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Live Reviews

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The Clarendon

11 June '84

Sounds

Marquee

28 January '85

Unknown

Dingwalls

4 February '85

Sounds

Leatherhead

July 1985

Sounds

Marquee

October '85

NME

Town & Country

5 June '86

NME

Town & Country

5 June '86

Sounds

Marquee

22 December '87

Record Mirror

Marquee

23 December '87

Sounds

Town & Country

12 February '88

NME

The Ritz, NY

8 April '88

New York Times

Asoria

4 June '88

Record Mirror

Mean Fiddler

2 September '88

Record Mirror

Mean Fiddler

2 September '88

Unknown

Subterania

5 June '90

Sounds

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The Clarendon, Hammersmith, London
11th June 1984
(First ever gig under the name Screaming Blue Messiahs)

Sounds
30th June 1984
by Andy Hurt

 

Great name – shame about the image – or so it would seem. Those first impressions again, just can't trust 'em. The Screaming Blue Messiahs certainly don't look promising, but that noise!

They're as attractive as a whopping great spot on the chin, and just as compelling. When they burst forth with screaming blue invective, the reaction is stunned surprise.

Mainman Bill Carter is Alexie Sayle after a course of Wilko Johnson stagecraft tuition. The man who demolishes Joe Jackson's claims to the title of Ugliest Man in Rock careers around the sparse stage.

Carter's henchmen comprise of the unlikely looking bassist Chris Thompson, who resembles an aging probation officer with a habit of raising his eyebrows in the manner of Stan Laurel, and Kenny Harris, who knocks the stuffing out of his drum kit.

The Messiahs mercilessly flail the thin audience with scorchers from their keenly awaited mini-album 'Good And Gone', adopting a 'real gone' guise that harks back to the Birthday Party with a shot of rhythm 'n' blues, a Gun Club with real live ammo.

Pop-pickers, tear down those Duran Duran posters, throw away those Bananarama records, accept the unacceptable!

 

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Marquee, London
28 January 1985

Unknown publication
by Mick Mercer

 

TURKEY BONES / SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS - Marquee

BUBBLE, bubble, a crowd in ferment. Imaginations polished, expectancy high, ready for a little twisted rock and roll. Wheel out those weirdos! Let us enjoy the spectacle of vim. Wind Scott up and make him turn blue; this is what we’re here for. Dance you buggers, dance! Toast those who have lavished care over their antique underwear, roaring cleft-sticks of rapier intent with no-hoper noise that cannot escape the cult levels and never will, making it more appetising still.

The bass rampage comes from under an old raincoat and the guitar brought along a thin friend. Was that a drum stick I saw flying through the crowd? High times indeed! The ungodly Wild Dog rhumba gives you what you want, even though they didn’t blow up. The Screaming Blue Messiahs use a careful form of all the Wild Boys hold dear and for the life of me I can’t help but remember those old men called The Pirates, albeit trimmed down in weight and predictability. Ripples of delight appear when the guitar dares to lead and leap but mostly we hear some men making noise. They have rave status only because the familiar drought is on our hands. The singer’s close-cropped head is caught in the lights - an illuminated piranha studying sociology. So what? Who needs just another good night out? They’re good at what they do, but so-are Tears For Fears (horse’s teeth optional) and as anyone who smokes knows too well, if you turn 20 degrees in the wrong direction when the wind is a-whipping you’ll never get that lighter to work. Both bands tonight have reached Beachy Head.

To the toppermost of the poppermost? I think not.

 

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BILL MESSIAH: Another one for the bedroom wall
(preferably behind the wardrobe)
Dingwalls
4th February 1985

Sounds
16 February 1985
by Andy Hurt

 

And so we saunter to the front of a jam-packed but suitably well-mannered audience. After all, the Messiahs are a bunch of mature Rhythm and Blues – I mean Vision and Blues, let's get our terminology right here – men dedicated to setting the lips humming and the feet tapping in a traditionally decorous manner, right?

Bollocks. With our togs freshly deposited beneath the monitors, we find ourselves buried with them as the trio launch into their opener as 'the kids' go wild.

I've seen the Messiahs on a number of occasions now, and I've been impressed by the way they've taken R 'n' B by the scruff of the neck and adapted it to the less sentimental, more agressive requirements of the 80s.

