|The Sound review: Mary Plant's “We're Punk”|
By Wills Morgan
Wills Morgan reviews Mary Plant's album launch.
Live launch of the debut album by MARY PLANT @ the Earl of Portobello, West London on Saturday night, the 2nd June, 2012.
Featuring Tino Troy and Nick Harrison on Guitars and Leslie Fredericks on Bass Guitar; additional vocals by Michelle Somerszaule: and Paul Robinson/Sam Evans on percussion. Sound direction was by Martin Plant (acoustic guitar), who hosted the evening. Star Rating: ****
Words by WILLS MORGAN with assistance from JR. MAALIK. Pictures by ED MAHER.
I am a journalist: but I am a performing artist as well. Because of the fact that I am a singer and improviser, I am more than aware of the challenges that any kind of a performance that I give can bring.
As performers, I find that we are always being challenged: by our critics, by our peers, and by the music that we play. Despite these obstacles, we’ve just got to carry on and do what we believe in: we do that regardless of the setbacks, whatever they might be.
I cannot claim the wise words in that last paragraph as my own. Happily I give the credit where it is due: thank you Mark Simpson, the young man who became BBC Young Musician of the Year back in 2006.
Mark's words are the starting point for this special script to mark the release of an album of songs by Mary Plant. Ms. Plant is one of a number of female artists to emerge from the swell of talent around these here parts of the ‘big smoke’. I’ve got plenty of good things to say about her, and we’ll get to them things soon enough.
But first, a few words about the title of said album. What is ‘punk?’ And who are the ‘we?’ My answers to these questions can only be unreliable: because I am a man, and the statement that the album makes comes from a woman.
For better or worse, here’s what I think. ‘Punk’ is still the sound of rebellious youth all over the world: and five years and forty odd songs into her trivial pursuits, Mary Plant is more than ready to be young…and rebellious.
Ms. Plant’s punkish nature is understandable. She identifies herself as a person who makes her own rules; as an outsider who wants to get in: as an antithesis to the mess of straight males striking their guitars as if they were substitute penises.
I guess there must be some irony in the fact that the eight-piece superband which Mary has assembled contains no less than four guitarists. I am more than glad to make the acquaintance of Les Fredericks, a rather fine musician. He was responsible for the superb bass play on Ms. Plant’s set playing alongside the two acoustic guitars…and a single electric guitar. This was an interesting combination of forces, especially because the large range of sounds generated by the acoustics were pitted against the man I consider to be the greatest melodist in the British New Wave of Heavy Metal, Tino Troy (he's the co-founder and axe-man with the legendary group Praying Mantis and is responsible for the flood of half-decent acoustic guitarists in NW London). Tino is a guitar genius and right now, he’s playing for Mary Plant.
Backing singer Michelle Sommerszaule made a noticeable contribution to the live launch, despite some issues I had with the sound production.
Now… the range of songs in We're Punk has already been covered in an excellent four-star review by James Glyn. See link to gain some added perspective.
The punk scene is more than tolerant with people who have come from different backgrounds. You could be Debbie Harry, and a punk. You could be Poly Styrene, and a punk. You could be Grace Jones, or Skunk Anansie or MIA, and also be a punk.
Come to think of it…you could be Bob Marley and release a record called Punky Reggae Party. What I’m trying to say is this: that Ms. Plant has tried to infuse the spirit of Marley into her own person. She succeeds, and the results are worth beholding.
She appears in a dress that is both median and brilliantly bright. She’s had her hair done especially for the evening: her new look resembles that of Erykah Badu. She sets her stall out from the start of her opening number, Tune Into The Wire: we’re punk, we’re reggae, and we’re going to party.
Mary seems to groove forever. In her modest shoes she be-bops and jams: she is clearly excited at the progress she’s made in five years and forty-odd songs. By the time she reaches the end of her set the exposed parts of her flesh (mostly her arms) are charged in a sensual sheen.
Many of the people who have come to see her glow are close friends and family. But the musical elite of the live North-West London scene is out on this Jubilee night in force to bear witness to what is (as I have already said) an emerging talent.
They see (as I see) the musical highpoint of the launch mirror the musical highpoint of the album: Absolute Love, with its simple syncopated rhythm (and memorable melody) is a winner. I notice the line ‘wanting more, getting less’ in this track; but this is a night for 'batty-shaking', not for the remembering of song lines.
The Earl of Portobello is reasonably full with reasonable people. Full enough for the smaller females to have to stand on steps or chairs to catch a glimpse of Mary’s median brilliance.
Martin Plant, obviously caught up in the excitement and joy of the occasion, had this to say before the Superband launched into another number: “This is an historic night…and you all know it.” A perfectly punkish statement: a subversive, non-conforming expression of the ego.
We're punk, and we mean it (wo)man.
James Glyn's **** review can be found by following this link:
Mary Plant‘s web site is the place where you will find something about her work: you can also download a free copy of WE’RE PUNK. Nice.
Photo credits to Ed Maher and Jr Maalik