@TOMIKA, THE SAMURAI SEVEN, TEN FEET HIGH
Aldershot West End Centre
As far as opening support bands go, Ten Feet High were pretty good; fairly inoffensive, but completely enjoyable punk pop with a few rock riffs thrown in to beef their sound up a bit. They do have one genuinely excellent track, the chugging melody of 'Break My Fall', which was probably their finest song live, but some of the more rocking momments were cool too. The Samurai Seven are, without a doubt, one of the most intensely brilliant new bands out there. Everything about their live show is so fun: the drummer's trademark, very enthusiastic drum-rolls, the bassist's Travolta style dancing, the singer's wit and between song banter. And of course there's those storming, melody centered, harmony filled songs they have, such as 'Amateur Photographer' and 'Bonnet', each one a punk pop classic. The only thing that slightly ruined the performance was all the heckling from members of the audience, which began to frustrate the band by the end. Otherwise, fantastic!
I'm not quite sure yet about @tomika. They have quite a distinctive sound; kind of gritty pop with heavy bass lines, and some good songs, namely the slightly epic 'Surprise Me', the fine single 'Dead Flowers' and the new songs they debuted rocked. However, over a forty minute set there was too much patchy material which just passed over my head, the songs were too samey. The band are going on tour over the next couple of months though , and I am pretty sure they will hone their live set into something really proficient.
MANSUN, DARK STAR, PULL
Guildford Civic Hall
When Mansun were putting this tour together almost a year ago, they asked local, unsigned bands to send in demos, with the best being selected to support the band at their nearest venue on the tour. Well, unless they keep an extremely low profile, Pull aren't very local, maybe they come from Reading or something. They were okay, but their songs were too samey. A typical tune such as 'Do It For Me' went at a middling pace, with a blend of chugging and epic guitars providing the melody, completed with fairly bland vocals from an obviously excited singer. Fine within it's field, but not exactly breathtaking. Dark Star left the audience completely bemused, myself included. After the dark, brooding atmospherics of the comparatively accessible single 'I Am The Sun', the majority of the bands set mutated into a collection of grinding, industrial beats and fragmented, abrasive guitars. That is all fine by me, except Dark Star seemed to have little melody to base their songs around, in some cases leaving a horrible mess. Other songs had more of a hook you could pick up on, but ultimately I felt indifferent towards them.
There are things I do not like about Mansun: their persistence in writing incredibly long albums, their occasionally pretentious nature in interviews and, in the past, their failure to connect with the audience when playing live. Although they are much more of an enjoyable act to watch these days, special credit to Paul for his amazing dancing, their drawn-out tracks still leave me feeling weary. There are aspects I love about Mansun though, namely their knack for writing some genuinely invigorating music. At this gig I much preferred the material played from 'Six' than 'Attack Of The Grey Lantern'; maybe I'm too familiar with those older songs. The best songs on the night were the downbeat riffing of 'Special/Blown It', the magnificent sounds of latest single 'Six' and the hugely popular finale of 'Take It Easy Chicken'. Overall, Mansun's epic noise was occasionally dull, sometimes ridiculous, but often truly absorbing.
MIDGET, ABDOUJAPAROV, LUCAN
London Highbury Grove
Lucan were a strange support choice, preferring a clinical, growling, occasionally funky rock sound, to the headliners blend of pop and punk. They were okay but too formulaic, and their slower songs were a bit wimpy. Much better were their powerful, crunching rockers such as 'Turn To Stone'. In a far less serious, but considerably more enjoyable mould were Abdoujaparov. Their simplistic, '77 style punk was adored by a hardcore of fans at the front, and met by general approval by everyone else. The songs made you want to dance, had witty lyrics and Fruit Bat is a great frontman. They're never going to be big, but everyone they play to is going to like them.
Midget don't have a lot of stage presence, but their songs completely rock to make up for that deficiency. Over a couple of albums, they have created several punk-pop gems; 'All Fall Down's slick speed was a real crowd pleaser, 'Kylie And Jason' is two minutes of unadulterated punk fury and 'Parting Shot's guitar feedback crescendos provided variety to the set. The band also played a few new tracks, the fantastic lo-fi influenced screaming of 'Artwork', in which two pirates danced on stage for some reason, and the more traditional, but still fun 'Successful At Failing'. Where Midget fail most live is similar to their shortcomings on record; some of their songs are too fluffy and insubstantial. Generally however, they are a great band to watch, particularly during their most frantic moments.
