Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

Christopher Nosnibor

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, Helmet are playing thirty-song sets in thirty cities. It feels like an immense privilege that Leeds is one of them, and the fact it’s the 150-capacity Key Club even more so. With only ten tickets remaining for sale on the door, for a cult band who’ve only released two albums in the last decade, they’ve retained a hardcore following, not all of who, are old buggers.

With no support act, they take the stage at eight sharp, and immediately start with the riffs. Not a word at the start, nor between songs for the first half dozen at least. Instead, it’s all about the riffs.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The extended freeform solos drift into the background while the rhythm section thunder on relentlessly: the floor-shaking, gut-churning bass, the rhythm guitar that blasts out concrete slabs of noise.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The blunt, bludgeoning weight of thick, stop/start chunks of noise that became the defining feature of Nu-Metal are Helmet’s staple, but they did it first and did it best. Helmet were also one of the first off-the-street jeans ‘n’ T-shirt bands, and Beavis and Butthead were on the money when they observed that “That drummer looks like a regular guy,” and “If you, like, saw these guys on the street, you wouldn’t even know they were cool.” And yes, they are cool. Seriously cool. Their influence clearly extends far, far beyond their fanbase and commercial reach, which peaked in the early ‘90s. But being cool is also about pushing on, and Helmet’s achieving radio play and MTV exposure around this time was a matter of coincidental timing rather than strategized mass appeal.

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There’s no messing, no posturing: Page regales us with an amusing anecdote about being rehearsing in a space next to Buck Cherry, who commented on the fact the band load their own gear, and who they heard rehearsing their between-song banter. But I never mentioned that. It’s one of only a few moments of chat we get but what’s keenly apparent is that these are nice guys, with no pretence or rock-star delusions, and with their major-label years long behind them, no industry bullshit surrounding them.

They play songs in small venues.

They play hard.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Song number thirty is ‘In The Meantime’. It’s blistering. But then, so were the preceding twenty-nine songs.

And long may they continue to knock out the riffs.

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Panurus Productions – 27th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

When I lived in Glasgow, I was perplexed by the use of the word ‘links’ to refer to sausages for quite some time. Being from Lincolnshire by birth, I assumed (erroneously) that they were saying ‘Lincs’, but at the same time was aware that there was a certain logic gap in my thinking. It wasn’t until after about a year I discovered that ‘links’ were actually just what anyone else would call sausages, and the term was used to differentiate these from the ‘square’ sausages, or Lorne sausages, used in breakfast baps north of the border.

I hadn’t thought about this in years: after all, I left Glasgow in September 2004, and being vegetarian, never tried any square sausage – or delicacies like deep-fried back or white pudding as served by my local chippy, which also had deep-fried pizza, Mars Bars, and Crème Eggs on the menu. But despite the fact that unlike this album, it didn’t offer deep fried cash, the title of Territorial Gobbings’ latest reminded me.

The liner notes state that ‘Sausage Chain is yet more fresh, amorphous meat drippings from the Territorial Gobbing mechanical reproduction unit. The most disappointing member of Thank gives up on music, instead smearing tape up the wall, wailing into a dictaphone all while gnawing on a skip-salvaged record player… Bodyless body horror. Idiot-savant-garde. Daft ambience. Sausage Chain tries and fails to keeps it together, unravelling and scattering across the stereo field over its anxious run until only trace sausage grease remains.’

It’s a fair summary and sets reasonable expectations for the discordant hash of sound that the album contains, its five pieces not so much compositions or even sound collages, as a semi-random assemblage tossed together to create maximum disorientation and discomfort. Assuming that’s the objective, it succeeds.

‘Machine Learning to Scowl’ is as irreverent as the title suggests, and at the same time is a mess of bleeps, crackles, fizzes, tweets, and twitters before it bleeds into the primitively-captured scrape of mic feedback and distortion that is ‘Painted Teeth’. It’s only a couple of minutes long, but it’s a howling racket of the highest order, making no pretence of structure or anything other than being a noise for the sake of being a noise.

‘Caressed to Smithereens’, with six minutes of haphazard pings and thunks provides a more than adequate build-up to the album’s feature track, the eleven-minute ‘Unusual Achievements in Human Rights’, which fizzes and crackles in a grizzling hum of sparking electrodes and swampy circuitry meltdowns.

