Gig Review: Forever Unclean @ The Smokehouse (10/05/2017)

Arriving at The Smokehouse at sunset, I’m stoked to see that there’s already a keen crowd assembled for some noisy Wednesday night fun – obviously, word has gotten around about how fun Danish indie/skate punks Forever Unclean are going to be!

Con-Party are four keen, young local lads who are, in their own words: “Not great, but they try.” They open with singer, Matt Kemp, performing a cracking solo acoustic cover of Mischief Brew’s The Lowly Carpenter – honestly one of my highlights of the evening.  Joined by the full band, they play a mix of semi-political original punk songs, touching on tough topics like Trump and Syrian bombing, alongside a handful of covers.

Matt, who has recently joined Ipswich DIY legends Casual Nausea, sustains a level of awkward between-song banter that’s so bad it’s brilliant, punctuated by wry asides from their bass player. The combination of throaty hardcore vocals, nervous speech and ironic dance moves à la Alex Wonk is very watchable. Their top moment comes when channelling Pizzatramp in a 9 second frenzy called I Want To Fucking Die: so good they play it three times.

They close with a chaotic cover of Nazi Punks Fuck Off (which nowadays mostly makes me glad not to be stuck in Green Room), passing the baton to Resuscitators. Hailing from Kingston-on-Thames, this is the first Ipswich show for these punks. I enjoyed watching them with Off With Their Heads a couple of years ago and I’m excited to catch them again. Sounding a bit like early Misfits, they excel in gang-vocals and clean, energetic guitar solos. Although they’re a man down, they do a cracking job at warming us up for the main attraction.

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Having thankfully shaken off the inevitable, creeping disappointment at being stuck in a town like Ipswich on a Wednesday night*, Forever Unclean take the stage in a whirl of energy. I’ve just got time to get down the front before they rip into Dinosaur. The whole set is fast, fun, sweaty and packed full of brilliant melodies – every song has me grinning, and makes me feel like an angst-riddled 17-year-old ready to let loose.

Fresh material from their new EP, Float, is lyrically and musically more accomplished than their earlier offerings and it shows in their live performance: this feels like a band who have grown into their sound. I’m chuffed to see that the title track slays even better live than it does on the record, rivalling the best Gnarwolves songs for self-effacing lyrics and catchy hooks. Worthless is my personal favourite, with it’s depressing but cathartic crescendo singalong, “Do you know, you make me feel worthless?” Older tracks like Excite and Rain still pack a punch, too.

In a venue with no stage, just a row of monitors separating the band from the crowd, I’m mildly embarrassed to be stood a few inches from the band, punching the air and mouthing along to all the choruses, but everyone soon gets dancing. Staffed by volunteers and always giving great sound-quality, The Smokehouse is the perfect small venue for a show like this, especially when packed out with old Stars Burn Stripes fans. The skilful drumming stands out more strongly in the live environment than on the record (perhaps because I’m stood two metres from the kit), driving the whole set forward.

Halfway through the set they offer a free t-shirt in exchange for a floor to crash on, immediately getting 2-3 offers from the crowd, something that’s always heartening to see at DIY shows. Forever Unclean close a staggeringly energetic set with an infectious shout-along to new song Waves: “Waves will come and wash away everything… to make room for better things.” I struggle to express quite how good I think these three Danes are, but I certainly can’t imagine anything better coming along right now.

You can still catch Forever Unclean around the country, including in London May 17th. Their new record is out on 5FeetUnder in Denmark (seriously, can this Danish DIY label do no wrong?), Disconnect Disconnect in England and Make-That-A-Take in Scotland.

Seriously, check them out if you’ve not heard of them!

*This is true but a tad unfair: Ipswich’s punk scene is second to none.

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