Johnny Cola & The A Grades
Wednesday January 20 2014
Looking entirely at home on a big stage - well, bigger than most stages on the London underground rock circuit - Healthy Junkies whack out their punchy, punky, glam 'n' grungy rock 'n' roll with plenty of fire in their bellies and spunk in their junk.
Nina Courson rocks it up like Courtney Love's nicer sister - the one who didn't
bit celebrity-bonkers and start making underwhelming AOR albums. She struts
like the glam-punk diva next door, but always remains coolly in control. The
boys in the band wallop out the rocknoize with great precision and an impressive
absence of fuss, and it all adds up to a fine example of well-engineered rock
Jonny Cola probably has an engineering diploma from the rock 'n' roll technical college, too, although in his case I think he completed the course in Applied Glam - visiting professor: Brett Anderson.
At any rate, he's giving it loads up front like the top man of the gang, while the gang themselves - The A Grades, and if that's not a good gang name I don't know what is - bob and weave around him. They give it a good old crank and swank, guitars swinging like personal weaponry.
The band's scuffed, boisterous sound is accessible and easy
to like, and the present bunch of A Grades, who seem to be a mostly different
selection of musos from the time I first saw the band at the Supernormal
Festival in 2011, work well together as a band.
In 'Halo' they've got a bona-fide hit tune, a sashaying strut that resides somewhere in that triangle formed by Suede, Placebo, and The Auteurs.
Of course, saying 'hit tune' is a rather acedemic accolade for a DIY band. Even now that we've got the level-ish playing field of the web, it still takes a hefty shove from the music biz to score a bona-fide smasheroonie. But if any potential industry partners are reading this - Jonny Cola & The A Grades have the right kind of raw material.
Deadcuts are a knowing exercise in everything that is low-down and frayed at
the edges about rock 'n' roll. They're a real bunch of backstreet boys - assuming
those streets to be somewhere around Soho in the sleazy seventies.
But Soho is all big-brand coffee shops and designer sushi bars these days. Where can a bunch of scuzzball rockers go to find an appropriately rackety backdrop for their glam-trash strut?
I suppose the trick is to bring the atmosphere with them, and Deadcuts certainly come ready-assembled with their own air of seedy, swaggering cool.
They whack out the rock, gentleman ruffians on an after-dark mission. The two guitars tug each other along; the sound builds like second-album Psychedelic Furs. On vocals, Mark Keds rips and rasps, bobbing up and down at the mic stand like Johnny Thunders' endearingly earnest brother.
Beatrice Brown comes on for a mini-set in the middle, and it's noticeable that she gets a burst of applause somewhat greater than the lads by themselves muster. I'm still not sure if Deadcuts have two lead vocalists, or a one-and-a-half lead vocalists, or possibly one-and-a-guest lead vocalists. But if I were the band's A&R consultant, I'd be thinking about offering Beatrice Brown a permanent spot at the mic. She provides a focal point the chaps by themselves can't quite match.
There's a break in proceedings now, during which the stage is cleared of all rock 'n' roll hardware - and a good proportion of the crowd head out of the door. The show's not over yet, but it looks as if it might be.
however, some on-stage action arrives, in the shape of The Æ's -
a band name I can't even pronounce (and I'm not even sure about the grammatical
accuracy of that apostrophe).
But The Æ's are worth a bit of attention, because 50% of the band is Martin Tomlinson, he of archly dramatic freak-rock heroes Selfish Cunt - and while his new combo isn't exactly a rock band, it's immediately clear there hasn't been any let-up in the archly dramatic department.
Suited up like salesman of the year, gesticulating grandly in front of huge back-projected images, Martin gives us a masterclass in manic vogueing. He prances to and fro, striking attitudes and letting loose his frantic vocal yelp.
Meanwhile, tucked into the side of the stage, Dario
Vigorito, the other 50% of The
Æ's, conjures Soft Cell-on-speed electronix from his laptop while wearing
'nuff makeup and a perpetually bemused expression.
For old school Selfish Cunt fans, it's a little odd to see Martin Tomlinson effectively alone on stage, dwarfed by the acreage of the screen behind him, and wailing his bonkers operettas to an electronic freakbeat. Selfish Cunt's heavy-duty rock assault is conspicuous by its absence.
But, strangely, weirdly, it works. It's as if we're present at a gleefully OTT powerpoint presentation, hurled at us by an overexcited executive who's just got his hands on his unfeasibly large bonus.
Champers in the boardroom, chaps? I'll drink to that.
Deadcuts: Website | Facebook
For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.