Future of the Left, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, KASMs, White Belt Yellow Tag, Kong
Steven Morgan 10/09/2009
The second of the Fistful Of Fandango nights which see Club Fandango take over the two rooms of 229 is a more brutal affair than the others in store, though there are none more brutal than openers Kong. Kong are a nightmare. The masks, the punishing riffs, the seething anger that spills out through the set from start to finish, you watch with can't help gawp with keen interest, mixed with a little fear. Magpie's rhythmic, clipped, reverbed vocals are sparse; his guitar sound has the treble heavy razor sharp distortion preferred by Steve Albini used to belt out riffs that aren't a million miles from Shellac in the first place. I saw Kong a few years ago and they were nowhere near as tight as they were tonight, they've come a long way. The songs are exhaustingly structured as the levels jump and fall amongst winding song structures stacked with explosions of aggression. By the end they've won me over, I need to get hold of their album Snake Magnet.
As we walk through to room two, the next band couldn't be further removed from Kong. White Belt Yellow Tag unashamedly work their way (and I mean work in the laborious sense) through inoffensive rock in the realm of U2 whose only differentiating factor from the Keane's, Coldplay's and Snow Patrol's of this world is a mildly more distorted guitar sound, as though someone had slipped them a My Bloody Valentine album at the end of the song writing phase. The drummer is a disturbing focal point at the centre of the stage, with only his black vest, expensive haircut and choreographed orgasmic faces on show, you feel uncomfortably dirty looking at him. Not that there's much else to watch though, as the rest of the band rely on extensive backing tracks to give them more time to stand around looking moody.
Things aren't much better with KASMs, whose appeal is heavily dependent on the male heavy crowd leering over Rachel-Mary Callaghan. The songs are often forgettable and do little more than pad around the yelps reminiscent of a sleazy approximation of Jesus and Mary Chain. Rachel-Mary Callaghan's stage antics are captivating, enough that most of the crowd won't even notice the guitar / drums interchanges that Scott Walker and Rory Brattwell are making, but even as I write this just hours after the set, I struggle to remember how the music sounded.
Within seconds of Dinosaur Pile-Up's set I shudder at the thought of a grunge resurgence becoming chic once more. The first song kicks off sounding more like Ash than anyone could want, even Ash. The tunes are pleasant enough, but it's difficult to hear an individual sound in this three piece. Their influences are so proudly displayed on their sleeves, it makes you wonder what the point of them is. There's nothing wrong with their sound, per se, there are some moments that'll even get you humming along, but on the whole its familiar uniformity doesn't take long to tire of.
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club are a welcome change in sound, if for the playful vocal styles that bring to mind the best parts of the Pixies alone. It's a ramshackle affair, but one with songs crafting good enough to back it up. Louise Mason & Steph Jones's vocals often repeat in a mantric manner giving Adam Taylor a great platform to play against with his own. There's alchemy amongst the sonic package which often creates moments greater than the sum of its parts. Never ones to overdo it, you feel everything from a minimalist drum beat to the particular sound chosen for a single chord has been painstakingly premeditated here. There's no here-come-the-disco-drums, there's no wall of feedback, just understated, interesting music.
To finish things off, come the main attraction for the majority of attendees (barring those who couldn't stop shouting about Kong from start to finish), Future Of The Left. I've seen the band six times before, but never have I seen them play a set as perfect as this one. The guitars are loud enough, the crowd is ready for it and over the course of an hour and a quarter we're treated to a devastating live performance from one of the greatest bands of this decade. Falco can't hide the smile on his face as the crowd completely lose it from the delicate menace of the opening riff of Arming Eritrea to Kelson walking on the palms of the willing crowd at the end of a characteristically blistering performance of Cloak The Dagger. The banter is as cuttingly witty as usual with a few drunks at the front willingly pulled apart by the band. Kelson's charisma alone could see him going down the Henry Rollins path of spoken word tours, but for now let's just hope he just keeps playing these incredible songs. I'm sure I wasn't alone wondering as Kelson whispered to Falco towards the end of the set whether we were about to be treated to a Mclusky / Jarcrew tune. When we hear the opening notes to the excellent Drink Nike instead, you know there's no need to look to the past with songs of this calibre. The bitterness of the lack of deserved success was pretty clear on the lyrics of the second album, but tonight leaves you with hope for their future. Falco was once quoted as saying "Jarcrew were as good live as Shellac" but after shows like that, you can confidently claim that Future Of The Left can be as good live as Les Savy Fav.