Monday 26 January 2015

Desperate Journalist, Terminal Gods, Dressmaker at Lexington 22 January 2015

Desperate Journalist

The first thing that strikes me as I enter the upstairs room that is the performance space at the Lexington is that I haven’t been here for far too long. I had forgotten how small it is, how the bands are almost teetering on top of you.

My second thought is “Bloody Hell!”

Dressmaker are onstage and doing a fair impression of Bauhaus thrashing wildly in the wreckage of a small plane crash. The room is full of dry ice and strobes and singer and guitarists flailing and wailing and making a fine old racket.

Vocalist Charles Potashner is dolled up in a fetching fur bolero jacket and is snarling in his best Lydon drawl. He’s clambering about all over the place, sometimes down in the crowd, sometimes up on the drum kit. He’s having a blast, as are all the band.

All is noise and spectacle. You couldn’t sing along to a Dressmaker song, but they’re a lot of entertainment in a room this size. They finish with an even bigger wig –out than before and various members of the band come barging out of the maelstrom past me.

So thumbs up for that one.

I’m a big fan of the BBC’s flagship nature programme ‘Winterwatch’. This time around there has been a lot of talk about how an introduced species can fill the gap in the food chain left by other animals and thrive as a result. Winterwatch were concerned with Little Owls. Let me make a case for Terminal Gods.

Singer Robert Cowlin and his cohorts are clearly enthralled by the Eighties none-more-dark machine rock of acts like The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus (them again) and The Mission. It was full-on, histrionic music that jack-hammered along behind leather jackets, sunglasses after dark and the certain knowledge that audiences were to be cowed by the power and swagger of the performers. This music was often labelled ‘goth’, but it was a world away from floaty fixations on graveyards and vampires.

Terminal Gods have seen that the bands that they love have largely disappeared, lost to old age and changing fads – young men in eyeliner went ‘emo’ and left the true path pioneered by Pete Murphy, Andrew Eldritch, Wayne Hussey and co.

So tonight, what could be wrongly dismissed as an exercise in revivalism instead sounds fresh, exciting and just terrific.

Cowlin is stick thin, his eyes obscured behind dark glasses. His deep voice rumbles like a tube train. The rest of the band don’t merely play, but pose and flourish. They know they are good. They know WE know they are good.

It’s one hell of a rollercoaster. There are huge choruses, which the fans in the audience shout along to. There’s a really joyous atmosphere. This is a celebration of a show. The Lexington is tiny but with these Gods on stage, it feels like Wembley.

So thumbs up for that one too.

I’m actually here this evening to see Desperate Journalist again. Tonight is the official launch of their well-reviewed and highly recommended debut album. After the bombast of the first two acts, I worry that they might seem anticlimactic.

But not a bit of it. Jo Bevan, Simon Drowner, Rob Hardy and Caz Hellbent take the energy buzzing around the room and amplify it with a storming performance of their own.

Jo’s voice soars like an eagle and roars like a lion. The sheer power that she generates is beyond that of any other singer out there at the moment. Meanwhile, Rob is bent double wringing solos from his guitar and Simon hulks behind a whomping bass.

A huge mosh pit forms, including personnel from the other bands. Jo firmly declares that what Desperate Journalist is ‘Indie’ rather than rock. But they sure indie the Casbah this evening.

A marvellous show, a marvellous band. I’ve run out of thumbs to put up.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Furs and Psychic Markers at The Waiting Room - 14 January 2015


If I arbitrarily designate my base of operations in Luton as the cradle of civilisation, then the Waiting Room in Stoke Newington on a wild and blustery Wednesday night in January seems a long way removed from that cosy centre.

The venue itself is situated in the basement of a busy pub/restaurant that is doing a roaring trade with crowds of young men sporting identikit Edward Lear beards and tall young women clad in black. Kids, eh?

The Waiting room itself is a simple space with benches along the walls. With Spartan décor that is either plain wood or white tiling it resembles a cross between a sauna and a butcher’s shop.

First up are cosmic six piece Psychic Markers. In addition to the usual guitars, bass and drums they have two backing singers who share a microphone while swaying side to side and clutching bottles of beer. They all play in other bands – Grass House, Still Corners and several others. They are here tonight for gentle psychedelic shenanigans.

Band leader Steve Dove has the sniffles, and snuffles disconsolately between songs. The band start off with an instrumental that doesn’t quite work, but the set soon builds a momentum of whirling space rock that enraptures the room.

The vocals are narrated as much as sung and the woozy charm of proceedings sees me turn on, tune in, and stop out for the evening. My colleague wonders if the band should fully embrace their inner Hawkwind and have the backing singers covered only by glitter and paint. This is only a suggestion.

Furs (or F.U.R.S. depending upon which flyer you read) have a weekly residency at this venue throughout January. They are bright and cheerful and showcase the vocals of Elle Wade.

There’s no angle to Furs. They play proper songs with proper verses and catchy choruses and when they have a good time on stage this communicates through to the audience and suffuses us with a warm glow of contentment.

Highlights include ‘Just Kids’ and ‘An Eye on the Vicious’. It’s the kind of smooth music that is sometimes tagged ‘Adult Rock’. And there’s nothing derogatory about that statement.

It’s this spirit of charm and wellbeing that is the band’s main asset and it is not one to be underestimated. We are happy in their company and they make the trip out tonight worthwhile.

And I hold on to that thought as I begin the long slog home.