An unusual mix of swagger and timidity
Two Wounded Birds - Live At The Shacklewell Arms, London

The pub is awash with guys looking like extras in The Wild Ones with greaser hairslicks and tight black jeans and leathers, but with a modern punk twist - Dee Dee Ramone bowl cuts and plimsoles and odes to the group etched on the back of their leather jackets. The crowd is standing at the back waiting anxiously for the band to start. As minutes slowly go by, the room fills with anticipating revellers. Everyone wades through to get a place up close to witness the live version of Two Wounded Birds’ highly lauded and acclaimed debut album.

The band strolls on stage exuding a cool exterior, as if they’ve been doing this for ages. They rock their own vintage black biker jackets, raven dyed hair and peroxide bleached blonde bombshell barnets. They look like a gang whose lives are devoted to rock ‘n’ roll as a state of mind and body and a way of living. The rough and ready lead singer and guitarist calls himself Johnny Danger, and has probably upset his parents by making it legal on his birth certificate. He’s more the son of Vince Taylor and Johnny Ramone, if it was possible. Danger, the leader of his pack, plays the guitar in a splayed stance reminiscent of The Shadows, Roy Orbison, or John Spencer and holds his axe as though it’s his weapon. But, he doesn’t assault - contrasting to this image and in true rebellious manner and tradition, his voice is succulent and serene – it’s like a sombre lullaby. Even when it turns to punk ‘n’ roll punchy singing, there’s a sun, sea, and star gazed twinkly tinge to it. If Spector was free to, he would be making a round of phone calls to track Two Wounded Birds down.

The group dive headlong into ‘Guns at Dawn’, followed by ‘Daddy’s Junk’. They play with the air of an unusual mix of swagger and timidity. It’s the same contrasting combination that makes their punkabilly sensual crooning rock ‘n’ roll and tuneful pop song arrangements a brand of their own. The vibrant live performance an amalgamation of rawness and dreamy is alluring – they beckon you...

After finishing ‘My Lonesome’, the song that drew much attention to the band when streamed in 2010 and dominated playlists everywhere, the audience looks like they’ve fallen hopelessly in love and the girls (and boys) may start fainting or throwing their knickers on stage. The affect of the song that embodies Two Wounded Birds’ brand of pop-strange sound is hard to fight. There’s no resistance to the danger and strangeness that’s lurking ahead. It’s a bit twisted and rebellious. Johnny Danger’s vocals are like a warm blanket, the guitars reach sun spangled heights as the mighty bass and drums roll on, and in the midst, the Gretch scratches away forebodingly.

The penultimate song, ‘Together Forever’, is a raucous ramalama smash played with such ferocity that Danger breaks a string. He eases the crowd’s anxiousness about the delay by complimenting them on the amount of black leather they’ve decided to don tonight. The unfortunate mishap has left the leader no choice but to play the last song ‘All We Wanna Do’ without his guitar, so he takes to clutching the mic instead. Even though there’s disappointment and wanting for a longer set, the melodious, scratch 'n' snarl of guitar, drums and bass, and heart wrenching, world weary dulcet tones make everyone acquiesce - it’s over, but it was something special.

Words by Libby Moné

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