Monday 14 January 2013

Punishment of Luxury and Spiritwo at Mother Bar - 11 January 2013

Punishment of Luxury

I usually write these snippets on the train home after the gig. When I type them up, they’re usually just about long enough to fill an A4 piece of paper.

I could write a novel about tonight.

The first thing is the venue itself. Mother has been refurbished since I was last here, on entering the bar upstairs I am greeted with a ping pong ball whistling past my ear. There is so much space that they’ve got their own table tennis table. Warning kids:- Don’t drink and smash.

The venue where the bands play is situated downstairs. All walls are covered throughout by luxuriant long grey fur. Entering through a narrow stairwell is very…Freudian.

It’s also kind of comforting. At various times this evening I happen across people stood around quietly stroking the walls.

I’m always on the look out for things that are new and exciting. Spiritwo are unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. They start off weird and don’t let up.

Vocalist Yael Claire Shamoon has two microphones. One enables her to sing. The other distorts her voice into the rumbling bass of Satan himself. 

The songs are dramatic and florid. Yael rolls her eyes, curls back her lips to expose her teeth and writhes and contorts. The passion and emotion of the performance is genuinely scary. This is Exorcist:The Gig.

At one point during the proceedings, between the wailing and Eastern European-tinged ululating, the singer starts whipping herself with what looks like a floor length handful of human hair.

I like Spiritwo a great deal and would recommend their records too.

The first band aside, this is very much a veteran’s night and acts don’t come much more veteran than the Bermondsey Joyriders. The blues rock trio are fronted by Gary Lammin and Martin Stacey, who musicologists might be able to place as ex-members of early punk band Chelsea.

They are spectacularly dressed as something between pearly kings and Clockwork Orange droogs. They both sport vast mutton chop whiskers. Despite their age they both look well dangerous.

It’s a shame that their music doesn’t really excite. Despite the urgings of a vocal contingent of supporters, the songs don’t really get to be much more than basic ‘Tab A goes into Slot A’ by-the-numbers pub rock.  All involved have a good time (which is after all, the point of all this), but it doesn’t really grab me.

I have been waiting all my life to see Punishment of Luxury. Their seminal album ‘Laughing Academy’ was my absolute favourite when growing up in the late Seventies, but by the time I was old enough to move to London and see gigs, the band were long gone.

But now, incredibly and some forty years later, they are back. And although tonight’s show is firmly rooted in nostalgia, there is new material too.

From the moment that Brian Bond marches onto the stage in a white lab coat and sings “The Message”, while Neville Luxury stands next to him blasting out a ludicrously complicated guitar solo and the time signatures are all over the place, I know that this is not going to disappoint.

Punilux never fitted comfortably into the new wave music scene or even punk. They were proggy, not remotely serious and unlike anything else around.

Despite never extending beyond five minutes, a typical Punishment of Luxury song usually consists of at least three distinct movements, none of which appear to be musically related to each other. These are stories, vignettes that allow for the maximum amount of theatricality.

Bond is a natural showman. Heavily influenced by early Peter Gabriel, for each song he adopts a different persona. It might be a lecherous businessman (‘British Baboon’), a mad scientist (‘The Message’) or a jellyfish (er…’Jellyfish’). Bond gurns and grins, his eyebrows going up and down like a Thunderbird puppet.

The fans of course just love it. What heartens me is that the group that I have dragged along here tonight and who know nothing of the band, really enjoy it too.

There are a couple of new songs. These fit in very well with the rest of the set.

Things end with a blast through ‘Engine of Excess’, ‘Brainbomb’ and ‘Puppet Life’.

The year is off with one hell of a bang.

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