Mark L 27/12/2004
The kids rule the streets here, 15 year old rude boys pouring over the kerb like gangs of mice. Street riots of hollow hearted track suited teens worrying about ring tones and how to look hard. Shouting and screaming at each other while boy racer wagons with tinted windows fly by at stupid speeds on the Southend Road nearby. Two ambulances go past, the narrow streets are lined with police vans. This is Leigh On Sea. I could close my eyes and be back in fucking Romford.
The Grand Hotel sits in the centre of this maelstrom, facing out in the direction of the seafront. A traditional Victorian building now crawling with the new found 'modernity' of Leigh On Sea with it's three way downstairs 'disco' bar full of casual punters and gangs of teens. Compared to the menace outside, it seemed like a relative safe haven. Upstairs Rhesus were playing in a hired function suite fitted out with a wooden dance floor, traditional fixtures, lush brown curtains and decorative ceiling murals. I said that I felt like I was at a wedding. When Rhesus started playing I felt like I was at a wedding on acid.
Because although a room such as this, with it's mobile PA and traditional decor should by all rights suck the life from punk bands, Rhesus twisted and exploded with such raw energy they made me think 'Hey bands like this should be compulsory at all weddings, fuck hi ho silver lining'. Spiky guitars, heart attack drums and Jim Rhesus screaming his lungs out - this was raw and primal, a band on the edge, preaching in the midst of the brainless macho posturing of the street kids outside. Straight out of the blocks with the speedy Too Weak, Rhesus were just getting warm before the incendiary “Fuck It Up” sees Jim spitting intelligent lyrics wrapped in brilliant edgy infectious pop punk to rival classic early Manics. If there is any justice this is a number 1 song in the making (F*ck It Up for the censors).
'This is the last resistance; do you want to take control?'- Art Is Dead
Yeah, you at the back, you could say Rhesus aren't doing anything radically different, just like the 100s of other punk rock circuit bands, they know the value in straight ahead verse/chorus/ verse/mid 8/repeat to stop punkrock&roll TM. There is no weird experimentation here, no crumbling boundaries. So what? Well The difference is they do it so much better than these 100s of other sub standard crap bands. Rhesus have the tunes, and importantly infuse them with intelligence and integrity. Rhesus are telling the kids to 'Get a fucking grip', to stop being so led, so brainless, to stop setting their sights so low. And they are doing it the quickest way to the bloodstream, through classic hooks, melody and style. Yeah style, I mean there can be no doubts that this band looks cool. 'I see the kids get above their station' - Fuck It Up
A storming “Means to And End” sees Jim Rhesus clash guitars with Aurora on bass, whilst Arran the drummer has been hitting out so hard you can almost feel the sticks splintering as they thwack the skins. Twack Twack. Bang Bang. One flies out his hand, but he keeps on going, knuckles bleeding. I love the rawness this evening. 'Malfaetu ' brings Wayne Rhesus (lead guitarist) in on distinctive old skool punk lead vocals, illustrating that this band have many cylinders to fire on to keep you glued in that important mid set period. Did I mention that Rhesus don't do any shitty fake American accents? Brit vocals and proud of it. Then comes set slowie The Performance. Admittedly never my fave Rhesus song, here they pull it off with a rough and ready disorder that makes me enjoy it more than I have done previously. The sentiment perhaps more cutting than the song itself, seemingly a form of resignation, that whatever a band says or tries to get across, when it comes down to it they really don't have all the answers, it is up to you in the end to make the difference, if you can.
The closing triplet of songs is led by forthcoming new single Art is Dead with Jim now screaming out against 'manufactured anarchy' and giving his guitar a good beating in the process. Then “DeEducation,” another track worthy of single status complete with inspired James D. Bradfield style guitar solo and the powerful refrain of 'I don't wanna be a slave to history' echoing out like a battle cry over a cracking beat. It sees the band fighting out for their right to a voice. Because, the main problem Rhesus are going to come up against is embodied in this song, being made 'slaves to history', to what has gone before. With their slogans and their image, there are those who will say that they are ripping off what the Manics have done, or trying what the Clash; the Pistols have covered etc ad infinutum. These are the sort of people who harp on about originality rather than decent songs. The sort of criticism which is peculiarly intensified when directed towards any band wanting to make a statement. This is criticism from people who don't understand how frustrated our generation are with history suffocating us and telling us that things have already been done. Expired. Used. Fuck them, because Rhesus will be important and relevant to you because they are speaking to YOUR generation, during the NOW, and with a clutch of quality scuzz rock tunage.
The storming Pixies/Nirvana esque "EYOY" closes the set. Jim has come on as a vocalist since the first time I saw Rhesus, especially in the all important scream department. I love a good screamer and Jim just intensifies his vocal performance as the set reaches its climax, freed from the constraints of a guitar he goes full blown vocal chord burning. Auroras' scuzz bassline opens the track and the drums and guitars go full on as everything feels like its going to fall apart, just held by a thread; Jim is flying about the stage. CRASH. Arran's cymbal is on the floor. Jim has walked off to have a sit down, head in hands. Wayne's' amp is screaming out before he tells it to 'shut the fuck up'.