FLOOR, STONY SLEEP, KANE, WINNER
Woking H.G. Wells Suite
After a shaky start, probably due to the band not having a sound check because of a fire-alarm, Winner's set was pretty good; lots and lots of speedy punk tunes. They saved their best songs till last, 'Alone', featured on the last Snakebite City, and their new single which I didn't catch the name of. The main criticism of their set was that there is not enough variety in the songs; the pace is too repetitive. There was quite a dramatic end to the set. Two people, one of whom emerged from backstage, leapt into the audience in what seemed a scuffle, but I'm not sure. All this, however, was much more fun than the very heavy Kane. I occasionally enjoyed some of their music, but too often the combination of grim lyrics, a grinding sound and overly long songs was hard to tolerate. This is just my opinion though; some people seemed to love them.
I've heard the name Stony Sleep a lot over the last couple of years, but, to my own loss, have never followed up on all the recommendations. They are an amazing live experience; very experimental, yet still retaining some pop elements, and sometimes throwing rock in there too. It was a highly enjoyable and interesting performance. Floor are the metal band to look out for this year. They have improved considerably since I last saw them to create a powerful, emotive sound. I also like them because they are so uncliched; they are obviously playing metal how they think it should sound. Look out for them, even if you don't usually like heavy bands.
INTER, SPEEDURCHIN, OIZONE, HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
Aldershot West End Centre
I only caught the second half of Holy Roman Empire's set, but what I saw was quite agreeable. Although their disco-punk sound is now a bit dated and sounded too synthesized, you could not help but enjoy their slick, glossy tunes and overall sense of fun. They didn't play any truly duff tracks, and the best was probably the sing-a-long 'Turn It Up'. The cymbal player is probably an inspiration to all those who want to be in a band but can't play an instrument, as well. Oizone are terrible, but at least they know it, and sometimes they are pretty amusing too. New track, a version of 'C'est La Vie' played to the tune of 'Alternative Ulster' by the Stiff Little Fingers went down almost as well as the riotous 'You're Gorgeous'. Speedurchin are a really cool band, I'm looking forward to their forthcoming album. Their razor edged punk was watched by a disappointingly small audience, but those who were there witnessed a strong set packed with solid little tunes, great drumming and lots of riffs. They probably need a few more docile numbers to avoid becoming repetitive, but for the moment they rock.
I have seen Inter so many times over the last couple of years, and while they have lost much of that energy that characterized their early performances, they have evolved into brilliant performers, with an army of cracking tunes. You can tell how much the band have improved when 'Happy Ending', once the pinnacle of their set, now slots rather innocuously in the middle of the show. Some of their new material is so good; 'Speed Racer' is fast (no pun intended!) becoming my favourite Inter song, 'Jimmy' is completely punk rock and 'Real Horror Show' is the band at their most sweepingly epic. And to cap a thoroughly entertaining, hour long performance the band finished with the anthemic 'Cherry Red, Electric Blue', and encored with Inter's most underrated track, the shimmering pop of 'Do You Fell Lucky?'. Along with the band's funny and quirky personalities, it cannot be long before their faces are staring at you from the front cover of the music weeklies.
MONKEY BOY, FLOOR, MATTED, HEAD UP
Guildford Plantation Cafe
The first two bands up were local bands, probably playing one of their first gigs. Both played metal, although Head Up liked their music dark and rumbling, in contrast to the rapping and guitar licking of Matted. The two groups were fairly competent musically, but both the vocalists were bland and detracted from the sound. Out of the two, I probably preferred Matted, but then I've always been a lightweight when it comes to metal. Although they too are local, to use a cliche, Floor are a completely different kettle of fish. I won’t elaborate too much because I've already reviewed them, but let's just say their ferocious sound and passionate performance is something quite special. I have never enjoyed a set by a metal band so much.
Floor completely tore the venue apart, and so could have proved in being a very hard act to follow. Monkey Boy suceeded in bettering them however, by doing everything that was unexpected. A singing drummer and two bass players produced a novel sound: part punk, part metal and with traces of jazz in there too. They were wild, adlibbing their way through a selection of fine tracks such as 'Animals Killed...'. The songs were long, but fun and full of quirky sections to keep the punters interested. I love bands that are trying to do something new, and Monkey Boy are producing a fresh sound to cherish.
Fourth Quartet Interview
Issue 3 Contents
Issue 3 Easter '99 © Tim Bragger