London WC2 Astoria

It's something of a homecoming....

It’s something of a homecoming. In the seven years since [a]Cypress Hill[/a]’s red-eyed mothership first connected with Britain’s rawk demographic at 1993’s Phoenix Festival, the barriers between rock and rap have well and truly collapsed. And Cypress Hill, as one of the first rap acts whose T-shirts the mullets would proudly wear, played a large part in that, especially Stateside.

Of course, it’s the same story here. Tonight, we’re in the heartland of rock. Everyone out to get as fucked up as they possibly can, to stomp and slam to the most acutely antisocial noize they can find. Your dad might have dug your Guns N’Roses records, but the murderous pulse of the Hill was guaranteed adult-riling material – especially with their aggressively pro-cheeba stance.

But they’re not taking any chances: ever since the rap/metal hotbed of 1998’s ‘Cypress Hill IV’ LP (and as their new single ‘Rock Superstar’ confirms), they’ve gone rap/rock. There are muscular guitars in the mix, alongside their trademark blunted beats. But first…

A fug of dope hangs about the Astoria like sweet-smelling bunting, and in the moshpit, hardy specimens are holding their lighters proudly aloft. And Cypress match like with like, with their initial mashed-up musical stew. Tonight, ‘Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk’ and ‘Hits From The Bong’, are more invitations to oblivion than doorways to enlightenment, while the infectious street-thuggery of ‘How I Could Just Kill A Man’, ‘I Ain’t Goin Out Like That’ and ‘Insane In The Brain’ are spat out in quick succession, goonish violence cloaked in garish goth-hop stabs and harsh electro spasms. Ex-Beastie collaborator Eric Bobo masterfully enhances it all with live percussion, adding a delicious Technicolor dimension of blaxploitation cool.

It’s at this point that the new live band stride on. It takes a song or two for the LA metal tragedies to get their shit together, initially neutering the psychotropic sprawl of Muggs‘ creations with clunking bass and clanging guitar. But by ‘Lick A Shot’, the elements are gelling perfectly, the grinding thrash of the guitars giving Cypress a harder edge and sending the pit a new shade of lunatic.

A positively frothing ‘Cock The Hammer’ proves Cypress‘ supremacy over their white-trash rivals in the rock/rap genre, as Muggs’ finest deck-twists spin the fuzz-edged stomps off into uncharted waters. It’s so obvious, so logical a progression for the Hill, you can’t believe they didn’t think of it much sooner in their career, splicing metal guitars to the hooligan beats, making Cypress the ultimate kid-snaring rock buzz, leaving the competition flailing in their dust. And if the first blossom of psychedelic rock was about beatific mind expansion, Cypress are its harsh urban flipside. The kids don’t throw peace signs, but trigger fingers. Cypress are Cheech & Chong – just with guns hiding snugly in their hip-huggers.

As furry freak B-Real staggers onstage dressed as the group’s doobie-toting talisman, Dr Greenthumb, inviting girls in the audience to dirty-dance onstage with him, it’s obvious only a [I]Daily Mail[/I] reader could fail to toke some thrill off this gonzoid circus. Cypress may have beats to spare and rhymes that bite, but at heart they’re the greatest dumb thrill rock can give us right now. Long may they strut.