TATOOS ARE FOREVER (BUT THEY GREEN AT THE END): MOTORCYCLE DISPLAY TEAM

 

They are not a real Motorcycle Display Team.

They are a three-piece Rock band whose current album

‘Wereman’ is well worth your attention…

 

The news for today is the downloads for tomorrow. Motorcycle Display Team is a band name to conjecture with. A power-trio in the classic bass-drums-lead-guitar wedge, abbreviated to ‘MDT’ by inner aficionados, they must have done an electric flex and curly wires deal with Mephistopheles in order to perfect the greatest moves you’ve never so far seen. Righteous rage. Agitational Propaganda. All The News That Fits. Formed in 2007, they consist of SE Londoner (Bletchley via Catford) vocalist-guitarist and sometime pianist Steve Hinds, his high voice rises into near-falsetto Manic Street Preacherism. Dubliner drummer Morgan Condon simultaneously blows your mind and knocks your socks off, while long-haired original-original New Zealander Matthew Eyre plays the bass that drives the album’s storming attack. ‘We were a four-piece when we started’ point out Steve, ‘but we’ve been a trio since then.’ Someone called the resulting sound ‘Arch Rock’… whatever that means. They don’t play faster than most, just further.

My very esteemed friend Chris Estey sent me a review copy of the three-piece’s most recent and very fine album – ‘Wereman’ (October 2022). It’s lyric-heavy with the sweat of live energies, words thorny with spiky quotable quotes. What is a Wereman? The beast on your back? Lon Chaney Jr, Oliver Reed, ‘Der Steppenwolf’, ‘Teen Wolf’… ‘An American Werewolf In London’? or a Werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand? Werecreatures, also called Therianthropes, Therians or Shape-Shifters are the mythical cursed humans who revert to the beast, as in the album’s digital spin-off single ‘The Chain Links’, which says ‘perish the thought you’d kill for sport! Bay at the quarry, slavering at the mouth…’ Or, as the band explain, it, it’s ‘a savage beast that only reveals its humanity once a month. An atavistic creature that plays an outsize role in our current social and political narrative.’ Yet also charming and mercurial. ‘This song uses the familiar patterns of an abusive personal relationship as a prism through which to view the ancient dynamic between an entitled elite, and the majority forever in tow,’ explains Steve Hinds. Shot in the Asylum Chapel in Peckham the video features two dancing priests.

But first track, opener ‘Hipshaker’ starts off like the theme-tune from a kid’s TV-programme, which merges into a long info-tutor sample advising on the goals of public speaking, to be cogent, audible and apropos. Before the deluge of sharp Punk guitars with structured loud-soft grunge. Yet there’s also a sunny day garden acoustic out-take demo of the song that reveals its impressive bone-hard structure.

There’s a dialogue concerning woman’s high-gloss fashion, and how stilettoes mean you can’t run away. It takes pussy-grabbing Trump and white racism into the existential crisis of pushback. ‘Let’s roll back years of this patriarchal bullshit,’ Steve yells, hard, but delivered with catchy harmonies and drop-in voices. There’s bass acceleration in dense guitars for ‘Scratch ‘n’ Sniff’, you really gotta scratch before you itch. Plans are for the hungry. Cut-&-paste another one today.

There’s film of the band sessions captured on the unique ‘Lightship 95’ recording studio moored on the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf, once a beacon on the treacherous seas around the Goodwin Sands, now superbly equipped to handle storming alt.Rock soundwaves. ‘I’m fuckin’ knackered’ says Morgan after the intense work-out, ‘right craic, really happy. But I’m fucking knackered.’ Among other questions the album poses there’s the one that concerns the track ‘Trying To Save The World With A Song’, there’s a songwriter who scrawls a crude hand on foolscap, is it about Bob Dylan…? I crave just a little enlightenment.

‘The song isn’t specifically about Bob Dylan…’ offers Morgan, the drummer, from behind an impressive percussion-barrier. ‘It’s more about certain people who think they can save a situation by carrying out an action that suits them. While they feel they’re changing something, they need to go further to see a real difference. But we definitely had certain musicians/Rock stars in mind when we wrote it. Bono might spring to mind. Hope that helps!’ The lyric probes motivations, ‘why? What are we writing for? Words on air. Actions win the war. ‘I try to stage an intervention, but all my clever words come out all wrong.’ What can a poor boy do, except to sing for a Rock ‘n’ Roll band?

