Futureshock and Awe

January 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Future Of The Left – The Freebutt, Brighton – 04/12/09

It would appear that the audience for punk, and indeed straight-up rock music as a whole is rapidly diminishing. True, the Freebutt does feel pretty rammed from my vantage point tonight, but on closer inspection this is largely due to the massive supporting column that has been handily plonked right in front of the stage, forcing the crowd into two equally crushed groups. There is still a fair amount of space at the back of the small venue, and with reports that Future Of The Left have been performing to crowds of 50 and 60 on the tour, the signs for the future of balls-to-the-wall rock are worrying.

This is a huge shame, as Future Of The Left seemed to have defied the odds and finally escaped the trappings of being two-thirds of legendary underground band Mclusky, by releasing one of the albums of the year with ‘Travels with Myself and Another’. It was a taut, focused album that perfectly fused lean, hardcore rock with a witty pop sensibility, and the reviews that followed suggested the band, and hardcore rock in general, may have been in line for more mainstream success.

Support act Tubelord manage to weave twitchy guitar lines and intricate drum patterns round some heavy, but fairly standard shouty choruses, and seem to have the whole quiet, quiet, quiet, LOUD! dynamic down to a tee. There is a bit of innovation in the more intricate musical passages, and the band seem very tight and together, but the lack of variety between songs coupled with the nagging feeling that all this had been done to death a good ten years ago didn’t really hep their cause.

Future Of The Left on the other hand, may not be overly original and have about as much subtlety as Katherine Hamnett’s wardrobe, but what they do, they do very well indeed. Opening with the savage ‘Arming Eritrea’, their ferocity is evident from the get-go. Lead singer Andy Falco’s hammering at his guitar, veins popping and eyes bulging as he screams ‘I’m an adult!’ into his mic like a tantrum-ing two year old in Tesco’s.

‘Stand By Your Manatee’, a song which seems chiefly concerned with the shame of eating with plastic cutlery, bounces along with a surprisingly jaunty riff, and maintains much of its harmonising charm in the live setting. Lyrically, it provides a glimpse of the band’s dry humour, which is further evidenced later, as the band relax into some genuinely hilarious back and forth with the eager audience.

Some tracks, notably ‘I Am Civil Service’ and ‘Land Of My Fathers’ are bereft of some of their on-record intricacies in favour of a blanket of screaming aggression which makes them sound a touch samey at points, but for the most part the live transition is near perfect. ‘Chin Music’ and ‘The Hope That House Built’ showcase a perfect mix of violence, wit and pop-savy choruses, before closer ‘Cloak The Dagger’ ends proceedings in an ten-minute orgy of feedback, audience participation, screaming and general mayhem that sends everyone home happy.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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A Sea-Change Within A Sea

June 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , , )

The HorrorsConcorde2, Brighton04/06/09

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It must be pretty difficult to be a lead singer without an instrument.

Guitars almost instantly instil a veneer of cool over pretty much anyone who picks one up, so standing in front of a sweaty and expectant crowd with nothing other than a massive fringe to hide behind must be quite a daunting prospect. Singers have attempted a variety of stances/poses/gimmicks to overcome this issue, and most importantly give them something to do with their hands while performing. From Liam’s stock-still, hands behind the back, chin thrusting defiance, to the outright insanity that Iggy brings to a stage, the great frontmen always find a way of feeling comfortable in their own skin. The rest end up looking like Tom Chaplin.

''Shit, what do I do with these things?'

''Shit, what do I do with these things?'

Faris Badwan may not have reached the upper echelons of greatness as a frontman just yet, but there are signs that he and his band are taking increasingly large steps in that direction. That The Horrors are even being whispered about in this vein will come as a big surprise to those who (incorrectly) wrote the band off as a bunch of over-dressed Shoreditch art-school posers whose talent was inversely proportional to their hype.

Yet the quality of their new material, the darkly atmospheric kraut-gaze of new LP ‘Primary Colours’, has seen critics falling over themselves in a search for new superlatives. As a result, the Concorde2 is full of fans old and new, intrigued to see how their new sound translates live. The make-up of the audience is a fascinating mix in itself. Heavy metal fans clad in Metallica tour t-shirts rub muscular shoulders with a troupe of fragile looking kids done up like a cross between Miss Haversham and Alex DeLarge while down at the front, a posse of what appear to be teenyboppers thcream and thcream until they are thick with each dimming of the lights until their heroes appear.

The Horrors, Brighton

The Horrors, Brighton

Once they do, it is straight down to business as the band launch straight into a feedback driven ‘Mirror’s Image’. Gone is the over the top on-stage theatrics, the scaling of every available wall and, to a large extent, the sartorial over-indulgence that categorised earlier shows. In fact there is very little audience interaction throughout the entire set, other than Faris lamenting Brighton’s seagull problem (‘I tried to have a spot of lunch earlier, but a bird stole it’).  It seems instead that the band have ditched some of the excesses of the past in favour of melting down elements of Neu!, The Jesus and Mary Chain and the entire ‘Nuggets’ compilation and spraying the results over the audience in a vast and complex wall of sound. To be fair they no longer need to rely on kooky wardrobe design or crazy stage antics to cover for a limited set list, and the fact that they are able to engross the crowd with a set made entirely of new material is testament to this.

There remain a few problems however, most notably the quality of the sound which all but blankets out some of their subtler nuances with a clatter of over mic-ed drums and piercing squalls of keyboard. The result is that Badwan struggles at times to make himself heard above the racket behind, especially on the tracks that don’t require much in the way of wide eyed howling. The superb Shangi-La’s ape-ing spoken word breakdown of ‘Who Can Say?’ for instance, is rushed and barely detectable when it should provide the focal point of the song.

However, as the band get into their stride, the arrangements tighten up somewhat, and with their singer providing a compelling focal point amongst the pounding psychedelic lights and incessant motorik throbbing, the whole experience becomes increasingly seductive. Coming across as a deranged cross between Syd Barrett and Robert Smith, Badwan stands, arms aloft at the front of the stage in a Canute-like attempt to control, or at least rise against, the crashing seas of light and noise behind him. Only in the fog of the Spacemen3 style ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ does he look a little lost, a high priest of desolation collapsing uncomfortably into a passable impersonation of a insolent toddler. But for the most part he owns the stage brilliantly, and no longer looks desperate to hide away behind his impressive mass of hair, or go charging off into the relative anonymity of the crowd.

The band storm through a hyperkinetic ‘New Ice Age’, with Faris’ cries (‘THE AGONY!!!’) reverberating round the venue, and driving those at the front into a pulsating shoal of sharpened limbs and thrashing necks. A beautiful, note perfect ‘Sea Within a Sea’ ends the show on wave after wave of blissful, undulating keyboard riffs that see the band off into the wings, before the crowd demands their reappearance for an encore.

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With a nod to their older fans, and a malevolent glint in his eye, Badwan launches into a power trio of hysterical, Cramps style gothic punk favourites from the first album, starting with a joyous, bouncing ‘Count in Fives’ that sees the front rows completely lose the plot. The largely spoken word ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ elicits a similar response, before the classic riff of ‘Gloves’ builds to a suitably chaotic finish.

And with that, they are gone. Another test successfully passed along the road to fulfilling some of that early hype, and, one hopes, towards the emergence of the first truly captivating British frontmen to appear since a certain Pete Doherty.

Originally published in the Brighton Magazine

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