On The Bone Compilation Release Party
Brudenell Social Club
It is a credit to James Brown's media savvy and outrageous moxie that he's managed to collar the roster of acts for his latest On The Bone compilation, but to get so many of them to play at the release party? Now that's class.
I manage to miss Two Minute Noodles but am reliably informed that they were 'awesome.' Pasta comparison. Ho ho. I am however bang on time for Napoleon IIIrd. Looking like a cross between a spiritualist dervish and a punked-up persona of Beckett, his set opens with psychedelic fury, electronic voice phenomena from the decade of grunge channelling the spirit of Hendrix through ham-fisted guitar frustration. Free association aside, James is one of the few artists I have seen that can make pre-recorded look improvised. Opening this strong does cause an unavoidable lull in the middle with some misjudged acoustic work, but 'Hit Schmooze For Me's telegraph-delivered industrial Polyphonic Spree finishes things off in fine popaganda style. Lo-fi and proud.
Paul Marshall takes it down a bit while insidiously raising the stakes. Yes, he does play nice acoustic finger-pickery tunes, yes he does have a cellist who makes things so sugary that she almost over-eggs the pudding, to mix metaphors, but beneath this pleasantness lies an unsavoury obsession with blood and death and, deeper still, he's slipping in metal riffs without anyone noticing. It's like hearing the ambulance in Trumpton: nice and tinkly, but you know there's a whole load of maimed puppets in the back being rushed to Chigley Infirmary. Although he still plays with his eyes shut, his ability is undeniable; his whole instrument technique (banging the damn thing) is coming on and his banter is improving too. Occasionally sentimental, but mainly gentle metal.
Which is where I think Wintermute have gotten to in the opening phrases of their set until Dan's pout unfolds into a scream, eyes rolled up and guitar full throttle. Bassist Chris like a fully-fledged rock legend, leaving David to be anchor man. In short, these guys are eminently watchable and play pocket battleship songs very hard indeed. They do need to work on their amble and address their shouts to microphone but the energy, intricacy and familiarity of their repertoire and performance is first class, though only one of their microphones appears to be working. The audience are a bit timid tonight, but that doesn't stop them from unloading with 'Ask a Stupid Question' and 'Shark Vs E-boat.' Math major.
These Monsters are, gawd bless them, wearing head bands. At least, two of them are. In my book, this signals something progressive this way comes and I am not wrong. Huge sweeping guitar epics unroll like gaudily-coloured magic carpets, great crushing riffs and rhythms move with redwood urgency over lines of synchronised head bandging acolytes - we are in Pelican country and it is a big country. Lightening the heaviness is an incongruous saxophone player, though he spends most of his time playing air guitar on it. It's still very heavy, and their mute witness keeps it weighty, which leads me to my one major critique of them: they need more spectacle. At the moment, they look like a bunch of very talented tramps; what I'd like to see is more flamboyance, more over the top stage craft: double necks, capes, naked dancers. Not all or nothing; all.
Ben from the Lodger doesn't look comfortable on stage following the metal onslaught, and for good reason. Song writing skills may be one thing, but after such shows of strength, his 90s style indie and deadpan delivery feels very flaccid. Of course, he could be providing a buffer for This Et Al, but. it doesn't feel right. Drummer Bruce puts in a good show, true, but this is hardly a thrilling performance per se and doesn't lodge in the mind.
Leeds very own men in black have been away for a bit, but the rest must have done them some good because they are on ferocious form tonight. Riffs are chunky, mass driven from the PA into a gratefully deafened audience, making the vocals indistinguishable at first, but Wu's distinctive voice soon finds a way of cutting through the fuzz, grind and boom. Showcasing their new stuff, they don't skimp on the volume or corpulence, and it is heartening to hear such simply powerful stuff. The onus still lies on Wu to be the front man and focus, but he confidently cuts a rock god figure throughout their short but satisfying set. What is odd is how sparse the stage looks behind the four of them, almost as if they're out of place here - even Wu makes a comment about 'making it big' this time. As they finish with 'Wardens,' there is no doubt to the assembled moshers that they are big - it's just the world that's too small.
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