It’s a welcome addition to the rapidly-expanding catalogues of both the prolific TG (and yes, this set definitely contains as much gristle as it does meat, and probably a fair amount of rusk and fat) and the eclectic tape label Panurus Productions – and this is reason enough, surely, to check out their York show at the Fulford Arms on Thursday

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Territorial - Sausage

Christopher Nosnibor

Incredible. I arrived at a gig in Leeds with a dry shirt, thanks to it neither raining nor sweltering. And while it’s not exactly heaving in Wharf Chambers tonight, the eclectic (and international) lineup has drawn an interesting and curious crowd. I decide to take notes on my phone, and not to spend too much time on editing. This is a gig that’ about the moment, and it needs capturing.

DJ Perro, up first, isn’t a DJ, but a band from Mexico. The quintet perform the apex of busy math-rock and they’re buoyant with it. And kinda maybe how you’d imagine Mexican mathy post rock somehow. They clearly love doing what they do, and they’re astoundingly good at it. There’s a lot going on, to say the least. It makes my upper arms itch, and it makes my brain twitch. The songs are incredibly complex and incredibly tight and they’re a pleasure to watch. There’s something transportative and elating about watching five staggeringly good musicians, no egos, and some stellar compositions perfectly executed.

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DJ Perro

Failyer have two synths players and play drony, grating synth noise with live drums from James Islip, gig booker, tonight’s doorman, and perhaps best known as one half of seminal noise duo That Fucking Tank, who I first stumbled upon supporting Whitehouse in Sheffield in maybe 2005. And the blew me away, while pissing on the headliners. It was the same night I discovered Kelham Island beers, so the fact he Duck& Drake where I stopped on the way was serving Easy Rider. Failyer’s sound is sort of Krauty Fall meets Suicide motorik noise. Sinewy, echoey, sparse, repetitive. The skinny singer sits for large segments of the set, leaping up to spit punky vitriol into a sea of rapid reverb while throwing shades of Pete Murphy. It’s an awkward but cool take on The Cramps meets The Fall meets DAF. Or something. They’re the best reminder I’ve seen in ages of why the Leeds underground is an awesome thing. And there is no success like Failyur.

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Failyur

Grey Hairs are the reason I’m here and while I’d remembered they were good, I’d forgotten just how blindingly, blisteringly good. What’s cool about them is that they don’t give a shit about being cool. The press write-up says that ‘their third album Health & Social Care … [is] a scorching reflection on balancing your creative impulses against the commitments of impending middle age’. But the reality is more. Way more.

The riffs are all the grunge with hardcore punk moments high in the mix, and front man James transforms angst and anxiety into performance art: twisting his hands and arms around his face, twisting and pounding his palm against his forehead. covering his eyes and exuding a spectacular awkwardness: his presence is awkward, confrontational, and oddly appealing. It’s a performance you can get into – or otherwise be repelled by, depending on your position and life experience.

I could go home or even die happy already.

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Grey Hairs

But then I’d have missed the awesome spectacle that was Doble Capa, the Spanish duo of whom the event’s write-up describe as being like That Fucking Tank but better. The pair certainly have that Tank vibe, and some serious energy. Thumping drums and what even the fuck is that four-string effort rammed through a trainload of effects (mostly distortion) to crank out a massively messed-up racket is the essence of what they do. It’s punkabilly blues noise making optimal use of a minimal setup. A blur of hair. A blast of noise. It’s compelling. And it’s great fun.

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Doble Capa

And I go home happy, and don’t die.

Christopher Nosnibor

Shirt status on arrival in Leeds: moist, and particularly damp on the stomach and lower back. It’s another humid hot day and half the trains re screwed and the other half are packed solid. It’s going to take a lot of £5 pints of Amstel (well, it’s that or Strongbow or Strongbow Forest Fruits) just to replenish.

Sandwiched in between Black Grape, Cast, and Dodgy on Friday night and Leeds Pride on Sunday, this new local talent showcase pitched some incongruous alternative acts alongside a bunch of names I’d never heard of. But I figured the ones I had heard of were more than enough to justify the trip over from York, with Dead Naked Hippies being incentive to make for an early start.

