Remember positive punk? It was semi-believable musical genre, invented by the NME in February 1983, loosely themed around acts like Southern Death Cult, Brigandage and Andi Sex Gang. It was about boys with eyeliner and quasi tribal inclinations. It came after the Banshees and Bauhaus and it preceded the gloomstorm of goth. There were associate acts like Flesh For Lulu and for a time they were all hanging at The Batcave in London.
Belfast had its own positive punk combo called Doomed Youth. Their strap-line was “where no shadows fall”. They used their crimpers with intent. They had a lovely front man called Tommy Doom, a few college chancers from Gilnahirk, a drummer called Killer plus Dougie Doom, an unsmiling chap who may have hailed from the Antrim Road.
I saw them play at a rather exciting street party on Wolseley Street, Belfast, abetted by Terri Hooley and curtailed by the police. They had an article in Zigzag magazine, written by their bass player in the guise of an objective reporter. I was there when they lugged their gear up the stairs to Jules nightclub on Royal Avenue and when they played a Smithwick’s Battle Of The Bands at the Errigle Inn. Their stage set involved fishing nets and an old TV screen and the NME review made sarky reference to their “portable Batcave”.
Thirty years on and Doomed Youth are finally on sale. Their greatest recorded moments are now compiled on a CD called ‘Shellshock Rockers Vol II’, delivered by the ever-resourceful Seany Rotten and his imprint, Spit Records. Doomed Youth are joined by The Lids, The Ex Producers (Johnny Hero on drums), The Icons, Xposers, and Shock Treatment, who preside with literate élan. I remember some of the combos, and the others fill me with fondness. No more so than Ask Mother, who were the New York Dolls of our little scene, cross-dressing, provoking and singing ‘Twinkle’, a pithy remark about a sectarian fatality and fleeting Newsline fame. André Stitt has continued this theme as a performance artist and I have indelible memories of the guy playing the Clonduff Community Centre in east Belfast, hurling unfettered art and polymorphous freedom at the kids. They were affronted, the gig was so edgy and Ask Mother ruled. Buy this record.