Posts Tagged ‘Tensheds’

Tensheds Music – 6th December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having caught Tensheds live back in 2018 and been impressed by their gritty yet flamboyant sound, the arrival of an album in the form of Deathrow Disco promised to be good news. And it really is.

No guitars. No synths. No bass. Just a Rhodes organ. And some drums. Written in three days and recorded in three more, Deathrow Disco packs an immediacy without being lo-fi in a way that’s detrimental. However, everything is upfront and direct and cranked up, delivering maximum impact with a sense of urgency.

Everything fits together perfectly, and it all serves to showcase Matt Millership’s distinctive voice. The guy’s got more gravel than Jewson’s. And while that sand-blasted larynx is used to growl out mangled blued-based songs, he’s no predictable Tom Waits rip-off like so any others. Lead single and opening track ‘Youngbloods’ packs some flamboyant keys of a grandeur worthy of Muse or Yes, but pins the trilling tones go a stomping rhythm.

Second single cut ‘Gold Tooth’ is a grainy glammy blues boogie, but sonically, it’s a collision of The Doors at their swaggering badass baddest with Suicide, mining a relentless groove with a swirling Hammond that’s been mangled and

Then again, ‘Slag’ is more like a synth Mötörhead, only with some piano thrown into the mix. ‘Deathrow Disco’ combines immense theatricality with full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll, and elsewhere, ‘Black Blood’ goes prog and at the same times reveals a softer, more sensitive side, and ‘Troubleshooter’ inches toward lighter-waving anthem territory, or maybe would without the bitter heartbreak lyrics.

Deathrow Disco is varied, and largely uptempo and big on boppable grooves, but make no mistake, Tensheds have a highly distinctive style that works well, and makes optimal use of minimal kit.

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Tensheds - Deathrow Disco

Christopher Nosnibor

You know what I appreciate, less as a critic but first as a fan of fringe music? Promoters and venues that can see beyond the bottom line, who appreciate and support art, and actually support grass roots music and artists who exist so far outside the mainstream they’re probably lucky if even their mums have heard of them, just because. The Fulford Arms in York is a rare venue indeed, and in booker Dan Gott they’ve struck gold. Facebook may have only shown there were 17 attending in the hours before and as I approached the venue, but there were at east three times as many actually in attendance, proving Facebook is a measure of nothing other than Facebook users’ capacity to click buttons on a whim. Actions very much speak louder than clicks, and the turnout alone says York isn’t as dead, conservative, or disinterested as all that.

Tonight’s lineup is a classic, with Gott’s own band, Snakerattlers – more of whom later – as the main support.

But first up, Gillman, a solo artist playing guitar and drums. Have I ever seen a drums-and-guitar one-man-band before, apart from the ancient busker who’s been on the streets of York paying awful Elvis covers for the last 30 years or thereabouts? I really don’t think so. Gillman looks harp in suit and bootlace tie and just-so oiled hair and does fucked-up rockabilly country stuff that got some real grit and a 60s psych twist. With minor chords and shedloads of echo, not to mention some deep twang, it’s like David Lynch meets Gallon Drunk. A plume of smoke rises from the edge of the rum kit, and he looks like he’s delivering a final sonic sermon from the top of a pyre. It’s pretty intense.

Gilman

Gillman

Tensheds proves that looks can be deceiving. Tensheds – pianos and gravel and whisky vocals extremely reminiscent of Tom Waits and assisted by an anonymous but extremely able drummer – looks uber-goth, but the majority of their set is given to knees-up theatrical piano-based blues songs. Said piano at times is given a different voice, and a bit of crunch and overdrive and sounds more like a guitar as the pair power through some glammy stompers. And Tensheds are definitely better than seven, although I’m taking a risk saying that in York.

Tensheds

Tensheds

On my arrival, Snakerattler Dan told me how their tireless touring had really tightened them up and that in many ways, the band has come on a long way in a short time – and watching the husband/wife duo tonight, for the first time in a few months, it’s very much apparent that this is very much true. Naomi’s drumming may still have a loose-limbed swing to it, but she’s hitting harder and tighter, and Dan’s very demeanor, and not just his playing, is tripwire tense. Every song is a short, sharp blast of adrenalised rockabilly garage. They’re not just playing the songs any more, they’re fully performing them, attacking them, and channelling the musical energy with every thread of their beings and at a hundred miles an hour. It’s proper, powerhouse stuff. Primitive, simple and stompy, Snakerattlers’ songs grab you by the throat and shake, rattle and roll. Ferocious and fun, this is truly the essence of rock ‘n’ roll.

Snakerattlers

Snakerattlers

Less straightforward is Mark Sultan, who’s responsible for an immense body of work both solo and with almost countless bands over the last 20-plus years. Musically, well, it’s rock ‘n’ roll too, with a strong punk element, but the execution brings all levels of bizarre as he walks on stage and sits behind the drum kit, brandishing a guitar, decked out in a snug-fitting hooded top adorned with eyes and sequins which my seven-year-old daughter would have loved. He proceeds to talk at length about problem gas and divulges that he’s farting freely while performing (there’s even a tour poster depicting beans on toast with the header ‘Mark Sultan’s UK Fall Flatulence’, and he spits a lot, mostly down his own front. Such openness and lack of pretence is unusual, and perhaps it unsettles a few people. Some leave. It’s their loss, as we’re in the presence of a true eccentric and a rare talent: Mark Sultan really puts on a performance, and works hard, playing with tireless energy and enthusiasm.

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Mark Sultan

I realise that while two hours ago, I’d never seen a drums-and-guitar one-man-band before, apart from the ancient busker who’s been on the streets of York paying awful Elvis covers for the last 30 years or thereabouts, I’ve now seen two and they were both bloody great.