On record, [a]Black Box Recorder[/a] are skeletal; live, just a bit thin...

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Glasgow Barrowlands

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Glasgow Barrowlands

‘ENGLAND MADE ME’ was the most poisonous record of 1998, driven by the sick, silent laughter of AUTEUR LUKE HAINES. The likes of ‘Girl Singing In The Wreckage’ could be seen as the spidery Biro scrawlings of a broody adolescent fantasising about murdering all the people who ignore him at parties, but it was carried off with such deadpan ilan that you had to smile – after all, Haines and JOHN MOORE probably had smiles on their faces when they made it. As for vocalist SARAH NIXEY, her persona – St Trinian’s head girl turned arachnid-torturing sociopath – made her the perfect cipher for Haines‘ blackest sentiments ([I]”Life is unfair – kill yourself or get over it”[/I]). That her words weren’t her own somehow made the whole exercise seem more deliciously evil. Live, though, the results are mixed. The video-loop backdrop works well, with segued images of Lord Lucan, ’70s glam wrestler ADRIAN STREET, ROBBIE WILLIAMS, GARY GLITTER, THE MOORS MURDERERS and CHRIS EVANS paraded with perverse relish, icons of England’s surreal shame. With the music tracking these images like a cackling stalker, just watching the video screen is a sinful treat. But it’s a necessary distraction. Even close-cropped, neither Luke Haines nor John Moore can visually convey the creeping menace of ‘Child Psychology’ and Haines goes and ruins the dark spell all the more by joshing about his haircut. Sarah Nixey, meanwhile, clutches the mic more like an aspiring trip-hop artiste than the nihilist rich girl who defies all benevolent sociological analysis in ‘Ideal Home’. Moreover, the sound is a bit subdued, like someone’s stuffed a scarf in the PA, meaning that tiny, vital details like the burrowing electronic noise that prefaces the chorus of ‘England Made Me’ are lost. On record, BLACK BOX RECORDER are skeletal; live, just a bit thin. That said, they do a version of TERRY JACKS‘Seasons In The Sun’ which unmistakably sets out their cancerous intentions. The virtue in seeing Black Box Recorder live is seeing what other twisted creatures out there have embraced this band. We could form a society – Misanthropics Unanimous, but maybe we’re best off confining our appreciation of Haines and co to the intimacy of our home stereos.