ToddEdit this event
- Dingwalls, London »
“This song is about being old…which is a recurring theme tonight”
That’s no such problem for UK young guns Todd. Todd might just be my favourite UK band right now, along with Shit and Shine (with whom they share members), and the reason is that there’s simply no one else that’s doing anything like them right now. Their music is harsh, heavy and above all loud; their live performances are brutal, visceral and confrontational. Sometime lead singer Laurence - who I witnessed accidentally breaking a guy’s collar bone during one particularly tragic and depraved performance - doesn’t seem to know whether he’s in the band or not. He wanders through the audience to the bar, round the back, or picks up the mic and sits docilely on stage before howling and hollering inanely. He follows the Henry Rollins/Gibby Haynes school of frontmanship – you’re afraid to look away in case he does something completely unexpected. And all the while the band are kicking up a ferocious cacophony of sludge and feedback, guitars howling and bowing in and out of the monotonous drum and bass din. In short, it makes me grin ear to ear. I’ll watch Todd any day of the week, which is saying something.
Yet whilst Laurence and co. are appreciably applauded by a heaving Sunday night crowd at Dingwalls, the excitement reaches fever pitch for NoMeansNo, and the front ranks swell with punters vying with each other for who has the oldest/most unique NmN t-shirt. The Canadians draw that kind of diehard crowd: whether you entered the fray in the Eighties or only joined the party a bit later on, there’s a certain ‘cult’ appeal to the threepiece which comes with soldiering on for 30 odd years.
And as drummer John Wright opens the set (“Are you ready for this? …’Cause I’m really not…”) with a slow, sludgey beat as his brother howls about the perils and pitfalls of age, there’s a certain fear that maybe the self-proclaimed geriatrics have gone soft; a fear which is quickly debunked. For a band with a median age of 50, the pace is frenetic throughout. Razor sharp guitars lace that inimitable bouncing basswork and the thundering percussion. Choruses are hollered to the rafters as the sweat seems to drip out of every eyrie in the dingy venue. The anthemic ‘All Lies’ from the peerless ‘Wrong’ nearly lifts the roof off the place, and I dare anyone not to grin at a slampit of sweating topless bodies who really should be old enough to know better punching the air and yelling “why don’t you fuck offff and die!” at the very tops of their voices. Similarly, the perversely jaunt bass riff of ‘Body Bag’ accentuates the sharp black humour of Wright’s lyrics. Like Jello Biafra, he makes a crazed performance out of death, destruction and politics: it’s like watching a children’s TV presenter losing his mind live on air.
However, it does all start to wash over you after a while. Maybe it’s down to the sound, which seems to strip much of the subtle technicality and jazz licks from the performance in favour of asphyxiating volume and sludge, and maybe it’s down to a certain unfamiliarity with every NoMeansNo album on DiS’ part, but after a while, the intensity and power is a little draining to the onlooker. And apparently, so too on the band. The first signs of age come when guitarist Tom Holliston has to take a break from the admittedly oppressive heat of Dingwalls, before being forced to exit the stage completely due to an asthma attack. The Wright brothers continue as an even more intense twopiece, ending with a genuinely blistering version of 'Kill Everyone Now' which ends with Rob yapping derangedly into the microphone about serving pie with corpses. It’s enthralling stuff, and the one time during the evening when the extreme extension of a song feels vital and exhilarating, and the remainder of the band wave their apologies and grin inanely at the seething slampit as they go to check “whether the guitarist is still alive”. There’s little doubt that NoMeansNo still are.