(pic n review by MWJ)
So I was pretty thrashed to several inches of my life but quite fancied the look of this Hendre night. It was marketed as a night of own songs and covers of Nirvana and Pixies songs which was enough of a prompt, added to folks high regard for Valleum’s recent output on these pages, though it turned out to not be more than 1 cover from each so really it was a good job there was enough else in their performances to keep the attention.
Now if I’d have heard the name before the two-piece Love Truncheon took the stage and did their set I might have prejudged it as MORE of a pisstake. With the guitarist/singer up front in his Sepultura top, backed by just a drummer, I wondered if any heaviness could be achieved/expected with this stripped down line-up. The vein they started in though was more like The Darkness, with falsetto warblings that made you want to laugh and wonder if it was random messing but actually showed quite a good range. Then the guitar is swapped for a distorted bass that he plays almost Lemmy–like rhythm guitar style, really powering things along as he enters nu-rave territory, then onto tribute to 90’s dance (Scatman!) before stripping off to his sparkly black lycra outfit underneath and shifting onto the keyboard for more quirkiness. Their cover of “In Blue” was pretty decent with only occasional vocal histrionics to mix it up a bit. It was one of those seeing and yet not quite believing performances that could easily have been dismissed as bollocks apart from the fact that the musical skills demonstrated were impressive and ultimately it was all massively ENTERTAINING, if bizarre. Fair play, it certainly took balls (as evidenced by the skin-tight outfit!)
Whilst I can appreciate Nirvana for choons and have had the occasional drunken pogo at a Student Union, I’ve never owned a copy of Nevermind. I think I have one track (“Negative creep”) on a compilation tape. The line from Jello Biafra (on the album with Mojo Nixon?) of grunge being “punk without rebellion” always struck with me, and all the dead legend worship only further distanced me. But then again maybe I’m just one of those fascists who reject anything that becomes mainstream in order to reinforce my underground stance or standing. Maybe I should be thankful that they became the trend that saved death metal from being forever corrupted by the mainstream (as if it would ever happen?). As I may have mentioned before (repeatedly ;-)) I saw them at Reading in 91/92? and while it was all vaguely momentous at the end of a 4 day binge I have far more abiding memories of the likes of Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and Rollins Band. What can I remember? Him in his “smock”, a pretty laid back performance, the mudbath, puking on battery acid scrumpy later on…
In contrast Demask made me quite sad. I hadn’t seen them for years since they were DOA in Menai Bridge and even though they are still incredible young something had gone wrong in my opinion. They were all really proficient and the songs fitted right in with some all-ages appeal rock format but it was all so very dull. Whatever raw talent they once had has been polished and polished until there is no edge left. The tempo is dragged along by some AC/DC style bass work, maybe it allows her the opportunity to concentrate on her great voice but this is rocking chair rock that is timeless in the sense that this could have been any band doing similar in the last 30 or 40 years. If they’re happy and are progressing the way they want, cool. But to suck the life out of “…Teen spirit” and inspire merely polite applause said it all for me. In the words of Mr Francis, “Cookie, I think you’re TAME”
I’m somewhat cheered at this point by the between-band Nirvana and Pixies songs randomly extending to some Motorhead greatest hits.
Get Out Clause seemed to be a late addition to the bill but one I welcomed. They didn’t quite impress as much as they had at a fantastic performance at Llanfest but then again I was sober tonight so maybe that was a factor. There’s a good 2 or 3 of their songs that are outstanding and that get into a hypnotic groove, aided and abetted by lyrics that are full of hooks. As a three piece they all contribute to making a pretty solid and driving sound, I like the bassist’s slightly sneering backing vocals and the drummer really gives his all. So much so that he’s too fucked to carry on when they realise they’ve forgotten to do their Nirvana cover at the end.
The Pixies I had much more interest in. Mainly due to my friend Geraint’s (RIP) cajoling in school, where as fellow Peel listeners we shared grindcore and hiphop appreciation in the common room but my generalised inde resistance had to be gently re-educated. This was unrerservedly achieved by seeing them on the “Doolittle” tour at the International 2 in Manchester, sold out, rammed, sweat dripping down the walls, and everyone bouncing like crazy. We even went on to cover either “Bone Machine” or “Broken face”, can’t remember, in the one-off band GFFS. And while pretty quickly I think they lost their way or – shock horror – mellowed, that early stuff stands the test of time as classics for me, especially in terms of the off kilter nature of their music and lyrics.
The same appeal is evidenced by Valleum, entering stage right like an advert for Daz in their customised overalls. I think it was here that I last saw them a few years back and know they’ve been busy off in London for a bit sharpening their act and it’s obviously paying off. They pretty effortlessly create a bouncing party vibe but at the same time have an earnest intensity in getting their message across. A heavier version of the Levellers comes to mind, but there so much off the wall invention in there to, the sort only natural additives can inspire… There’s a classic stage dive that takes a long time to start but then the bearers proceed straight through the hall to almost deliver them to the funeral pyre at the back! Chuffed that they do a very faithful version of “Gouge Away” and I guess that’ll have to settle my Pixies requirement for the evening. Lyrical genius hook in the head and it all adds up to great entertainment once more, they are demanded back for an encore.
They also encourage people to stay around (into the early hours) for Iris 3, presumably another billing shuffle. I hadn’t thought much to them when I saw them in the Menai once but that just proved the damaging effects of limited and limiting PA there, as they were more impressive through the big system here. Only 3 of them but all effective in their playing to combine to give a big alternative rock sound, but the melodies don’t appeal enough to me at this late hour so I bail out, feeling a bit guilty not giving them the benefit of the doubt but fading fast.