Tonight’s Scala line-up is an entirely pleasureable trip into musical schizophrenia. Sitting there right in the middle of a bill of gossamer soft pop thrills is the blackhearted Kenneth Anger nightmare-made-flesh of The Warlocks. First up, though are The Veils, who open the show with their Starsailor-style lullabies and gravel-voiced ballads, blanketing the crowd with cosily sad suburban mini-symphonies. They trade in music that is both big and mournful, but, crucially, pleasant enough to be played on the radio. It’s a nifty trick and one continued by LA valley-types Palo Alto, who obviously pay daily homage to the early works of U2.
But for those of us who find earth music a little boring, Californian octet The Warlocks are more than happy to drag us aboard the drone-rock mothership for a trip to Saturn. Taking to the stage bathed in narcotic blue light, the band look suitably bored and unwell. Singer Bobby Hecksher stalks the stage like Jason Pierce leading an occult celebration of Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly – with side orders of sleazy Hollywood glamour and drug psychosis in ‘Moving And Shaking’. ‘Song For Nico’ is given an eerie tinge by the presence of tambourine-shaking keyboardist Laura Grisby, who’s a dead ringer for the dead German idol. But by the time ‘Shake The Dope Out”s diseased psychedelic drone arkestra rolls over, the crowd is owned, burnt and looted by the medicinal majick of the Warlocks.
The night, however, is not quite over: what better way to cope with the comedown from The ‘locks‘ musical maelstrom than with VW-loving AM rock staples Aqualung? Trading in soothing, piano-led balladry, Matt Hales starts with ‘Strange And Beautiful’, audaciously dispatching The One From The TV Ad early on. But the contrast between Aqualung‘s downy, goodnatured piano-pop and The Warlocks‘ spacey drug-rock is utterly disconcerting, leaving NME as confused and drained than a night spent with Michael Jackson.