The Vermin Poets

Poets of England

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The Vermin Poets, the latest project from the eternally prolific Billy Childish, certainly bears the trademarks of the man's work -- lots of straightforward garage-influenced melodies, choppy punk-style guitar, pounding drums, thick and bobbing basslines, and blunt, confrontational lyrics. But while this is indeed Childish's new band, he's only the bass player; Neil Palmer, of the late U.K. band the Fire Department, is the guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter for the Vermin Poets, and longtime fan Childish (he's cited Fire Department as a personal favorite and released some of their music on his Hangman Records label) produced this set, which allows his like-minded friend to take the lead. In some respects, Palmer's lyrics resemble Childish's poetry more closely than his music; he writes often about the creative process and the function of the artist, but he does so in a manner that's unpretentious and direct, expressing himself with a literate ferocity that is keenly intelligent while betraying little concern for false artifice or buffering the sharp edges of his opinions. Palmer is a strong guitarist who gives these tunes plenty of sinewy force, but in his vocals he sometimes aims for a deliberately discordant effect; he can clearly hit the notes on tricky passages but occasionally chooses not to, and the result is effective roughly as often as it's not. But if Neil Palmer's approach is a few shades artier than the bulk of Billy Childish's work from a simple "Does It Rock?" perspective, the Vermin Poets are up to the standards of the bass players' back catalog; this is no-frills rock & roll that has plenty of room for heart, soul, and guts, and years after the breakup of the Fire Department, it's good to have this gifted writer and musician back in action (and revealing an impressive fashion sense as well).

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