5th January 1985

Mercenary Skank / The Stone Roses

MERE SECONDS after the demise of Mercenary Skank, here comes the new one. With a fresh rhythm section and one less guitarist, tonight was rough and a little shaky in places. It was also one of their most invigorating and convincing gigs.

All they've lost, really, are the overbearing guitar climaxes which used to mar their set. This is more dynamic, sinewy and open, leaving the ever-improving, effervescent, darting/leaping vocal figure of Scratch more room to colour and shade their frequently excellent songs, and guitarist Andy more room simply to move.

Mercenary Skank have vitality/personality/honesty and plenty good reasons to occasionally dress in black leather - the tunnel vision of all our regressive new raunch-rockers (ahem) is mercifully absent.

The Stone Roses are a little like Skank before they became good: crashing guitars and misplaced energy, and (very unfortunately) a drummer who wants to be a Keith Moon in a band who doesn't need one.

Any good songs were lost in a one-paced, blustering set, and hindered by a singer who possesses the power but not the range of feeling.

The Stone Roses are clumsy and Clash-influenced: slicked back hair and (admittedly) some obvious emotion with nowhere to go. To do this sort of rock 'n' roll - as Mercenary Skank have learned - you need to be deft and sparing, not loudmouthed and careless!

But be fair!! It was only their third gig. But to be honest, too. It didn't make me want to see their fourth.

Robin Gibson