Manchester Hop & Grape

[a]Breakbeat Era[/a] growl tonight, but they still need to unleash the beast...

Intriguingly, Lennie Laws dedicates ‘Sex Change’ to “my least favourite woman”. Christ knows what the woman in question did, but we owe her one. Because the memory stirs something in Lennie and, finally, she gives full vent to that demonic Siouxsie Sioux-does-jazz voice. She pours poison into ‘Our Disease’ and simultaneously spits, snarls and coos through a lingered-over ‘Breakbeat Era’.

On paper, the fusion of Lennie and the fierce, muggy Bristolian beats of Roni Size and DJ Die (both absent tonight) is cerebral, self-indulgent madness. Odd as last year’s album ‘Ultra Obscene’ sounded, however, it was an irresistible, cumulative force. Breakbeat Era aren’t seductive, they bend your fingers back until you submit, leaving you aching with a strange mixture of pleasure and pain.

Lennie‘s voice is crucial, both for its sheer power and because it lends harrowing colour to this brutality. But, for too long tonight, she’s merely folded anonymously into the three-piece band’s tight-cornering drum’n’bastard. She’s energetic, pulling mad faces, bounding around and, er, pretending to be a moose, but Lennie only truly becomes the centre of attention when she forces through to the front of this muscular noise.

Otherwise, dazzlingly agile as the band are, the barrage of dark squalls and unearthly FX is featureless. Breakbeat Era growl tonight, but they still need to unleash the beast.

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