Big Noise lives! Victoria Segal dusts off her MBV-era ear-protectors for a subterranean aural battering in Cologne...



IN THESE days of tabloid frenzy, obsession has got itself a bad name. No longer the noble pursuit of star-struck lovers and driven minds, it’s become a byword for stalkers of the postal worker kind and the unhealthy infatuations of bedroom-bound Spice-teens. Seeing the real thing is almost shocking. Watching Six By Seven prowl the Underground’s tiny stage like Mount Helena stretching out on an IKEA futon, it’s clear this is a band well-prepared for the adoring faces that will soon be on their trail. Every song comes from that same overwhelming impulse, that need to be consumed. They’re driven alright, and they’ll take anyone who’ll listen on a white-knuckle ride.

If the idea of epically vast music brings unpleasant thoughts of preposterous rock operas about spacemen to mind, Six By Seven soon detonate them, even being one of those rare bands that can incorporate a saxophone without making it sound like experimental night at a Norfolk jazz club. It might be a resurgent nostalgia for the days of My Bloody Valentine, but they’re one of a growing clutch of bands who know something about the grandeur of noise, who kick up a storm in your inner ear that throws all notions of balance out the window.

Unlike those Noels and Pauls who pride themselves on their peerless mastery of their guitars, singer Chris Olley looks as if every note he plays is a death-or-glory struggle, somewhere between wrestling alligators and breaking in horses, while guitarist Sam Hempton drags a bow across his strings, the changeling Greenwood brother come back to cause havoc. Taking the intangible mental static at the core of Radiohead – the fizzing doubts, the dread, the fear – they stream it straight into the real electric static of the Valentines, a sound that bypasses the usual conventions of hitting head and heart and plunges right into open-soul surgery.

By the end of the keening ‘European Me’, sung in a snow-pure voice that would have Thom Yorke crossing himself and watching the skies, they’re already beginning to look a little feathery around the shoulder-blades. By the time ‘Something Wild’ has finished its voracious spiral of loathing and desire, full-on cassock-wearing devotion sounds like a reasonable option.

If all that sounds like an excuse for a messy splurge of mindless hysteria, it’s far from it. Never mind that the ferocious dynamics of a song like ‘Brilliantly Cute’ would send Sir Frank Whittle back to his jet-engine blueprints, there’s none of the plastic platitudes and glycerine tears that normally go along with rock catharsis. This has a nasty glint in its eye, a curl of misanthropy in its lips, Chris almost convulsive with the sheer force of it all. The hopelessly doped waltz of ‘Oh Dear’ makes falling in love sound as good an idea as auto-decapitation, while Chris snarling, “There’s too many people in this town” tells of a man who wanders through crowds wishing for a laser gun.

And yet, the awestruck won’t be deterred. They’ll understand. This band might know about losing the plot, losing control – even losing their minds – but they’ve found a sure and subtle beauty in the void. It’s a simple equation – Six By Seven are shaping up to be a magnificent obsession.

Victoria Segal