Various artists: The Roxy, London, W.C.2 (Harvest SHSP 4069)

BACK IN nineteen-sixty-something, when an earlier new wave was proudly unfurling, several Live at the Star Club LPs appeared, scooping up some of the bands then inhabiting that particular stage. This local approach seems to be coming back in vogue. We’ve had four collections in the last year, and there are certain to be more in the near future, barring a blast of good sense if the extant quartet is any indication of the shape of things to come.

If you can’t tell the players etc., the first album was the unrepresentative CBGB’s double set, which had very little to do with New York’s burgeoning band scene at the time. The Max’s compilation, released almost simultaneously, showed a totally different side of the scene, and created a false sense of competition between the two clubs. The second Max’s LP is rumored to be tons better, but I’ll hear it when I believe it.

Boston was the next locale heard from; although a city of legendary r ‘n’ r prowess. Live at the Rat trounced the town’s rep within a groove of its life. A dull collection of tepid tedium, it plainly reveals why Jon Richman relocated to the Bay area.

Finally we have the British response. London’s Roxy Club was one of the hottest pogoing spots. Featuring New Wave bands exclusively during the first four months of 1977, the Roxy provided a stage for some of the now-up-and-comings. Unfortunately the eight budding supergroups presented live on this interestingly packaged disc are, by and large, dreadful. I hate to say it, but they all sound alike. Judging by New York clubs, I am relieved not to have been there. A pisshole is a pisshole is a pisshole.

Slaughter and the Dogs’ two cuts are followed by the Unwanted’s carbon copy track. Wire show some quirky promise on their pair of numbers; they might even produce something interesting in a studio. Not so the Adverts; their cut (the flip of their single) is awful.

Side two houses the tough-talking Johnny Moped and the sub-teenage Eater. The latter sound just as bad live as on their studio tracks, although their juvenile reworking of A. Cooper’s ‘I’m 18’ is cute. The Buzzcocks sound no better for the huffy departure of Howard Devoto. The most interesting band of the lot is X-Ray Spex; a bit of a novelty act, this five-piece boasts a femme saxist who might turn into the next Eddie Riff, Worth watching.

As with other musical styles that suffer from sameness, only insiders can tell the good from the bad. In a year the crap bands will be gone, and the good ones will have evolved more divergent personalities. The Roxy suffers from the same problem all the other Live At’s do: the good bands are long gone into contracts and record deals by the time “The Scene” attracts the commercial attention necessary to spawn these projects.

© Ira RobbinsTrouser Press, September 1977

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