Thursday 18 December 2008

The Call Of The Wyld Review of the Year.

Band Of The Year - Death Cigarettes

There have been many great gigs this year and I can’t really mention them all.

Death Cigarettes at the George Tavern was pretty much my idea of heaven – astonishing levels of energy, deafeningly loud and astoundingly good. The performance of the year. The same band were also devastating at Proud Gallery, especially with singer Maya railing against the injustice of having to contend with a crowd barrier. Seriously, if you go to just one gig in 2009, don’t waste your time with Blur or Oasis playing in some giant shed – find out where Death Cigarettes are playing, get down the front and let your teeth rattle.

The whole Offset festival was a pleasure – a nice small site with dozens of great bands and minimal set clashes. And the rain held off, mostly. SCUM played in a tent full of smoke, Glam Chops fell apart in a tent full of people and Rachel from Kasms wrestled a girl to the floor and squashed her ice cream. Also in a tent.

The most crowded gig of the year was Telepathe at Catch. Theirs was the only set during which I never actually touched the floor.

The biggest crowd of the year was that at Gallhammer’s Water Rats show. Metal fans are HUGE. It was like being wedged in a forest of double wardrobes. The band were great too, occasionally appearing out of clouds of dry ice, gurning ferociously. This was also the loudest gig of the year and the most painful – I still have the broken drumstick that flew out of the mist and impaled my neck.

The funniest sight of the year was the drunken girl who totally usurped Shitty Limits at the Old Blue Last. She had more energy and was more chaotic than a molecule in the Large Hadron Collider.

Mass audience participation at the last ever performance of Be Your Own PET, the band eventually being crushed out of existence by a pile of well wishers.

In terms of stamina, it is a toss up between the non-stop bouncing aerobics of You Love Her Coz She’s Dead at Offset, or Mark Stewart & The Maffia playing two sets at the Royal Festival Hall, the second of these in the foyer and still going on some three months later. Probably.

And did I mention Death Cigarettes playing during the Camden Crawl and weirding out an entire bus of pensioners who pulled up outside the pub just as the band were leaping on tables?

I spent half of Vampire Weekend’s gig at ULU in the cold outside, after some bright spark set off the fire alarm. Later in the year, at the same venue, I found Pink Eyes of Fucked Up daintily moving through a crowd of small girls, being the gentleman and not crushing them, much to their disappointment.

Also having difficulties were Ladytron, who had to retire half way through their gig due to synthesiser-knack.

The apparently dead girl being carried past us by her mates at Mindless Self Indulgence’s marvellously pyrotechnic Roundhouse show

…and the singer from Hearts Revolution being unable to continue her show because of an earlier concussion.

The Fighting Cocks freezing their parts off in a tent in the middle of Trafalgar Square in January. To the complete bafflement of passing tourists.

The worst gig of the year was Alex and Stephen, Dirty Projectors, Six Organs of Admittance and Frog Eyes on an endless, stultifyingly boring night at the Forum. This was what I imagine being in cryogenic suspension must be like.

Hissy fit of the year came from The Tamborines, whose guitarist threw down his instrument and stumped off, only to have to return moments later to reclaim it and clear the stage for the next act.

Venue of the year was St Leonard’s Church, where SCUM, Kasms and An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump put on a dazzling son-et-lumiere amidst the pews. Shame about the drug dealer touting his wares by the font.

And of course the two gigs in Japan, which were utterly delightful and deeply bizarre.

Aside from those mentioned above, there were great sets this year from Cobra Dukes, Client, Esser, Oh No! Oh My!, Battlekat, The Bookhouse Boys, O Children, Fleet Foxes, Sparks, Gang of Four, The Favours, Mindless Self Indulgence, Rochelle, The Duloks, Wire, Trademark, Maria & The Mirrors, Shit and Shine, Rolo Tomassi and Bodies of Water. And others I’ve temporarily forgotten. Like Yeborobo.

Another cracking year. Roll on 2009.

Monday 15 December 2008

Kasms, JAR at The Lexington - 12 December 2008

JAR pic copyright Neil Anderson at

It’s only their second ever gig, but I’m already mesmerised.

