Pushing boundaries or a victory of fluoro style over musical substance?
Taking their name from a move in the greatest computer game ever – peerless retro beat ’em up Street Fighter II – Hadouken! obviously have impeccable taste in gaming. Heck, NME spent much of its childhood not only playing the game, but recreating its moves in the school playground; that is, until social services came with their medicine and we had to sit in the naughty chair. But anyway, it’s a Japanese word that roughly translates as ‘surge fist’, and tonight this sold-out crowd (in which people are outnumbered by glowsticks three to one) chant the word over and over and over until the band hit the stage with the subtlety of a tap-dancing hitman. In NME’s brain we’re uppercutting an oinking sumo wrestler. Every other soul present in the actually-quite-sizeable space that is the Leadmill, however, is having a right old shindig.
What’s more, while that name may be inspired by a computer game from yesteryear, this is the only thing remotely backward-thinking about Hadouken!. Before starting their current UK tour, the band decided to affix ‘Version 2.0’ to the end of their name in testament to what singer James Smith explains as, “wanting to stay ahead of the pack”. Both in sound and look, it’s clear they’re a band striving for freshness. Clad head to toe in fluoro and cheapo gold jewellery, theirs is a visual aesthetic so consciously tomorrow, it’s as if the cast of Battlestar Galactica got kitted out in H.Samuel. Then there’s the music: synth-heavy council-estate grime, Klaxons-style leftfield pop, overtly sexual industrial metal and the noise your microwave makes when it’s on the blink.
Hadouken! V2.0 are an intimidating live prospect, too – Smith throws himself around the stage like a malnourished Henry Rollins, while recent single ‘Liquid Lives’ sounds like Bad Brains playing turbo-charged Game Boys. Meanwhile, set closer ‘That Boy, That Girl’ justifies its status round our way as one of the most exciting debut singles of the year by harnessing the fury of hardcore punk to the spitted flow of grime- and dubstep-heavy bass – live, more so than on record, it’s a formidable force. There’s an unspoken music-writing rule that anyone who uses the words ‘zeitgeist’, ‘fusion’, or ‘melting-pot’ in a review is an intolerable twat, but it’s nigh-on impossible not to commit such cardinal sins when talking in the currency of Hadouken!. They’re a band who beg, steal and borrow – cultural magpies, if you will – and the result is a sound which is both zeitgeist straddling (sorry), a fusion of every exciting musical form currently active (sorry) and a melting pot of ideas (sigh). See you later friends; it was nice knowing you…
And yet in their thirst to embrace – indeed forge the future – Hadouken! leave their flaws open to exposure. It’s as if in striving for a fresh, forward-thinking sound, they’ve built the body of a band but forgotten the soul. Hadouken!’s problem is one shared by lonely robots everywhere: how do you get to the heart of them? There’s enough on show tonight to continue caring, but you somehow sense when V3.0 comes around they’ll be harder to stop than an oinking sumo wrestler.