As a band I’ve seen play a venue smaller than my living room to fifteen people, as well as regular reasonable gig spaces, their outdoor performance at Long Division in May proved that they’ve got the chops to go big. And Millennium Square is big. And as expected, the trio fill the stage with noise and presence. The dense, gritty-as-fuck guitar that also fills the space in the of bass is immense even outdoors. ‘Dead Animals’ provides an early afternoon family friendly crowd pleaser. Lucy Jowett’s in fine form as always, and ends the set prowling the front rows, her wanderings only limited by the length of her mic lead.

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Dead Naked Hippies

Tommy Monaghan is pleasant but mediocre, with a static bassist and some bad shirts proving more interesting than his accessible pub gig fare that would probably be able to work its way into the charts given a suitably R1 friendly production.

I know it’s poor form to judge a band on appearance, but with the white shirts and rainbow braces and a sax/harmonica player in their numerous ranks, Hobson would never have been my choice. But their gutsy brand of country / folk rock is infinitely better than their presentation. That the singer’s teeth are whiter than the shirts is quite something, and they kinda spoil the ‘all originals’ pitch with a well-executed but uninspired rendition of ‘All the things that I have done’ by The Killers as a set-closer. It goes down well, though.

Tyrone Webster is probably Leeds’ answer to Craig David or something. Only his laid-back soulful pop packs some woozy sub-bass and trip-hop beatage. Final song and current single ‘Crippled’ is pretty meaty and emotionally wrought, though.

SCUM are barely old enough to have been born, but kick out fiery, politicised 3-chord shouty punk. The nagging repetitions hint at The Fall played with The fury of Black Flag. The songs all clock in at around a minute and a half and are played at 100mph, and despite the massive stage, they’re utterly fearless and totally ferocious. It’s a rush, and maybe there’s hope yet. These kids are certainly alright.

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SCUM

Isaac Saierre’s slick brand of r’n’b was never going to do it for me, but people stuck out the onset of rain for his set brimming with covers. This, right here, reminds me why shit like The Voice is popular.

Afterwards, Girl Gang DJ Emily injected some alternative cred back into proceedings with a selection of indie, post-punk and riot grrrl that was most welcome.

Inching into the evening stretch, Victors arrive with an array of sportswear, beards, and man buns, looking like some kind of hipster math-rock E17 to roll out some smooth sonic wallpaper.

Thank fuck for Magic Mountain. The local supergroup, consisting of Tom Hudson (Pulled Apart by Horses) Nestor Matthews (Sky Larkin / Menace Beach) and Lins Wilson (who seems to have involvement in infinite projects, including Music:Leeds), kick out heavyweight psychedelic grunge bursts with energy and riffs galore without sacrificing melody or hooks. They’re tight on schedule and promise to power through the set – and that’s exactly what they do.

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Magic Mountain

Treeboy & Arc’s spacey motorik post-punk has power and energy, and the scrawny guitarist (who’s sporting a Zozo T-shirt) races around the stage like he’s possessed and they thrash away maniacally. On paper, they offer nothing musically that hasn’t been done before, but to deliver it with such vigour is petty radical and entirely engaging. How have they bypassed me for so long?

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Treeboy & Arc

The first (and last) time I caught Cowtown was supporting Oozing Wound at the Brudenell. I’d enjoyed their set enough, but they seemed an ill fit for a dirty US thrash band. In context of tonight’s lineup, they sit a lot more comfortably with their high-energy, jerky rockabilly indie. ‘Tweak’ mashes together The Ramones with the Bangles, and is fairly representative of what they’re about – which mostly is uptempo fun.

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Cowtown

There’s something amusing about someone with a cut-glass accent on stage at a show celebrating Leeds music announcing headliners Bilge Pump. They slay, of course. But let’s unpack this a bit. Bilge Pump. Playing in Millennium Square. It’s crazy. But cool. So cool. Primarily active in the first decade of the new millennium, their angular noise rock found them a cult following and favour with John Peel, scoring a handful of Peel sessions, bowing out in 2010 with the EP The Fucking Cunts Still Treat Us Like Pricks.

