Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Christopher Nosnibor

The soundcheck in progress while I’m ordering my first pint suggests we’re in for a loud night. Well, the Facebook event page did give fair warning. It’s a good job I’ve brought earplugs: the guy behind the bar points out that he’s already wearing his.

It’s 6:40pm on a Sunday evening in August. Outside, it’s still warm and the sun is out. Inside, it’s seriously dark, even with the curtains open and daylight filtering in. The THING – whose ‘Nightmares for Children’ streamed exclusively on Aural Aggravation back in April, begin their set with a dolorous bell chime and ominous, droning synths. The fear notes give way to a massage deluge of gut-grinding sludge: the guitar sounds like a bass, the bass sounds the bowels of Beelzebub after a phal. As they thunder through a continuous half-hour set, I’m reminded of Sleep, but the samples and synths which emerge through the murk gives an industrial edge to the doomy dronescape which reaches its climax by building through a single chord and floor to being battered at increasing speed before breaking into a tsunami of sludge.

The THING

The THING

Rotting Monarchs win band name of the night, no question. But starting fifteen minutes late in a tightly-packed schedule is not so cool, and they seem a bit disorganised and lacking in finesse. Still, their shouty, grindy punky racket brought together bits of NOFX with hints of Bomb Disneyland, which is no bad thing.

The place is suddenly a lot busier: Shrieking Violet have brought their mates. And they’re young. Many of them have short skirts and shiny new DMs. I’m here in my cracked £20 steel-toed Chelsea boots and beer-stained jacket. I’m not expecting much. Yes, they’re pure 80s, as if the singer’s hair and shirt didn’t give it away. The first track has hints of early Ultravox. But equally as the set progresses, I’m reminded of This Et Al minus the falsetto. They benefit from some hooky tunes propelled by some phenomenal, powerhouse percussion. ‘Avalanche’ is built around a steely, cyclical riff worthy of Killing Joke, and overall, it’s a strong set.

Shrieking Violet

Shrieking Violet

They may be playing as a three-piece sans bassist Dani, but SEEP AWAY still manage to bring eye-popping intensity and ear-shredding volume to proceedings. The eight-string guitar ensures the sound’s got density, and when paired with Dom Smith’s fierce drumming – his second set of the night having already pounded through The THING’s set – there’s plenty of sonic backdrop for Jay to do his manic thing. He’s a hell of a showman: that he’s wild and unpredictable and relentlessly in the crowd’s faces means you can’t take your eye off him for a second.

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SEEP AWAY

My opinions on novelty bands are no secret, and in the main, I think they suck. Petrol Hoers are a novelty bad so perverse, so fucked-up and plain wrong, that they’re an exception. Two blokes – two fat blokes – one wearing dungarees with no shirt, but a comedy horse’s head, the other wearing red Y-fronts, a fine mesh vest and a Mexican wrestling mask, stomp around hollering over backing tracks of blistering, uptempo industrial-strength bangin’ techno. In paper, it sounds both weird and shit in equal measure, but the audacity of these guys is as sheer as the pants guy’s top. The half dozen people who last the duration of their set absolutely fucking love it.

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Petrol Hoers

Little Death Machine take the stage ten minutes after their set was supposed to finish. Are they worth the wait? Absolutely. The London trio play in near-darkness, adding to the taut atmosphere which emanates from their technically precise and detailed compositions. On account of being scribbled in the dark (and not on account of the pints consumed over the course of the evening), my notes are a shade difficult to decipher, but in the moment I was taken by their rock / post-rock / hop-hop / soul rock hybrid. I also note by way of reference points Placebo, Oceansize, Nine Inch Nails, TesseracT, and some stuff I can’t make out from the scrawl.

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Little Death Machine

Did I really write ‘soul rock’? Yes, it appears so, and if that reads like an insult or criticism, it’s not: the moods that are deeply entwined within the songs, which are complex and progressive in their structures, are played with a sincerity and soulfulness that you feel. And that’s something no amount of technical ability or compositional dexterity can fake. It’s emotive, textured and resonant. And the perfect finish to an intense and varied night of live music.

Christopher Nosnibor

For those who aren’t fans of extreme music, it’s often hard to see the appeal. ‘How can you listen to that, let alone enjoy it?’ is a common line of questioning. Often, the response can be boiled down to a single word: catharsis.

