Melody Maker

26 November 1983

Live review
Specimen / Strawberry Switchblade
Nottingham Rock City

Yes, I know what you're thinking. Specimen and Strawberry Switchblade on the same bill? And who the hell are Canker Opera?

Search me guv, but they're dreadful. Two synth players, a useless guitarist tagged on to the end and a raving tool of a vocalist.

The package (a devious, cunning idea dreamt up by Nottingham's Rock City) is designed to showcase rising talent and put them on a Nottingham stage so that locals can find out 'what's hype and what's hope' - or so the press release says.

In which case, Canker Opera were hopeless, Switchblade were a hope and Specimen were an outright hype. Not only that, but the whole idea of The Package, good though it is, failed to bring in the punters. Only 200 people turned up, and the place felt less than a quarter full.

For those that were there, Switchblade turned in a quiet, unassuming little set that left most people dazed and confused, although I found them stimulating and occasionally stunning.

Rose McDowall, the Switchblade's main vocalist, looked splendid in a white little number with black polka dots, while Jill Bryson (her other half), looked cool and commanding in a fetching black dress with white polka dots. Yet despite recent assurance that they treat their gigs as 'a bit of a laugh', they looked awfully serious and extremely worried during most of the set. They needn't have been. Backing them were three strong musicians and the girls' occasional blunders merely added to their warmth.

Drifting, laconic, superbly understated gentle songs made up the bulk of the set, highpoints being 'Let Her Go', 'Trees And Flowers' and 'Another Day', and as the statements progressed the two girls delicate voices eloped together, marrying passion and restrained power in a dazzling, dripping honeymoon of emotion (thank you Barbara Cartland - Ed.).

Specimen, on the other hand should get divorced immediately. Taken out of the context of the frightfully hip Batcave, the gothic glam jokers turned in an unrelenting set of blunt, basic rock n roll dressed up with synth warblings and fishnet stockings.

The New York Dolls, The Stooges and The Stones obviously wield a huge influence on Specimen, but as usual, the inspirational outfits are substantially better than the created rip-offs.

Mind you, anybody that can call a number 'I've Got A Wet, Warm, Clingfilm, Red Velvet Crush On You' deserves praise of some sort, so I'll give it 'Title Of The Year' and no marks for performance.

They need to write some good songs, kick out the awful keyboardist, learn to play the songs well, stop abusing the audience, tighten up the set and then fool around with the mascara. Then we can Kiss and make-up.

PAUL STRANGE