Wednesday 15 September 2010

Yuck, A Grave With No Name, Slowgun - Madam Jo Jo's 14 September 2010

Yuck by Valerio Berdini

Is it a smile? Is it a grimace? It’s hard to tell, but the grin on the face of Valentina, the drummer of openers Slowgun is fascinating.

I think that it is an expression of excitement. Of sheer joie de vivre at being onstage in a band. Let’s hope that the novelty of playing to audiences doesn’t wear off.

Slowgun are four kids who know the value of noise and of pop music and are working towards the best combination of the two. They are still very rough around the edges, but all the elements of a damn fine band are already in place.

Singer/guitarist Toni stands centre stage and guides her troops through their paces (amidst occasional gales of laughter). Slowgun are ones to watch.

I last saw A Grave With No Name a few months ago supporting Dum Dum Girls. On that occasion they did not make much of an impression. Tonight they sound like an altogether different proposition.

Guitarist and singer Alex Shields is so stick thin and sickly looking that you wonder if he could get through the set without a blood transfusion. When he walks behind the microphone stand, he disappears.

His vocals are fed through a barrage of sound effects to produce an otherworldly falsetto whisper that conjures up the wind blowing through telephone wires.

He and the other guys in the band generate a succession of wonderful guitar riffs. They build the sound, get a groove going, set the controls for the centre of the sun and then…stop.

This is band as coitus interruptus. It’s as if they have an internal mechanism that regulates each track to 120 seconds and then the power dies. I’m all for brevity rather than indulgence, but this is ridiculous.

A good, but frustrating performance.

I missed the second day of this year’s Camden Crawl but was subsequently regaled with tales of the all round marvellousness of Yuck, who played a blinder at one o’clock in the morning when everyone was pissed and merry. It’s why I’m here tonight.

The four piece are certainly striking in appearance, looking for all the world like the live-action counterparts of Jamie Hewlett original designs for Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz project.

Centre stage, but apparently disinterested is bassist Mariko, long hair hanging across her face. Behind her sits a hulking drummer with an afro like a nuclear cloud. On either side sway two skinny guys with guitars. It’s quite the image.

They plug in, kick off, and I’m in love. This is a sound that I’ve not heard since Ride’s first twelve inchers, an elaborately structured amalgam of guitar fuzz and feedback utilised in the service of songs that you can actually sing along with.

As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Yuck have the confidence to show a sensitive side. So amidst the bombast we get quieter, more soulful songs like ‘Suicide Policeman’.

The fans lap them up, although they are now so comfy with the band that they feel the need to talk all over the quiet bits.

Silly name aside, Yuck is almost the perfect modern indie band. They look cool, they reference the past and yet they sound as hot and fresh as newly baked bread. They are loud, proud, complicated and you still feel that they wouldn’t run off with your girlfriend. But that she would want them to.

So, not yuck at all. Yum!

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