This review, written by a correspondent known as Dee Spatches, appeared on a Socialist R&B website which was recently shut down by The Man. Most of you will have been regular readers of pentatonicdialectics.com, and will be as saddened by its demise as we are. Fingers crossed that another Socialist R&B site can rise from its ashes. I guess that’s for the courts to decide. Anyway, Dee Spatches kept a copy of this review, so rather than see it lost in the vacuum of cyberspace, we agreed to publish it here for posterity:
It seems the current fashion is for bands of old to reform, either to showcase “That Classic Album”, or to try and keep the money rolling in in their dotage. So it’s always refreshing to hear of bands that never really went away. Such is the case with legendary Reigate Socialist R&B band THEE FACTION, the collective whose gigs in the mid 80s and subsequent disappearance “underground” led them to be spoken of in hushed and revered tones. This reporter’s Uncle was at the now infamous Ebbw Vale NUM gig (which must rank up there with The Sex Pistols at The Free Trade Hall in terms of mythical crowd attendance figures), and drove himself to distraction trying to describe to us kids the feeling, atmosphere and passion that the band generated in that club. There was often talk of bootlegs, but they seldom surfaced- and those that did were of such muddy quality as to be unlistenable (there have been recent rumours of more tapes appearing, but I will believe it when I see, or hear, it). So, when I was invited to see them play a benefit gig in April at the Old Queens Head in Angel- drummer Dai Nasty and my Uncle were old school friends- I jumped at the chance. It was my musical destiny, after all.
Everything he had tried so hard to describe was true; blistering chords, call-and-response crowd-winning choruses…I found myself swept along on a righteous tide of Socialist R’n’B, and I loved every second. There had been numerous rumours about what had happened to them after they had gone to ground in the mid 80s- they had died/got religion/stood for council seats in Spelthorne – basically that they had someway betrayed their roots and “sold out to The Man”. But the group I saw before me were as raw and honest as I imagine they must have been that hot night in Ebbw Vale in ’85.
Brentford on vocals holds the crowd in the palm of his hand, teasing them and drawing them in, conducting them as if they were his orchestra. He delivered the songs feverish and wild-eyed, as if he were trying to cram the concert into the collective brain in the first ten minutes of them appearing. Kassandra Krossing and Krystina Prystina Engels on backing vocals added richness to the sound, but never once detracted from each knockout punch.
Babyface, always the most politically vociferous of the group, has the speeches, anecdotes and brooding presence. He wields the guitar like a flamethrower, and you are drawn in by his rhetoric – delivered in quiet, measured tones. Sharing guitar duties, Nylons throws powerchord after powerchord across the room. They both make it look so effortless, but the guitar sound reverberates through the already highly-charged crowd, leaving them awestruck.
The Hard Man, on bass, stands as impassive as ever. He had always been referred to as “The Socialist Worker’s Easter Island Statue”. His solid, dark basslines are the meat in the guitar sandwich, and he is constantly scanning the crowd and feeding off the atmosphere. He and drummer Dai Nasty were the ones who never gave interviews, so they were always the figures onto whom most was projected (it was mooted at one point on an internet forum that The Hard Man was actually a Buddhist Monk). Dai Nasty’s drums were potent and vigorous, never letting up for a second. My Uncle always spoke very highly of Dai as a man who stuck to his political guns, no matter what. He and The Hard Man provide an absolute brick wall of a rhythm section and, as Uncle Gwynfor used to say- “it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for”.
Thee Faction’s message hasn’t dulled with time. If anything, in this technological age, the word is spreading faster. The band have embraced Facebook and Twitter, and even have their own website now. But that doesn’t mean there has been a watering down of their policies and beliefs, and that is to be applauded. They want to take those beliefs out to the people- and, judging by the response I saw in April, the people are only to happy to embrace them.
Dee Spatches- Mornington Star (North London’s Premier Communist Gazette)