We’ve had Jimi on speed-dial the whole time,” Milo Cordell confides, permanently scrawling ‘The Big Pink’ in 5-foot high letters on to the dressing room door of the Mercury Lounge in New York’s Lower East Side.
“Seriously,” nods his frontman and partner-in-studio-séance Robbie Furze. “The thing is, I can play guitar to a certain extent, but I swear to God – and I’m not being all weird about the whole Jimi Hendrix spirit thing – but there are parts on the record where I’m, like, picking and stuff.” Furze shivers at his own mention of the P word.
The Big Pink have been holed up in Studio A of New York’s Electric Lady for the past five weeks and there seems to be ample evidence to suggest that the experience is causing them to lose their minds. Cordell refers to the time spent recording their autumn-scheduled debut album as being
like that of a tunnel rat in ’Nam. Furze is convinced that the ghost of Hendrix has been teaching him to solo in his sleep And drummer Akiko just keeps shouting “Chlamydia!” over and over again (although to be honest, she’s been doing this since we first met her five years ago in her other bands Pre and Comanechi, so this is probably by the by.
Tonight marks not only the first time the rats have been let out of their cage, but also the first time this most-heralded of UK bands
have found their way on to an American stage. If The Big Pink are nervous about how it’s going to go… well, for the first time in their careers, they’re not hiding it under waves of white noise and dry ice.
Up onstage, Robbie is fast becoming quite the showman. While it’s not exactly ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ that he’s busy teasing out of his guitar, it is at least a melody – and a discernible one at that.
Similarly, his vocals are no longer buried at the back of the mix, but pushed so far to the forefront that every last pervy word of opener ‘Too Young To Love’ rings out clear and true. Maybe it’s because
– after a string of female backing vocalists who expire faster than the drummers in Spinal Tap – they finally seem happy with current choice Valentine Fillol-Cordier, whose constant, ghostly drawl is the perfect ying to Robbie’s graveled and frazzled yang. It would be a horrible cliché to say that The Big Pink are finally delivering on the promise that made them the winning recipients of the Radar gong at this year’s NME Awards, but it would also be true.
Time was when ‘Crystal Visions’, ‘Too Young To Love’ and ‘At War With The Sun’ were the sole three tunes to stand tall in their blissed-out but fractured sets. Tonight ‘Velvet’ sounds like ‘Achtung Baby’-era U2 pushed into the red, while ‘Prisk’ has been toned into a buzzing, electro punk snarl – more taut, ‘XTRMNTR’ synth-bomb than frayed ‘Screamadelica’ cast-off.
In fact, so slick are The Big Pink now, that at one point they even manage to pass ‘Mayonaise’ by Smashing Pumpkins off as their own song (although this is perhaps more to do with the fact that they ripped its
entire chord sequence off for their own ‘Count Backwards From Ten’, as both bands’ mutual producer Alan Moulder pointed out to them during demo sessions earlier this year).
“We’ve come out of the tunnels, we’ve called in the napalm and we’re ready to shoot the shit out of some people,” explains Milo, backstage post-show, while Robbie jabbers on about a guitar solo on the album version of ‘At War With The Sun’ that he says he was too possessed to remember playing.
Helplessly we look to Akiko to provide a reasoned explanation into how The Big Pink’s transatlantic transformation really took place. “Robbie got fuuuuucked and got an STD on his arm!” she shrieks before bouncing off in the direction of Electric Lady Studios for a late-night mixing stint and, presumably, another paranormal tutorial with Jimi himself.