However, Bill, Kenny and Chris are in danger of being passed over for this summer's next big thing, should it ever come about, for the kids going apeshit at the front want to go wild, full stop. The Messiahs come closest to fitting the bill at present, but in no way can they be seen as the next youth movement, the last traces of acne having long since departed from their faces.

The sense of deja-vu I feel about tonight's bash relates to when I saw Eddie And The Hotrods back in nineteen-seventy-hem-hem, and what happened to them? The Sex Pistols.

Oh, sod it. For the meantime let's not pontificate, let's vibrate to those pounding drums and gawp in wide-eyed admiration at the exploits and antics of malevolent beanhead guitar wonder Bill Carter. Good and gone.

 

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Leatherhead
July 1985

Sounds
6th July 1985
by Johnny Waller

 

KiILL UGLY POP? These Messiahs aren't even pop, they're just ugly! Psychotic pub-rock with bulging veins, monotone vocals, screeching guitar and a bunch of songs about as revolutionary as Dr Feelgood.

These screamers have but one motivation: rage. They bitch and moan and rant and scowl and never ever smile. Nor do they consider such passing attributes as love, hope, ambition, entertainment or even the merest hint of melody as possible weapons of communication.

What SBM try to fob us off with as music is really just National Health self-induced paranoia. They screamed and screamed, but in the end nobody could be bothered to listen anymore.

Perhaps the audience had enough problems of their own, or perhaps they were still bathing in the captivating glow created by Ipso Facto.

Refining the post-punk melodrama of the Ants and the Banshees, IF reach back to Ziggy for a streak of glamour and to The Doors for a whiff of theatre. They pout, they strut and – with the sublime 'Glass Tigers' – they prove to have the sheer charisma that turns mere onlookers into devotees.

 

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Marquee, London
October 1985

NME
19th October 1985
by Jane Wilkes

 

From the word go SBM launched into their not unaccustomed pounding rock 'n' roll avalanche. Thumping bass and drums accompanied by merely adequate guitar (gone are the times when that guitar was really heard to screech?).

Sprinkled through this set of freshly cut ditties were the senescent offerings from their previous vinyl, 'Good And Gone'. These were apparently chosen to be in keeping with the more up-tempo feeling of the set, and thus included, 'Someone To Talk To', 'Happy Home', and 'Tracking The Dog'.

It was near impossible to catch any of the titles of the new songs, though I believe that 'Holiday Head', 'Your Heart Beats Of Merchandise'*, and the soon-to-be-released new single, 'Twin Cadillac Valentine', were among them. They run along the same vein as earlier compositions so, if you were enamoured by 'Good And Gone', expect more of the same macho heavy metal posing as the '80s rock.

* Surely "You're a hot piece of merchandise" from never recorded 'Vision in Blues'...

 

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Town & Country Club, London
5th June 1986

NME
28th June 1986
By Dave Jennings

 

DELIVERANCE

You have to listen. Even though reverb is making his words hard to catch, it's obvious from the panic-stricken look in Bill Carter's eyes, and from his tone of barely suppressed hysteria, that the things he's trying to tell us about are terrifying, crucial, impossible to ignore.

Those words which do filter through make it clear that here is a man who has looked closely and carefully at the world around him and, after sober reflection, has come to the conclusion that the only possible logical response to it is to go noisily berserk. However, being an inspired if somewhat traditionalist musician, he has constructed a thrilling soundtrack for the horror; a sparse, stripped-down R'n'B with splintered guitar, eloquent bass and busy drums jabbering out frantic rhythms. And over it all Carter pleads, explains and rages, sometimes even bursts into song.

You can dance – it's easy actually, given those rhythms – but to do so seems almost indecent, when communications of such urgency are flying around your ears.

Lately, I'd been leaning more and more towards the view that the terms "great" and "rock" were mutually exclusive. But Screaming Blue Messiahs make exhilarating, breath-taking, great rock music.

 

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Town & Country Club, Kentish Town, London
5th June 1986

Sounds
21 June 1986
by Jez Owen

 

SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS / ZODIAC MINDWARP AND THE LOVE REACTION / SAY YES

Rock and roll rules, OK, and tonight's the night, if you play your cards right, to come on down for a triple dose of rock dexterity.

