1988 - Tom Tom Club live in `The Wag` in London Print

Tom Tom Club live in `The Wag` in London 1988 WHIZZ! We're here! And so is the well-dressed half of civilisation, even though The Wag is probably the worst place in the kingdom to see a band. It's smaller than an ant's ear, poorly ventilated, has lights which are aimed straight into your face and a stage made out of a single layer of matchboxes. Unless you braved the front row or had brought along a starry-eyed lover to stand on, it's impossible to catch more than a glimpse of something which may have been the top of Tina Weymouth's head. Saggy Chris Frantz, a man who would normally have amazing difficulties getting beyond the doorman's leather gloves, is hidden to all. Nevertheless, because of its long unchallenged status as the hippest
hop in the glitter-zone, it's a fine venue in which to experience the Tom Tom Club, to sway, bob and gasp upon grasping the full implications of their glorious groove.

Bang! Bang-bang-bang! The Weymouth-Frantz combination is faultless. After over 10 years of being locked together in the same smart rhythms, it damned well ought to be. With the opening song, they're happy enough to take minor roles, rippling and tickling underneath, rocking a safe, snug cradle Their efforts are barely discernible. As "Genius Of love" begins to wind up they push themselves to the fore and the up-and-down, back-and-forth motions continue throughout the greater part of the set. Whether it's soothingly sensual or blatantly bolder, it's an ever reliable momentum. It's what makes the Tom Tom Club the best band in the history of the schoolyard. They're ideal to skip along to.

Flash! "Wordy Rappinghood" is the greatest skipping song of all. The beat weaves and wanders, prodding the other elements this way and that, gravitating them back towards the centre with a playful smack across the skull. It insists upon not only concentration, but upon a certain amount of pure exhibitionism, an extra little jump, a big suspended leap, a spin and a roll. "Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom" works along the same lines. In spite of the title, there's less messing around with nonsensical lyrics, but the musical nips and tucks, mostly, wonderfully, in the wrong places, add up to a neat fashionable accessory.

Whizz! Here we go again. Each song also bears the marks of the unknowns, the guitarist and the keyboard player casting their lots with considered abandon. Every sound is spiced up with electro-eccentric trickery, a perfumed round 'n' tumble. Some of the FX are describable with vague words such as fuzz, wail, grumble and grate, others have to be left to the imagination. With "Don't Say No" I kept thinking of the buzz of a dentist's drill and the
whimper of a dreaming dog.

Bang! Are you getting the hang of this? The Tom Tom Club flip-flop from an efflorescent funk to a rewarding rock and whichever way they turn it's a solid sorcery, always malleable, rarely breakable. The only disastrous slip comes with a cover of a Bob Dylan song, Frantz's less than desirable vocals replacing Weymouth's venerable tones. It's introduced by "the critics don't think we should touch this . . ." and is followed by "how are the kids supposed to know about these songs if we're not allowed to play them?" I haven't the faintest idea what it was called [She Belongs to Me] and after this rendition, I've no intention of trying to find out.

Forgetting that, we're left with whizz, bang, flash, mmmm. The Tom Tom Club prompted me to tap the person in front of me on the shoulder and propose marriage. He said yes. His name is Tommy Steele. You're all invited to the reception.

- Melody maker 22 October 1988