The one thing that always strikes me about events like these is just how friendly the atmosphere is. The fans are friendly and many, like me, seem shy and reserved – until they completely go mental in the moshpit. And it’s in this context that extreme music makes perfect sense. I may be nursing bruised ribs today after my quest for photos landed me in the line of danger but never once did I feel in any way threatened: it’s all freaks, outcasts and oddballs together in a safe environment.

What had initially been booked as a standard date on the UK leg of Full of Hell’s tour metamorphasised into an eleven-band extravaganza when circumstances dictated a change of promoter. And there wasn’t a weak act on the bill, and the first couple, Cheap Surgery and Hoof Glove both stood at the punkier end of the musical spectrum than the screaming metal end. It’s not so much that it was welcome to be eased in gently as a positive thing to be treated to some musical range: it’s not as if either was light or poppy, with Cheap Surgery evoking the spirit of bands like Penetration. Hoof Glove, meanwhile, are a band of two halves with a metal rhythm section onstage and an electronic noise duo at a table in front of it. Processed-to-fuck female vocals add a different shade of intensity to a grainy noise reminiscent in places of the abrasive angst of Xmal Deutchschland.

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Cheap Surgery                                               Hoof Glove

A close-cropped screamer in a Crass T-shirt leads the full-throttle attack of Hex, and it was midway through their confrontational, fiery set that the slam-dancing commenced, hinting at the shape of things to come.

Led by the Throat may look like four ordinary guys, but they’re the first band to bring the full-on snarling metal assault to proceedings, and they bring it from the first bar of their tight, powerful set. As he paces the stage, the singer emanates a malevolent energy that’s as powerful as his patterned shirt is tasteless.

I can’t remember when or where I last saw Groak, but I remember them being good, and this evening’s performance confirms my memory is correct. Singer / guitarist Ben Southern is wearing a Rudimentary Peni t-shirt and the band’s sludgy, dirgy churn is propelled – slowly – by Steve Myles’ crushing percussion (how many bands is this guy in?). This is music dredged from the pits of the lower regions of hell, and pretty much as intense as it gets. Or so you’d think. But it’s only 6:30 in the evening by the time they leave the stage, and we’re not even halfway through the lineup.

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Groak

Masters of Powerviolence Lugubrious Children, who released a spit EP with Groak last year are up next, and they’re punishing too. The trio bring the power and the pace, and the result is carnage.

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Lugubrious Children

It only gets better, and more intense, with Gets Worse. Very much a beards and long shorts band, they’re bristling additional strings, with a massively overdriven five-string bass bringing the low-end that grinds below a pair of seven-string guitars. And all of those stings are downtuned and sludged to the max. A single power chord sustains for a full minute before the juggernaut chug slams in. This is a full-on, balls-out racket that draws together the slow trudge of Godflesh and the tearing frenzy of Napalm Death to devastating effect.

Famine are one of those bands who just get better with every outing. Having seen them grow from a snotty two-piece into a thunderous, ferocious gut-ripping threesome who are tighter and more ferocious with every show. My notes from their set are sparse and only semi-legible, but in front of a home crowd, they’re assured and received the violently rapturous reception they deserved.

I’d been recommended Unyielding Love by a friend whose opinion I very much respect, and they didn’t disappoint, taking the snarling gnarliness to a whole other level. The seven-string guitar and five-string bass congeal into a thick glutinous sonic slime with optimum low-end. It’s driven by rapid-fire drumming that’s hard enough to crack any skull, and overlaid with brain-shredding electronic noise. Their relentlessly savage set can be perhaps defined as the sound of a goat’s skull being dragged underfoot about the stage echoing amidst a heavy organ drone, before processed reverby vocals erupt into a howling vortex of noise. And tat all actually happened, in real life.

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Unyielding Love

I’ve no idea who I saw performing a ‘secret set’ in the Meatlocker (the venue’s second stage, still draped with original plastic curtains because it was absolutely fucking heaving and I’d had a few beers by this point but they were intense and loud and brutal. But Full of Hell… Fucking hell. I’d run into Dylan Walker shortly before the set and was struck by just what an affable guy he was. On stage, of course, it’s another story: blasting ear-bleeding electronics and brutal vocals with a violent energy amidst a raging tempest of the harshest grindcore around, live shows don’t come more intensely visceral than this. How much of the set was lifted from the latest long-player, Trumpeting Ecstasy, I couldn’t say: I was too busy avoiding flailing feet and flying bodies, and clearly, the pain in my left side tells me I failed somewhere during the mayhem. But this…. THIS is catharsis.