Say Yes are a powerful, American sounding quintet whose throbbing core emanates from their drums and whose energy is wasted on a slowly expanding crowd waiting to succumb to Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction.

Out of the misty mayhem shoot the loaded pouches of the Zodiacs. Horny monsters from Planet Porno who not only have neat bottoms, but can also play the meanest, wildest, goddam best music I've ever had the misfortune to come across. Boys stand enviously as girls throw knickers with phone numbers on them to Mr Warped Mind and then crawl up his leg, straining to reach the bag of marbles that dangles so tantalisingly out of reach.

"When you're digging me, I'm digging you." Us girls are digging deep.

After this, everything else can only be a comedown, can't it? Screaming Blue Messiahs are imageless, almost drab, with a sinister, ranting frontman. The music, though...

 

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Marquee, London
22nd December 1987

Record Mirror
16th January 1988
by Freddie Fareham

 

The Screaming Blue Messiahs rounded up a year spent supporting Bowie and bashing American eardrums by going back to where they started – turning clubs into steamy pits where sweaty bodies squelch together while drumming up an explosive cocktail of thrashing guitars and deranged vocals.

Bill Carter would be the first in the van if the men in white coats came to town. A bald, sweating hulk, he spits out every word, propelling pent-up distress and babbling mad visions, while guitarist Carter has little time for the intricacies of fine guitar playing. What looks like senseless assault on a helpless instrument emerges from the amplifier note perfect.

The Messiahs belted out the majority of their latest LP, 'Bikini Red'. 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge' sounds like Big Country on acid while, with the album's title track, they creep towards Mary Chain country.

They made us wait for 'Good And Gone' and 'Tracking The Dog', arguably their finest moments. The latter proves that they could teach ZZ Top a thing or two. All the Messiahs lack is variety, but when you come to experience a blitzkrieg, you don't ask for a couple of slow songs.

Fierce, confused and obstreperous, somehow you can't help but like the Screaming Blue Messiahs.

 

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Marquee, London
23rd December 1987

Sounds
9th January 1988
by Paul Elliot

 

RED HOT RHYTHM AND BRUISE

WATCHING THE brawny and superanimated Cro-Mags shake the very breath from a London crowd just recently, provided another stark reminder of the disproportionate number of truly powerful American rock 'n' roll bands to British ones. From Hüsker Dü to Megadeth, the UK has few, if any, answers.

So thank heaven for these Screaming Blue Messiahs, the single most gripping and penetrating live group I've seen in ages, Kreator included. And they were possibly the loudest too.

Not that they're without subtlety or colour. This giant noise isn't walled in by any one style, and equally, it's not prey to its own intensity. The Messiahs move freely from the dance wipe-out of 'All Shook Down' to a wry good-time hoedown groove like 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge' and on to the insistent belly-crawl of 'Bikini Red', applying the same brutal tension to each.

A mass of old styles and flavours are sucked up whole to be made the Messiahs' own, strengthening, deepening and widening their head-on rock sound. Elements of their music you'll have heard some place before, but never in so livid, or so twisted a form.

The guitar is alive in Bill Carter's hands and he wrenches every note from it, every peel of feedback and blasting open chord. Carter is very much the master of the group, its focal point and power source.

He shudders across the stage, bald head jerking, twitching. His eyes frequently roll back, seemingly sightless as his knuckles whiten around the neck of the guitar, yet he's always in full control.

The band are just right as a three-piece. No frills, simply directness and energy fed through Carter's idiosyncratic songs.

The Messiahs are that rare thing, a rock band, British at that, who make a power trio set-up and electric guitars sound fresh, raw and unpredictable. Their records, however strong, are barely half the story.

Live, The Screaming Blue Messiahs cut through rock's flab and excess to touch the nerve.

 

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Town & Country Club, Kentish Town, London
12th February 1988

NME
20 February 1988
by Jack Barron

 

In the purple spotlight Bill Carter glowers. Shaven head gleaming like an anaemic bowling ball, there's a temptation to stick one's fingers up his nose and throw him away. He has all the charisma of Hellraiser's chief Cenobite with the nails removed. His suit is even worse. It's cut from his granny's curtains. Luckily she had enough left over to make him a matching guitar strap. Good grief, the man's a star.