It is said that some comedians have ‘funny bones’- that innate instinctive ability to make an audience laugh without apparently any effort at all. JAR have the musical equivalent, a built-in grasp of what sounds right and what works.

When they first wander onto the stage, they seem a bit uneasy. Linval, bravely accoutred in a West Ham shirt, looks at his drums as though unsure which part to hit. But once the band start up, he does splendidly in a ragged manner reminiscent of the first, faltering efforts of a kid who has just taken the stabilisers off their bike.

However, it is the guitar work of Joe and Lucy that really startles. Songs that initially sound simple soon develop unprecedented levels of complexity and fierceness. The musicians may look as though butter wouldn’t melt, but their instruments positively growl with malice.

On their website, the band invite comparisons with Sonic Youth and P J Harvey. A bold claim, but one that stands up, as those were the two names I had written down before reading about it later. However, those influences are mere echoes – JAR have a chemistry of their own.

It is very early days, but there is already a real assurance in this band, a tangible confidence in the strength of their material. I am bowled over by them, and they are now a new favourite.


...Rachel from Kasms has dyed her hair a bright red and is decked out in a slinky black leotardish dress combo. She eyes the room, spoiling for mischief. Sadly, she doesn’t find much.

Tonight, Rachel and the band seem slightly off their game, possibly because although their followers are enthusiastic (and dressed to kill), there are really very few people here and it is difficult for her to work herself up into the usual frenzy when confronted with so much empty space in front of the stage.

This subdued performance also has the effect of focussing the mind on the band’s music. Sure, ‘Siren Sister’ still sounds very good, and new single ‘Bone You’ is shaping up nicely, but many of the rest of their songs tonight seem rather formless and disjointed, a problem masked by the attention grabbing squeals and gymnastics of the singer.

However this is all relative, as Kasms are thoroughly entertaining even on a bit of an off day. Indeed, things end very well, as Rachel leaps from the stage, whirls a delighted girl around in circles and finishes the set sprawled within the drum kit. That’s much more like it.

A decent evening out and in JAR, a real new discovery. You’ll be hearing more of this lot.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Poni Hoax, Adam Kesher at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen - 4 December 2008

Poni Hoax pic by Gabriel Green

There are four bands due to play tonight, which even at an early stage makes me fearful about whether or not I’ll be able to catch the headliners.

We start off with Kaiko, who are one syllable away from the greatest band that ever existed. Sadly they bear no resemblance to the former pride of Norwich. Good news for them then, that they do rather resemble Coldplay.

They may dress their sound up with occasional noisy guitar interludes and be prone to songs that stretch to five or more minutes in length, but the high pitched tones of singer James Tyler put them firmly in radio friendly melodic rock territory. Kaiko are not my cup of tea, but if the wind blows in their direction they could fill stadiums.

And while we are talking of bands that sound like someone more famous, if I mention The Killers in the same breath as the next act (We Are) Performance, I would very much doubt that I am the first to do so.

Interestingly, the template they follow is that of the epic sounding ‘Sam’s Town’ rather than the Las Vegan’s debut. Giant singer Joe Stretch marches on the spot, his gestures getting ever more expansive (aside from a worrying tendency to pull at the flies of his jeans). The banks of keyboards that flank him are pulverised by Laura and Hilary Marsden.

Now, while I do not doubt for one second that (We Are) Performance and the Killers are a case of parallel evolution rather than one being descended from the other, it is also true that like VHS and Betamax, there is likely to only be one winner. Which is a shame, because (WA)P are very entertaining and have some decent songs. Just unfortunate timing.

The next act is billed as Adam Kesher, but tonight at least, he is accompanied by five other musicians. This lot are genuinely intriguing.

Kesher has one of those non-voices that work well in the right setting. He bellows like a bull in pain, but so catchy are the stripped down dance rhythms that the band produce, that he provides a welcome counter point to what might otherwise seem a mechanical exercise.

Sporadic dancing breaks out in the audience. It isn’t couth, but this combination of Happy Mondays –style yob funk coupled with a more modern, DFA sensibility really works. I shall certainly keep tabs on this lot.