There were two previous albums – ‘Captatio Benevolentiae’ (2012) and ‘Yours Probably’ (2018), plus a couple of EPs, and a sweetly melodic romantic 2018 mp3 single – ‘Darlin’ (ISI Media-4), a complete moment with a Christmas Eve message. Because, for a band, it’s always problematic writing about current specific issues when events are in a continual state of flux. Now that Trump and his shining wall have been hopefully relegated to history, although his divisive legacy remains as a corrosive force in the background of international politics. And wasn’t the ‘Big Society’ a David Cameron concept… how long ago that seems now, the epic sweep of history, ‘change may be the only thing you can rely on.’ More sonically nuanced, slow – into a build of stop-start detonations, a riff that ebbs away, full of growths and decays. ‘We came from shit, but you don’t have to dwell in it.’

‘Yes, we need a new government’ Morgan agrees.

But is a new Government enough? I like the band’s lyrical savaging of the Gig economy. Isn’t there more a need for some major redistribution of power within the economic structure? ‘Mexicans’ is about migrants out perchance to steal a glance at the pan-American dream. On the Lightship studio-film Steve gags in skewed accent ‘I have just been doing some guitars for the song ‘Mexicans’, and it’s really funky, in fact some of the guys in the control room said that if they had not had their hands over their ears they would literally have died from the funk.’ But take the rag away from your face, now’s the time for your tears, for this is also a song about the ‘Gig economy’ in general. The real walls are not the imaginary lines drawn on Google-maps, but those inside your head (with a fleeting drop-off at Robert A Heinlein SF to borrow the word ‘grok’).

‘Absolutely! the gaps are growing and growing. Who knows which party is capable of fixing it?, but clearly the Tories need to go now’ agrees Morgan, with a trace of Dublin in his accent. ‘Worker’s rights are fading away before us and no-one can afford a home, a simple basic right. People in the UK couldn’t afford heating this year… that’s criminal!’

I already like the way this dialogue is developing. The album’s first spin-off single – ‘Armchair Politician’, is carried on a graffiti video with Nadsat Droogs using glowsticks to replicate the ‘Clockwork Orange’ subway attack. I love the video’s Stanley Kubrick references, before it closes with the feral teens bursting in on the band rehearsals, and in the fight that ensues a cushion explodes into a snowstorm flurry of feathers. The world is embattled, as the couch potato ignores it all by escaping into bland soporific reality-TV as feathers drift around him. Using TV as Harlan Ellison perceptibly demonised it, as the Glass Teat. There’s a Brexit subtext, ‘don’t it feel shitty in this minority, to cut our noses off to spite our polity,’ cogent, audible and apropos, as the rhythm slows into a dub-wise break. Steve explains it as ‘this song laments the loss of common sense, decency and compassion amid the vicious, pernicious partisanship and eternal outrage at the heart of the public square.’

‘And great to see you noted the reference to ‘Clockwork Orange’,’ adds Morgan. Of course, it’s a classic movie that throws up lots of questions about totalitarianism, and the subversive elements of law and evil. ‘Fully agree. It’s one of my faves. One of the scary things in it is that two of the droogs end up as police officers. Not to mention the ‘U’-turn to make sure young Alex saves a bad press story at the end.’ Malcolm McDowell is a malevolent angel.

But then again, is the relentless gnawing drive and beats-per-minute ‘as they go and they go and they go’ track ‘Oi’ about getting off the old Punk ‘bandwagon’ that got its manifesto from Garry Bushell in the inky ‘Sounds’ music paper? ‘No, ‘Oi’ is a reaction to how some of the English football fans behaved after losing against Italy in the Euro finals a couple of years ago. It was disgusting how some people use football as a reason to act that way.’ It’s not OK.

Exactly. Check out the band’s cover of Led Zepp’s ‘Immigrant Song’ first, then check out their stylophone cover of Britney Spears ‘Toxic’ too!

