Thursday 29 March 2012

Jacuzzi Boys, Paws, Drop Out Venus at Madame Jo Jo's - 27 March 2012

Jacuzzi Boys pic by Marc Fuya

Before the gig, a diversion.

I pop into the Strand Gallery to catch their current exhibition of photography featuring iconic women in rock snapped by female photographers. It’s called ‘She-Bop-a-Lula’ and is presented in aid of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Charity.

There’s some great stuff here, from a 1967 Jane Bown shot of an impossibly young and gawky Cilla Black slurping a cup of tea, through a Roberta Bayley triptych of Debbie Harry in a Las Vegas motel room in 1979 right up to more modern stuff like Anna Calvi at the George Tavern earlier this year. The whole exhibition is highly recommended and in aid of a good cause.

My main reason for coming out tonight is the opportunity to watch Drop Out Venus once more. This band become more, not less, extraordinary each time I see them.

The main focus is always on Iva Moscowich. Her face is wide-eyed and expressive, her body wracked with jerks and twitches. She tears off her woolly hat to reveal a head brutally cropped to military or prisoner length. The power and anguish that she projects is mesmerising and harrowing in equal measure.

Guitarist Zaek and drummer (momentarily unfindable on Google) are a phenomenal pairing. The beats are complex yet sparing, the guitar making sounds that I’ve never really heard before. Things seems completely loose and yet utterly controlled. The band describe themselves as ‘junk jazz’ and they don’t lie.

There is chatter at the bar, and apart from a vexed sigh and a dismissive shake of the head, Iva ignores it.

Recent Soundcloud release ‘Love In Vein’ gives way to an impassioned spoken word piece with the refrain ‘I hate myself and I want to die’. The whole room shrinks to spotlight on Iva’s face. The noise from the bar might as well be in a far off galaxy, such is the intensity.

The final song references the dehumanisation of prisoners and may address the treatment of women during the Holocaust. This is not light stuff. Drop Out Venus are completely singular, there is nothing else like them out there.

In contrast (and anything is a contrast after DOV), Paws are three punks from Scotland who wear their influences proudly. They are a little bit Pavement, a little bit Dinosaur Jr and a whole lot of fairly unlucky this evening.

The drummer bears the initial brunt, as he becomes entangled in the Jacuzzi Boys’ banner, which eventually falls on him. Meanwhile, singer/guitarist Phil Taylor is having difficulties with his twin microphones, one of which has a fancy gizmo strapped to it to add distortion to his voice. Unfortunately, this contraption is not functioning and vocals for entire songs are lost.

However, the band thrash along at a pleasing lick and they trigger the first signs of jumping and moshing in the crowd. In the throes of their finale, Taylor plants his mike stand squarely in the audience and leaps from the stage, guitar and all. It’s a fine gesture, but the song finishes almost immediately, before he can really create any mayhem.

Jacuzzi Boys are another three piece, proud to come from Miami and possessing the kind of guitar chops that have got them signed to Jack Black’s Third Man record label.

This band too utilise distorted vocals, this time with more success. Singer/guitarist Gabriel Alcarla employs a high pitched trembling and heavily reverbed technique that echoes round the room.

This is good time garage music with a twist, as drummer Diego Monasterios often keeps time with an almost motorik beat, occasionally leaning to the side to bawl along. It’s rather like watching a Bizarro World version of the Cramps in which an obsession with ghoulies and ghosties has been replaced with a love of baseball instead.

The crowd happily bounce around and the evening comes to a fitting conclusion. Another very successful evening.

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