Gig reviews

Astoria Theatre, London
11 August 1989

Diesel Park West’s debut album Shakespeare Alabama has been one of the years more durable pleasures, it’s combination of memorable and elaborate melody allied to old fashioned virtues like song structure, hooks and plangent harmonies suggesting the band from Leicester contain the ingredients to make a career out of leader John Butler’s idiosyncratic muse.

Butler and band set the tone for their biggest London date yet by serving their single When the Hoodoo Comes, a high class cult record if ever there was one, complete with a time signature borrowed from early Roxy Music.

From that auspicious beginning Diesel Park West even had the grace to relax into a set instead of bludgeoning out material to service demand. Confidence in the songs meant that Butler’s compelling work had space to develop.

His own touchstones seem to be bands of the caliber of Big Star and The Byrds but he sounds to me like a natural descendant of English tunesmiths like Ray Davies and Steve Marriott, albeit without quite those gentlemen’s cheek and humor.

Perhaps at present the attention focused on Butler prevents the diesel’s from breaking out of their safety net as the anthemic favorites All The Myths On Sunday and Like Princes Do, the best brace of numbers on the record, came across in more muted fashion than less familiar fare.

Such caveats aside the finale of the Diesel’s drama affirmed their integrity and credentials as they peeled off a liberated version of Buffalo Springfield’s Mr. Soul and then topped it with A House Divided and the dreamy dynamics of The Waking Hour.

If there are any better rock bands than this in Britain today I’d like to hear them.

by Max Bell, The Evening Standard
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Astoria Theatre, London

11 August 1989

Support band Del Amitri are crafted songsmiths growing fashionably out of their janglepop beginnings. They contrive pliant able-bodied tunes filigreed with elements of country and ambient rockerama.

But they are too polite by half, the best song they played all night is Neil Young’s ‘Don’t Cry No Tears’ otherwise they never let go, never spill blood.

Why have a band who can wallpaper the cracks when you have one that knocks down the whole damn house?

DPW are blood and thunder poets of rock’s mercurial terrains. Their best songs are potent charges directed at ever present spiritual decay and confusion. An English U2 has become a favourite critical reference point but the seams they mine are deeper in rock’s rich strata.

Well have they studied and effortlessly do they recast the vibrant purity of Creedence, the sonic alchemy of the Byrds, the raw nerved melodic toughness of The Beatles and the cathartic thrust of The Stones. This is a rock band (from Leicester) with all the trademarks of an international force to be.

True they said the same about the likes of Hurrah! but it’s hard to think of a band in recent English music history with this much swaggering confidence, fire in the belly and material to back it up.

So in control, but never out of your face, their engine runs on raw excitement and a real sense of adventure, here’s a band who dare to break through the schoolboy antics and trendy affections of their retarded peers to transverse the big issues of faith, fear and yearning. And they do it without falling into awkward posey or ungainly bluster.

The Diesel’s are an irresistibly visceral experience. The glorious clarity of their guitars – the big echoey one and the thin metallic one – trade on a slew of seriously addictive riffs. The songs may rise with swooping choruses to a tight rein on their inimitable feel for the music: as much as anything DPW are a great DANCE band.

The David Swift decreed 65 percent top notch debut album ‘Shakespeare Alabama’ provides a great basis for future exhortations – ‘When The Hoodoo Comes’, ‘All The Myths On Sunday’ being titanic tunes round our house already.

Tonight they move ahead with the rapturous passion play of ‘Hot Summer Water’ – showering splinters of irridescent guitar and the furious spitball of ‘House Divided’. A withering look at Chez Thatcher ’89, the latter sounded just like what we need – an anglo ’80s ‘Fortunate Son’.

When you hear a band as responsive and on the case as this one it restores your faith. Last week someone told me Guns N’ Roses led by that grade A arsehole Axle Rose were the world’s top rock n’ roll band. What a sad sorry thought, had they never heard of Diesel Park West.

