“And the 2020 award for best use of a C Bomb in pop music goes to… Bob Vylan for his single We Live Here”
Cue Card: February 2020
We had a work thing planned. There was going to be a party in the spring to celebrate a big anniversary for the business. We’re good at parties. There were going to be bands and booze and food and all sorts of fun stuff. There’s a committee that gets together to discuss this kind of shindig. I sort of mentioned it before in my Eddie Cochran post and my True Believers posts.
There is however, a delicate balance to strike. We’ve got a mix of people in the business both cool and erm… square (sorry shipping). We’ve got folks old enough to be your granny and we’ve got apprentices and upstarts from all over. We’re all family values and cosy chats, but we’ve got a distinct rebel image to maintain. When it comes to booking bands, it’s a freakin’ minefield.
Too cutting edge and you’ll spoil the vibe for the veteran staff. Too safe and all the hip young things will be bored to tears. You can see how less music focused businesses end up with a naff DJ or a generic corporate event. I’ve spent some time on that committee. We’ve bridged this gap many times before.
Everyone loves 90’s hip hop right? Sure, If it’s played by a New Orleans Second Line Assembly dressed up like they’re Sgt. Peppers. Book a big name and even those who aren’t usually down get star struck, but that’s expensive. Cover bands can get you so far, but book a wannabe Damon Albarn who comes across as a bit too PorkLife and you’ve blown it.
Mixed bills work if you’ve got Indie, Metal, Dance or Psychobilly in short bursts, as long as you finish with Funk and Soul. That’s the secret. Always finish with Funk and Soul and you can put on anything for everyone.
So anyway, Bob Vylan. He got pushed forward by the guy who books the bands in an email first week back after Christmas. Not for a party specifically but in a ‘You ought to hear this’ kind of way.
“Steve, you know Bob Vylan?”
Is that a typo? Nah, he’s too pro for that. Besides, who doesn’t?
“Check this out. Youtube/Link”
Bob. Vylan. Right. It’s not a typo. I’ve seen that name. On lists. Those ones about THE HOT NEW ACTS TO WATCH IN 2020. On flyers in Camden.
I click the link. There he is. Looking that kind of inner city cool against grey English skies. He’s wearing Docs! and a Crass T-Shirt under as faux fur coat. He hasn’t played a note yet and I know I’m gonna like the guy. He’s eating fish and chips stood in the street with his mate and the guitar is raw like a jagged wound. The type you get falling off a push bike onto tarmac at speed.
He’s not spitting bars, he more telling a compelling story. Like Mark E Smith might do over a feral Fall track. He’s got that punk spunk. That T-shirt isn’t a pose. ‘This is fuckin’ brilliant’ I think. The supervisor comes in from the shopfloor to ask a question and is taken aback by the vicious noise emanating from the laptop speakers. I let the track play out while I talk to her. At the end of the conversation about whatever it was she stops in the door way. “Who is that?”
‘Michael sent it to me. It’s Bob Vylan.’ “Are we booking him for the party?”, ‘Dunno. Think we should?’, “hahaha” She heads out the office laughing at the idea. But I like it. Let’s raise some eyebrows this time round. This’d be a wild show.
I emailed my approval back. almost instantly, but like so much stuff in the IV plunger of new modern broadband pipes stuffed with things… I then almost forgot about it. Until the next day I opened my laptop up and the tab for Bob’s YouTube channel was still open. So I gave We Live Here another spin. It was followed by Merch Stand. That was great too. Then Fighting The Church and England’s Ending.
All savage and raw in toothy clawing. Bobablob brings punk outbursts with a distinct modern feel. Yet as a whole they’re forming a bigger picture. One that speaks of racial and economic disparities. There are many oppressive undercurrents in the way the people of my country conduct themselves on the streets. We’re plagued with the constant threat of violence in England in 2020. Brexit Punk from a charismatic front man who has been at the sharp end of the UK’s political shift by virtue of the colour of his skin. This is savage of sound but pure of message. Proper punk should make the comfortable uncomfortable.
So then lockdown came. We had a few weeks working from home doing stuff only through Teams and Zoom. Strangely (maybe not that strangely) the hours I spent at my laptop in a working day went up. I couldn’t move about as much as I used to as there were no staff to manage. There was loads to do though, so I was glued to the thing. When working from home at least you get to pick your own music (this list is almost entirely chosen from music I was listening to during that period) so Bob got missed off a bit as he was but a url in an already read email.
My business found a way we could go back to work in May. So with a new layout and PPE up the wazoo we got back at it. Each of us was restricted to one of our three sites. We had systems and shields and one way signs and my team could do our jobs without breaking the 2 meter rule.
Back in the office but fairly isolated I went to open YouTube for some music one 6am. There he was again. ‘Hey, I remember this’. Of course a bunch of 2020ish stuff had happened since I heard it February. It didn’t sound as outlandishly ferocious as it had. I mean it was still pretty fakkin’ ferocious but maybe I was more ferocious now too. So he gets quite the regular airing at work now. Even the odd singalong.
The Supervisors refer to him as Bobby C-Bomb.