Shingai’s gonzo punk troops storm Leicester in a whirl of technicoloured rock’n’soul
Punk: the studded grandfather to so many. Decade to decade, it’s splattered genre after genre with its virile seed. Ska-punkers root-a-tooting on their saxophones; art-punks chucking paint up the walls instead of writing decent songs; pop-punk; glam-punk; anarcho-punk; emo; those horror-punks dressing up like something out of The Crow and using their DMs to stamp on baby frogs. Stick any of them under the microscope and you’ll find a double-helix with a Mohawk, chanting “Fuck hippies!” while getting pissed on cheap cider.
But there remains turf left unturned. As Noisettes’ tempestuous frontlady Shingai Shoniwa leg-kicks atop the speaker stack like Mata Hari high on Camden junk food, her wailing vocals are more Macy Gray than MC5. Guitarist Dan Smith twitches and shivers as the notes resonate through him. Drummer Jamie Morrison jumps in and out of catatonia, one minute firing off like The Muppet Show’s Animal, the next letting the bass drum undulate as he feels the vibe. Sure, it’s loud, chaotic, rallying and visceral. But there’s something more. This punk’s got soul.
From the backwaters of the London pub circuit to the brink of national notoriety, if there was ever a time for these dressing-up-box-rockers of sartorial splendour to make their stand then it’s here and it’s now. It might be a rainy Sunday night, but Leicester’s booming. People are rammed up against the front barrier, sharing the warmth as they wait in anticipation for the band to arrive, before uniting in a giant mosh riot of colourful rock carnage when Noisettes burst onto The Charlotte’s stage like the contents of a psychobilly toy-box. Before the crowd have caught their breath ‘Don’t Give Up’ pours from the speakers, all bass-rumbling pistol blasts and vocal screeching that hits you like an onslaught of blow darts laced with secret, mind-warping potions, while the sonic chaos of ‘Wind Blows Hot’ sees Shingai’s rootsy singing adding an extra layer of mystery to the operation. As this three-piece flail and wail, Leicester bounces wildly, entranced by the beat of the drum, while Shingai cavorts and cajoles with feisty flamboyance. They round off with ‘Sister Rosetta’, a ritualistic funk trip that is probably the first thrash jive song you’ll ever fall in love with. Tonight, people are wiggling their hips – it’s like a warped, punk inversion of a ’50s American high school prom. Noisettes are the new breed of cool kids in town; a sexy, soulful racket that’s a whole lot of fun. The troublemakers are thriving, Grandfather Punk would be so proud.