Sunday, July 4, 2010

Live Review: BLACK FRANCIS, VIOLENT SOHO

Friday, October 03, 2008
THE FORUM

Occasionally you come across a band so excruciatingly mediocre and so unjustly hyped that the urge to call ‘Hate On!’ is almost irrepressible. That this band (whose only possible link to Black Francis is the virtual plagiarism of the chord progression from Where Is My Mind for a good third of their set) should be opening for such a legend indicates that this match was made far up the organisational chain. They don’t even look at all happy to be support for one of their heroes.

Not only do Violent Soho rehash all that was dire about the grunge movement (cultivated nihilism, grunge ‘fashion’, disdain for the audience, lumbering around the stage like Cousin Itt looking for a contact lens) while shouting wilfully incomprehensible lyrics over clumsy riffs, but the band have so little musical talent that the able drumming of Michael Richards comes across like Keith Moon. Already the words ‘zero charisma’ spring to mind but then, insult to injury, they think they can resurrect the genius of God’s My Pal and sell it back to us (the song's five-note riff being the most action any guitar – a Fender Jaguar of course - sees tonight). This only serves to throw into sharp relief their absence of ideas or any concept of melody or songwriting. The title of their new album is We Don’t Belong Here.

It’s Black Francis we’re here to see and the audible sigh of relief becomes a whoop of joy as the ‘tubby roadie who could’ takes to the stage, soon speeding us into Test Pilot Blues. “Most of the songs tonight were written by a Dutch guy named Herman Brood,” he says referring to last year’s Bluefinger album of which Brood was inspiration. “This is the big city. If you want to hear a Pixies song you have to go somewhere less sophisticated, like Perth, or Fremantle or whatever the fuck that place is. Or Adelaide,” he deadpans.

This being the case we get most of the album and several of Brood’s own songs. Threshold Apprehension is a behemoth, causing Francis to break sweat, a muscle-bound and hell-bent Tight Black Rubber similarly impresses. The title track smoulders and the lyrics shoot you straight to the lovingly depicted scene.

Bassist Dan Schmid helps Francis’ evocations by being syringe-thin, 6’5’ and looking like a Dutch heroin addict. Francis’ choice to close with Angels Come To Comfort You, his eulogy to Brood’s suicide off the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton (“Good enough for John and Yoko / Now you got the key to 902”), is unerringly committed. The acapella reading of Larry Norman’s damnation-on-Earth Six Sixty Six – a swig of Corona between verses – is perfectly timed and glorious, as it always is to hear Francis sing a Pixies song; a stark rendering of Velouria. Though Francis lives up to his “unfussy” nature, the unadorned delivery suits the songs and their subject perfectly, if most of the audience didn’t know the set, big deal.

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