The Presidents of the USA + Straight Lines @ Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Friday 9th March 2012


Review and Photos by Paul Broome

In the year of another Presidential election it only seems right that the Presidents of the United States of America squeeze in another brief UK tour to promote Anglo-US ties, and generally rock our socks out of the cold and into another Spring.

Pontypridd’s Straight Lines are the support band for this brief tour – another welcome bout of exposure for them on their rapid ascent to the forefront of British rock stardom. It’s the first time I’ve seen them for a while, and it was plainly evident that they’ve come on in leaps and bounds – the stagecraft has developed nicely, and the new songs sound great.  They’ve obviously built up quite a substantial local following (this is at least the third time they’ve been through Wolverhampton in the last six months – after recent tours with FFAF and Canterbury), which also served them well. With their second album out soon, expect to hear more and more from this plucky gang of genre-crossing rockers.

The Presidents of the USA are a band which elicit a high level of devotion in their fans, so it’s no surprise that this Friday night gig is a hot, busy and sweaty affair. After being welcomed onto stage in a style befitting a conquering hero, the trio plough into their back catalogue of party favours – kicking off with ‘Lunatic To Love’, and other crowd-pleasing favourites (including ‘Mixed Up SOB’ and ‘Ladybug’ from 2008’s woefully underappreciated These Are The Good Times People) – drummer Jason Finn even ushering in a brief cameo appearance for their version of the theme to ‘George of the Jungle’: watch out for that tree, indeed!

But what’s the score? Six tracks down and nothing from the first album yet! Not to fear: after a brief heartfelt (tongue-in-cheek) dedication from Chris Ballew (“I would like to dedicate this next album to Biggie Smalls”), they spend the next forty minutes or so tearing through the thirteen tracks of their superb eponymous debut  – from ‘Kitty’ to ‘Naked and Famous’ – and what a debut album it was. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to it, but hearing it in all of its live glory administered in one intense sitting I was struck by how many classic tracks it contains. The aforementioned ‘Kitty’ got the whole Wulfrun “meowing” and joining in vociferously with the “fuck you kitty” pay-off. ‘Feather Pluckin’, and ‘Lump’ obviously got the whole venue jumping. ‘Boll Weevil’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Dune Buggy’ all saw the Wulfrun’s fine-voice exercised fully… god help you if you need a toilet break, you’re going to miss something insanely good! It’s the law of averages.

Their unique cover of the MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ has long been a live highlight, and by the time we get to ‘Naked And Famous’ – well, if only every Friday night could be this joyous! And there are still more goodies to come, in the form of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and the encore of ‘Jennifer’s Jacket’.

The thing that always strikes me about PUSA live, is what a superb sound they create with just five strings between them (Ballews’ basitar has two strings, and Andrew McKeags’ guitbass has three) – I’m actually surprised that more bands haven’t sprouted up following the basitar/guitbass formula! A truly jaw-dropping performance from the three guys, full of good humour, great songs and just a feather-pluckin’ great rock vibe. Awesome. If you’ve never seen them live, you really need to make an effort to do so.