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Full of Hell

I stopped to have my photo taken with some random strangers on my way out: they liked my hat. I may have drunk too much beer, but in the main, I was hitting the cool night air elated and exhilarated, and on a different plane from the one I had arrived on.

Christopher Nosnibor

It says a lot about a gig’s lineup when the band at the bottom of the bill are of a clear headline standard. It’s clear, then, that Dan and Naomi Gott, the pair behind the Behind the White Door promoter’s outfit, who also happen to be Snakerattlers, are determined to give their album a decent launch tonight.

Local lads Black Lagoons, sporting a selectin of shirts worse than my own, start out with some fuzzy bass and heavily tremolod guitars, leading into a raging slab of punk-tinged desert psych. The bulk of the set’s dominated by gnarled-up blues boogies thrashed out at a hundred mile an hour. It’s a hell of a ride, and I’m reminded a little of early Gallon Drunk: it’s not just the sharp haircuts, but the furious, frenzied take on rock ‘n’ roll which yields an intense, immersive wall of sound.

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Black Lagoons

London’s Sly Persuaders, on the face of it, offer a more straight-ahead brand of punk rock, but as the set progresses it’s clear there’s a lot more going on. They’ve got some swagger behind a stack of sinewy guitar lines and rugged, serrated bass tones, carrying hints of The Screaming Blue Messiahs in places, as well as the spiky grit of various Touch & Go bands from the early 90s in others. It’s invigorating, and it’s also getting bloody hot in the low-ceilinged pub venue.

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Sly Persuaders

The problem with ‘fun’ bands is that everyone has a different idea of fun. Naturally, some modes of fun are more populist than others, and it perhaps goes without saying that punk in itself isn’t exactly the mainstream. Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies churn out pub rock punk with lyrics which leap from wry sociopolitical critiquing to observations on ‘modern’ art (although I’d probably bracket avant-garde provocateur Marcel Duchamp as a proto-postmodernist myself).

Pete himself doesn’t look a day under 50, and resembles a young Mark E Smith. He’s backed by a band considerably younger, and augmented with the performance element of ‘the dinnerettes’ a couple of buxom women with red gingham overdresses with fried egg patches sewn onto their boons, who make choreographed gesticulations to illustrate the lyrics. Or, sometimes, they just jog on the spot as during the ska knees-up about Uri Geller. They end up in a writhing heap in front of the stage at the end of the end of the set and everyone applauds because it’s a right laugh. The sax does give them a bit of a Psychedelic Furs vibe, though, which is a plus.

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Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies

Snakerattlers haven’t been around long, but since losing their drummer and disbanding The Franceens, Dan and Naomi have wasted no time in pulling together a set, a busy gig diary and now an album. To launch it, they play a set comprising everything they’ve got. And they play it hard.

As a two-piece, theirs is a minimal set-up – Naomi has a simple, three-piece drum kit consisting of tom, snare and cymbal, and Dan fill out his guitar sound with a fuckload of reverb, plays through two amps (guitar and bass) and cranks it up LOUD. Their sound is s wild rockabilly blues country rock ‘n’ roll surf hybrid, with many of the lyrics consisting of hollers and whoops. Dan works up a sweat, while Naomi has a more nonchalant, easy style, swinging her arms and hips in a way that looks effortless, but she hits hard and keeps it tight.

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Snakerattlers

In many respects, the simplicity is the key to what makes Snakerattlers a great band: there’s no clutter, either about the sound or the performance. There’s not a whole heap of banter and the songs are cut down to the bare essentials, meaning they get their heads down to the business of kicking out high-octane garage rock. They do low-down boogie; they do guitar lines with strut and swagger; they do hooks. They do it all with force, and it’s appreciatively received, ensuring Rattlerock is well and truly launched.

Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m here as a paying punter. I’m here to pay tribute. As a fan of Swans from my mid-teens in the early 90s, I had never expected to see them play live. But the last seven years have yielded four albums of ever-expanding enormity and ambition; I’ve seen the band play not once, but three times, and had the opportunity to interview Michael Gira, an artist I’ve long admired. I’m here to experience that sonic force one last time, and to thank the band in my own small way for everything they’ve given since returning with My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky in 2010.

