Latest live review
DIVORCE, CHILD ABUSE, DEAD DAYS BEYOND HELP
January 24th 2011
This is, I hear, the first time for Upset The Rhythm to promote a gig at this venue, and it's looking good - nice room at the back of a no-nonsense pub. Typical of Upset The Rhythm to get the bill just right - three bands with complementary differences and similarities.
the guitar and drum duo of Alex Ward and Jem Doulton, aka Dead Days
Beyond Help. US combos like Lightning Bolt,
Orthrelm and Hella
have proved that you can do a great deal with a drums-plus-one
and DDBH are no exception - and they sound like they're a product of
their own parallel evolution. Ward's guitar work is
an angsty, simmering blues with an inner-city edge. Sensitive ears will
recognise the pressure-cooker build that made Camp Blackfoot so fierce
- Alex was the main writer of that spectacular and doomed outfit. These
are almost all new, unreleased works, and most is long and intense and
well and truly mathy: drums and guitar sculpting chunks and blocks of
differing rythmns and riffs, some with vocals and lyrics.
a downbeat, straight blues piece too, with the restraint of
boy-next-door serial killers, Oxbow without any of the release. The
between drums and guitar is just what we want from these experimental
duo types: the purity and energy of creating all these complex shapes
and bringing them to life without the weight of a full band.
Half way through we get a great bit of unplanned theatre: Alex breaks a string, and having either the confidence or lack of funds to go onstage without a backup guitar, changes the string and does a bit of running guitar repair whilst continuing to riff and sound-sculpt. Doulton keeping the drums going, Ward controlling a bit of minor sonic devastation whilst wrestling with pliers before stepping nonchalantly straight into the next number to the delight of the crowd. The shifting compositions that follow are bleak and completely part of their environment, edgy not as some estate agent's blurb but in the very real sense of crossing a near empty street to shake the dodgy guys following you. Dead Days Beyond Help show what brilliant musicianship is for - just playing like it's a conversation, saying stuff that can only be said with drums and guitar. They are just right on this bill, just what's needed to soften us up for...
ABUSE. Funny how it just
rolls off the tongue after a while. There's three
of them, and
they play in the dark, backlit by UTR's fairy lights and
faces horrifically lit up by keyboard lights and camera flashes like
that bit in the tunnel in the original Charlie and
Factory film that scared the bejeezus out of us all as kids.
Their noise is absolutely distinctive - the stabbing
use-of-synth-as-percussion might bring to mind The Locust, but what you
remember most about Child Abuse live is the pulse of their cycling
rythmns - all sixes and thumping you in the gut on that fifth beat and
the tension building...
They're a trio: tall, angular-cheekboned guy hanging over the keyboard and snarling the vocals, a shadowy bassist nailing all down, smart and relentless, and the second great drummer of the night.
Child Abuse are from New York, a respected part of the exploding avant-rock golden age going on in that part of the world right now. They have this distinctive rotational pulse, punctuated with grinding keyboard stabs on complex, odd-number cycles, suggesting something big and important and necessary to civilisation about to break off it's bearings. And this build-up thing going on underneath... what IS that? It's the sound of static electricity building up, the whine of capacitors filling up with a lethal charge, neeeeeeee - or is it the Bomb falling from on high? Somehow a modern noise that sparks primitive ativistic fear... how can that be? It's hard to tell if a release happens - but there's a kind of glee in it, a headcleaning life force, a celebration of the wrongness in the machine.
Listen hard, and you might catch the depth of complexity in those spiralling rhythmic structures - but why analyse? They're lost in it, the sheer immersion and freedom of really knowing their stuff. That's where the power is. Plenty bands past and present have gone for the shock value and the power of noise, but this Child Abuse lot, these posessors of the Band Name Most Likely To Get You Beaten Up For Wearing Their Tshirt, Even These Days ...they're not just noise. This is a construction that has power and the weight of human obsession and pain and release in it, power that mere noisemakers fumble for. Terrifying and suprisingly life-affirming.
...And then we all stagger out to the bar, and the place is pretty full - great turnout for a winter Monday night, a newish venue off the familiar circuit. Full of people - let's face it - obsessed by out there music, and people I've not seen in a while and... oh dear. I keep hearing chunks of DIVORCE sounding great in the main room, sounding a bit more than great, actually, sounding friggin brilliant, then getting into a great conversation about Zs or Three Trapped Tigers or... Look, all these years of Organgrinding and I never did this before... I saw the last 30 seconds of Divorce from the back of the room and it sounded great and I'm kicking myself, and you'll kick yourself if you miss them next time. Here's a vid of the previous gig... ouch, ouch. Owww!