Although I don’t usually review new wave or punk rock albums, I had to make an exception when Night of Treason’s forthcoming album Gentlemen and Hooligans was referred to as “the best English punk record from the 70s.” Now, you’ve got to either admire their confidence, or think that this album is just a bit special. This isn’t youthful exuberance from a young, inexperienced group of musicians, fresh to the music industry, and clutching their first record contract. Instead, Night of Treason are veteran punk rockers, with over 250 concerts under their belt and twenty years experience. During their career, Night of Treason have been joined by Billy Bragg, Mike Peters of The Alarm and Mick Jones of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite. Indeed, when I first came across Night of Treason, it was with when I saw a video of Mick Jones joining the group on a version of I Fought the Law. Immediately, I was struck by Night of Treason’s talent, passion and energy. Adding cache to Gentlemen and Hooligans, was having Smiley, formerly the drummer with Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros and Robbie Williams producing the album. 

Gentlemen and Hooligans started life as a concept album, with the central character returning to their hometown, wondering what became of his idealistic friends, who he shared his adolescent years with. These years were spent with football, war comics and solvents, before working at the local social security office. However, from a concept album, Gentlemen and Hooligans grew legs, with Night of Treason spawning a number of other tracks. These were so good, that it was almost impossible to leave them off Gentlemen and Hooligans. So, from the original concept album, came thirteen songs from lead singer Pinky and the rest of Night of Treason. Will Night of Treason’s Gentlemen and Hooligans live up to the hype as the “the best English punk record from the 70s?” That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Gentlemen and Hooligans literally bursts into life, opening with Can’t Remember. It’s an energetic, guitar driven track. While machine gun like guitars and drums drive the track along, trailing feed-back in their midst. Meanwhile, the vocal is raw, full of anger and frustration. Keyboards drop in out of the track, as this lightning quick slice of punk rock reveals its angst ridden charms, bringing to mind the summer of ’76 again.

After the angst and energy of the opening track, the Ballad of the Teddy Boy (From Ladbroke Grove) reveals a totally different side of Night of Treason. Here, the music is neither as frenzied nor raw, with the song revealing the best lyrics on Gentlemen and Hooligan. They’ve got a strong narrative and clever lyrics, telling the story of a teddy boy living through the punk era in the style of Elvis Costello and XTC. There’s still a punk and new wave influence, albeit without the rawness of the previous track. Listen carefully to the arrangement, and there’s even elements of The Alarm during the track. The lyrics are delivered in an impassioned style, while the dual guitars and rhythm section provide a hooky arrangement. When combined, the result is a catchy track with clever, melancholy lyrics that remind me of The Alarm.  

From the intelligent, melancholy lyrics of the previous track, to the rawness and energy of If You Wannit. Like Speed and Glue and Rock ‘N’ Roll, a tale of adolescent malcontent mischief and foolhardiness, this is delivered in the Oi style, fusing punk, pub rock and glam rock. With a backdrop of sirens, searing, scorching guitars, angry drums and vocals that are barked out, both are seething songs, full of anger, aggression and frustration.

Straight away, The Young Conservatives reminds me of The Jam. Again the song has a strong narrative and political lyrics. When Gentlemen and Hooligans was going to be a concept album, this was about the central character getting a job in his local social security office. Delivered against a backdrop that sounds like something from a Billy Bragg album, I love the payoff line “I hope you know I’m not a Young Conservative,” enveloped amongst swathes of rocky guitars. Truly, a great song, like Teddy Boy (From Ladbroke Grove).

On Clockwork Orange Street there’s a real Clash influence throughout the track. I’d also hazard a guess that Night Of Treason are fans of  Graham Greene,  given the title and lead singer Pinky sharing a name with the  central character in Brighton Rock. Listen carefully to the track, and The Clash influence becomes more prominent after two minutes. By then, you’d swear you’d put on the wrong album, and this was actually Joe Strummer and company in their pomp. There’s the same dynamics and energy, during this track. Later on in the album with Night Of Treason revisit The Clash’s influence on Letter From the Front, the final track from the album. Opening with a solemn harmonica solo from Mike Peters, formerly of The Alarm, this change totally. Screeching guitars, loud and proud, drive the track along, while drums crack and Pinky delivers some poignant, honest and bleak lyrics about a career in the army. 

