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Row the Boat Ashore


First time I saw Party Day. An audience that shrieks with chic in a concrete tomb beneath the vast 'Clockwork Orange' multiplex of the Leeds Merrion Centre. Amps switched up to infinity, a positive-thrash power-trio roaring (geographically) outta Danse Society territory. I'd heard their tapes, but live there's a hard edge that C30 chrome-dioxide can't trap. Like the result of twisted eugenics there's lots of familiar reference points finger-printing their contagious stand-outs; 'Athena', through 'Opium Gathering', and into the riffing 'Tin Sky' but they come out laundered oddly fresh.

6 months later, after a single in a Day-glow bag promoted through a concentrated swamp - operation gig schedule, I see them a second time, churning into a high-sweat situation in a glass 'n' concrete Students Union Hall. What was once promise is now parallel bars of spiral spinal craggy jagged energy rush, what Bart Bertie called "sheet metal and hysterical pagan" music (NME).
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"There's a lot to be said for guitar, drums and bass," drawls Martin Steele. "People just kinda latched onto Synths. We've tried Synths, but they won't fit in for us. You can do owt on a guitar - as you've just witnessed!"

"With just three members in the group the ideas are kept more together," agrees bassist Carl Firth. "Whereas if there's more people involved. . . "

". . . your ideas get watered down."

Drummer Michael Baker, crop-headed and unshaven, comes in - "it's tighter and quicker" - with an admirable concise summation.

"We wanna get away from that thrash - punk thing though," adds Martin in thick slow seams of Barnsley accent. "We've had a bit of constructive criticism over it. Some of our songs are fairly melodic and I think we ought to develop that more. There's nowt wrong with a melody when all's said and done. It can be weird. It can be whatever you want."

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The single combining 'Row the Boat Ashore' with 'Poison' - shows this development already, but for what it's worth, a track called 'Athena' - even now emerging on a Belgian compilation EP - sounds a stone classic to these jaded ears. When they do it live it's chorus-chant is instantly memorable, yet it's after burn hints at more subtle energies.

Cabaret Voltaire once defined Sheffield for me as a 'negative influence'; being a recession-blitzed steel town where nothing ever happens it provided a vacuum that they had to fill. But "there's plenty to do in Barnsley," asserts Martin, in a kind of deadpan Party Day send up line I'm now attuned to. "You can go and watch the football. Or get pissed. It depends." But he did neither. "I knew when I was about six that I was gonna form a group. That was my ambition." And through various evolutionary personnel shifts, tonight is the logical end product of that ambition.

Party Day is a name lifted from an early song; like 'Joy Division', it's superficially upbeat, masking a menacing nihilism. The name is "a bit cynical," admits Martin. "Nothing is as it appears. There's a lot of underlying nastiness in a lot of things. It's sinister." "We don't want to get to the top too quick or get noticed too quick. You've got to build a steady following if you wanna get anywhere permanent. So we'll just keep going. I reckon we'll be a sort of Pink Floyd or Hawkwind band - but in a different context. You don't know any of the people out of Pink Floyd, or Hawkwind - but you know the name. We're a wholemeal band. Natural ingredients . . ."

So where does 'Opium Gathering' come in? Is that a natural ingredient? Martin picks up on the line mischievously. "I wrote that. Me and Michael. My half is about going to bed with somebody . . . " A calculated pause, ". . .I don't know what his half is about!"


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