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ALABAMA 3 - London Cabot Hall - 22 April 2003   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 14 September 2004
Everytime is like the first time.

 Everytime I am a convert .... Just like the first time. They come like a cross between The Clash (the furious politics, the military imagery, the utter unstoppable coolness), and Prince (the irresistible funky rhythms, the whole Jesus thing, and a love of swaggering rock). And just about every other good band too.

Enter then, the Alabama 3. Probably Britain's biggest cult band, in so much as they don't get any press, radio or TV play, and still stubbornly keep on at it. In fact, the less they do the bigger they get. Their gigs are sold out and packed to the rafters country wide, and - well. Let me put it this way, everyone I've introduced to them has become a convert. They're catchier than SARS.

So tonight sees them laying waste, if you like to Docklands. In the shadow of the 925 ft HSBC tower, we gather at the Cabot Hall, London's swankiest venue. A panelled conference room with a makeshift bar at the back and a balcony that enables you to oversee the falling of the sun in the shadow of a multitude of Yuppie Towers. An odder place for a congregation of Presleytarian Techno Bluesheads there is not. (Hell, the first time I saw them they were actually playing a church).

So what do we get? You get a veritable gang of misfits, miscreants, and mis-shapes. They take ‘em all sizes and creeds and colours here. Aside from the eight members on stage, there's a floating vote of three guest vocalists, a fiddle player, a harmonica player, a toaster, and even Tattoo John, the bands silent, imposing, heavily tattooed Brixton park gamekeeper come Public-Enemy style Security of The First World. I don't know exactly how many people that is, but it's a lot.  

So when I'm watching all this unfold around me, my mind is racing. The weird, manic hybrid of dance, techno, blues, country & western, Elvis Presley and rampant socialism. I'm convinced that the coolest white man since Joe Strummer is called Larry Love, that the shuffling hobo next to him, the Confused Confucious known as D. Wayne Love, is actually some kind of weird, otherworldly Shaman crossbred with Flavor Flav, and that the rest of them are some weird religious cult madly into pork pie hats and cool stuff.

So here we are. Sensory Overload. The songs you've heard somewhere but can't remember quite where (or, if you've ever watched The Soprano's, songs you're sick of hearing). Great big chunky funky slabs or blues techno, infused with lyrics that are both deadly serious and utterly stupid.

On paper this stuff really don't fly. It just sounds wrong. But this unholy mutation of influences is beyond imagination. You couldn't make it up. You could try sure. But your brain will rationalise it at some point and go, No Way. You've Got To Be Fucking Kidding. And other clichés.

There's the old stuff. Woke Up This Morning, the funkiest tribute to the power of redemptive domestic murder - and U Don't Dans 2 Tekno, the straight in at 68 hymn to Leah Betts - and... well, I could list all their non-hits. The point is, if you hear the Alabama 3 you get converted. And if you don't : you don't know what you're missing.

So the old stuff is here, in excelsis, dozens of songs that every time you hear them you think that its your favourite song in the world, and then there's the one after it, that makes you feel exactly the same, like, oh my, I love this one as well. Oh, and there's new stuff. The super funky "MineSweeper", and "Last Train To Mashville", that's been stuck in my head for days. And I've only heard it three times. So join us, on the glory bound train, all aboard, for the last train to Mashville.

You won't be lost, or lonely, or dance to techno, anymore.

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