Thursday 26 March 2009

Death Cigarettes / Hook & The Twin / The Postcards / Sunlight Service Group at Mother - 25 March 2009

Death Cigs by Neil at

The big guy on the door is apologetic. The bands tonight will only run until eleven o’clock. Like this is a bad thing.

We are upstairs in ‘Mother’, a space above the vast 333 club on Old Street. It is dingy and distressed, with faded flock wallpaper. Large windows give an uninterrupted view of the traffic gridlocked outside.

After chivvying us to one side so that they can set up their video camera, Sunlight Service Group get us started for the evening. They are infectiously cheerful, if pronouncedly rough around the edges at this point. The main singer/guitarist chats throughout, while the band’s sound is dominated by a pounding organ and huge licks of wah wah pedal guitar. They also have a young girl bashing rather ineffectually on a tambourine. Despite being at all times never more than a couple of beats away from total collapse, this band show promise.

The Postcards wear their influences in their name and their checked shirt sleeves. They are proficient guitar janglers in thrall to Joseph K and The Wedding Present, although at present they lack the charisma or songs of either. They are in dangerous territory – the closer you get to aping the bands that you love, the more likely you are to be unfavourably compared to them. They need to build on what they are good at to forge their own identity.

The next act has no problems with originality. Hook and The Twin are a pair of musicians who use technology to lay down and multi-loop vocal and guitar figures to create a bewilderingly full, often choral sound, which acts as accompaniment to Marcus’ pulsing motorik drums and singer Tom’s voice, which ranges from a high falsetto to a low rasp.

The pair creates vast landscapes of sound and the audience are soon shaking and nodding their heads to the driving rhythm. Hugely impressive, particularly in a small venue such as this. At the set’s conclusion, a colleague can no longer contain his inner fan boy and hurries over to discuss equipment and techno-wizardry. It’s all in the software, apparently.

I do go to gigs OTHER than Death Cigarettes, but really, they are just so damn good that when they are on tour I gorge on their live shows like a hungry locust in a corn field. Since I last saw them a few weeks ago they have got themselves fully back into the performance groove and are in top form tonight.

The set starts as usual with bassist and guitarist wandering about the venue thrashing their instruments. The drummer is in the other room and he eventually wanders behind his kit to kick things off in earnest. As their sonic violence grows, singer Maya erupts from a startled audience, howling and tearing at her hair. Despite her anguished wails of “Please don’t leave me by myself!” the more sensitive souls present scuttle off to hide in the room next door.

The audience plays a key role in a Death Cigarettes gig, whether they want to or not. They are shepherded around the venue, they are entwined in miles of microphone lead, they are pushed, bullied and prodded and generally abused. And they love it. And if they don’t love it, it gets even more interesting.

A particular highlight of tonight’s performance is a girl hurrying back from the loo, trying to avoid the bedlam around her, who walks smack into a taught lead and virtually garrottes herself. Oh, how we laugh! She’s ok, though.

Those in the other room are roundly chastised and periodically disturbed by either a singer or a guitarist. There’s no rest here for the apathetic.

Histrionics aside, the band’s set is becoming a monstrously powerful thing – tonight’s version of ‘Total Fear’ absolutely slays. And forthcoming single “Bleed You Dry” leaves you limp.

With instruments whirling round heads, the set ends. It is exactly eleven o’clock, as the big guy on the door had promised. It’s been another good evening, and as well as the various bands, it has been impeccably run – the sound has been mostly good, everyone has kept to schedule. Kudos all round.

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