(review by adam walton for bbc radio wales website)
We’ll get to the actual band in a moment. First, a qualification and micro rant: Telfords Warehouse isn’t the only venue I visit, I promise. In recent weeks Heal The Last Stand, The School and We//Are//Animal have all passed through, and it would have been a dereliction of duty for me to have missed them.
Astonishing that – other than Central Station in Wrexham and Morgan Lloyd in Caernarfon – we have such a paltry selection of venues in North Wales supporting bands of this excellence, at this level. In fact, it’s a downright cultural embarrassment.
I hear rumours of something starting in Mold (in addition to the excellent nights run by theAbsurd). If you know of anything else, let me know. I’d love to visit and put the record straight.
Race Horses are irrefutable evidence of Darwinian evolution. Their obvious antecedents – trotted out whenever they’re reviewed, which must be a little galling – are Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. But whilst Race Horses share that band’s uninhibited love of unexpected twists, turns and tempo changes, there is more of an intensity to Race Horses. They’re Gorky’s on 78rpm. An upright, hairless Gorky’s. And so much more besides.
Tonight, helped by their excellent and stereotypically moody French soundman, they’re also fiercely loud, emphasising the psych and garage roots to their sound. You could imagine the Race Horses who tear up this stage whooping The Sonic’s ass, giving The Standells a bloody nose and making the fuzz-encrusted Them of I Can Only Give You Everything wish they hadn’t laughed at Race Horses’ rather high, piping voices.
I’ve seen Radio Luxembourg a few times, Race Horses twice before, but this is a demonstrably different experience. They’re like self-contained supernova, so focused in the vibrant flashes sparking out of their music with thrilling regularity, that I’m swept along not only by the excellence of their music but by a new and tangible self belief, too.
Cake, Pony, their cover of Syd Barrett‘s No Man’s Land, are taut and perfect live incarnations of their recorded equivalents.
Grangetown 02920 makes the beams of this old building creak with joy, as the roof breaks into a smile to match the face of each member of the wide-mouthed audience.
But the highlight tonight is the segue from Intergalactic Space Rebellion into Captain Penelope Smith, from frazzled, unhinged psych instrumental into a song that concentrates the music hall genius of Percy Thrillington, the Bonzos, the Dukes of the Stratosphear and the Beach Boys into an escapist, knees-up, seaside fantasy. It’s performed brilliantly: a muso observation, but a key one nonetheless. It reminds me of The Who’s A Quick One… only gone white dwarf.
The challenge for Race Horses is to explode the patronising expectation that they’re oddball inheritors to Gorky’s’ ‘wacky and weird’ Welsh crown and should thusly be content to be a whispered best kept secret amongst the musical cognoscenti. On the evidence of this brilliant (no exaggeration) set and their brilliant (no exaggeration) debut album they’re eager and deserving of much wider acclaim and recognition. Worth an each way punt, at the very least.