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Bilge Pump

No two ways about it, comeback album We Love You is a blinder, and recent shows have been pretty special. But, not to denigrate their achievements, they’re very much a smaller venues band. And yet here they are, on this immense stage with the biggest crowd of the day – and it’s really quite substantial, especially considering they’re up against Flipper at the Brudnell – and they absolutely kill it. Joe O’Sullivan’s guitar is blistering as the throws squalls of noise – and himself – in all directions. It’s a blast – somewhat surreal, but a blast. And ultimately, Bilge Pump headlining in Millennium Square on a Saturday night in August encapsulates everything that’s ace about the Leeds scene.

Christopher Nosnibor

Arriving at gigs in Leeds drenched is becoming not so much a habit as the norm for me by the looks of things. But unlike recent jaunts across the border to West Yorkshire, where I was caught in torrential precipitation, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. The humidity is off the scale, it’s rammed like a cattle freighter, and I’m not convinced the air conditioning is functioning in the vestibule I find myself standing. Consequently, I disembark with my shirt completely saturated ahead of what I know will be a warm gig in Leeds’ best venue for all things metal. And hot on the heels of Thou and Moloch on the same bill, tonight’s is another absolutely killer lineup.

Things are off to an abrasive start with harsh electronic duo Soft Issues. Gnarly electronic noise fizzes from the PA before hammering beats kick in. Samples fire off all over between the distorted, pain-filled screaming vocals and they’re switching patch-leads with mechanical precision as the mess of treble and pulsating lower-range synth oscillations grind forth. It’s relentless, repetitive, and brutally industrial, and there may be hints of NIN but this is way, way harsher, the obliterative wall of anguish-filled noise closer to Prurient than anything. It hurts.

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Soft Issues

Whipping Post’s goatee-sporting bassist may be wearing an REM T-Shirt, but there’s no Shinny Happy People vibe here. He churns out some strong, strolling basslines that provide the solid foundations for some gritty hardcore racket reminiscent of Touch and Go’s early 90s roster. Theirs is a sound that’s nicely angular, dirty, and dense, with lurching rhythms and no shortage of attack.

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Whipping Post

If things are already warm (and I’m so grateful cans of Scrumpy Jack are only £2.50 as I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it), then co-headliners Bad Breeding really turn up the heat, blasting in at 150 miles per hour with their brand of raging grindy hardcore. A band whose album liner notes and essays posted on their website reference Mark Fisher and American Psycho while dissecting the politics of Brexit while substantiating points with figures on GDP and a host of verifiable statistics, there’s some qualifiable intellect beyond the blizzards of rage they spew out on stage. And the force with which they do it is monstrously intense and gives rise to some energetic – but extremely well-natured – moshing. And yet again, I’m reminded that the nicest audiences are to be found at the most extreme shows.

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Bad Breeding

For a number, Bad Breeding are the headliners, and fair play. They were storming, and moreover, Uniform are a whole other kind of intense nasty. Their debut, Wake in Fright was a non-stop shoutfest with a pounding drum machine and raw, ragged guitar assault fused into a nightmarish sensory overload. The Long Walk added live drums to the mix, but in retaining that raw, unproduced approach, the sound didn’t change radically, but instead stepped things up a notch. So this was a band I’d been absolutely busting to see live.

And fucking hell, they know how to deliver. Perhaps it’s because the studio work has a live, immediate feel that on stage they replicate it so well – only with the added bonus of being able to see the sweat and the whites of their eyes from the front rows of a venue like this. The set explodes with ‘The Walk’, and it’s nothing short of devastating. Bloody, brutal, raw, it excavates the depths of nihilism and paranoia. They burn straight into ‘Human Condition’, the album’s second track, and it’s pulverising: everything’s overloading, and Michael Berdan’s wide-eyed, rage-spewing delivery is as menacing as hell. Everything blurs and melts with the heat and the blistering intensity of Uniform’s wall of noise. To complain it’s a bit one-key is to miss the point completely: Uniform savagely drive at that seem of gnarly, shouty rage that takes the template of snotty punk and distils it into something that’s so potent it could make you want to puke.

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Uniform

They piledrive home the end of a scorching and frankly punishing set with – I think – a brutal rendition of ‘Alone in the Dark’. I’m already lost. There’s no encore and we filter out. I’m drained, a husk, and so, so happy.