Doesn't say much does Bill. A mean and moody type. Jack The Ripper was the same. There again he didn't have a suit that killed people on sight, nor did he machine gun his audience with a guitar. Yeah, in the name of a pathetic TV series, Get Carter! Pinch him and watch him go! Hell, the man's a proverbial hero: short on the tablets of stone compared to Moses but motoring tonight on the pills of the stoned and with a better perspective on religion.

Thou shalt watch all the naffest TV programmes in the world and make songs out of them, goes the first commandment of The Screaming Blue Messiahs. And out of this thou shalt covet the best riffs of The Cramps, and turn their whine into water and begat with anything that has less than four legs. And verily it shall pass that the crippled will jog and the blind shall see and all will dance to 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge'. Old Bill is more arresting than all of Scotland Yard – at least on record.

The mere idea of 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone', in the charts at the moment, is enough to reduce faith in the nation's taste for crap to rubble. When the Screaming Blue Messiahs perform the song tonight – with Fred, Barney and Wilma running a dinosaur riot on a huge screen behind the band – it's totally absurd. Buy more of their records! Support this fun!

I say this cautiously, however. In the purple flesh, not only are the Messiahs long on getting to the point, they're sometimes less entertaining than their film shows of Bill Haley, The Dave Clark Five, MX missiles and other cultural effluent. Maybe it's just an off-night. It must be difficult trying to walk on water every evening, especially with holes in your feet.

 

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The Ritz, New York
8 April 1988

New York Times
14 April 1988
by Jon Pareles

 

MAYHEM BY THE SCREAMING MESSIAHS

Mayhem lurks within loud, basic rock-and-roll. As the music tears along, a listener ought to wonder just how long mere song structure can keep the lid on devastating emotions. Although most rockers like to think their music carries a sense of danger, few bands come closer to raw mayhem than the Screaming Blue Messiahs, the English trio that rocked the Ritz on Friday.

The band supercharges three-chord blues and country riffs by bashing them out with the muscle of hardcore punk-rock; Bill Carter, the Messiahs' guitarist and singer, snarls lyrics with sullen defiance. Onstage, he rarely sticks to the structure of his songs as he's recorded them. He blasts them wide open with clanging power chords, shrieks of feedback and new, ranting lyrics while Chris Thompson playing bass and Kenny Harris on drums keep up a stomp or a gallop. With the rhythm section on a rampage and the songs torn to tatters, the Ritz set was an outpouring of molten rage.

Unlike the first generation of British punk-rockers, the Screaming Blue Messiahs embrace American blues and country as music that doesn't flinch from death or revelation. Mr. Carter is also fascinated by such American fixations as cars, guns and broadcast evangelism. His songs sometimes tell stories, but only when they're not hurling imprecations or piling up images of destruction; the band's one cover version, of Hank Williams's ''You're Gonna Change'' - sung by Mr. Carter with a pure yodel midway through the verse - seethes with hostility.

Mr. Carter, a shaven-headed, fireplug-shaped man in a silvery suit, went about his performance with the unblinking calm of a film-noir hit man. Picking out blues riffs or strumming his guitar open-handed, he seemed to let the band's momentum push him toward ever-noisier guitar parts. As the audience members up front slam-danced and dived (or were hurled by bouncers) from the stage, the music's ferocity never let up.

 

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Astoria, London
4th June 1988

Record Mirror
18th June 1988
By Pete Paisley

 

ROCK 'N' ROLL AS MARTIAL ART!

The Messiahs are an avant 'n' blues / rhythm 'n' garde power trio who place their emphasis firmly on power, more power and then – goddamnit – turbo charged power. Led by the Telecaster master himself, big Bill Carter (one of Europe's most inspired guitarists), this was a foul tempered performance giving full justification to the back projections of the word 'lethal' flashed up over the bomber footage films playing downstage.

Getting into his sly stride with the tight menace of 'Sweet Water Pools' and 'Bikini Red', Carter unleashed his uncanny playing technique, karate chopping his strings with bare knuckles until they bleed. Only a strict and devoted disciple of the principles of all out axe massacre could beat out a noise like this and learn to live with it.

With a contemptuous version of 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone' scratched out seemingly for light relief, 'Someone To Talk To', 'Twin Cadillac Valentine', 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge' and the hideously titled encore newie, 'Eat My Fuck' made for an increasingly more hard bitten and acid celebration of savage fret hell.

