeling thoroughly charmed and revitalised, having seen one of the best shows of the year by one of the unlikeliest of characters in the strangest of venues. Rock And Roll Even? Oh definitely.