New Musical Express, ?/? 1979? page 44
A selection of the weaker Small Wonder acts plus the industrious independent label's most inspired signing, now a Polydor person, are tightly paraded in front of an appreciative audience at the Music Machine; a venue sligthly more acceptable than recent reports would suggest.
Plenty of good views, plenty of bars, places to sit, room to dance: such things matter.
The first three entertainers, beat groups all, are earnest, competent modern club bands who've carefully updated derivative hard rock/pop with a variety of requirements. They're resilient and shrewd, but little else.
The Wall, a tough quartet, possess the power and resentment of a Jam or Clash, with just a shade more cuteness than cleverness, and without the money to pad their set with calculated visual paraphernalia. They've plenty of beat, know the riffs and act cocky enough, but lack the completeness and precision of their mentors.
If time heals that, then it's just (just?) a case of introducing some originality and edge into their sound. Initially this is more important than individual songs (currently charmingly plagiaristic) and using different ways of voicing their discontent other than with overused and underdone Clash-Costello type ravings.
It's not enough just to be angry any more. Give it room.
Nicky and the Dots, a Brighton quintet propelled by electric piano, have pretensions that push them towards the quirky, funky, choppy genre of modern rock.
A little harder but close to the chummy cheeriness of The Yacts, their thoughtfully structured rock is based on contrived contortions that are less exaggerated, and thus less endearing, than XTC. A mild interpretation of T. Heads' "Pcycho Killer" confirmed their actuel ambitions; the plainness of their own songs revealed limited imagination and minimal natural idiosyncrasy.
The appalling Molesters ram pace and professionalism down my throat. Flash, stilted rock fronted by an unappealing spivtwit, backed by two flapping girl singers; dead pert for those who 'appreciate' Chelsea and Anita Harris, but Lou Reed and Liza Minnelli would do it so much better.
Actually, they're like Budgie fed through Menace backed by Elsie Tanner's tiresome lodgers. They're from Brighton. Brighton rock people should stay tightlipped about their nouveau rock entertainers.
Crass close the evening's exhibition. I've already had my ears burnt attemping to puzzle out the contradictions inherent in this seven-piece. I'll leave it to fate.
Before, Crass, the ingenuity and spontanaeity of Patrik Fitzgerald emphasises the mundanity of the previous performers. Not only is he in love with his songs, but there is true perception and specialness in how he creates and performs them. It's an immediate quality which separates him from the crowd.
For the first third of Fitzgerald's set the cuddly minstrel relies on his so far natural presentation - confident voice and understated acoustic guitar.
He cheekily reels off a deceptive series of wry comments about such things as rejection, passion, spite, and vulnerability: sardonic and sarcastic vignettes that cleverly balance whimsy and anger. As a sweet'n'sour solo raconteur there are notisable (but not upsetting) hints of deft Wainwrightian sad humour and pride.
Fitzgerald is a superb comic communicator; this is obvious by the way the small wonder holds the Music Machine enthralled.
But after these succinct opening shots, Fitzgerald goes electric and it's revelation.
Playing functional occasionally impressive electric guitar himself, he's joined by Buzzcock's John Maher (drums) and Penetration's Rob Blagmire (bass), plus two unidentified musicians on sax and keyboards. This under-rehearsed unit take some time to settle, and remains erratic all through the set. But the delicately jazz tinged, rhytmic mood music forcefully turns Fitzgerald's sparse stories into strong songs, and delightfully enhances and expands moments and moods vaguely hinted at in the acoustic numbers.
Incorporating full electric arrangments into his range looks set to be a succesful move, and opens up plenty of potential without any immediate danger of losing the belligerence and irony. It will be intriguing to see how Fitzgerald, with all his bitterness and sensitivity, will adapt to inevitable success and acclaim. Soon come ...
What we have now is a commentator to continue the sadly fading tradition of such rebels as Ayers, Chapman, Harper and Martyn - a strong mind, a strong communicator, a strong musician (yes!) who's very much part of today's environment and who's capable of responding to, resisting and using modern pressures and expectations.
Unspoilt and raring to go, Patrik Fitzgerald really is something special.