‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.
It’s not all about Billy Childish, you know.
Neither is it always all about the garage bands and punk bands that have come to be synonymous with the idea of ‘The Medway Sound’. Parallel to the long chain of such bands, there have been other bands ploughing entirely different musical furrows: Cenet Rox, Blood Junkies, The Dentists, The Claim, Swinging Time, The Love Family and a whole host of other bands and artists who have sprung up over the last ten to fifteen years.
While some of the these bands have happily just got on with their own thing, others amongst them have had the occasional niggling feeling of irritation with the so-called ‘Medway Sound’. Why be so fixated on the music of the past? Why limit yourself to such a narrow style for so long? Why can’t Medway’s music be recognised for a greater diversity of genres?
Such questions were asked by The Ambience who specialised in hazy, shoe-gazey sounds, heavy on the distortion and big on spaced out, trippy lyrics. If you could find anything further away from the sound of The Buff Medways you’d have been searching a long time.
The Ambience’s song ‘Rome’, from their 2011 album Colour in Silence, doesn’t sound particularly angry, although it certainly makes its present felt on the album, but the lyrics indicate that maybe not all is well in this part of the Garden of England:
They had a scene there once upon a time before I cared
I still don’t care
is vocalist Joe Liste’s succinct summary of many a Medway band. He then launches into a veiled critique of The Prisoners, Billy Childish, The Len Price Tree and The Bresslaws, whose lead singer, Andy Harding would have been addressed by his congregation as Reverend:
Don’t talk to me about prisoners;
I don’t care much for childish word.
Nothing’s new, the price of three.
The vicar’s songs do nothing for me.
‘I think we provided, in Medway, a different sound to what other bands were doing,’ Matt Ashdown told me when I interviewed him for my book.
‘Other bands were sticking to a Medway sound. Whereas we’re not concerned about that; we happen to be from Medway, and we support what’s going on in Medway, and we like going to gigs in Medway. But we never put ourselves within the category of ‘We are a Medway band.’ We just make music.’
Or, as the song has it: ‘Free flowing is the river/not a pond/not just one flavour.’
Find out more about The Ambience (and many of the bands they weren’t so keen on) in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.