Sunday, January 3, 2010


Saturday, July 19, 2008 
The Toff

When music is showcased this well - via such well-produced posters, through such a glorious PA system, amidst clouds of dry ice, beneath a neat lighting rig, with such great instruments and equipment via people in the prime of their life - there is a reasonable expectation to expect great things. The organisers have certainly gone all out to launch the debut EP for local three-piece There She Goes Again; not only do we have the well-publicised lineup above but we also witness three burlesque performances from the talented and captivating V Dentata Burlesque Troupe (Aphex Twin's Windowlicker soundtracks the removal of Marie Antoinette-style get-up surprisingly effectively) and a fashion show launches the evening. Punk rock has rarely seen kid gloves this clean.
First band up Black Pony Express play fairly unexceptional country rock that they would probably like to have likened to Crazy Horse but, due to the undistinguished and indistinguishable voice of their singer (rendering an instrumental they play a high point) and plodding tempos, it's not going to happen here. Things come to life on the unexpectedly brilliant Home, and a cover of Neil Young's Running Dry which sees a slow-burning guitar solo in it's proper place but overall it sounds like soundtrack music that needs a film.

By the time The Dead South arrive the venue is thick with punter. The band begin and it sounds like a heavier version of the bar band from Fire Walk With Me - repetitive bass, grotesque squalls of guitar and drums like molasses. And then comes the reverb-soaked baritone of big-bearded singer Spike. Despite the ghost of The Birthday Party being inescapable they're great. Though the songs are formulaic, it's a killer formula: lyrics are several words bellowed again and again, Spike's bassy voice is offset by phenomenally hot guitarist Count Mikey Heartbreak's piercing and heavily processed lead, while tempo and dynamic changes are banished. 'If you've got any hatred send it up to me now. I'll roll it into a little ball and send it back out into the cosmos.' says Spike. Whether we do or not, he's soon writhing and bellowing like a wounded animal while Heartbreak prowls the stages, impossibly skinny and incredibly noisy. Galvanising.

The contrast between the red velvet drapes and dirty punk rock works for The Dead South. With There She Goes Again it jars, nearly as much as the neat visual package the band make of themselves jars against their music which is essentially strung-together riffs and surly yelping. Besides drummer Jamie Power, who anchors the group with his frankly astonishing fills and clever-yet-simple beats, the band seem new to this gigging lark and are surprisingly loose players. Citing Patti Smith as a key influence is understandable, but using her vocal style to hide a lack of ideas and ability is a disguise that thins quickly. Their cover of Smith's Land is a high point, and encapsulates what they do best which is work with dynamics and rhythm shifts, though even when you know the lyrics, they're barely discernible. Seeing There She Goes Again as harmless punchy punk fun is fine, but asking for anything more than that means they'll have to head back to the practice room. The tunes are gutsy but the package is a little too polished for punk and a little too punk for glam rock. Maybe they're starting a new wave?

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