What Became Of The Boys Brigade has a moody, broody sound. Again there’s a real Jam influence, with Pinky’s vocal even reminding me of a young Paul Weller. The only difference is Night Of Treason feature dual guitars, which are loud and rocky as they drive the track along. Barked out backing vocals accompany Pinky’s lead vocal, as the track descends to a catchy, rousing singalong ending, that’s laden with energy.

Skate City is another track with some great lyrics, lyrics which have a real English quality. With lyrics like “I’m going to skate city, to see my English rose,” there’s a pastoral element to the lyrics. This is combined with an urban grittiness, when combined with “put a pill on my tongue, to take the pain away.” Sung against a jaunty arrangement, where rhythm and lead guitar are key to the track, while drums provide the track’s heartbeat. Pinky delivers the lyrics with a sense of urgency and then fatalism. His fatalistic delivery is mirrored by the blazing crescendo of screaming guitars that accompany his vocal, during this dichotomy of an English song.

Borrowed Time offers a bleak vision of the 21st century. There’s a real sense of darkness in the lyrics, while guitars reverberate, then scream and weave across the arrangement. Meanwhile, Pinky darkly delivers Night Treason’s bleak message that we’re living on borrowed time, while the world explodes and descends into chaos. Like other tracks on Gentlemen and Hooligans, this track is political, as it offers up Night of Treason’s somewhat fatalistic and bleak worldview, to an equally dark and bleak musical backdrop.

Similar to other tracks on Gentlemen and Hooligans, Violette deals with the subject of war and love. These subjects are intertwined, with a woman finding love during war, only to lose her lover during a battle. Although melancholic, with a sense of pathos in the lyrics, it could be argued that the track almost glorifies and glamorizes war and loss. Keyboard, rhythm section and guitars provide the backdrop to a half-spoken vocal. Meanwhile, the rest of the group contribute backing vocals, while meandering keyboards are key to the arrangement. Later guitars build up the drama of the track, creating a one man wall of sound. Overall, this is a good track, with thoughtful poignant lyrics

This Is My Town is a walk down memory lane, where Pinky remembers places and people from his youth. This he does against guitars that ring out the sound of Big Ben, before launching into a Clash and Jam inspired track. With guitars to the fore, snappy drums and Pinky’s raw vocal drives the track along before the payoff line delivered with pride “This Is My Town.” It’s a stirring, rocky anthemic track, one of the catchiest from Gentlemen and Hooligans.

Closing Gentlemen and Hooligans is the title track Gentlemen and Hooligans. Borrowing Joy To the World at the start of the track, Pinky sings about being asked by his father “gentleman or hooligan, what are you going to be?” Now his life having come full circle, he’s asking his own son the same question. Buried among a jaunty myriad of searing, guitars and punchy guitars his vocal is raw and powerful, delivered in a Jimmy Pursey singalong style, circa Hersham Boys. In a way, this track not only makes you think, but leaves you with a smile on face with its rousing, boisterous style.

Having described Night Of Treason’s debut album Gentlemen and Hooligans as a punk rock or new wave album, I think that they’re more that that. On some of the tracks, they demonstrate a similar rocky style to The Clash. Granted on many tracks, the music is punk of new wave music through and through. During the album, Night Of Treason’s  influences range from The Alarm, The Clash, The Jam, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, Sham 69 and XTC. Each of these influences can be heard on the thirteen tracks on Gentlemen and Hooligans. Unlike many other punk bands, Night Of Treason are much more accomplished musicians and lyricists. Many of their lyrics are intelligent, blessed with a strong narrative, and are clever, poignant and melancholy. Given that Night Of Treason are such an experienced band, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. For anyone who longs for the heady days of ’76, and is an aging punk or new waver, waiting for the next great punk album to arrive, then your wait is nearly over. Night Of Treason’s Gentlemen and Hooligans will be released on 30 April 2012, with the album released on Night Of Treason Records and available via Amazon. So did Gentlemen and Hooligans live up to the hype as “the best English punk record from the 70s?” I’d say yes, given the quality of music and lyrics on Gentlemen and Hooligans. It’s a collection of thirteen highly accomplished tracks that brings to mind the spirit of ’76. Standout Tracks: Ballad of the Teddy Boy (From Ladbroke Grove), The Young Conservatives, On Clockwork Orange Street and This Is My Town. 


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