Tag Archives: The Ambience

A Medway Christmas Alphabet: The Full Story


You can blame a chap called Philip Kane for this. Back on 1 December, he posted on Facebook the social media version of the old chain letter thing that went as follows:

“So the idea is to fill facebook with music, breaking the monotony of nasty, divisive headlines and images on our news feeds.

If you ‘like’ this post, you will be assigned a letter for a musician, band, artist, song, track or dj to post to your time line with this text”.

I liked it. He came back to me with the letter R. I came up with Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A.’s ‘Santa Domingo’ – as you do – and before you know it I’d committed myself to the idea of stealing the whole concept and coming up with some music of Medway origin (or, if you will, MOMO) for each letter of the alphabet.

26 blogs later and I can finally move on with my life.

It has actually been fun – not least because there’s been the opportunity to focus on individual songs in a way you might not otherwise. Being an alphabetical list, there’s been less need to focus on continuity and history.

One day we’ve had a song by Balance Lost (a current band), the next we’ve had a song that’s had two outings: once in the early 1990s and then just a couple of years ago. Then, the day after that, we’ve had a song from 2010 which expresses its boredom with Medway bands from the 1980s.

It’s meant there’s been a wide variety of styles and sounds which all goes to show what an amazing melting pot of ideas this small collection of towns in the north of Kent is.

If you missed any of the blogs, not to worry: here they all are listed for your convenience – in alphabetical order, obviously.

A – The Singing Loins – ‘Alien’

B – Funke and the Two Tone Baby – ‘Bella’s Kiss’

C – Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society – ‘Call Me Dave’

D – Brigadier Ambrose – ‘Decembered’

E – Thee Headcoats – ‘Every Bit of Me’

F – Wheels – ‘Forget It’

G – The Dentists – ‘Gas’

H – Bob Collins and the Full Nelson – ‘Holy Man’

I -Theatre Royal – ‘I Believe in Father Christmas (Don’t Get Me Socks)’

J – Wolf’s Head and Vixen Morris – ‘Jump at the Sun’

K – Frau Pouch – ‘Krakthulu’

L – The Claim – ‘Losers Corner’

M – Broken Banjo – ‘Might As Well Be Hell’

N – Hand of Stabs – ‘The Night Had No Terror For Us’

O – The Daggermen – ‘One More Letter’

P – The Prisoners – ‘Pop Star Party’

Q – Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire – ‘A Quick One – Pete Townsend’s Christmas’

R – The Ambience – ‘Rome’

S – Balance Lost – ‘Shield Against the World’

T – The Kravin’ “A”s/Suzi Chunk – ‘Tripwire’

U – The Love Family – ‘Up in the Air’

V – The Flowing – ‘The Voyage’

W – Lupen Crook – ‘World’s End’

X – CTMF – ‘X-Craft on Tirpitz’

Y – Bear vs. Manero – ‘YRANYRBYM’

Z – KILL RPNZL – ‘Zombie Midwife Afterbirth Squad’

Find out more about many of these bands and artists – and many, many more, in my book: Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

A Medway Christmas Alphabet: R is for ‘Rome’

‘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.

The Ambience - Colour in Silence

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.

You can also take a look at the band’s (no longer updated) website here and listen to some of their songs on Soundcloud.