THESE ARE the sort of men my mother warned me about as a small child, and — metaphorically, at least — they want me to get in a car with them.
To the left, Larry Love — a techno terrorist in a vicar’s outfit — announces “I’ve taken so much LSD I’m having permanent flashbacks of life as a right-wing Fundamentalist preacher.” (A joke? Later he tells me about a Mormon upbringing). Right in front of me, about seven “ugly skinheads” (their description) are making the characters from Trainspotting look like, well, trainspotters. They’re all called “Love”. To my left, a German journalist warily examines a tablet given to him by Larry Love, who insists it’s “vitamins” and that “to go on a five-day bender we’ve gotta be, well prepared”!
This is the hol(e)y spirit of Alabama 3. They are the bastard offspring of the KLF and Irvine Welsh, a Situationist and slightly Commie prank in the multi-headed beast of a techno-grooving monster. Hank Williams with an acid beat, Gorbals-goes-Mississippi directed by Sam Peckinpah and giving us “F***ed-up acid house country music all night long.” And I am an English ponce who’s just thrown up all over the toilet.
Watching A3 (as they are known in the States — to policemen, probably) is an hallucinatory experience, especially if you’re perched 80 feet up in a tiny box in an old theatre and your body is giving you problems. To the left of the stage, a dancer cum agent provocateur looks like Lenin and contributes dialectic to ‘Bourgeoisie Blues’. In fact, he is Lenin — I V Lenin — from, er, Middlesbrough. Stage centre, the coal-black sunglasses of Larry Love protect him from the divine light of co-vocalist The Very Reverend D. Wayne and offer a tantalising metaphor for the darkness that shadows this house of Love.
If nine former heroin addicts from Hades, SW3 discovered God and Hank at roughly the same time, this is what they’d sound like. ‘Hypo Full Of Love’ offers a chorus that goes, “Shootin’ it up on the mainline” and may or may not include some — ahem — personal experience. ‘Ain’t Going To Goa’ damns the hippies that dance with Third World poverty. And the set list actually reads “Devil”, “Busted”, “Speed”, “Shoot”, ”Mao”, “Temptation”, ostensibly referring to such songs as their awesome John Prine cover, ‘Sound Of The Speed Of Loneliness’. Then again, it could be their rider.
“There’s people running around here with mobile phones. In 10 years time they’ll be shitting on themselves,” exclaims Larry, to curious applause. Seconds later, half of young Catholic Ireland is dancing furiously to a song going, “Let’s go back to Church” that may — whisper it — be ironic. At the very least.
They’re dangerous and that’s just their dance steps. Towards the end the mad f***ers unveil ‘You Don’t Dance To Techno Anymore’, one of the best pop songs ever written. This is ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’ from hell — literally on drugs — please release it. Elemental, so it can be number one for 15 weeks. Well, all right, 13 weeks, but Alabama 3 are headlining for the mainline and shooting from the hip.
Are you ready to believe in Love?
© Dave Simpson, Melody Maker, 1 November 1997