Having been a long-time fan of the British post-punk movement, I bought a DVD documentary some years back entitled “Made in Sheffield”…and while my main interest lay in bands I have known and loved for eons such as The Human League, ABC and Pulp, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the existence of some other acts of the era which didn’t quite “make it” on such a global scale. Perhaps the one that stood out most was some band called Artery, and lo and behold, who might be playing locally during my recent two-and-a-bit week visit to England? Having stupidly missed classic PIL bassist Jah Wobble’s current “dub” outfit the weekend before, I figured I had no excuse not to attend at least one gig whilst abroad, so here we are.
Things start off less than encouragingly with a crowd not much bigger than the five-piece band themselves, but fortunately by the time the band hit the stage – a good forty-five minutes or so after the listed time, bless ’em (hate them early starts!) – a good few more punters have arrived, and the show can begin. It’s a largely “old”-ish crowd this evening, which is to be reasonably expected for a “cult” band that initially broke up back in 1985, but it’s always a source of consolation to yours truly when he’s one of the youngest people in the room (yeah, I’m old, just not “that” old)! And at the risk of sounding redundant, ’cause I’ve done this whole spiel before, it’s also heart-warming whenever I see a live band who ain’t exactly Straight Outta High School putting on a show with more stage presence than most of the fifty-seven “young” bands that formed just down your street last week. Granted, most of this on-stage intensity comes from vocalist Mark Gouldthorpe – the rest of the band more statue-esque, but still giving themselves a decent cardio work-out for all that – but in this day and age even one band member with notable stage presence is something of a God-send, and the other four members – including a keyboardist (always a good thing in my book) – sound so fucking good that any complaints seem a tad unfair.
The music of Artery, simply put, has the kind of nervous urgency and unsettled moodiness that few bands to be recently labelled “post-punk” can genuinely lay claim to. Sure, there’s a few tracks in there that you could kick up your heels to, but the so-called “dance-punk” of the modern age this sure as shit ain’t! Just in case you’re under twenty-five and wonder why the post-punk genre/era is often associated with words like “dark” and “bleak” – words one would hardly associate with Franz Ferdinand, for instance – perhaps you should check out the likes of Artery. They sure don’t make ’em like this any more, and the mould for mad-bastard frontmen like Mr Gouldthorpe was broken LONG ago. The documentary I mentioned makes late 70s/early 80s Sheffield out to be a pretty grim, over-industrialised place, so perhaps it’s no surprise that it spawned such a menacingly mopy band as this one, as surely as the same era of Manchester gave us Joy Division and The Smiths. A group birthed from such surroundings these days would probably have little more to complain about than a bad network connection on “Left 4 Dead 2”, the spoiled little bleeders. Cleaner air and some semblance of hope for the future does not a great band usually make. Thank God bands like Artery are still alive and kickin’, in this post-emo world of faux-sulkiness and tattooed teardrops. It’s enough to make me proud to ‘ave been born British, even if I don’t live in the miserable bugger of a place any more.
© Michael Bowser, Music Vice