Finally, far too late in the evening, Poni Hoax arrive with a tongue-in-cheek Gallic snarl of “We are Poni hoax and we suck massive hairy cocks!” and launch into a set of full on dementia.

On record, singer Nicolas Ker is aristocratic and suavely smooth. In the flesh he is a sweating and harassed dynamo with his thinning bedraggled hair and his suit apparently at least one size too small for him. He looks like a businessman who has been assaulted on a crowded tube train and is seething with rage about it.

Tonight Poni Hoax are a force of nature, with even gentler songs such as ‘She’s On The Radio’ fizzing with electric energy. When they blast through an up tempo number like ‘Pretty Tall Girls’, they almost take the roof off- by the end of the song the drummer is standing on top of his kit smashing the hell out of the lighting gantry above him.

The band is still in full fury when I have to leave to catch the train. It’s been a fascinating evening, two very good acts, two pretty ok acts. A very decent ratio. I just wish that it had started in time for me to catch it all.

Monday 8 December 2008

Vivian Girls, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Old Blue Last 3 December 2008

The signs are that it is going to be a very busy night. The headliners are this week’s hot new darlings from New York and the hype surrounding them has started to spill over from fan boy websites into the mainstream media. Let’s be honest, it’s why I’m here too.

The first act on are Graffiti Island, two bespectacled, tattooed and very intense young men and a girl drummer (of whom more later). While one guy thrashes a guitar, the other declaims in a semi spoken rap. Dark tales and sharp looks ensue. A good start.

By now the venue is heaving and when the provocatively named The Shitty Limits take to the stage there is a commotion down the front. The set starts off conventionally enough – or conventionally enough for an old school punk band whose singer spends the majority of the time in amongst the audience, bent double and screaming. But, marvellously, these confrontational warriors are completely upstaged by the antics of an incredibly drunken girl who clambers onto the stage and cannot be budged.

It’s like watching a car crash. She falls over a lot, she unplugs the instruments, she grabs at microphones and guitars and bawls incoherently. The band continue with their performance amidst this chaos, exhorting her to leave and even physically knocking her off the stage, but this does not deter her one bit – she is indestructible and completely oblivious to everything. The whole spectacle is both deeply sordid and one of the funniest things that I have ever seen at a gig.

Various Vivian Girls are stood on seats behind me, looking both fascinated and horrified. Particularly as a full beer glass is hurled from near the front and whizzes over our heads.

The band finishes and their unwanted guest is later seen crawling around on her hands and knees, before being carted off unconscious. Remember kids – alcohol is your friend, but not a trustworthy one.

We are now entertained by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, an endearingly ramshackle pop band featuring Peggy, the girl who was earlier drumming for Graffiti Island, here on vocals and keys. She is accompanied by bassist Alex and other vocalist Kip, who knows the value of a jangly guitar.

While very affable and generally enjoyable, it is painfully clear why this band have been chosen as principal support on the forthcoming tour by veterans The Wedding Present. They may be American, but their sound is pure 1986 guitar pop – and is just as good or limited as that genre was, depending on your viewpoint. I’m a fan, but to be brutally honest, there are dozens of UK bands who sound like this and they are playing to empty rooms.

Anyway, right here, right now, POBPAH are just what is needed, and calm things down after the tumult of the previous act.

And finally, the room gives it up for Vivian Girls, the three piece from Brooklyn who have become darlings of the hour. At least for this week.

And they are pretty great. Their songs and harmonies also echo back to places such as the Bull and Gate in the mid Eighties, but as the set progresses and they become more relaxed, Cassie Ramone’s guitar work becomes ever faster and more abrasive, until we are in hardcore heaven.

There is nothing mind blowing here, but they generate a warmth of feeling that will carry them a long way. They are very likeable and resultantly, the crowd really takes to them. Kickball Katy shakes her abundant red hair and smiles a lot, Cassie plays like a fury. They are delightful and I’m glad to have seen them, although, as with the last band, there is a slight nagging thought that the greater part of their appeal lies in where their passports were issued.

The girls’ mini album gets a solid airing, together with several new songs that imply that they should be good for at least another twelve months. Let’s enjoy them for the moment.