The crowd swells steadily during Little Annie’s performance. Little Annie may be petite, as her name suggests, but she’s an awesome presence. She has insane cheekbones and intense eyes – more than once she fixes on me and I feel as if she’s boring into my soul. I fear she knows I failed to complete and publish a review of State of Grace, her 2012 album with Baby Dee. I’m feeling a pang of guilt over it now: she really does have an incredible voice. Rich, with a deep grain and so much soul. Her rendition of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Shipbuilding’ packed so much emotion, and she remarked that she wished the song wasn’t still relevant today. Closing a set of originals and covers, she seemed genuinely moved by the enthusiastic and vocal audience response.

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Little Annie

Between acts, I was surprised to learn just how many of those who packed down the front were not hardened Swans gig-goers, but first-times, many half my age and only relatively recently acquainted with the band (standing there, on my own, sporting a fedora and a shirt with the Greed cover art on the front seemed a prompt for people to gravitate toward me and strike up conversations for some reason). I told them to get to the bar and get themselves some earplugs if they wanted to live.

Swans take to the stage at 8:30 prompt and begin to work a single throbbing drone. Ten to fifteen minutes later, not much has changed beyond the volume and intensity with which it’s played. Whereas once Swans were all about delivering a sustained and brutal assault, latter day Swans are very much focused on the slow-build.

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Swans

“I hope they play ‘Screen Shot’ one enthusiastic youth had said to me beforehand. Having done a spot of research on Setlist.FM, I was fairly confident that they would but instead pointed out that Swans’ live sets were less song-orientated and primarily concerned with the end-to-end succession of ebbs and flows and immense, sustained crescendos. They do play ‘Screen Shot’, and, indeed, the set broadly has the shape of the performance captured on the new live album Deliquescence. In other words, the bulk of the set is centred around ever-evolving performances of material from The Glowing Man and contains extended workouts unavailable in studio form and developed through the live performances. This may be the final tour of this iteration of the band, but they’re not looking back: there’s no ‘Oxygen’ or ‘A Little God in My Hands’, and there’s sure as hell no ‘Your Property’ or any other material hauled from the back catalogue to pander to any old-timers hankering after the classics of the band’s previous existence.

During tonight’s show, from my vantage in the front row, it’s hard to be certain if they achieve the totally annihilative volume I’ve witnessed previously, on account of the fact I’m in the front row. While the full force of Norman Westberg’s guitar and Christopher Pravdica’s bass amps blasting me at face level, and the band’s staggeringly vast backline being the primary source of sound, the comparative levels of the drums and vocals through the PA are dramatically reduced.

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Swans

Westberg’s patient guitar playing – he chews gum and nonchalantly cranks out a single chord for an eternity without blinking – sits perfectly against Pravdica’s tetchy, repetitive grooves, while Christoph Hahn remains dapper, hair slicked back, while torturing lap steel in the most unimaginable and sadistic of fashions.

The absence of Thor Harris does have an effect on the sound: the burly, hirsute percussionist brought heightened detail and texture to the band’s immense sound and both he and his huge gong brought something to the visual aspect of the show. Not that thee six men on stage produce a sound which lacks depth, range and detail, tonally or musically, and similarly, to witness six musicians play so cohesively, so naturally, while working so incredibly hard is quite something to behold. The expressions on their faces are of intense concentration but they do occasionally shoot one another knowing smiles and even break big grins from time to time. Gira’s unique and inimitable style of conducting his companions and the way the sound seems to be shaped, sculpted in real-time by his flailing arms and stomping feet isn’t a sight one easily forgets.

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Swans

Perhaps even more than on the swirling, two-hour long exploration which is The Glowing Man, the band’s – and no doubt given his recent comments about the future direction of the Swans project in its next phase – Gira’s growing interest in evolving a more abstract style of musical form is placed into sharp relief over the course of this endurance test of a set comprising a mere five pieces and with a duration fractionally in excess of two and a half houurs. He has the lyrics on laminated A4 sheets on a stand in front of him, but his vocal utterances are few and far between, and when not consisting of wordless drones and ululations, the syllables are elongated to abstraction and unintelligibility. This isn’t a problem or a criticism: it simply illustrates Gira’s move towards exploring the language of sound without the need for actual language.

After the show has been brought to a shuddering climax, they stand in line to receive a lengthy – and more than well-deserved – ovation. Gira introduces the players in turn before they take three long, leisurely and appreciative bows. We know we’ve witnessed something special, and, moreover, there is a sense of occasion. This is the end of an era. It’s been scary, unsettling, and nothing short of amazing. Swans: we thank you.

