Death Sentence: PANDA!
Cruiser Chimps, The Sticks, and Chechnya BlastEdit this event
If good taste is the enemy of invention then tonight’s openers could well be in a musical kingdom of Brunel-like proportion, and not just because they’ve got a song called ‘Putting The Hip In Rohypnol’. Chechnya Blast have sold their guitars and bought a turntable, only the turntable shop threw in an electronic melodica as well, played here by a stud-muffin between all of the rollin’ and scratchin’. Meanwhile the drummer bashes so forcefully at the kit that a cymbal flies off mid-song in what could likely be read as a plea for mercy, and the solo-happy bassist frantically blurts zealous tantrums befitting of a four-year-old explaining to his mother in a string of complex scientific formulas why, in no uncertain terms, he needs an ice-cream and he needs one now.
At times it’s like Help She Can’t Swim fronted by Mark King of Level 42 covering the theme tune to the Old Grey Whistle Test; at others it’s like Clinic remixing DJ Shadow when they’re particularly agitated. There’s also a rap duet at one point, but the less said about that the better. Like a snail being crushed by an armour-plated pair of Heelys, you know it’s horrid but the sound of the crunch is just too damn satisfying.
The Sticks appear to be the illegitimate children of Dick Dale and are expressing their frustration at their old man by storming the attic and taking it out on his instruments. They’ve got more echo than the inside of Paris Hilton’s skull, barely seem to play the same instrument twice (on some occasions letting one member of the band into the audience to watch), and holler like their drumsticks are on fire. They’re surf-punk in a similar way to how The Trashmen were, Jon Spencer should be and the more shambolic artists on Load Records could be if they pay more attention to their Tornados records.
Now, Cruiser Chimps. Oh my. By day they’re mild-mannered janitors but it seems all they have to do is don bed-linen capes and blood-stained golf visors to become demonic noise-rock overlords intent on teaching your ears who’s boss. They match organ-shrivelling squeals and hyper-drive thrash-pop with a growling bass distortion that would make the rumbling bowels of Beelzebub himself sound curiously like larksong – which, by the way, is a Very Good Thing. It’s what I imagine watching a fight between Melt Banana, Mclusky and Swell Maps in a cement mixer would feel like, only ten times more vigorous and twenty times more elating, plus right in the middle there’s a song with discernible lyrics and a distinguishable hook and everything fighting to make its way out of the chaos but is, thankfully, failing. I. Cannot. Stop. Grinning. They play with such vivacity that it looks like they’re going to throw up, excepting maybe the bassist who uses his bottle of beer as a slide across the fret board while drinking from it. I would weep with pure undiluted joy if the combination of wide-eyed astonishment and the force of the sound-waves blasting from the PA system hadn’t dried my tear-ducts shut.
With all this and a headline set from Death Sentence: PANDA!, it makes it a good night for everyone except the drum kit. DS:P! have a sticksman who you imagine would play with the same conviction in Wembley Stadium or Wembley Working Men’s Club, going from pounding beats to delicate glockenspiel tickling on the turn of a coin. Not that rhythm is their only strength, although – for a band whose collaged post-punk-meets-folk-meets-be-bop-meets-hardcore sound makes them seem quite freeform – it’s more vital to their feral heart than you’d think. They are an exquisite lesson in musical economy with a more-is-never-enough attitude; burbling and babbling vocals around one-note melodies give way to minimalist flute lines of nursery-rhyme simplicity, Contortions-esque saxophone solos occur alongside the sound of just the reed being exhaled through, and a clarinet is fed through a number of whirring sound-mangling devices until it resembles more the mating call of the band’s namesake. They could not be more divine, and anyone who dismisses them as a masturbatory jazz experiment could well find me personally visiting their kitchen and doing my own masturbatory jazz experiment into their cornflakes. It seems Death Sentence: PANDA! could well be a relatively agreeable way to go after all.