When someone is able to make his instrument sound like a helicopter crashing at your feet and menacing your head with its propellors you know who's calling the shots. And if Vietnam is fought all over again and Coppolla needs a soundtrack for 'Apocalypse Now II' then the Messiahs are on call.

Get Carter before he gets you. Because the man terminates – with extreme prejudice!

 

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The Mean Fiddler
2nd September 1988

Record Mirror
17 September 1988
by Henry Williams

 

KERRANG! Bald 'axeman' Bill Carter saws at his whining guitar, a Reggie Kray lookalike drummer bashes his cymbals, moody Motorhead-style riffs ricochet from the mountainous amps, and the apocalypse begins...

"Oi mate, gerrout my way, I cannae see the stage." A jackboot on my ankle, a bash in the back, and a posse of pissed-up Scots punks push to the front, sending drinks and girls flying... not that promising a start to an evening's entertainment, really.

Carter tears at his Telecaster like Vietnam veteran John Rambo, while a volley of feedback whiplashes from the moaning PA, then hammers round the dark building. It's ZZ Top meets Jimi Hendrix, meets the Sweet, meets your dentist. You can hear scarcely a word, you don't dare move, but after 10 minutes you start to fall in love with the pain.

Carter is a bad-assed metal-mutha. He scowls continuously at his adoring fans, and above the screaming guitars you can sometimes hear him insanely shout "Washing powder, washing powder". That's on the fast song, which isn't a lot different from the slow one, though not as terrifying, especially as that quiet bit where the bass throbs maliciously and Carter stares wild-eyed into eternity, before suddenly shrieking "PULL BACK THE TRIGGER".

If Carter's already gone mad, where else can he go? Well, perhaps to a guitar shop. He had three shiny Telecasters on show, but after each song he violently flung one down and picked up another.

Bill Carter may be mental, but there were at least 500 people here tonight who'd like to be in an asylum with him...

 

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The Mean Fiddler
2nd September 1988

Unknown magazine
incomplete

 

IT WAS like a scene from Nightmare On Harelesden High Street.

Diving through the Mean Fiddler portals we sent the door slamming into the face of the metal fingered psychopath lurching behind us.

But our relief was short-lived; demons have few problems bypassing locked doors and, what’s more, someone seems to have given our neighbourhood nutcase a stage pass…

Bill Carter – for it is he – swipes a guitar from his armoury and, with a vicious sweep of his hand, shatters the atmosphere with ‘You’re Gonna Change’. Tonight he is Fred Flintstone thrown out of his home by a sabre toothed tiger. He begins with a warning, but words are never going to be enough.

‘Sweet Water Pools’ is where shrapnel really starts to fly. Carter’s green shiny box suit was never meant to hold him.

With the blood pumping in front of his eyes, he watches his guitar turn into a machine gun during ‘Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge’ and ‘I Wanna Be A Flintstone’, before he shreds said instrument into pieces during ‘Twin Cadillac Valentine’.

It really is a tribute to the man’s genius that he can carry on making a four stringed guitar sound vitriolic while being tangled… (cut off)

 

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Subterania, London
5th June 1990
(Last ever live gig)

Sounds
16th June 1990
By Cathy Unsworth

 

A SLEEP WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Screaming Blue Messiahs
Ladbroke Grove Subterania

The eyes are bulging, but Bill Carter's expression is one of wonder rather than his usual BSE simulation. Before him is probably the politest audience he's ever witnessed.

'Mega City One' and 'Sweet Water Pools' have just ravaged the atmosphere with delicious brutality, and the response resembles a Saturday Night Fever workout. Snorting like an indignant bull, Carter slams his fingers against the frets as sparks of ravaged, thunderous blues course out. Heads down into 'Watusi Wedding' and the adreno-therapy is beginning to work.

Yet Carter retains his nonplussed air all night. As the bopabout turns into a sizable ruck to the mental rhythms of 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge', 'Gunfight', 'Bikini Red' and 'Here Comes Lucky' the man remains bemused, letting his fingers do the mauling, sometimes hardly bothering to sing at all.

'Happy Home' scrapes the skin off a few skulls and 'Twin Cadillac Valentine' rubs the salt in. They're back for one encore, then disappear, leaving a pile of steaming bodies gasping for more.

Mission accomplished, but they could have been sleepwalking.

 

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