The Rezillos, The Stitches
Better than . . . getting your head kicked in tonight.
One of the Rezillos' earliest singles was titled "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures," but there weren't any statues standing around at their show last night at the Echo, which was only the second time the influential Scottish punk-pop combo has played Los Angeles since starting back in 1976.
The capacity crowd pressed tightly against the stage with pent-up excitement while co-lead singers Faye Fife and Eugene Reynolds shimmied and dashed madly about in a blur of nonstop energy. It was like the duo were living out their own madcap version of the Who's Quadrophenia: Reynolds resembled a surly motorcycle rocker, dressed in black shades and a black leather jacket, while the ever-glamorous Fife portrayed a colorful mod heroine, decked out stylishly in black go-go boots, lacy tights and a lime-green DayGlo mini dress over a slip with sheer black chiffon sleeves.
The Rezillos followed a short but raging set by the Stitches. Although the Orange County quartet didn't form until 1994, they sound more like a 1977-era group than like hardcore thugs or whiny Green Days wannabes and, as such, were a fitting accompaniment with the headliners. The Stitches draw heavily from such proto-punk influences as Johnny Thunders and the Dead Boys, with guitarist Johnny Witmer bending his strings with a leering, menacing intensity and raspy-throated singer Mike Lohrman howling ferally at the moon.
The Stitches used to be a boozy, unpredictable mess onstage, but last night they were tight and punchy, hammering out fast, compact originals like "Sixteen" and "My Baby Hates Me," as no-nonsense bassist Pete Archer and drummer Skibs Barker kept Lohrman and Witmer in line with precisely delivered accents. Former skate-punk hero Lohrman looked atypically swanky in a dark business suit, but his bratty vocals were as scabrous and insolent as ever, especially on a teeth-rattling, set-closing slam through Shane MacGowan's "That Woman's Got Me Drinking."
The Rezillos had previously played L.A. only one other time, at a show that quickly sold out at the now-defunct Garage in Silver Lake in 2002. This time around, founding members Fife, Reynolds and drummer Angel Patterson were joined by bassist Chris Agnew and former Nanobots guitarist Jim Brady, who recently replaced original ax-man Jo Callis (who went on to more fame with the Human League after the initial incarnation of the Rezillos broke up in 1979). While Callis, who wrote most of the songs on the Rezillos' 1978 debut album, Can't Stand the Rezillos, was missed, a hardly-shy Brady leaped about impishly and goaded the crowd while holding down the fort with non-flashy power chords.
What made the Rezillos so unusual -- then and now -- was the way they combine punk rock savagery with almost giddily cheerful pop hooks. Reynolds sneered and snarled his way through tough-guy tunes like "Mystery Action," while Fife winsomely cooed the cheerier and more melodic anthems like "Flying Saucer Attack." As the latter title implies, the Edinburgh quintet has always been sillier and wackier than more politically minded peers like the Clash and the Sex Pistols.
But dismiss them as mere jokesters at your peril....