Musical Marmite spread thick over a handful of hardcore supporters
If you hate Hadouken!, it probably means you spent your youth as a child soldier in Uganda, or did something else that charred your heart so much that you can no longer absorb either beauty or truth.
Well, that’s what we think. But love or loathe them, there’s no denying they’re the first harbingers of a rainbow-drenched future UK and the new soul of a musically polygamous Britain. In hindsight, the future was always going to come from Watford, because Watford’s leisure megaplexes are where Britain’s at in the post-Blair wonderworld of cheap-as-computer-chips consumer electronics culture. In short, Hadouken! are so revolutionary they make The Beatles look like Dogs Die In Hot Cars.
That said, tonight finds the H! team in slightly shambolic form. The sound has seemingly been mixed by a manic-depressive monkey with commitment issues and, with three songs only minted last week in the setlist, James, Pilau, Alice and the others sometimes struggle. So it’s just as well they’re playing things down on their first headline tour – Academy 2 is little more than a box room, fitting about 200 milky teens in home-made Hadou-shirts.
Yet being a novice is not the same as being a novelty, and as the digital soup of customary opener ‘Bounce’ swirls in, it’s still like a taser to the haters’ temple, with its stop-start loops melting down into the doom-swathed breakdown of “don’t give up your day job”. New single ‘Liquid Lives’ also stands the test of grime: tales of kids whose youthful exuberances came to sticky ends, under the deliciously dumb refrain of “Drink! Smoke! Fuck! Fight!”. “Apparently, MTV don’t do molestation,” James sneers as it concludes, referring to MTV’s decision to bleep the “fuck” out of the chorus, but somehow leave the ultra-violence intact.
Tonight, he’s lantern-jawed and now Lego-haired without his Hadou-cap. He seems to be almost overexerting in his urge to come out fighting – some of the effortless cool of earlier gigs has receded. Anchoring the show, though, is the band’s secret H! bomb, Lieutenant Pilau – an attractive combo of stony charisma and hair so high it ain’t never comin’ down. While James points in a mini-UK-MC-stylee, Pilau mounts monitors and throws axe-god poses. Between them, they’re like a visual twinning of the two musical strands they borrow from.
Although they’re not as 2-D as you’d think. Lazy bloggers who researched on MySpace and filed under ‘grindie’ will soon have to go on a diet with all the words they’ll be eating. For grindie, it seems, is only half of a modern fluorescent adolescence – Hadouken! have found “nemo”. “New rave emo,” James informs, before they tear into the extraordinary ‘Declaration Of War’.
By their reaction, it seems the crowd see finding nemo as a lot like finding Jesus, if Jesus flew in atop a Sidewinder missile filled with that stuff they put in lava lamps. It twists and elevates, a corkscrewing melody counterpointed by burbling synths. And yes, unlike its genre cousin, it is actually both emotional and hardcore.
By the time the riff of ‘That Boy That Girl’ concludes proceedings, Alice’s keyboard is sliding on the deck beneath her as the crowd morph into a leaping wall of meat. After all, it’s the only rightful response to a sonic quantum leap.