Selfish Cunt, Sefelt, Dressed In Wires, The Rest

James Glazebrook 12/05/2005

Martin Tomlinson lives up to his band's name: he really is a Selfish Cunt. The theatre performer-turned-punk shock singer craves attention like a kid with ADHD. But before he can subject Newcastle's Cooperage to a temper tantrum of epic proportions, he's going to have to share the limelight.

Not that The Rest want any part of it. The first of three support acts, they are also the least confident. OK, so this Joy Division-with-squidgy-synths isn't going to set the world on fire, but a little self-belief wouldn't go amiss. As it is, they perform their glum post punk clatter to each other, with their backs half-turned on the tiny audience, making for uncomfortable viewing.

Next up: Dressed in Wires, a man whose idea of comfort would probably entail a broken-glass enema. Looking and sounding like Trent Reznor's fucked up younger brother, he sets about violating his laptop until it emits squeals of white noise and sub-bass groans. After assaulting the crowd's ears with sounds that would give the Aphex Twin nightmares, Wires turns his attention to his keyboard, which he covers with beer before battering to pieces.

When Sefelt, Dressed in Wires' label-mates from Newcastle noise factory Distraction Records, step onto the stage the word 'gimmick' springs to mind. What's with the surgical smocks? And what band needs two bass players? The costumes are never explained, but the band's throbbing low-end serves to pin down airy instrumentals that inhabit the space between Slint and U2. Beautiful though this is, tonight it's just the calm before the storm…

And Selfish Cunt certainly know how to whip up a storm. They have clearly been following Malcolm McLaren's magic formula: inflammatory name + agit-prop lyrics + ban from leading venues = INFAMY. But, ironically, all of the controversy has seen the band all but written off as an art school electro punk sideshow.

Hence their recent bid for respect as 'serious' musicians, starting with replacing their tinny drum machine with a real life tubthumper, the oddly named Bambi. So tonight, instead of Throbbing Gristle, the Cooperage crowd get… well, the Sex Pistols. Martin Tomlinson may have lifted his gothic-droog image from A Clockwork Orange (with the exception of a disappearing vest he must have borrowed from Bruce Willis) but his on-stage persona is pure Johnny Rotten.

With Selfish Cunt, if the music doesn't grab you, Tomlinson will- by the hair. He spends much of tonight's gig in the crowd, manhandling people, spilling beers and baiting the bouncer with kissy-faces. The occasional wry grin tells you he doesn't really mean it (maaaan), this is just part of a performance. But what a performance it is- confrontational, exhilarating and unsettling. When he barges out of the venue, having failed to initiate some crowd participation- leaving his microphone and one unlucky punter on the floor- even guitar Cunt Patrick Constable seems relieved, timidly asking the crowd, 'Is he gone?' Yes, but he'll be back.