Look here! Moments after noting in my Osiris The Rebirth review that I've still got punk rock running through my veins comes Gregg McKella's latest Paradise 9 record, proudly proclaiming itself, via a previous reviewer, as being "Hawkwind meets Joe Strummer" and firing off salvos in all directions. Of course, there's a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when The Clash first considered how to tackle their cover of 'Police & Thieves', Strummer's immediate suggestion was to "do it like Hawkwind." I nearly met him once – well, actually I spotted him on Taunton railway station and realised he'd been in the next carriage down from me all the way from Paddington, but such is my admiration that I'll forever chalk it down as having 'nearly met him' – I'd have loved to have asked him whether there was any truth in that one.
Someone else who it seems to me had a certain Strummer-like quality in being principled about his music and who is also sadly no longer with us has a more direct relationship to this new Paradise 9 offering in that he plays on a couple of its tracks and has a heartfelt tribute to him, written by Gregg, in its liner-note, was Judge Trev Thoms, probably best remembered by blog readers as a member of Inner City Unit. I didn't know Trev terribly well, but I wish I had. We talked once on the telephone, in an interview for Festivalized that unfortunately really came too early in the conception of the book and therefore was rather unfocused and didn't really relate to where the book went as it developed. I'd like to say that we knew each other across the ether – via e-mail and newsgroups – but that's not really what happened either, since we only exchanged a few messages, mainly when Trev was trying to drum up some interest in a revived Inner City Unit and thought it would be a good idea to try and get a retrospective feature published on the band, which was a sound idea but didn't come off, and once when I'd written press for the Barney Bubbles Memorial Gig, which he played at, and for which he sent me a very kind note saying that it was nice to have "professional promotional material for a change." So I didn't know him well and I'm sorry for that, really.
I think, though, that I've enough sense of him to understand exactly what Gregg means when he writes, of the EP's first track, 'State Of The Nation', that it was "great to get Trev [guesting on it] as this was right up his street." Indeed I can imagine that it was, punk-space-rock, three minutes twenty-five seconds so it's short and sharp and completely to the point but smart and catchy as hell as well and, as a new song written by Gregg, still just the epitome of the space-punk collision that Trev and Nik Turner and their cohorts in ICU had been playing back in the day. I bet Trev felt completely at home, righteously searing his lead guitar on this one and I'm bloody glad that it happened, and got recorded, and that it's out for us to revel in it. 'The state of the nation out of control / The state of the nation hitting an all time low'. Fucking great.
But Gregg's right to remind us that that was only one facet of what Trev's music was all about and was also spot-on in capturing Trev's "more reflective acoustic feel on 'Distant Dreams'. This one's another incredibly catchy piece, but more expansive and drifting, nearly seven idealised psychedelic minutes that lyrically riffs a bit on themes from In Search Of Space – oh, but Paradise 9 could in another life have been a really great Ladbroke Grove band of '69, '70 – and which captivates and enthrals in its dreamy haze.
Elsewhere here, 'Is This The Time' is a staccato cartoon-punk companion piece to 'State Of The Nation'; it's like this EP wants to travel back in time and be a vinyl release with a punk A-side and a psychedelic B-side. I wasn't as sold on this track, it just felt a little ordinary alongside the other tracks, though I can hear it being well-received live. Three out of four is a damned good strike rate though, and the 'other' psychedelic number here is a moody instrumental entitled 'Ocean Rise' with some pensive bass from Neil Matthars and what I guess is Gregg's clarinet giving a contemplative, even mournful, characteristic to the piece.
I like what they've given us here, but I love that they've made it in part such an articulate representation of Trev's musical qualities and that it takes such positive influences from him.