At £20 a ticket, prices for this reunion concert are expensive. The Scars were for a long time the forgotten men of the Edinburgh post-punk movement. Their singles, ‘Horrorshow/Adult-ery’ and ‘All About You’, won airplay from John Peel and brief music press interest. ‘Author! Author!’, their only album, however, sold poorly and any final sense of momentum and continuity was lost by the departure of vocalist Bobby King shortly after its release in April 1981. The Scars limped on for a few months after guitarist Paul Research (now Mackie) took over King’s place as singer before breaking up in early 1982. While other similarly short-lived local post-punk bands of the era such as Josef K and the Fire Engines have been the subject of reissues and gone on to attract some notoriety, the Scars until recently remained little remembered.

Recent times have, however, been kinder to the Scars. Fashionable electronic act Lemon Jelly’s heavy sampling of ‘Horrorshow’ on their 2007 song, ‘79’, and the re-release of ‘Author! Author!’ for the first time in a CD edition later on that year has earned them some late acclaim.

Reformation is also big business these days and an hour before the Scars are due on stage at what is their first gig with King in nearly thirty years the Picture House is surprisingly busy. The Scars’ hometown gigs in their initial lifetime at the long closed Tap O’ Lauriston and Wig and Pen pubs attracted tiny cult audiences, but tonight’s crowd, even despite the exorbitant ticket prices, must extend to perhaps five or six hundred.

Undoubtedly some of this will be down to post-Christmas boredom, a need to get out after four days stuck inside the house. The audience is also predominantly middle-aged. While there will be some there who can say that they saw them first time around, others will be fans of other bigger name post-punk bands of the period and have just turned up to see what the hype surrounding this “lost band” they initially missed is about. There are also, however, several young people in the crowd, who weren’t born the last time the Scars trod a stage together and it seems that Lemon Jelly’s influence has also had an effect. Ironically much like the reformed Sex Pistols and Stooges, whose audiences were similarly small first time around, the Scars thirty years late find themselves playing to the biggest crowd of their career.

The support bill line-up has been through a lot of changes. Former Josef K guitarist and one time stage mate Malcolm Ross pulled out the week before because of illness, as has his replacement Kid Carnaveral as a result of their drummer’s partner going into labour the day previously. Last minute addition Shock and Awe, the current band of the Rezillos and Human League guitarist Jo Callis, who have been drafted in that morning and which this reviewer arrives too late for, are, however, by all accounts superb.

Much of ballboy singer Gordon McIntyre’s fey in-between banter is drowned out by poor acoustics and audience conversation, but his group’s form of abrasive Wedding Present-style indie pop also has its moments.

Main support act TV21 are outstanding. Another Edinburgh-based act, they have a similar symmetry to the Scars. Formed in the late 70’s, they split up in 1982 after releasing a string of singles and a solitary album, ‘A Thin Red Line’. Despite supporting the Rolling Stones on the Scottish dates on a European tour immediately prior to their break-up, TV21 were for many years again largely forgotten. Since reforming in 2005 initially for a one-off gig in tribute to John Peel, they have, however, met with fresh acclaim. Both a Cherry Red compilation, ‘Snakes and Ladders’ and a self-released second album, ‘Forever 22’, which was released twenty eight years after the first one, have been well-received.

Singer Norman Rodger has one of those anthemic voices that fills a room, and the band, who in their early incarnation were produced by both the Teardrop Explodes’ Troy Tate and the Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie, combine catchy, loud new wave chords with inventive hooks. There is a good balance of new and old songs with ‘A Thin Red Line’ album track ’What’s Going On?’ being especially memorable. The last few numbers see them bring on stage with them for what they tell us is the first time in their thirty year history a brass section. This is a group that despite its many years apart has not just remained stuck in the past, but which has moved on and evolved.

And this is where it all starts to become unstuck for the Scars...

It is not that they are terrible. Paul Mackay’s spidery guitar work has a wiry muscularity and the rhythm section, his brother John on bass and drummer Calumn Mackay, create at points an appropriate sense of doom and menace. But they haven’t progressed in the last thirty years at all.

For all of the fuss surrounding this gig, for all of the talk of their originality, and with copies of the ‘Author! Author!’CD which has been deleted currently selling on-line for £50, there is very little in the Scars’ fifty minute set, which begins with ‘Horrorshow’ and concludes with a cover of Cockney Rebel’s ‘Pyscho Modo’, that seems innovative or unique. They come across as somewhat passé, a little too reminiscent with their spiky, angular guitars and paranoiac sound of other acts of the time, in parts ‘Kaleidoscope’-era Siouxsie and the Banshees, certainly Josef K and above all Magazine.

The bulk of their songs were written when the Scars were still in their teens and it all also somewhat sixth form. Shaven-headed Mekon lookalike Bobby King certainly works hard. He stomps about the stage, dark visor sunglasses plastered across his white face, leather jacket open displaying an equally pale chest, howling his songs about grubby sexual liaisons and the Bomb and the Apocalypse. He is no longer though 19 or 20, but a man of approximately 50 who has spent much of the last three decades working in universities and who is now a professor in ancient languages.

Although he is polite and earnest between numbers, he has none of the irony that, say, John Lydon has shown since the Sex Pistols started going back on the road after their own long absence. While perhaps it could be argued that it has done the ilk of Liam Gallagher no real harm, King should really be above such posturing now and it all seems shallow and somewhat forced.

