The Illicits

The Hug & Pint, Glasgow

It is clear Blackburn has two extremely different quality of youth systems. The first of these, the football academy at Blackburn Rovers, is clearly not very good – I mean, the way their first team was pumped at Turf Moor by the mighty Clarets last Armistice Day to an Ashley Barnes double & a cool side-foot finish from Zourary was emphatic. Top of the league, mind the gap, n’all that. In stark contrast, however, is that banging ebullient band of youthful charm & cool locally, & ever-wider-growingly, call’d the Illicits.

Sign’d on the spot to Alan McGee’s Creation 23 Label, they do feel rather Oasisey, & last night, as I watch’d them in the slightly austere, fairly small, but acoustically proud cellar-cloisters of the Hug & Pint on the Camdenesque Great Western Road in Glasgow, surrounded by a fairly young studenty audience, I was whisked back to my own 18th year, in 1994, when I saw Oasis play at TJs a week after they releas’d Supersonic. Lancashire & its unique, but ever-deadly approach to Rock & Roll, was back on tour.

The Illicits are a four-piece – a wild wee guitarist (Brad Hayes) who pull’d a supercool pose with every chord & sent his hyperactive jangling-spanging fingers all over the shop; a bass-player (Joe Mitchell) who started quite statuesque but revv’d up with the playing & passing of each punchy song; a drummer who was not their normal drummer I think, but drove a really aggressive beat; & an ultimately unique singer (George Richards) on rhythm guitar. His brash melodic shouting, like a yelling crooner, is one of the most original voices I’ve ever heard, except for the Vicious/Strummer sections of the set (such as Left Behind)- which were just pure punk & a real tonic to the more indier moments.

They play’d ten songs – two of which I’d listen’d to on repeat when first encountering the possibility of seeing the band – In What World & Feel It -, each of which opened the two halves of the ten-song set. A proper guitar band, they all play’d Gibsons & the sound was epic, especially Brad’s lead guitar which was drench’d with atmospheric sonic effects in a way no-one really does anymore – nice one our kid! Eye of the Storm was baggy as fuck, with its hypnotic hook-lyric, ‘in the eye of the storm / I won’t be alone,’ while new release ‘Come of Age’ & the tune after it ‘Play Your Part’ had magnificent jammy endings. I also loved again the middle-eight on ‘Feel It,’ which summon’d the spirits of Lennon/McCartney & Donavon into a magic wee cauldron of melody & chord changes.

A great shout out to the Scottish Musical Collective, a new enterprise that fill’d a brilliant Illicit-topp’d bill, which unfortunately I miss’d out on, but feeling the buzz in the room I’d like to check out another of their gigs. I got talking to the organiser who explain’d how his mate had met the band at a festival in Spain & that’s why they were all the way up this far north. But fair credit to this ripe bunch of tripe-guzzling, vowel-extending Lancashire lads – they’ve come all this way on a Wednesday & pull’d off a stormer. So all, good all round.

Track nine was the amazingly anthemic ‘Next Generation’ – ‘you are the next generation, you wanna be me, you wanna be free’ – which I think would be a smash hit with an accompanying female vocalist. Praise to George, like, he does all the singing in his tod, but every now again I think as Reni rais’d the Roses, he could do with a little boost to flesh out a tune.

The climax of the set was a cover of Born Slippy – think Oasis chucking in I Am the Walrus in ’94 -, which everyone totally buzz’d off & show’d a certain musical side to the band which could possibly one day manifest in a Screamedelica-esque rebranding of the band’s sound. But first of course, we’ll have a Definitely Maybe, then perhaps a London Calling, & perhaps in the middle of all that the true sound of these burgeoning, blossoming beauties will emerge.

Damian Beeson Bullen

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