Itch, Cats and Cats and Cats, Wintermute, Worriedaboutsatan
Royal Park Cellars, Leeds
Having been the beating heart of the Leeds music scene in a previous age, the Royal Park cellars are now experiencing a bit of a renaissance, with better sound equipment and less tables. Tonight continues the return to form as it plays host to three of Leeds’ most intriguing rock combos and Staines experimentalists Cats And x3 – even if the Futureheads are playing Leeds, the real action will be underground tonight.
Worriedaboutsatan aka Gavin and Tom gather round the fairy lights spewing from the back of their monitor onto the last remaining table in the place. A heavy electronic beat fills the cellar and Tom, eyes lightly shut, manipulates a battery of knobs and slides, coaxing eroticised samples and ambient innuendo from their computer; Gavin rocks to the rhythm, manhandling his guitar, occasionally eliciting penetrating riffs but mainly adding to the constant build of the melodic continuo. Worriedaboutsatan are reborn, free from pointy solos and lap-dance six-string antics, as ambient pornographers; music for computers to fornicate to. Only Tom’s abrupt ‘cheers!’ breaks into the Ballardian binary boudoir and restores the room to decency – an invigorating start.
Followed up swiftly by Gibsonian name checkers Wintermute. Adopting a less formal dress code than when I saw them at Leeds festival, their smartmosh performance in no way suffers from their casuality; they’re so tight you can barely see light through the joins. After softening the crowd with ‘Gambling Or Playing Cards,’ Dan introduces a ‘new song’ – before then wishing the rest of the band good luck. Unnecessarily, as it happens; Chris hauls out a bass line so funky that Bootsy Collins would weep with jealousy while Dan and Dave produce a riff of such catchiness that you’d swear you’d been humming it all your life. All this and they still manage to work the stage like pcp-fuelled croon-merchants. Credit to the drummer Ben for holding it all together, conjuring rhythms that melt and transform before your very ears. ‘Ask A Stupid Question’ and ‘Shark Vs E-boat’ round off the set are played with exuberant aplomb, even more so than usual, and the crowd bellows its appreciation in response as the lads collapse in sweaty satisfaction. Pretty damn good.
Cats And Cats And Cats may have been dogged by kleptomaniac ill fortune, but they remain undaunted – perhaps it is due to Ben being crowned king of Leicester. ‘Brilliant the Brilli Ant’ blossoms like some mutated but marvellous bloom, awkward, gangly and full of anthemic technicality – it’s a wonder it all holds together, especially considering how each member of the band is engrossed solely in what they are doing. It’s left to Ben to ramble into occasional coherence between songs that share the same kind of bewilderment as the others, band and audience alike, look on, amused and bemused. But they are loveable, an evolutionary step from the Cardiacs, friendly and fun, rewarding the audience with the fidgety catchiness of ‘Fight Fight We Fight’ and ‘Tower, Tower’ after the slightly murky dirge of their new untitled song. Regardless, they are as jovial as the paper hat on Ben’s head and I hope they manage to get back to London without further incident.
Sharing the same label as Cats…(Big Scary Monsters), Itch take all the tricksiness, erratica and mathematica of the two previous bands… and whack it up to eleven. Mike Milner wears his GI helmet with good reason as those riffs he’s throwing out could cause serious damage – that belligerent mix of pop punk and math rock tends to mark. Heavy handed, filthy, furious but not eschewing structure entirely, at times you can see the outline of a bunkered Radiohead or a finessed Sex Pistols – depends on which way you want to look at it. But if you like it loud, dextrous and humorous, Itch deliver and then some. Infectious groove.
So: you can keep your Futureheads, quite frankly. The future’s heading here, and to see such artistry in such a small place? That truly is regal treatment.
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