There will be some who, because of the nature of this event, will make it out afterwards to be some kind of second coming. It is not, merely an over-hyped show by a recently over-hyped band that might have been better remaining more elusive. The Picture House gig is being promoted as a strict “one off”. These things, of course, however, have a habit of expanding and Paul Mackie has already been hinting in interviews in the local press about doing more. To be fair to them, the Scars have had one show rather than five years to get it right. Where they go from here, however, remains debatable. If nothing else, tonight’s show proves that reformation gigs should be more than a simple act of trying to evoke memories.

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Commenting On: Picture House, Edinburgh, 28/12/2010 - Scars

ie London, England

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19537 Posted By: the Headmaster (the school)

Hi John - I'm not really a headmaster !

I see you've cleaned it up quite a bit, better late than never! For an article that was published a month after the event is it no a wee bit embarrasing that it was so badly edited and researched ? I'm guessing anyone who was interested would have read it already and been as puzzled by it as I was (and no doubt you were, hence the necessary editing)

What do you want this website to be ? A place where shoddy writing gets thrown up unedited or a place where people can come to get informed opinion ? There is good stuff here, but that review was just plain bad writing, confused and shockingly edited. You dont get a second chance at a first impression. The look of the site is very professional but that all fell down when I looked at the content so I felt I had to write something. Its constructive criticism, you can either take it on board and improve or you can have your hissy fit and carry on in your amateur style.

I'll mark this up to a D now that you've actually proof read it and sorted out some of the errors. You would've probably got a bare pass C but I've had to deduct points for handing it in late.

Could do better with a bit more effort - "if a jobs worth doing, its worth doing well" - try writing that out 100 times so you dont forget the next time ?

Yours in sport,

The Headmaster

19534 Posted By: John Clarkson (Edinburgh)

When people express differences with our reviews, I usually don’t reply, feeling that we have had our say and they also are entitled to theirs.

The response of “the Headmaster” in particular was such a vehement attack on my article on the Scars that I felt on this occasion, however, a response was in order.

Actually quite a lot of research did go into my piece and, while I did indeed look at Wikipedia, I used a variety of other sources as well. I am happy to concede though that I got the fact about Shock and Awe being the new band of Jo Callis wrong.

I did, as the Headmaster suggests, originally google it and got the information from another on-line source. With hindsight, I should have looked a bit harder. I think though, as I make clear in the article that as I wasn’t in the venue at the time they were on stage, this is a fair mistake.

To clarify, I did think the ticket price was “exorbitant” (I think that you’ll find this is the correct spelling, Headmaster). The Headmaster obviously has all sorts of inside knowledge that I don’t possess and it may have been a charity gig, but it was a charity gig which I and, I would suspect,90% of the audience knew nothing about. There were no posters or streamers inside the building advertising whichever charity or charities were being sponsored, nothing on the tickets or at the merchandise stand and I don’t recollect anyone shaking a can around. Nor was there any prominent advertising in the weeks beforehand that this was some kind of benefit gig.

Finally, Headmaster, you pick me up on “my spelling, grammer, facts.” I don’t profess to be 100% perfect in either of both the former (Thank you for pointing out the typo, which I have corrected this morning).

You really should though get your own house in order before you make such remarks and take a look at your own writing. It might carry much more weight if you realised the correct spelling of “grammer”, just one of the various misspellings in your own response, is in fact “grammar”.

19532 Posted By: the Headmaster (Edinburgh)

This has to be the worst written thing I've read in a long time. Its totally schizophrenic and almost impossible to make out what the writer is trying to get across. Was £20 exhorbitant to see 4 of the best bands in Edinburgh play for charity or was it a bargain to see a critically acclaimed influential band perform a unique one off gig ?. Why is the writer applauding TV21 for playing new songs 5 years and a new album after reforming yet criticising Scars for not changing after 3 practices ?! Why is this published almost a full month after the gig, yet is riddled with mistakes in all forms - spelling, grammer, facts.

Just about the only thing he got right was "Last minute addition Shock and Awe, the current band of the Rezillos and Human League guitarist Jo Callis, who have been drafted in that morning and which this reviewer arrives too late for, are, however, by all accounts superb." - other than the fact that a quick google would have shown the writer that Jo Callis is not and has never been in Shock And Awe, they were, by all accounts superb. To complain about "audience conversation" during Ballboys set probably reveals that the writer was closer to the bar than the stage. The TV21 review is about right, although it feels like its been writen by wikipedia as much as the author.

The Scars review is totally confused, and very badly edited. "There will be some who, because of the nature of this event, will make it out afterwards to be some of second coming." - was any of this even proof read ?

I've read a few things on this site before - the Spectorbullets page for instance was much better and the record reviews are sometimes nicely to the point. But this is "somewhat sixth form" to quote the writer.

Could do better. Needs to concentrate. Easily led.

Journalism result. Fail.

19520 Posted By: Ghoulz (Dunfermline)

Hard to belief this insect was actually there.

"the current band of the Rezillos and Human League guitarist Jo Callis, who have been drafted in that morning and which this reviewer arrives too late for, are, however, by all accounts superb."

Human League guitarist Jo Callis?

Not at the Edinburgh Picture House I was at!

I can only guess he's not only written a review of a gig in another dimension but was off his face when he did it and listened to the opinion of someone else who wasn't there either.

No it wasn't perfect ... but it was fabulous and I for one (of I think many) will not rest until the experience can be repeated. Bear in mind they only played together a few times before this gig whereas TV21 have been at it for the last 5 years!

Third-rate opinionated missinformed and just plain wrong.

You're allowed to not like it John ... but think before you type and try to type facts

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