Just call them world champions in waiting – it’s where they’ve set their sights, it’s the way they’ve moulded their music, it’s what they deserve.

by Gavin Martin, NME
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The Independent

Perhaps Big Country felt the strain of having Diesel Park West as such show-steeling tour support – vocalist Stuart Adamson collapsed half way through the resent itinery and even the postponed dates have since fallen through due to further Big C fragility. Whatever the reason behind the concert cancellations, it was only a defferal of the inevitable: Diesel Park West, now out headlining their own mini-tour, are ready to claim their right to the title of best homegrown guitar band since… the Rolling Stones. Filtering out all the least embarrassing features of West Coast-leaning sixties rock, Diesel Park West harmonise like the Byrds, string the couplets together like Lennon & McCartney and riff away like a trio of hammy, Deep South Keith Richards (yes three guitarists). There’s nostalgia a-plenty as well as a dash of psychedelia and white-boy spirituality, but the total effect is somehow very English and modern at the same time. Recommending the Diesel’s live set, drawn from their debut ‘Shakespeare Alabama’ (Food/EMI) album is virtually automatic.

by Stephen Pope.
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Riddles Music Bar, Stoke

22 October 1998

Strange band, Diesel Park West. After the gig, a chap with a box of HIPReplacement CD’s went among the crowd inviting them to buy one , as this was the fab new album . This may well have been a surprise to the prospective buyers, as not once in the preceding hour had the band referred to the said excellent album or played any songs off it. No ego problems here, then.

The evening started off with an air of slight anxiety. It was pissing down and there was a hole on the stage needing a drumkit to fill it. Nine-o clock came and went, still no drummer. Various band members were to be seen peering out into the seriously grim weather in-between eating bags of chips and drinking halves of lager. Those of us sharing a band background knew exactly the feeling of relief when the errant member turned up safe and sound. I didn’t hear anyone say “where the fuck have you been?”, but I bet they were thinking it.

The chaps finally appeared just before ten to a smallish, rather polite crowd. So polite in fact, that three songs in John invited someone to “start a fight to liven it up!” No one did. Pity, really. The spirit of rock and roll was having a quiet evening at home with it’s slippers on.

That was the audience – the band were another matter. They belted through most of ‘Shakespeare Alabama’ raw and loud like they’d only just written it. Highlights were a ten minute version of ‘Waking Hour’ complete with a trippy middle section, an unexpected cover of The Byrds’ ‘Everybody’s Been Burned’ with John doing his best David Crosby impersonation and in a rousing ‘Hoodoo’, slipping in a throwaway reference to Television . Yes, and a riff from ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ in ‘Here I Stand’.

This is a great band. It’s roots go deep. Big surf guitars on acid, songs that twist and turn, soaring vocals all glued together by a bass player seemingly intent on dragging the strings off his MusicMan and a drummer attempting to pound his economy sized kit into splinters. All this and crap backing vocals!

Yes, a fine gig. What the band made of it I can’t imagine, but from my point of view it was great primal rock and roll, timeless and exhilarating. It could have been the Avalon in 1966 or Glastonbury 1996. Like I say, timeless. The sound of hot valves, passion and dodgy clothes.

As the review of HIP Replacement in Q noted, ‘Diesel Park West are not hip’, but then hip is the domain of the short concentration span. Diesel Park West have the power to get into your heart and that will last a whole lot longer than hip for those discerning enough to suss it.

Go and see them now and start a fight!

Set List: Like Princes Do/All the Myths on Sunday/Bell of Hope/Out of Nowhere/Hung Upside Down/Fall on You/Waking Hour/Everybody’s Been Burned/When the Hoodoo Comes/Here I Stand/Jackie’s Still Sad

by Dave Buckley
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Half Time Orange,

Leicester, 26 March 1999

Initial worries of a perfunctory run through Shakespeare Alabama were dispelled by John Butler’s unusually cheery demeanor and “Hello, we’re the Filberts!’ introduction and a blistering ‘Like Princes Do’.

The original rhythm section of drummer Moth and bassist Jeff just have that almost effortles swing, while Rick Villson remains probably the finest exponant of psychedelic guitar.

Covers of the Moby Grape’s ‘Fall On You’, ‘Bitter Wind’ and Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Hung Upside Down’, were probably played better than the originals, while soundman Phil Hudson managed to recreate the authentic vocal effects!

This wasn’t some dodgy Brannigans circuit 80’s revival cash In, but classic songs played with love and integrity. Just imagine what sort of set DPW could come up with if they combined the best of all five albums, their favourite covers, and new songs!

by Dave Davies.