I like the way this interview technique evolved as a kind of zigzag back-&-forth dialogue. Motorcycle Display Team is a band name to conjecture with. Do the band actually own motorcycles? Are the three of them any good at exhibition riding? Can they even perform wheelies? ‘The name comes from an in-joke’ offers Steve, ‘a really bad in-joke at the time, and it gets worse and worse with very telling of the story. Initially, when we got together, we considered a bunch of names – Little Sisters, X’s, Kisses, and for a while we were Sancho Panza, until deciding none of them were any good. The idea was – when Morgan plays the drums, he plays very heavily and loudly, and the kickdrum will quite often move around the stage, so we have to put something heavy in front of it, or sometimes we have to stand on that thing and play at the same time – almost like we’re hanging on in formation, like a Motorcycle Display Team! We liked the idea of that because it was stupid and naff and also kinda funny. Which fit us in a weird kind of way.’

‘No, none of us own motorcycles. However, we’d like to think we’re good at exhibiting ourselves!’ says Morgan, the drummer. Which is a great answer!

 

 

BY ANDREW DARLINGTON

 

2009 – ‘The Crayon Masterpiece’ (ISI Media-13)

First three titles with guitar and production input from Jack Elphick.

(1) ‘Firecracker’ (4:30), soft Buzzcocks acceleration, she’s a walking firecracker.

(2) ‘Worry Wings’ (3:39)

(3) ‘Aint’ (3:49)

(4) ‘Beneath The Flowerbed’ (4:13)

 

2012 – ‘Captatio Benevolentiae’ (ISA Media Ltd-1)

Produced, engineered and mixed by Cesar Gimeno Lavin

(1) ‘Breaktown’

(2) ‘Better Than Sex’

(3) ‘The Best Ex You Ever Had’

(4) ‘Summerbomb’

(5) ‘Zigfrid Pt.2’

(6) ‘The Arguers’

(7) ‘Betweenager’

(8) ‘Brickwall’

(9) ‘Cynics In Love’

(10) ‘A Taste’ issued as 2015 single distributed for radio and review

(11) ‘Ocean Eyes’

 

2015 – ‘Letters Of Last Resort’ EP (ISA Media-2)

(1) ‘Letters Of Last Resort’ (3:44)

(2) ‘All The Way To Rockaway’ (3:26)

(3) ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ (4:19)

(4) ‘Girl Monday’ (3:00)

(5) ‘Sleep Apnea’ (3:57)

 

February 2015 – ‘Girl Monday’ (3:01) promo single (ISA Media)
radio single taken from ‘Letters Of Last Resort’ EP

 

2018 – ‘Yours Probably’ (ISA Media-6)

Produced, engineered and mixed by Cesar Gimeno Lavin

(1) ‘Ice Age’ (7:06)

(2) ‘Resistance Is Fertile’ (3:18)

(3) ‘Indelible Ink’ (3:36)

(4) ‘Erosion’ (3:16), ‘a tiny little tragedy’, a nuanced track of some subtlety.

(5) ‘Brace Brace’ (3:41)

(6) ‘Oh Country, My Country’ (3:39)

(7) ‘A Lady Never Tells’ (3:53)

(8) ‘Testing Testing’ (3:40)

(9) ‘Ruby Slippers’ (4:39)

(10) ‘Yours Probably’ (8:37)

 

2018 – ‘Darlin’ (ISI Media-4) mp3 single

A sweetly melodic romantic moment with a Christmas Eve message

 

October 2022 – ‘Wereman’ (ISI Media-14)

With producer David Holmes adding bass and synth, and Tom Risley (trumpet)

(1) ‘Hipshaker’ (4:39) with Drew Thompson

(2) ‘Footsteps’ (2:47)

(3) ‘Shut Up And Take Your Medicine’ (3:46)

(4) ‘The Chain Links’ (3:58), 2022 digital single (ISA Media-16)

(5) ‘Scratch ‘n’ Sniff’ (5:30)

(6) ‘Oi’ (4:17)

(7) ‘Mexicans’ (4:03) with James Chapman

(8) ‘Armchair Politician’ (4:41) with Drew Thompson, 2022 digital single (ISA Media-15)

(9) ‘Divide: Rule’ (5:48) with Drew Thompson

(10) ‘Trying To Save The World With A Song’ (3:58) with Drew Thompson

 

With quotes from Nick Field interview https://www.phoenixfm.com/2022/09/26/curveballs-21st-september-2022-motorcycle-display-team/

https://www.facebook.com/mdtbandUK

https://linktr.ee/mdtband?fbclid=IwAR2k1pfENipkhsC4ANOMkvm0RTKn5ZEPjIwTQlYDfMeVxUBs5Mei4UwuJ7I

 


By Andrew Darlington

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