Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Bleech claim they were “formed from a packet of pro-plus pills”.

Well, like the caffeine pick-me-ups, they ain’t sweet and, however much they make you sweat, you are bound to want more of them.

The young East London based three-piece are composed of sisters Jen (guitar and vox) and Katherine O’Neill (bass and BVs) and pounding drummer Mat Bick, a friend from school.

They have been likened to The Subways and have the energy and backing vocals to match, but the riffs are more crunching and Jen’s voice has a kind of sweet but sassy swagger reminiscent of Elastica’s Justine Frischmann.

They played the fantastic monthly F.L.U. night in Camden’s Proud bar on March 19 and their uncompromised grungy ‘90s set, coupled with front girl Jen’s stunning disregard for glamour caught the trendy tight-jeaned, coiffed crowd off guard.

She hid behind a long mess of brown tangles and gave her all to the mic as Katherine, the yin of Jen’s hair‘s yang- short, styled and blonde- interspersed her backing vocals with violent flicks of her torso.

They are fast and they are strong. And they have a packed next few weeks, including five London gigs in four London nights between March 26 and 29.

They are also releasing their debut single “Is It True That Boys Don’t Cry” through Ban*Jam, with a launch at The Monarch in Camden on April 14.

Steve Lamacq hailed them as his Unsigned Band of the Week and XFMs John Kennedy claimed: “You are about to witness Rock History in the making!”

Their simplicity and power did it for me- get yer jeans on and give them a go.

Homelessness Pt.2

My experience of living on the street for only a week was an easy one. I was well fed, clean and I got enough sleep. But I wanted to find out why some people find themselves unable to get out of their situation and onto some kind of ladder of progress. In an East London park I found some answers. By no means are they representative of many homeless people: they do not touch on mental health problems, issues with language and immigration or any other reasons over what they are. But this is what I got from a couple of hours talking.

There was Buzz, 37, Chalky, 41, and Quicksand, 26, and me with them sharing a mid-afternoon drink.

Not undercover this time, my cards were on the table and they knew my agenda. To get to know these homeless folk and learn why they are still on the streets when the city’s facilities appear so accommodating. I had found through sleeping rough that the longest a healthy and ambitious person should be on the streets of London for is only about 25 days.

Buzz, Chalky and “Quicks” did not look healthy and if they had much ambition they must have been keeping it private. “We are not well, you might say,” said Chalky, before closing the sentence with his’ “Heheheh!”. “We drink, it’s what we do, our thing you might say.”

Chalky, the most articulate and open of the three, gave his story with little prompting. “I’ve a missus and my three girls living over in Shepherd’s Bush. I still see ‘em every couple of weeks or so. We all get on fine, you know, but it’s best not to see too much of each other. It’s the fuckin’ booze- I say things I’ll regret.”

He told me how he used to be a successful amateur boxer in his early twenties. He trained in one of the East End’s famous gyms, Repton, and was about to turn pro when he had a motorbike accident and shattered his left leg. He started drinking and the rest is a hazy plummeting of fights, hangovers, social security cheques and booze-numbed regret.

“I won’t be getting off the streets any time soon. I’ve been trying on and off for seven years, but I’m the bars of my own cage. I won’t allow myself to get out of this situation ‘cos I keep fuckin’ up and drinking away my chances. I don’t last in a hostel for long before they chuck me out.”

He keeps himself reasonably hygienic, using the drop-in centres like the Whitechapel Mission on Whitechapel Road to shower, shave and brush up. Many of the centres hand out free clothing on a daily basis and have washing machines.

“The cold and wet nights are obviously a pain, but you get kinda used to them. Sometimes I get to kip on the sofa in a mate’s house, but mostly I bed down in my sleeping bag. I stay up on Kingsland Road most nights.”

Quicksand’s drinking mates nicknamed him because of his stark self-destructive streak. They say he will keep sinking down until he kills himself. Defensive and confrontational, he kept smirking and then looking nervously at Chalky and Buzz for help whenever I asked him a question.

“’Cos I ain’t got no home, do I,” he said when I asked why he is on the streets. After some pushing, he conceded: “I can’t really be bothered with them hostels. The people there tell you you’ve gotta have your lights out at a certain time, not shout about. It’s like prison or something.” It is clear he is the kind of person who does not know how to compromise. When being tried for ABH in 2001, he called the judge a, “Fucking dingbat” in the courtroom. No doubt that extended his 100 day prison sentence.

Buzz, like Chalky and Quicksand, likes a drink. But he is trying to keep a lid on it and, counter-intuitively, that is why he chooses not to stay in a hostel. “Too much temptation,” he says. And to be fair he kept sober in the park, drinking only one can of Strongbow. “I also don’t claim benefits. I know what I’ll spend the money on if I do. I just get by, surviving rough and trying not to drink. I also volunteer at a couple of the day centres. I like to keep busy.”

Chalky, buoyant, Quicks, nervous, Buzz, sober and I drunk our cider and talked sport a while. Chalky closed the get together: “Right ho, we better go. Gotta see a man about a dog. You know. Heheheh!”

Monday, 18 May 2009

Garage Living

Further effects of the credit crunch- a couple from Kent have been living in a garage since they both lost their jobs in April.

Paula Lacey and Michael Ward were forced to move out of their house when it was repossessed after they became unable to afford the mortgage payments.

The new home has no running water or electricity but the relatively secure roof over their head costs £10 per week.

They claimed they had “nowhere to go” and now use shower and toilet facilities at the local swimming centre.

Mrs Lacey said: “If we’ve got the money we go to a local pub we know that do really nice meals for £1.50.

Their local authority, Swale Borough Council, said in a statement: “We advised them how to make an application for homelessness and will now look more closely at their application.

We will weigh up the information provided and will decide in due course if the council has a duty to house them permanently.”

The landlord of the garage has issued them with a notice to quit but has also tried to help the couple find somewhere better to live.

He said: “I didn’t know it [the credit crunch] could narrow to this but I think there are probably people all over the UK living like it.”