Live: Snuff / Bad Cop Bad Cop / Spoilers @ Academy 3, Manchester

By Ashley Partridge

UK punk pioneers Snuff have been unassumingly plugging away for three decades and this tour marks 30 years since the original trio formed in a London café. Do they still have it in them to go full pelt and put on a proper show? Absolutely.

Kent-based Spoilers open the evening and serve as a perfect example of Snuff’s influence on the UK punk scene. They bounce around to short bursts of fun noise, channelling themselves through quintessentially English vocals; there’s no faux-Americanisms here. I lived through the halcyon days of the early-2000s and there’s more than a hint of that era about Spoilers but with far greater punk credentials. They’ve got the melodies and hooks but don’t try to be anything more than a good laugh.

Californian quartet Bad Cop/ Bad Cop represent the other side of how punk has developed over the last few decades. The songs are longer, slower and have harmonic “woah-ohs”. It’s their first time in the UK and there’s a sense they’re putting on an audition, rather than a show for fans. “Has anyone here heard of us?” they ask. A few cheers give them a reassuring reply and they crack on.

Impressively, they don’t waste time between songs trying to warm themselves to the unsure crowd. I’ve seen bands desperately imploring people to “come closer” or pay lip service to how great it is to be there. Bad Cop/ Bad Cop just let their ace tunes do the talking.  ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Like, Seriously?’ are highlights and have a self-aware but sassy vibe.

Finally, Snuff arrive and proceed to give what can be summed up as a glorious shambles. They take to the stage as a repetitive sample of the classic ‘Vicar of Dibley’ “no no no no no yes” plays over the PA, setting the tone for the next 90 minutes.

Thirty years is a long time for any band to exist and this tour also acts as a shameless advert for their 20th anniversary reissue of ‘Demmamussabebonk’. While not an album-only gig, it’s leaned upon through the set and, as we’re reminded, “is available in the foyer”.

‘Vikings’, ‘Sunny Places’ and ‘Horse and Cart’ sound just as fresh as they did in 1996. There’s no rustiness to the sound and the four (or five, depending on the need for trumpet) ageing gents show that punk didn’t used to be about filling stadiums or cultivating an image. It was about having a laugh.

Where Bad Cop/ Bad Cop kept themselves reserved, Snuff are all about the banter. There’s a party atmosphere; song-selection bingo, terrible dad jokes and an impromptu marriage proposal.

Snuff fans will also know about their history of covers and this show is no different. The theme tunes to ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’ sit alongside a bingo-selected cover of ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by late-80s jailbait sensation, Tiffany (which itself is a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells from 1967 – knowledge).

By the time they shuffle back onstage for the encore of ‘Arsehole’, the generation-spanning crowd has been united in awe at how to let yourself go properly. Snuff still stand as the pioneers of UK pop punk and can be proud of the legacy they’ve created over the last 30 years.