The Common Cold – Sunbird Studios, Darwen – 10th May 2018

Secret Meeting score: 80

by Stewart Cheetham and Philip Moss

Not only was this the first night of a twelve date UK tour, it was actually the first ever full show for Preston’s hottest ‘new’ act, The Common Cold. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The band, made up of ex-Dandelion Adventure pair, Ajay Sagger and Mark Parnell, and an assortment of cult characters from Preston’s vastly underrated music scene of days gone by, have only previously performed two ‘improv’ gigs,

Opening with the synth driven Half Nelson Headlock, the five piece put you firmly under their arm and lock you into a hard-edged groove, with a hypnotic, double drum attack comprised of former Cornershop sticks man, Dave Chambers and ex-Big Red Bus’ Scrub. Together they create a riotous wall of sound. But with Lemmy at the helm, rather than Phil Spector.

Buried under a sea of hair, the effortlessly cool Ajay Saggar’s glistening Fender Jazzmaster created a deafeningly loud sonic onslaught, making The London Look even more vicious than its recorded counterpart. And with the vocals up front – the record at times hides wordsmithery under a shoegaze shimmer – enigmatic Parnell’s witty lyrical prowess was freed to create a further dimension in the live setting. ‘Strike a pose!’ Parnell growled, every bit the bastard brother of Mark E. Smith, before launching into an explosive, ranted refrain.

An extended version of album highlight, Pretty Julie, saw the group swap the Autobahn for the M6 in a Krautrock flavoured, rambling swamp, while Stop The Traffic is mesmeric as Parnell’s strong, snarled shouts captivate.

Despite various guises of the line up having more than two decades experiences on the circuit, new blood is represented by 17-year-old bassist, Jack Harkins. Holding the band down with an upturned lip and piercing glare throughout, he recalls The Stranglers’ Jean Jacques Burnell by bringing the record’s fuzz filled bass parts to life. When a photographer tried to get a closer look, the imprint from the sole of Harkins’ Doc Martens very nearly ended up splattered across his lens.

In Ajay’s words, The Common Cold came together from ‘germs of ideas’ that he just knew he had to share with Parnell. With such a great record (Shut Up! Yo’ Liberals!) now out on legendary indie label, Action Records, now could be the time – excuse the pun – for The Common Cold to spread.

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