This is a review of "Four From Alexandra Grove" recorded by Pushbike Army. The review was written by Alexander Rennie in 2008.
Music, like life, can be a dispiriting place at times. No sooner are ideals espoused than one sees them tarnished by those whom one supposed to be their champions. Yesterday I saw The Enemy on live television being taught how to make lemon meringue; larking around the BBC's faux kitchen for all the world as if their social message was no more profound than the leering grin of a Pigeon Detective or the jaunty elder statesmanship and / or circuit revivalism of The Jam.
In the midst of such creeping rock gentrification, therefore, it's good to hear the still-angry strains of the Pushbike Army's as yet undiluted urban angst-rock. Having said that, '...Alexandra Grove' does not necessarily match up to the naïve yet vital offering that was 'Sleeping in the Ditch' or even, for social punchiness, 'Boy from the Terraced Houses'. However, the sound settles more easily on the ear, and this tune seems to stand up to repeated listens in a way that those tracks may not.
Whether I'd go so far as to say that it grabs society by the very throat is another matter, but it's still a worthy clatter of earnest guitars, drums and vocals, and the terrace chanting "ooh-oh-oh"s are more than likely to engage a live audience. B-side 'Farewell to my Fascist Friend' is a slightly less focused polemic, but benefits from supremely choppy drums. This is not the hidden bonus to this disc, though; that accolade goes to track 3. Billed as a 'Piano Version' of the title track (although it appears to be augmented by cello at one point), this take is the one I'd select if pushed.
Moody, melancholic and sparse, it's everything that the punk call-to-arms of the lead version is not; the yang of resignation to the ying of the former's indignation. Like misery itself, this is a thing of rare contemplative beauty. It's unlikely to be the reason for anyone buying this single, but its very existence seems to suggest that these guys haven't just been plundering suburban malaise for choice couplets. There's a depth here that, in spite of occasional shortcomings, makes this record a worthy one to throw into the public arena.