In the 80s, one of the few gay clubs in Portsmouth lay down a long, dark alleyway – freezing in the winter, sweaty in the summer, known only to a select number. No doorbell at the end of it or door knocker, but an old tin hubcap that you needed to rap sharply once, twice, three times. A face would appear in the gloom and you’d utter that week’s password before admittance to a modest dancefloor festooned in tinsel and disco lights.
For several blissful, secret hours you could dance with whoever you wanted to spend time with, away from the gaze outside. My university was outside, and the pigeonhole for the Gay and Lesbian Society which got firebombed on a regular basis. This was a time of nudges and whispers and secret conversations, of brave fronts and covered bruises, of taunts and gossip and double lives.
The minor key of 70s disco, that dance in the face of it all gave way to the pounding rhythm and androgynous dare of New Romantics, Marc Almond, and Bronski Beat, but too many bright faces disappeared – dancing one week, dead from “that disease” the next.
Oli Spleen and Nick Hudson’s latest EP The Bedroom/After The Flood is a stunning portrait of those times when AIDS first hit the headlines and the terrible aftermath. With its flipside of hedonistic, driving dance (The Bedroom) and contemplative chanson (After The Flood) this could have mired itself in melancholy, but instead takes all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma and turns it into a beautiful anthem for friends and loved ones lost, and renewed survivors looking to the future.
Oli is one of the brightest of talents on the Brighton scene, with a prolific and long-standing career which encompasses bands like The Flesh Happening, Pink Narcissus, and Spleen, alongside solo work. He deftly turns his hand from the rawest of punk to the most sensuous of chanteurs, presenting work which is both deeply personal and wonderfully universal.
Five bright stars from Plugged In Brighton.
All the proceeds for this EP go to the Terence Higgins Trust which continues to provide much-needed care and support for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
The EP is available from: Bandcamp
You can also donate directly via: Just Giving