So this guy comes up to me, looking a bit Adolf. I think actually he's into this new fangled style of short back and sides, 1940's military hair and moustache combo. "You might wanna loose your backpack" He tells me, looking all official and self satisfied. "How many times have you shot them before?" he enquires. Oh God, does he want to check if he has more tattoos than me, more piercings than me too?, "None, I reply" Oh well, you'll need to move around with the action he kindly informs me.
Glancing around, I don't see many contenders for the "action" yet. The place isn't so full and people are keeping quite far back from the dancefloor. A bit all look and don't touch. Perhaps they've heard about the "action" and they don't want to get too close.
Monotonix are very hairy. They look like the 118 men. They come from Israel. I wonder if they know about the 118 men in Israel? I wonder if they would still continue to dress in ill fitting garish 70's sportswear if they did. They are also a bit Borat too. Being a zany halfwit comedian is one thing. Aping one is another. By contrast, their fans - or the people in the audience at least. Are not hairy at all. None of this ironic or otherwise post Darkness post 70's glam rock tongue in cheek tomfoolery. The punters who stand around stroking their chins, looking for a way to intellectually justify this side-show of 3 beer stained over 40 hairies, are the bald, shaven, bearded, post hardcore brigade in work pants and chords probably bought from some overpriced skate shop in Covent Garden.
Beginning their merriment with a drum kit in the area normally reserved for the audience who don't want to get too close to the barrier. This musical incarnation of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers launch into a dirge of sub garage punk fuzz riffage and mildly insane accompanying antics, that generally revolve around, steal beer, spill beer on fellow band member, roll on the floor, jump on the drumkit, repeat. On one hand, I wonder why they are doing. I for one, am not entertained. This is just mindless thug-Abba theatrics. On the other hand, I ask are they challenging my idea about what musical entertainment should be. But an arthouse take on The Darkness meets the Fall just doesn't work. Or does it? Monotonix must have some kind of game-plan, but it washed over me.
Pretty much polar opposite is singer-songwriter Scout Niblett. Eschewing everything you imagined about this nouveau lo-fi anti-folk or whatever they call it these days, she is quiet, then a bit louder, a bit hippy and a bit drippy, a bit art-school lo-fi I'm-not-really-trying-but-secretly-I-am-doing-my-best-ok. Whereas with Mantronix you got the "action". Scout Niblett plays rooted to the spot to a 3 rows full of wide hipped corduroy-clad seated student girls, eager to get shots with the point and shoot cameras in dreamy anticipation of updating their wimins blog through their iPhone.
With flagrant disregard to anything else, especially getting on stage at the designated time, Ms Niblett's lo-fi riffs form a lulling bed on which she overlays her key weapon. The kind of riffage one may go over again and again after 1st learning a few hooks on your big brothers guitar, Niblett's multi-dimensional voice lulls, mesmerises and draws in the listener so that everything else draws into insignificance. Different enough to be original and etched with a few, "she's lived" grooves, Scout Niblett combines a stripped-down and unplugged Nirvana sound with an ernest and original vocal to produce odd-ball songs about Dinosaur Eggs and other such delights and frippery that would keep a kookie young art school rebel happy. Before she plays, Scout places an array of lyric sheets on the floor and has a brief moment of fear and belief. She might have one too many ideas, but they're working as one.Read more 2.5 star reviews
The Heads fuse a rhythmic, pounding and distorted barrage of psychedelia and garage rock into a calculated layering of sound-wave upon sound-wave. With shards of indie punk, a smattering of post-rock and a nod to British beat groups, The Heads are your archetypal British psych-noiseniks, destined to play to a handful of believers for the rest of their days. And you know what, they probably don't care whether they are playing in a garage or a medium sized theatre supporting Mudhoney. The Heads are rather clinical, precise, mathematical and perhaps anal about their delivery. But have they forgotten something? I dare say they have. The Heads look more like an assortment of grown up teenagers than a real band that means it, man. Remember the serious metal kids at school who practiced most evenings in the common room? We have the faceless one, with a mop of hair that curiously covers his whole face. How he hits the strings I don't know. The skinny nerd on the other side of the stage could be the bastard love child of John Denver and Thom Yorke. I kid you not. Standing almost as still as an RAF drill sergeant, the guitarist and occasional "singer" (the sound is largely instrumental bar a few mumblings here and there) is the antithesis of your typical rock n roll front man. Instead, the moves and shakes and left to the bass player, who they position in the middle. Probably to give some balance and take your mind of the other two. Gyrating to his bass and throwing looks of passion, this is the one who wants to "make it" and tries his best to make up for the rockstar shortcomings of the others. The Heads continue their rythmical drone which, with eyes closed, is a novel experience. Stage persona and attitude may seem academic, but if it's the whole theatrical package that turns you on, leave The Heads live experience to the nerdy-math rock faithful and listen to the record back home, reclining with some headphones and more than likely, you will enter the dream-space intended by these fuzzy warblers.
Mudhoney by contrast, bounce on stage and immediately slink into the low slung unpretentious hip-ness that only a Seattle band of the early 90's can. Once thrown into that whole scene that started with a "G" and shared with Nirvana, Tad and Soundgarden, Mudhoney had little in common - as did any - other than guitars, plaid shirts and the same home town. Oh and the Sub Pop Label. A dose of early Ramones simplicity and naivety together with Nuggets and Pebbles era pre-punk psych-fuzz garage-blues super fuzz and Mudhoney's genre defining sound became a blueprint which other built on, expanded and layered. But tonight we have the originals and singer and sometime guitarist Mark Arm is bouncing around the stage like a chicken possessed. All angular limbs and a flail of dirty soul vocals and the audience are already inching over to the barrier trying to touch the Seattle scene veteran. It's not long till the hits start rolling in - and not far into the set, they deliver their signature song, "Touch Me I'm Sick" at breakneck pace, with Arm on slide guitar adding a metallic zest to proceedings. Arm tells the 30-something grown up indie rock kids to mind how they go, as a bout of slamming and good natured volley of crowd surfers ensue. Mudhoney sound and look just as good as they ever did and move like a well oiled machine. Going through the motions ain't for this lot.
Photos: Al De PerezRead more 3.5 star reviews