Warning contains plot spoilers. If you only see one Victorian themed punk band this century make sure it’s The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, whose whole repertoire consists of a set of hard core punk tunes (with added Cockney knees up) all based around Victorian England.
Their flawless execution makes them world leaders of what is commonly known as Steampunk, a catch all title that includes literature, art, and fashion (goggles an optional extra).
This is the third time we have seen them. On previous occasions we watched them play to a bunch of scientifically bemused kids in the children’s field at the Greenman Festival. Then to a mad drunk crowd at Bearded Theory Festival.
But this was the first time we have caught them in a small, intimate venue and what a difference it was. We were treated to a more expansive set list and a great sound (shout out to the Rescue Rooms mixing desk crew!).
Visually arresting guitarist and very funny stand up comedian Andrew O’Neill looks more rock ‘n’ roll than Guns ‘n’ Roses and Van Halen combined.
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing bassist Marc Burrows on the other hand is either very fit or on steroids. He jumps around like a bloody madman, bashing out some mighty rumbling bass riffs. The drummer Jez Miller keeps a low profile but maintains the engine room perfectly. He’s at the back probably multi-tasking and doing a sudoku puzzle.
Andy Heintz is the focal point and probably the most heavily bearded person in the room (apart from the woman to my left). With his long black coat, top hat and cane (not to mention the saw) he’s like a demonic grizzled and slightly pervy ringmaster in a punk rock circus.
Their lyrics are just so inspired. You don’t know whether to laugh or headbang (so I do both).
There are songs about inadequate sewerage systems, kids up chimneys, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and George Stephenson and yet amidst all the surreal shenanigans there is pathos and sadness tucked away inside numbers like Poor Georgie, How I became an Orphan and the brilliant This House is Not Haunted.
As part of the encore The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing cover The Kinks Victoria, a song so blindingly fucking obvious it went straight over my head.
You might think its all a bit of a novelty act, but the underlying themes of some of these songs still prevail: poverty, illness, class warfare and moronic, monarchist flag waving twats. There are resonances and echoes down the ages.
At times it was like a history lessons with guitars, or The Time Team on acid/gin. For example, half way through the set Marc performs one of his tunes called Princess Charlotte. I learnt more listening to that than in five years at secondary school. Hey! educational punk rock is the future.
What did the Victorians ever do for us? Apart from subjugate large swathes of the sub continent, popularise cock-rings and preside over the emergent industrial revolution, they inadvertently created one of the most innovative bands on the circuit.
Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.