Teeth Of The Sea
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A quiet Sunday night torn apart by cannibalism, car chases and cosmic disco? Go on, then. London band Teeth of the Sea have already made a name for themselves among people who like their cochleas and minds a little shattered – their 2010 album Your Mercury took the psychedelic, sci-fi visions of postrock and krautrock and rolled them into a heaving, gargantuan whole to do just that. In the flesh at the Lexington, ready to deliver more of the same, the TOTS lads are so sharp and wiry you wonder where the catacombs could possibly lie within – but they do.
They're limbering up for a performance of Reaper, their re-imagining of Neil Marshall's 2008 gorefest, Doomsday. For anyone who hasn't seen it, Marshall's third film is a gleeful, wild mulch of dystopic horror tropes. It's 2035, Scotland has turned into a quarantined wasteland thanks to the deadly Reaper virus; and when it hits London, a crack team is sent north to find a cure – what they find instead are gangs of cannibals, grinning, gurning and handy with eyeliner. You can watch the trailer here to see what I mean. There are fights, rampages, decapitations, Malcolm McDowell and Bob Hoskins. The film was such a merrily derivative mash-up that it was ripe for cult status – though many protest that it's not even good enough for that. TOTS love it not just because it's hilarious – they also think, as they told night organisers The Quietus, that it's the perfect vehicle for “trying to squeeze lemon juice into your third eye”. That's the kind of psychic realignment I find irresistible.
They've recreated it in five acts, chopping it up as ruthlessly as its cannibals dice and slash; but it's a mutilation that works brilliantly – Doomsdaywas such a chaotic splicing of ideas anyhow that, fragmented, it turns into art. Fuck the story, let's revel in the madness underneath its clichés. And their accompanying soundtrack, as you'd expect, is blistering.
Turning their backs on us, the band get things going with a spinning, lurching cosmic drone, lulling us under its spell; Reaper hasn't even started and already time is warping. Their sounds, liquid yet jagged, match the visuals ingeniously – there's a scene where Eden Sinclair, Doomsday's heroine, is trapped in a gladiator battle, and the editing is just superb – the images are cut so that they stagger to the beats, with TOTS lost in some cosmic space rave, subjecting their instruments to increasingly deranged attacks as the swipes onscreen get bloodier. It's an absolute treat, a collision of the sonic and visual so assaulting that it registers somewhere on, say, the Existenz level of visceral oomph – you're not actually there, ducking an exterminator's swings and blows, being roared at by a feral crowd – and you're not Teeth of the Sea, pummelling their instruments to death right in front of you – instead, you're mainlining whatever the fuck it is they've got going on between them.
The later montages dissolve the narrative completely. One is a looping edit of replicating Reaper virus cells, putrefying faces, flesh being sliced into so deeply I think – each time I could bear to look (Reaper is not for the squeamish) – that I saw the clean white surface of bone. My fellow-audience members seemed blasé about it; but for me the open flesh on relentless repeat was too much – instead, I listened to TOTS pulling us deeper into a vortex of distortion and drone and the sporadic splurge of something like disco.
We're dragged further into hypnosis for the final montage – a Glaswegian punk cannibal falling back into a crowd, righteousness gleaming in his eyes; and a man laughing as he's burned alive. Cackling as he crackles. We see this possibly a hundred times; possibly more, until the picture eventually fuzzes and fractures into decay. This endless loop of surrender and immolation welds us in place; the band are on overdrive, and we're lost in the bowels of the thing; it's become perverse; spellbinding. It's amazing how many times you can watch a man being burned alive. And then TOTS stop. It ends. We lurch out of the mess. The lights come on. It's been brutal, savage and a shitload of fun. Time for a drink.
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