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- Buffalo Bar, Islington »
The End requires no elaboration, no particularly purple prose or inspired prefix born of emotive reaction. It is simply what it says, in black and white, read and understood: The End, Game Over, Full Stop, Fade to black, Roll Credits.
Wives' end arrives in far from perfect circumstances. Full stops are the falling of previously flailing limbs. The termination of the game, abrupt and unexpected, is a final drumstick crashing down upon an already shattered cymbal, the sound resonating from it both fractured and suitably fucking exasperated. The fade to black isn't black at all - Wives' credits run red with the blood of one of their own, of their guitarist's most precious of bodily fluids making a bid for release across the stage below, himself and the front row.
Dare we rewind some, to the actions that inflicted such injuries? Dare we do, although it's a ride that Wives themselves seemed somewhat reluctant to take. The Artrocker banner hangs behind them, its connotations - however incorrect at heart - not lost on a band that not only conjure furious chaos opposite the easy-listening and trend-seeking acts that so often tread this club's boards, but that has also, and ironically so, acquired a following based largely on whispers and moans within fashionably secular cliques. That said, whatever your anti-establishment stance, you’re forever but a byproduct of the very system you loathe: you fight the power because it exists in the first place, so you too are but a pawn in its bigger picture. A position of no little acclaim is something they never expected, and appropriately Wives leave the evening's curious first-timers less than impressed. The performance stutters from the offset, a broken string rendering the guitarist - we shall refer to him hereon as Randy, for that is his name - next to inert for some five minutes. Conversation is minimal: bassist and vocalist Dean's repeated exhortations that he'll never have to play these songs again has the desired affect on the virgin viewers - if he doesn't care, why should we? It's a fair thought process, and Wives do little in the first ten minutes of their predictably brief set to argue their defence.
But then comes the flood, the gushing forth of something impossible to contain, something one can never plan for, and something that's been Wives' trademark on their first and last European tour. The energy wave blasts forth from stage to back wall and right back into the mouths of those throttling their own throats dry to an audience who didn't give a fuck about them or their imminent implosion all of fourteen seconds ago. The energy builds, explodes, reforms, expands, pops, rattles, and explodes all over again. This is Wives in a whirl, a raging torrent of turmoil and torment, demons battled left right and centre stage, arms swung wildly, guitar tossed above skull and skull lifted by feet bearing shoes of springs to the ceiling, only an inch from impact and instant concussion. Skulls vibrate and toes and fingers move, move, and some: the front row mirrors the contortions of Dean so far as fully-coated bodies will allow, hats and backpacks hindering the route from statue point A to maniac point Z only so much. Time has rarely moved so fast - two-minute songs follow one-minute noises and the buzz from amplifiers is reflected by the audience's own buzz, taste dependent, of seeing such imperial unpredictability in an intimate space. Faces are reddened by the lights and flushed with adrenaline and the heat produced by foreign, soon-to-be-no-more band members but a few feet away. As break ups go, never has the shambolic and the scintillating stood so superbly shoulder-to-shoulder.
No curtain falls but this sentence ends: Randy's instrument of choice is lifted above once more only to be brought to the floor with disturbing ferocity. Again, again, again: then, blood. Moments ago his opposite number, his partner in crime, was announcing in a celebratory tone, "Tomorrow I'm gonna be in California." Now, a concern spreads across his face: "I think Randy needs to go to a hospital." There are disbandings and there is dismemberment; tonight, we come close to witnessing both.
The epilogue is mixed, cleft into halves like an axe through firewood. One half of the aforementioned pair - Wives' drummer has always appeared secondary to the core duo - is selling merchandise. I purchase a shirt. It looks orange under the misleading lights, but when I get home it proves to be pink. I'll wear it regardless, a badge of honour from dishonourable sorts. I tap an open palm on a shoulder, a healthy but bony one: "Cheers." I don't know why I say it: part of me wants to bid goodbye to this band, one that has provided me with three completely different live experiences, the latest of which was poor but somehow fitting. Another wants to tell him, "Dean, you sucked substantial ass this evening." Anyway, The End warrants no such post-coital critical assessment, even if it did arrive a little earlier than hoped - it is what it is, what it was, and what it'll continue to be in the memory. I can't put such mixed thoughts into concise prose, so this'll have to stand as gospel until some other attendee sets me straight. And the final interaction?
"There's a hospital near here? Right. Okay. Out of here, left, keep going? Okay..."
I never told him that you'd need a car to traverse the mile or so in the time implied by my swift gestures; I hope that he made it before bleeding unconscious all over the Holloway Road pavement. Still, you break up in London, or anywhere, and something does die with you; usually, though, it isn't a guitarist. Either way, this is it, whatever your interpretation of what came before it: The End.
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