Looking for something in modern music that's sexy, dangerous, challenging and universally thrilling...
Bored already with the sensible sweater sincerity of the New Acoustic Movement? Can’t quite comprehend the appeal of the nu-metal marauders? Loathe King Adora? Looking for something in modern music that’s sexy, dangerous, challenging and universally thrilling? You’re not alone. For if anything unites the various acts involved in the prosaically titled and heavily sponsored Bands And Booze Tour, it’s their low boredom threshold and intolerance of the average.
Hand-picked by the organisers of Brighton’s notoriously messy Boutique club night (shrewdly shorn of its Big Beat prefix for this outing) presumably for their ability to party hard at all times, there’s appreciably more to South, Alpinestars and Dirty Beatniks than the allegiance to the rock’n’roll flag that this tour is keen to contrive.
The token guitar band on ailing beat farm Mo’Wax, South represent label boss James Lavelle’s exciting new pluralist vision of the future. Fortunately, we’re spared the Bathing Ape designer gloss and meddlesome UNKLE production that’s dogged the Londoners’ minimal recorded output to date, and presented with a naturally cool, cocksure gang stripped of all pretence. The only problem with South previously was the difficulty in locating tunes amid their sprawling garage wig-outs. This is no longer the case.
Brave enough to slip hazy psychedelic instrumentals such as ‘Paint The Silence’ (man) in mid-set, South walk the fine line between confidence and arrogance in a manner not seen since those early Verve shows, though you’d be hard-pushed to call frontman Joel Cadbury ‘mad’. With ‘Save Your Sorrow’ and ‘Sight Of Me’, South prove that it is possible to do smoulderingly epic while looking impressively wasted. Theirs is skunk rock performed with a disarming clarity of vision and, if all goes to plan, they should be unavoidable next year.
The contrast with Alpinestars couldn’t be more pronounced. Richard Woolgar and Glyn Thomas only formed the group to make music specifically for the Homoelectric club in Manchester that they frequented, but the response to their crisp analogue disco has been such that the pair are currently mulling over offers from several significant labels.
Favouring Kraftwerkian stage etiquette – symmetrically positioned synths, minimalist decor – Alpinestars trade in a false nostalgia evoked by glistening crystalline melodies and vocoder-enhanced choruses. And pretty successful it is too, as ‘Crest Of A Wave’ and ‘Hyper Hyper’, shimmering electro signatures underpinned by tumbling breaks, finally inspire Cardiff’s ravers to let loose. Well, the handful that aren’t downstairs watching the Scratch Perverts’ fabled multi-deck turntablism anyway.
Having laboriously cultivated an image as drug-guzzling, diesel-quaffing, psychotic 24-hour party androgynous sex renegades from Mars, it’s pleasing to report that in the flesh, Dirty Beatniks actually live up to at least a fraction of their self-perpetuating hype. For while their records are a limp hybrid of Lo-Fidelity Allstars’ machine funk and tired Gillespie-esque disco evangelism, they make a glorious mess on stage.
Over furious amyl-techno riffs, supine, suited singer Mau nonchalantly surveys the sweating ranks in front of him and rolls his eyes heavenwards, as though he expects nothing less than devout adulation. Like one really good Primal Scream concept mined to the point of exhaustion, ‘Disco Dancing Machines’ and ‘Whores, Freaks, Saints & Angels’ are nothing if not ruthlessly efficient exercises in dancefloor escapism, tornados of low-end malevolence and electrifying noise.
That’s Cardiff dealt with, then. For further adventures, just follow the trail of unimaginable carnage around the country as the Bands And Booze Tour burns itself into the map.