Into Music Reviews: The Men They Couldn’t Hang at King Tut’s, Glasgow

Act: The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Venue: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
Date: 8 December 2018

It says a lot for a band that, after 35 years or so together, they still retain a creative spark to make great music and an insatiable appetite to play live gigs to sell out crowds the length and breadth of the country. But that’s exactly what The Men They Couldn’t Hang (TMTCH) do and it’s what they do best.

Local ska band Esperanza had the crowd warmed up nicely by the time TMTCH took to the stage bang on 10pm at King Tuts.

Goldrush kicks things off followed by their excellent version of Nick Lowe’s Wishing Well and sets the standard for the following 90 minutes of folk, blues, punk and bar-room rock’n’roll. Sirens, from the recently released album Cock-A-Hoop, features early and blends in well with the established and familiar tracks from the band’s renowned back catalogue.

The album was released via a PledgeMusic campaign, which allows fans to purchase the album on its own through to more unique options such as singing backing vocals on the album or going for a curry with the band! Mandolin player Paul Simmonds introduces Going Back To Coventry, a tale about the early days of the band in and around London before a blistering Rosettes about the futility of football casuals and violence.

Midway through, the band strip things back a bit, Swill singing the lament Parted From You before Paul joins him on stage for new track Three Ships Sailing which reminds me of the best Clancy Brothers songs… Swill, chest puffed out, the vocal straining with emotion and pathos, the highlight of the night.

It’s then fellow vocalist Cush who takes to the stage alone, delivering a heartfelt Ever Fallen In Love in memory of the Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley before launching into The Pogues Fairytale of New York which he dedicates to the recently married Shane MacGowan and Victoria Clarke.

The full band then return to the stage and seriously crank up the gauge. Smugglers is sung from the rafters by the crowd, a song which mentions Lendalfoot on the Ayrshire coast where I spent many a holiday as a kid and always brings a wry smile to my face.

Paul then outlines the backdrop to Shirt of Blue, written about the miners’ strike and the imperious and threatening attitude evident by the police and government to the miners and their families at the time.

TMTCH have always had a political and social edge and keen awareness of history, none more so than on Ghosts of Cable Street written about the 1936 clashes between Oswald Mosley’s fascists and various anti-fascist demonstrators.

The song remains as relevant today, Paul highlighting the planned demonstration the following day in London against Tommy Robinson’s fascist supporters. Needless to say, the song goes down a storm, the band and crowd coalescing into a communal mass of defiance.

Early single Ironmasters brings the set to a close before the band return for an encore of A Night To Remember (which it was) and Walkin’ Talkin’.

John Welsh 

Wishing Well
Bounty Hunter
Greenback Dollar
Going Back To Coventry
Parted From You (Swill)
Three Ships Sailing (Swill & Paul)
Ever Fallen In Love (Cush)
Fairytale Of New York (Cush)
Shirt Of Blue
Raising Hell
Ghosts Of Cable Street
The Colours

A Night To Remember
Walkin Talkin

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