Blossoms / Cabbage / Rory Wynne – The Engine Shed, Lincoln, 20th March 2017

Posted: 21 March 2017 in Live
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a perverse irony in my presence at this show in my capacity as correspondent for Aural Aggravation, a site devoted explicitly to music that’s underground and obscure. This is not least of all because I’m old enough to remember when the NME was a key publication for giving coverage to bands who were not only unknown and obscure, but often likely to remain so. In moving with the times, the NME has metamorphasised into a free, glossy, picture-rich publication that’s far more likely to feature Beyoncé than Bell Monks or break_fold. In fact, Bell Monks and break_fold won’t get a look in, and it’s not because they’re not artistically interesting or of merit. And as for feature-length reviews, forget it. All of which is partly the reason for my doing what I do.

Any show which sells out a series of 1,800 or so capacity venues is not underground by definition, and likewise any event sponsored by VO5. Still, it’s as much an indication of the nature of the music industry now that for tours to be feasible for even moderate-sized acts, they need corporate backing and to shift a shedload of merch. And of course, the corporate backers need to break into large markets. In other words, it’s economic, and it goes both ways.

So why am I here? In a word: Cabbage. It’s fair to say they’re a fairly unlikely breakthrough act. Manchester’s answer to Fat White Family, the band, who’ve been unequivocal in their opinions on The Sun, nationalism and Brexit, pithily describe themselves as ‘neo post-punk’ (most certainly not to be confused with the New Wave of New Wave) and are as far from the kind of aural chewing gum that’s sadly become synonymous with indie in the second decade of the second millennium.

I’m not about to pretend to be down with the kids: the venue is rammed with teens and student types, with older folk – and by the looks of things, some parents of the student types – hanging back. Because I’m not down with the kids, I can safely say I’m sure there was never as much cleavage on display when I used to go to gigs in my university days. But then, that’s perhaps because I never went to trendy gigs like this, who knows? Anyway, my knowledge of Rory Wynne prior to my arrival extends to a cursory Google search which tells me he’s an up-and-coming teenage indie rocker. Rory plays with a full backing band. Who knew? They’re conspicuously absent from his press shots. As a band, hey have a good energy, and Wynne looks to be enjoying himself up there. Musically, his up-tempo guitar-led alt-rock is perfectly passable, but does essentially sound like every early 90s US alt-rock act boiled down to its most generic form, and his cliché guitar-lofting poses get tired quickly. The set also has a rather strange ending: he thanks the crowd – who have been pretty tepid in their response – before launching into an instrumental number. A minute or so in, he carefully putts his guitar down and tosses his pick into the rows. Moments later, the rest of the band follow suite, toss their pics and wander off looking a bit confused.

Cabbage, as one would expect are by far the most challenging, and exhilarating, act on the bill, and on account of that, all the more surprising for their inclusion. Is this what the kids are into? I’d like to think so: it gives me hope that songs like ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ could be anthems for a generation. But I rather suspect that more of the oldies present have turned up for them, their enthusiasm for new music reignited by a band who combine the angular, jarring guitar lines of early Fall albums with a snotty punk thrash, while also evoking the spirit of The Stooges. The bass is nostril-vibratingly booming, and there’s an attacking edge to the sound even in this aircraft hangar of a venue. Many of their songs are brash, juvenile, perverse in a puerile way, but there’s a strong sense that they’re fully aware of this and are revelling in the awkward shock value of singing about necrophilia and masturbation. They’re shambolic / not shambolic – which is to say, they play like they don’t give a fuck, but are still tight, and can nail a motorik rockabilly groove with the best of then: Babyshambles they’re not. A week or so back, Lee Broadbent was in a wheelchair having fractured his pubic rami in a bizarre wall-leaping accident. Tonight, he manages to limped onto the stage and limp about a reasonable amount, but performs most of the set seated, sneering and snarling atonally from a slouchy, reclining position. But even this is an inverse type of showmanship, and contrasts with Joe Martin’s spasmodic flailings. Shirtless and scrawny, he comes on like Iggy Pop. They deserve a way more visible show of appreciation from the crowd: one girl is up on someone’s shoulders and a few people are bouncing around, but most are static and either filming or texting on their phones.

Cabbage

Cabbage

There’s a rush toward the front of the stage immediately after their set, but what I witness next is truly horrific: the audience finally start getting animated. There are people dancing and singing along – to the Courteeners, whose ’19 Forever’ is playing over the PA. People are snapping and filming the stage and grabbing selfies – while the crew set the stage for the headliners. There are whoops as each vocal mic is checked. And then the band walk on, half-hidden behind smoke and… well, the crowd mostly get back to standing around, snapping photos and WhatsApping with their mates.

Live, Blossoms are quite a different proposition from their recorded output. If their studio presents them as dark-hued indie, then live it’s the darkness that comes to the fore. The enter to a pulsating synth throb by way of an intro to ‘At Most a Kiss’.

The thunderous, steely electro groove is swiftly dampened by a so-so vocal and a bouncier pop tone. I don’t want to be too harsh in my critique of Blossoms, and will admit to having a soft spot for them, with a greater appreciation in light of their live show. They do have dynamic range and some solid, insistent basslines. They do convey a certain broodiness. The jiggish guitar line on ‘Blow’ has hints of The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘First and Last and Always’ about it, and there are three girls, about a third of the way back, up on people’s shoulders, arms waving arabesques: it’s starting to resemble a Mission gig. And the reference isn’t entirely out of place: with their accessible, anthemic sensibilities, Blossoms live call to mind the lighter end of the mid-80s goth spectrum, the point at which it had transitioned from post-punk to indie-goth.

Blossoms

Blossoms

I glance around the venue from the front row to witness an ocean of lofted phones. In fairness, they are visually striking and snap well. With dense smoke and dazzling spots and strobes casting the band in silhouette, they’ve got the Sisters’ visual stylings nailed: musically, however, they’re more Rose of Avalanche than Doktor Avalanche. On balance, it would be churlish to begrudge them: Blossoms’ music may be steeped in the music of thirty years ago, but it’s distinctive in the scheme of the commercial musical landscape of 2017.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s