PINK PEG SLAX - EVIL EVIL EVIL NICE NICE NICE
Pink Peg Slax - ‘Evil Evil Evil Nice Nice Nice’
Released 2nd May 2022
Reviewed by Kate, 17th August 2022
The Pink Peg Slax are:
Mark Wilson aka Vince Berkeley on songs, guitar and vocals,
Frankie Wilson on double bass and drums on Bunt Ruane,
Graham Wardle on drums,
Pete (Sheila Barker) Barker on lead guitar
Samuel James Thornton on sax.
This is the first Pink Peg Slax release since 1988, so it’s a total privilege to be able to listen to this one! They’ve previously recorded sessions for the legendary John Peel and Andy Kershaw, and then gave music a break to "raise families and conquer the world of work.” All their bios suggest they’re an irreverent or humorous band, which would imply comedy songs, but they don’t really cover their sound: think lyrics about everyday life rather than sticking to the rockabilly staples of old cars and heartache. Their sound is tough to pin down too. John Peel called them ‘plangent Cajun-tinged jiveabilly’, while the NME declared that ‘If Elvis had been a Marx brother, he would have created Pink Peg Slax’. They swing between country-tinged, slap bass driven numbers and garage rock epics, and there is something for everyone who likes retro sounds in there.
The title for this release is a reference to a classic Tommy Cooper sketch where the comedian improvises a play based on Jekyll and Hyde, and the album is divided into a ‘nice side’ (Your Hair's Too High, Autumn, Headingley and Those Days Of Yore) and an ‘evil side’ (Kid Soccer, Bunt Ruane, Drive Real Good)
This album also comes with helpful explanations of the origins of the songs:
‘Your Hair's Too High - the problems an ordinary, decent, sober citizen faces just because of a faintly ridiculous hairstyle.
Those Days of Yore - ee, the stuff we used to get up to (and Frankie Wilson still does) when we were in our prime.
Autumn, Headingley - Affectionate tribute to Slax perennial home.
Kid Soccer - Ticks a lot of boxes for the 21st century. Song about a gay Leeds United goalkeeper who is a rockabilly cat.
Bunt Ruane - semi-autobiographical song about a real-life character who was an old mate of Vince's dad and used to come round pissed having won on the horses and give us ten-bob notes. My Mam used to shoo him away.
Drive Real Good - Homage to fast cars (sorry Howard'n'Pete) now being driven sensibly. Features guitar solo by Pete Barker, Slax founder-member and small pugnacious Geordie.
Drive Real Good (Sports night With Coleman Mix) Same song, but with brass courtesy of Sam Samuel James Thornton'.
Let’s break it down in order:
‘Your Hair’s too High’ - There’s instant Jerry Lee Lewis vibes to this song from the start, and the lyrics tackle the issue of having a real rockin’ hairstyle in everyday life. It’s catchy, piano driven, and now the band are playing live again you will be dancing to this one the second it’s played.
‘Those Days of Yore’- a real motoring song with sweet shining vocals about getting old and not being able to be as party as hard as you once did. There’s a really satisfying guitar breakdown and the claps in the second half are designed to get your feet moving. Pink Peg Slax aren’t afraid to let their country influence show and are flying that flag proudly on this song!
‘Autumn, Headingsley’ - I have a real soft spot for this song as I’m a former teacher and ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ (which surely must have been an influence when Pink Peg Slax were writing this!) is one of my favorite songs of all time. The best to sum this up is ‘If Johnny Cash became a British primary school teacher and was discovered as an old man’, and Vince really shows off his vocal range on this one. The production gives this song such a soft, Sun Records-era sound to this love song to an ordinary place.
Kid Soccer - All of a sudden, a beefy garage song appears! Somehow Pink Peg Slax make local football sound really cool, and having a totally different guitar sound signals the start of the ‘evil’ side of this record. For the first time we get a sense of the band’s reputation for being irreverent as the lyrics are pretty funny.
Bunt Ruane - I’d say this was the closest to a ‘rock’ song on the list, and it’s happy, catchy and nostalgic, which seems to be the best summary of the record. The strong beat really stands out here and it’s another head-bopper that’s bound to go down well live.
Drive Real Good - Just when we’ve got a handle on Pink Peg Slax’s sound, here comes a bluesy, Vince Taylor-esque number. This is the first song to bring in a saxophone and it’s genuinely quite funny to hear another song with Jerry Lee Lewis vibes devoted to the joys of safe motoring. This one is destined to become a cult classic. The remix of Drive Real Good seems to be very similar to the un-remixed version only with more brass, and I think that’ll be a welcome touch to Pink Peg Slax fans who want the full experience!
While they might have been out in the musical wilderness for a long time, Pink Peg Slax have not lost their touch in the slightest and have come bounding back with a diverse, fun and dance-able record that hops between genres effortlessly. If they ever find themselves south of the Watford Gap, I’ll be checking them out when they play live, and so should you!