FUNGUS, NOJAHODA, CARETAKER
Aldershot West End Centre
Image can be deceptive; I didn't expect four inconspicuous teenagers from Petersfield to make such a ferocious, melodic and downright fantastic racket. Caretaker play their bass low, their guitars buzz, the singer sang straight from his gut and on songs such as 'Icarus' they had lovely, swooping choruses. It was occasionally confused, but that aura of unpredictability only added to the band's short, but very enjoyable set.
Watching a Nojahoda set is like listening to the history of music squashed into half an hour. Sandwiched between the opening instrumental version of 'Eye of the Tiger' and the hardcore punk of the finale was disco, country and western, glam, and in 'Drowning' the band even had a fully fledged Wembly style rock toon. The band were great performers too; the lead singer mutated from an escaped lunatic to breakdancing with ease, and whipped up a rare mosh-pit at the West End Centre. And that was all before the drummer had trashed his kit and the guitarist had clambered over the amplifiers at the set's climax. Okay, so they verged on novelty band status, but it was all still amazing stuff.
After all that, Fungus were a disappointment. It was hard not to like their dumb pop-rock, but it was more difficult to find anything inspiring in their formulaic and often repetitive tunes, and the band rather lacked the charisma needed to connect well with the audience. That said, 'Over my Head' is a fantastic little single, and was the clear highlight of the set, and I guess they sounded fine enough to jump around to a bit, but overall I think the word 'average' sums them up best.
DUSTBALL, ATL, DREYFUSS
Aldershot West End Centre
From the ashes of the bouncy indie-pop that was Snideline comes a band that,er...don't sound much like their old selves. No, Dreyfuss want to rock, and very often they suceeded. There is a very spiky edge to the melodic mess that is songs such as 'Leather' and the slightly more robust 'March of the Trooperdoes'. With a shambolic set, containing at least two false starts, the band pretty much captivated the audience during their opening slot, although I did find my attention waning towards the end, as the tracks weakened rather. Overall though, Dreyfuss have some brilliant, thrashy tunes that i hope to hear more of in coming months.
I can't really rate ATL very much. They try to cover up the fact that they played fairly ordinary indie-by-numbers with art school pretention. Okay, so the go-go dancer gave the band a slightly unusual stage presence, but the music rarely excited. The best track was probably the chugging single, 'Son of the Human Cannonball', but even that recieved only a polite ripple of applause.
Dustball on the other hand are, and always have been, completly amazing. Although many of the punters preferred the delights of sitting in the bar, Dustball played a fantastic set packed full of new material and a couple of old favourites, namely the closing rush of 'Owe it all to...'. The new tracks sounded very promising indeed. 'Like Monkeys Do' sees bassist Tarrant's screamed rambling taking the band into a harder direction. 'Oh Jeff' in contrast, is another one of those two-minute punk-pop gems that Dustball have proved so capable of writing. There goes another cracking performance by Dustball at the West End Centre, then.
LLAMA FARMERS, SEAFOOD, TWIST
London Highbury Garage
There was quite a buzz going round the Garage already, as much touted girl band Twist took to the stage. Initially, their growling grunge tunes were swamped by a muddy sound, and it wasn't until the more poppy pairing of 'Cheat' and 'Star' were aired that Twist began to excel. By the end of their set, I'd warmed to their fairly unoriginal, but still likeable, frazzled rock songs.
Seafood were even better than I remember. They played a lot of new material which, unfortunately, due to the band's typically lo-fi mumblings, I didn't catch the names of. However, the new songs were outstanding; some blew me away with their sonic guitar noise, whilst others drew me in with gentle guitar strumming and cooed vocals. Basically, they went all over the place, whilst restraining from being self-indulgent, which made their set a joy to listen to. The highlight was the glorious 'Porchlight'; Seafood suceeded even in surpassing the recorded version, with thunderous waves of intense feedback and a brutal assault of their guitars.
By now the Garage was packed and sweltering, but however hard the Llama Farmers tried, they couldn't top Seafood. Songs such as 'Always Echoes' and 'Get the Keys and Go' are lovely, rousing tunes, but too often the band couldn't distinguish themselves enough from their Seattle-based influences and the hoards of other young bands that peddle Nivarna-esque music. In all, it was a fine performance, full of grit and vitality, but the Llama Farmers need a few more strong songs to create a satisfying set.
THE MONSOON BASSOON, FOURTH QUARTET
Aldershot West End Centre
It was a real surprise to see Fourth Quartet open with a duo of abrasive lo-fi rock numbers; 'Blank Document' and 'The Hope Part' expressed an energy that isn't portrayed on their records. This unexpected noise highlighted further the contrast with Fourth Quartet's more typical, delicate sad-core. It was during these quieter moments that singer Noah's angelic voice really impressed. The set largely consisted of excellent new songs, particularly the nihilistic finale of 'Spray', that should see Fourth Quartet cementing their place amongst the new breed of minimalist bands currently emerging.
I've never seen the West End Centre appreciate a band as much as they did The Monsoon Basoon; there was some serious rocking go on, and despite having not yet purchased their album, I too was soon absorbed by the band's jazz tinged pyschadelic-rock. There were three main singers, each of whom had their own distinctive styles. I enjoyed the female voice the most, especially the gentle lullaby of 'Volcano', but the boggly-eyed chap also sung some great messy rock songs, unusually accompanied by a clarinet and sometimes even a guitar played like a violin! It was a real privilege to witness such an original band, that produced a fine array of new and bizarre ideas amongst some fantastic rock tunes.
Issue 4 Contents
Issue 4 Summer '99 © Tim Bragger