Wonk Unit / The Star of Kings
North London’s Wonk Unit took to the stage after underground punk veterans Midway Still, and among stops, starts and poems, put on a great show
Band members have been playing in other bands in London for years, but it’s only in their profuse gigging over the past 2 years that they’ve really become hard to ignore for any punk fans residing in the capital.
Crammed into The Star of Kings on an icy Friday night, the crowd were massively into it, letting the band take them on a journey deep into the singer Alex Johnson’s mind, through the medium of spoken-word and lo-fi punk rock.
Having never seen Wonk Unit before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now I’m certain that even if I was a regular at a Wonk show, they’d still be pretty hard to second-guess.
Johnson’s wide-eye ramblings and bizarre, conceptual songs, means he comes across as a mix between cult punk singer John Otway, and Dick Lucas from The Subhumans. He’s a captivating frontman and had the audience listening intently to whatever anecdote or odd lyric would spew from between his silver teeth.
What keeps them afloat in the sea of insanity that they’ve created around themselves, is their talent for good, 1977-style punk song-writing. Songs like ‘Plasterer’ and ‘Horses’ tread the thin line between lunacy and genius, but there was no doubt that people left the venue with them stuck in their head for the rest of the weekend, whether they liked it or not.
It was a vibrant set, as fun new fans as it was to old regulars, as they jumped into songs like ‘Donkey of The Damned’, complete with the cathartic chorus of “I don’t wanna be a builder!”
Their lyrics spiral through themes of angst, romance and occasional sorrow, which suggests that there’s more to Johnson than his humour and his foul-mouth.
Their penultimate musical offering was introduced with, “This one’s about John Rambo, because he taught us hard-men that it’s okay to cry sometimes.” By this time most of the crowd were singing along and dancing, happy to be in the dingy basement of a North London pub watching one of the most unique bands in modern punk rock.
Wonk Unit are a fresh breath of life in the London punk scene. They’re fun, weird, poetic and utterly compelling all at once, a must-see.
Catch them on the March 12 at 12 Bar (spooky), London, where they’ll be doing a rap-battle gig alongside The Murderburgers and The Griswalds.