Music : Montreux Miles Davis Hall
Silly, baggy, unfashionable - but great...
They are, of course, ridiculous. Completely, unreservedly, ridiculously ridiculous. But tonight
– at Switzerland’s annual jazz festival, in a room stuffed with nodding uncles in shorts, no less – the High Priests of anarcho-archaic prog-funk posit an insoluble case for barking ridiculousness being not only the new black, but the best thing since sliced [a]Strokes[/a].
Two years after the release of their self-titled debut album, forthcoming follow-up ‘Welcome To The North’ suggests there will be no retreat from its predecessor’s baggy-boned, psychedelically-limbed muse and no surrender to the current school of rock “thinking” that decrees genuine, igneous passion should be sacrificed in favour of either “proper” musical “statements” or – cough – “being cool”. Hence,
the downloadable title track is their Spinal Tap ‘Jazz Odyssey’ (only dead good and with extra yodelling), ‘Bleed From Within’ is an epic fusion of gnashing wah-wah pedal dementia and sweaty bass and ‘Freedom Fighters’ is, with
its frenzied guitars and cavernous dual drumming, [a]Music[/a]’s very own four-scally war on terror.
In the middle of it all, emitting high-pitched shrieks and dog-whistle whoops is Robert Harvey, accompanied as ever by his big bag of choreographic nonsense. ‘Jag Tune’ thus finds him lurching across the stage like a town centre tramp, flares a-flapping, damp mane a-swinging, frowning face little more than a fleshy Yorkshire blur. During ‘Take The Long Road And Walk It’, he folds his arms into a sailor’s knot.
And, later, in a brilliant extension of this human origami chicanery, Harvey attempts to wrap himself up like a present (possibly before offering himself as a sacrifice to the God
of Blimey in return for a bumper harvest of thunderous nouveau-baggy beats). And while the legendary yogic bouncing of yesteryear has been shelved (tonight, at least) in favour of less aerobically taxing limbwork, Harvey compensates by proudly unveiling the ‘bum bob’, a series
of gravity-snubbing arse-drops that see his tiny bottom bobbing for imaginary apples as 300 excited Swiss twiddle their vast continental moustaches and fist-churn the air like it was cheese.
And while the rest of [a]Music[/a] – guitarist Adam Nutter, square-headed bass-welder Stuart Coleman and drummer Phil Jordan – look like the result of a failed youth community project (baseball caps, scowling insouciance, probable
bad breath), their ability to play like demons makes them seem less like council estate stoners who got lucky and more like the four horsemen of the anti-fashion, pro-excellent apocalypse.
Lyrically, however, they’re daft as dust. “No! No! No!/Yip! Yip! Yip!” from ‘The Truth Is No Words’ is about as profound as it gets. Corking newie ‘Freedom Fighters’, meanwhile, with its preposterous talk of “desert skies” is almost touching in its elemental, [a]Led Zeppelin[/a]-ish gibberishness. Yet, really, even when they plumb the lowest pipes of new-age stupidity, it doesn’t matter. In fact, if anything, the sheer innocence of it all makes them seem even more like a big, sloppy, raspberry-like riposte to the posturised pretence of their contemporaries’ arch revivalism. Ultimately, they’re cosmic refuseniks, slumped on a sofa on the outskirts of logic, pumping out bonkers gusts of lysergic brilliance like other bands break wind, idly scratching their behinds in
the face of reason and casually triumphing against the
odds. [a]Music[/a] are ridiculous and sublime. Really, you couldn’t make ’em up.