Penetration, The Globe, Cardiff


Amazing that nearly 35 years after their last gig in Cardiff, Penetration were back in town.

Amazing, too, that they’ve never really reaped the rewards for their three-minute punk singles – among the best of an era.

This was a band that took a Patti Smith song and improved it. 

Imagine that. They did a better job on Freemoney – and still do for my money – than the great, shamanic goddess of punk-poetry.

That’s how good they can be. And, having seen them four times in the last six years, I can only assume that it must be their dogged persistence to keep the songs alive that keeps them going.

Because they don’t exactly pack the punters in, disappointingly. At Bristol  in a grotty Stokes Croft pub in 2008 fewer than 50 were there and the disgusting toilet’s ceiling nearly fell on my head. Great gig though.

Penetration and Pauline Murray at The Globe in Cardiff
Shouting above the noise: Pauline Murray at The Globe in Cardiff

About 100 people were at the Globe for this visit – a bit of a disappointing turnout but no doubt many people were away for the holiday weekend.

It was not entirely packed back in autumn 1979 when they played the Top Rank but in the intervening period, the band’s songs have not lost their lustre.

They read like rebel anthems to do your own thing and relish the life ahead of you.

Future Daze, Life’s A Gamble, Lovers of Outrage kicked it all off.

We got most of the first album, choice bits from the second album and a couple of new songs.

Penetration at The Globe, Cardiff
More pedals than the Tour de France. Steve Wallace’s box of gizmos and Pauline’s monster heels

Don’t Dictate really changed the tone of the night, reminded you of the glorious power and anger of punk. Beautifully channelled too. A disciplined, punchy message. Forceful, without spilling over as much stuff of the time did, into wild preaching.

The trump card was always Pauline Murray whose angelic voice has weathered well.

Its sharp contrast with the occasionally-grungy riffing of two guitars was the jewel that made Penetration the band stand out.

A bunch of guitar-driven, piledriving tunes is topped with sweetly feminine touch that disarms the punk charge and is full of soaring surprises.

Murray’s angelic voice hovers above the guitars as though it’s trying to escape from them – it’s a peculiar opposite of the music.

Shame there weren’t more people around to witness it.

To close the 14-song set, and before the encores they played Shout Above the Noise, as featured not so long ago on Desert Island Discs, chosen by Springwatch presenter Chris Packham.

Over the years he’s sneaked dozens of Clash and Smiths titles into his live on-camera spiels about bugs, butterflies and buzzards.

Time for him to give a leg up to Penetration.

What’s he got to lose? After all, as we were so wisely taught so long ago by these peculiar punk pearls from a northern pit village, life’s a gamble.Penetration at The Globe in Cardiff



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