Northern Ireland has an astonishingly rich punk heritage, from Stiff Little Fingers to The Undertones and The Outcasts, from Terri Hooley to today’s Warzone Collective venue. Far from only being in the past, it is still alive and kicking, as today’s review subject can attest to.
Steven Donnelly aka Steven VX essentially eats, sleeps and breathes punk. Whether it’s his solo work, acoustic sets, or playing in bands such as teen sensations VX [Belfast], punk supergroup The All New Jimmy Segus Review or even his father’s former band The Ex Producers, his roots in the punk scene are clear. His efforts have landed him a variety of acclaimed slots such as opening the BBA Punk Festival in Bangor in both 2013 and 2014, an acoustic set in the grounds of City Hall for Feile 2013, and playing last year’s Titanic Tattoo Convention in Belfast. If that wasn’t enough, he also made his acting debut in biopic ‘Good Vibrations’, the movie about aforementioned local legend Terri Hooley.
Starting his solo career in 2013 he put together a set of both originals and covers, ranging from The Ramones, David Bowie, SLF and even Motorhead. He released EP ‘The Boy Who Looked At Johnny’ in 2014 and hopes to release a full length in late 2015/early 2016. This, his second EP is a stopgap of sorts as such, to whet his fans’ appetite for the album.
‘Memo (To Myself)’ begins the EP with a discordant throb and proper punk style hollered vocals. It’s swaggering and snotty, with simple chords and an implicit challenge in the lyrics. Sex Pistols-style punk: check!
‘Daydreamer’ follows; accordingly, this is a slower, dreamier track, with a drone-y effect mixed in with its hearty stomp and a gnarly riff that could strip paint. There are definite shades of Public Image Ltd in this one, particularly their well known track ‘Rise’.
Rockabilly punk is next in the form of ‘Tommy’: imagine The Stray Cats mixed with The Ramones, with the grime of the Pistols toned down with a bit of spit and polish. Its arse-kicking pace conjures up a lively image of a pumped up crowd pogoing their feet off and losing their collective shit, whilst the lyrics possess the snot and sneer that all punk must have.
The EP closes with a live acoustic version of ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ performed live at London’s legendary 100 Club. The song originally appeared in all its glory on VX’s 2014 EP, but here it’s a stripped back version: just an acoustic guitar and a rebel yell. The result is a song with both a troubadour air and the weight of a weapon behind it. A fitting end to an EP that’s uncomplicated and raucous simultaneously.
Steven VX will rightly be added to Northern Ireland’s punk heritage, based on his work ethic, punk attitude and extraordinarily prolific output. All this, and he’s only twenty-one…
◀ STANDOUT ⁞ Memo (To Myself)▶
◀ SOUNDS LIKE ⁞ Stiff Little Fingers, Frank Turner ▶