the redemptive power of Guinness

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of punk rockers: the ones who care about nothing -- nihilistic pessimists shouting, ``No future!'' -- and the do-gooder political types, who, with songs of famine and war, care about everything.

Armitage Shanks, who performed Friday night at New Haven's Cafe Nine, belong to a third class: the goofballs. If the London garage-punk sextet believes in anything, it's the redemptive power of Guinness.

Throughout the show, charmingly named lead singer Dick Scum urged fans to guzzle as many pints as possible, insisting that the group's music sounds better the drunker you are. Inebriation certainly would have helped cover the group's mistakes, though part of the Shanks' appeal is that they seldom start or finish a song in unison.

Encouraged in their early-'90s infancy by Billy Childish, the cult hero behind UK garage-revival bands Thee Milkshakes and Thee Headcoats, the Shanks owe as much to the Kinks as the Sex Pistols. The group features three guitarists, only one of whom is at all handy with the instrument.

On tunes like ``Support Slot,'' which celebrates being an opening band,'' and ``Drink Driver,'' a favorite among soused fans, the band clattered through well-worn chord progressions, relying on personality to triumph over lack of originality.

Luckily, Scum proved a likable lout. Completely bald , he's a charming galoot, more a comedian than a front man.

Along with its irreverent originals, the band threw in several classic covers. The trio of guitarists gave an admirable bashing to the Clash's ``1977,'' even if the rhythm section stumbled through the changes. Paying further homage to Joe Strummer, the Shanks offered up ``Keys to Your Heart,'' a pub-rock number the late Clash singer wrote for his first band, the 101ers.

Early on, Scum warned that the band might play for three hours. If it had, it likely would have cleared the 75-song mark, as it bruised through roughly 25 tunes in the 60 or 70 minutes it was on stage.

For their encore, the Shanks attempted a version of Toots and the Maytals' ``54-46 That's My Number,'' but the reggae rhythm was too much to handle. The band retreated to the safety of the Ramones' catalog, finding comfort in the sloppy thud of ``53rd & 3rd.''

 

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