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or is a friend on Facebook is likely to have seen that I tend to draw attention to the fact that I won’t be chained to my desk at home writing music reviews because I’m taking a ‘night off’ involving beer and live music – in other words, I’m out and about watching live music, which I’m invariably reviewing. As such, these nights off aren’t really nights off in the strictest sense. Those who know me in person know that I never really take a night off, regardless, and that includes the nights when I go and watch live music as a paying punter, or a mate has very kindly bought me a ticket to join them watching one of their favourite bands. These are indeed rare occasions, but should constitute a true night off. But that simply isn’t how I work. Truth is, I no longer know how to have a night off. Stopping would likely kill me. Besides, I feel owe practically everything to underground music in some way or another.

So, while I’ve dug what I’ve heard of Part Chimp, my attendance is not in capacity of reviewer or rabid fan – although by the end of the night, I’m both. I’m already a fan of Joe Coates and his Please Please You gig promotions, though – the shows he puts on are carefully curated and the PPY name can be relied upon as a guarantee of quality. Likewise, I’m a huge fan of Wharf Chambers as a venue, and not just on account of the fact they sell decent beer on draught from as little as £2.80 a pint.

And so it is that Thick Syrup make for extremely worthy openers. Their Facebook page describes the band as ‘Garage rock/funk/post punk/hard rock… but none of those things specifically’, and it’s a fair summary. Boil it down, and they’re a solid alternative rock band, whose singer, Gemma, performs from somewhere in the audience, often right at the back of the little venue and facing the stage, on account of the fact she can’t hear what it sounds like from on stage. Out front, it does sound good, and while they’re not big on between-song banter they are big on sturdy, rocking tunes dominated by meaty, overdriven guitars. They’re good fun.

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Thick Syrup

Grey Hairs, hailing from Nottingham, offer a different kind of fun – one marked by a front man possessed of an almost psychotic intensity. The rhythm section is immense, and the foursome kick out a supremely hefty racket. The riffs are big, ballsy, grunged-out slabs of noise: they’re a good fit by way of a main support for Part Chimp, and the fact that they’re also touring with Hey Colossus in May should perhaps give a fair indication both of their sound and their quality. With a new LP, Serious Business released at the start of the year, the set draws substantially on this shouty, sinewy collection, evoking the spirit and sound of vintage Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile releases, as well as contemporaries like Backlisters at al who draw inspiration from gnarly 90s US rock. The heavy chug of ‘Sausage’ is full-on, but then, ‘Backwards’ shows they’ve also got a knack for a cracking chorus too. They’re a motley bunch, and it’s no critiism when I observe that front man James is no pin-up. But the image they present corresponds with the angst they channel over the 9-5 grind and the twitching anxiety of immersion in mere existence amidst a morass of bland culture and the conflict of possessing a creative bent. Oh, and they’re bloody loud.

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Grey Hairs

Part Chimp, however, are much, much louder. I mean, they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore. And when the guitars serrate your skull and the bass vibrates your solar plexus and every riff is as heavy as a small planet and the drums as hard as basalt, reviewing becomes a far bigger challenge than you might think. Instead of analysing precisely why Part Chimp are so bloody awesome, what about the performance completely blew me away, why I felt euphorically drunk on a lot less beer than I know I can handle, I spend an age pissing about on the Internet trying to establish precisely how hard basalt is, and how it compares to the more common ‘hardness’ reference point of granite. I discover that basalt is more porous and is considered a medium hardness rock, whereas granite is classified as a hard rock; and so my word selection seems appropriate: Part Chimp are heavy, the riffs as weighty as hell, but they’re not hard rock band. There’s a malleable, sludgy aspect to the sound. I’m still no closer to qualifying or objectively quantifying the experience of watching four guys, a few years older than myself and by no means cool in the rock star sense, or in any way ‘the kids’ might consider cool, working up a sweat as they hammer out this immense, furious racket.

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Part Chimp

They play a fair few songs from the new album, (and the first to be released following their reunion last year, following a five-year break), Iv released today. And that’s Iv, not the numeral for four. The riffs on the new songs are slow, heavy, fully doomy and laced with a psychedelic stoner infusion. There’s no pretence or posturing: there’s a keen sense that these are regular guys, who have regular lives, and when they’re not doing regular stuff, they’re making music. Music that’s noisy, dense and jarring, yet in a perverse way has the capacity to be immensely uplifting. They’re relentless, and play hard, and, as is only fitting, there’ a lot of hair being thrown about down the front. It’s music to go apeshit to. Part Chimp: All Brilliant.