The Strokes look set to be the best new band of the year, while Rocket return stronger than ever...
Sex, chaos, menace, fancy threads – sometimes it’s reassuring to fall back on the holy sacraments of rock’n’roll. Or at least to apply them to electropop, judging by the opening set of tonight’s extraordinary bill. Peaches is a one-woman band from Canada who combines extreme sexual aggression with a raw synth grind reminiscent of ’70s deviants Suicide. Phallic mic dangling between her legs and peel-off PVC revealing shocking pink hotpants, she’s a fittingly sleazy overture to a night of historically resonant excess.
Because, look out, here come The Strokes, boyish and dissolute rakes straight out of New York with a wired, chugging sound that conjures up the ghosts of The Velvet Underground, Blondie and something rattly and propulsive from early ’80s Glasgow simultaneously. Their ties are skinny, their poise is unnerving, and singer Julian Casablancas has the name of a legend and a croon to die for. “New York city cops ain’t too swell,” he sings, sashaying rather louchely across the stage. It’s an auspicious British debut.
San Diego’s Rocket From The Crypt, of course, have been here many times before. Their absence for the past couple of years, however, has shamefully allowed us to forget how potent their blend of soul revue, rock’n’roll pizzazz and full-on hardcore action really is. Trailblazers for the currently shit-hot likes of At The Drive-In, singer Speedo (thinner and with a slicker quiff than ever) and his horn-toting, guitar-slinging crew are in the mood to reclaim their rightful territory. And from old classics like ‘Glazed’ and ‘Born In ’69’, through to a rich seam of new tunes from the forthcoming ‘Group Sounds’ LP, they’re sensational. “This song is dedicated to me, cos I’m so fucking cool,” decides Speedo and really, it’s impossible – and probably dangerous – to argue with him.
Rocket’s shadow initially seems to daunt And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. “It’s a hard act to follow,” admits bassist Neil, as they stalk onstage. But these four mad-eyed shitkickers from El Paso make a valiant attempt to match Rocket’s barnstorming. It’s a more graceful and coherent Trail Of Dead than of recent London shows, as if they’re eager to show their depth and mystique as well as their unarguable instrument-trashing and crowd-baiting prowess.
The threat of implosion still hovers – this is a band, after all, with the genius to call a song ‘Richter Scale Madness’ – but there’s beauty amidst the friction tonight, and a nod to their righteous punk roots with a cover of ‘Minor Threat’ by hardcore legends, um, Minor Threat. When, at the climax, they kick the drumkit into the audience, sending gear spinning over the moshpit, it feels much more like a necessary release of tension than mere nihilist theatrics. A fittingly wild end, in fact, to a night of classic values emphatically restated.