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The Men They Couldn't HangSome would have you believe that the past is another country; they do things differently there. That may be but the fairly recent past is often like returning to the location of a string of well-loved childhood holidays, a change but with a wonderfully familiar feel about it. And so it is when you get the chance to watch a band that made such an impact on your younger self, and Saturday night say just that. The Men They Couldn’t Hang burst out of the London squat scene in the early eighties mixing folk and rock and singing torch songs and anthems to blue collar causes, industrial history and the under dog and quickly became firm favourites of mine. Not only mine but my school friend cum housemate Mark, who was in town tonight for the show and who like Prometheus himself is tasked with bringing fire to mortal man…albeit wholesale and at a more competitive price.   A few snifters from a wonderful golden rum he had picked up on his travels and it was off to The Rolleston for a few drinks before heading into the fray of Level 3, the club below. It was great to see plenty of familiar faces, particularly Andy King who competed the trio as not only Wootton Bassett Comprehensive old boys but also ex-St Ivel employees from the day when my hometowns economy relied on toiling before a cottage cheese flavoured pit face.   Down stairs we caught the second half of The Charred Hearts set, whose front man, Dermot, had put the gig together to celebrate his 50th birthday. Solid, melodic punk with a strong local following and for which I have a soft spot for having once stood in on bass for a gig at the first Punk By The Sea festival in Southsea, a fairly daunting experience due to having to play with only 2 rehearsals under my belt and the fact that I was pretty much the only person with long hair in a crowd of 1500 aging punks. Still a great weekend nonetheless.   As this wasn’t really a scheduled or tour gig in the normal sense The Men treated us to a greatest hits package ranging from early classics such as Ironmasters, through Waiting For Bonaparte era greats right up to last years Raising Hell. Nice to see Tom Spenser back in the posse, a man I had watched front his own band The Loyalties, play bass for Tyla and last time round play banjo for TMTCH. This time he took over lead guitar duties allowing Paul Simmonds to stay with the ever-faithful Mandolin.   The upstairs bar was still rammed as we trickled out of the venue, due mainly to the clever booking of a Pogues-esque cider-punk outfit called Mick O’Toole still playing so myself and Mark found ourselves outside the venue clutching a pint and bumping into none other than singer/guitarist Stefan Cush. A top chat was had with him, sordid tales of the bands heyday and even a brief talk with Tom materialised.   More rum and pizza back at my house rounded off one of the most pleasurable gig experiences I have had in a long time. Those that say nostalgia isn’t what it used to be have got it so wrong.

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