Monday, 31 March 2014

The Men, Baby Strange and Lola Colt at Village Underground - 27 March 2014

Some Men

The merciless sun beats on the parched yellow plain. Brittle tumbleweed roll slowly down the main street of a deserted cow town. NancySinatra drags the black-clad corpse of Lee Hazelwood into a gulch…

…we're at Village Underground and Lola Colt are performing. They are a pitch perfect slice of classic western gothic, by turns dark and menacing, desolate and yearning.

The band coalesces around the brooding figure of Gun Overbye. She has a powerful and commanding voice that rises and strengthens as she howls out in anger or torment.

Stage left, a striking keyboard/percussionist pulls focus. She's clad in black, stamps her feet, tosses her long mane of black hair and sporadically bangs the hell out of an enormous drum. I think every male eye in the room is watching her.

Lola Colt create a hugely atmospheric sound and in tracks like recent single 'Jackson' they have the tunes too. They're very impressive.

There are no frills to Baby Strange. This is a stripped down three piece of guitar, drum and bass. And they're a blast.

Guitarist Jonny is a gangly rebel with a teen star sneer. He's got the same mall rat cool of a young Di Caprio. Not orthodox, but magnetic.

Like all good bands, this lot are young loud and snotty, with good tunes and tonnes of attitude. There are regular obituaries for British guitar rock. Judging by these Scottish whippersnappers, the form looks to be in rude health.

Headliners The Men string four guitarists across the stage. It’s a statement of intent.

These guys are mid-tour and couldn't look more frazzled and dishevelled if they were sleeping on top of each other in a pile in the back of a transit van.

The Men are absolutely deafening. It's an ear-ripping head churning rush of sound. Vocals are swapped between up to four vocalists, guitars and keyboards thrashed and pounded as if their lives depended upon it.

Their music is evolving. The new album 'Tomorrow's Hits' moves away from the pure ears-pinned back blast of their earlier material into a much more classical American 70's rock sound. With the driving guitars and electric piano, Time Out New York referred to them as "Thurston Moore and the E Street Band" which is far better than anything I could have come up with.

This all means that 'Bataille', the ferocious song which first drew the band to the wider world's attention, is dispensed with only three numbers into tonight's set. It sounds like a jet taking off.

It's a wonderful, uplifting set. One of the band is wearing a Neil Young T shirt of fairly recent vintage and the towering yet tuneful rock they play is certainly on nodding terms with the wilder excesses of Crazy Horse.

The sheer noise generated is just painfully brutal. I'm aware as I watch them that I'm doing real damage to my hearing. But I'm not going to leave this…

…Sometime later, I'm walking down the road reflecting on the best three-act show of the year so far. All the bands were great, and I recommend them all.

My head is buzzing and full of voices and static. So much so that for a while I think that the passing cars are driving on newly-laid gravel. My ears are totally shot, and remain so for much of the following day.

Frankly, it was worth it.

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