Arrows Of Love
Skinny Girl Diet
Shacklewell Arms, London
Sunday May 25 2014
It's the Arrows
Of Love end of tour party tonight.
The band are just back from a swift jaunt around the nation's rock 'n'
roll holes in support of their album, Everythings Fucked (reviewed here,
by the way), and what better way to celebrate than with another gig?
In a way, it's a slight surprise to see Arrows Of Love in the ramshackle surroundings of the Shacklewell Arms. It wasn't so long ago that the band headlined the Scala - a relatively big theatre venue, the kind of place bands play when they've made it. Tonight they're squashed into the small and eccentrically decorated back room of a pub - the kind of place bands play when they're hoping to make it.
that's a tacit acknowledgement that in spite of the Scala show Arrows Of
Love haven't quite reached superstar status yet. Or maybe they just fancied
a party in a pub. At any rate, the place is rammed, and here comes the
first of tonight's three bands...
...Riddles. A power trio doing that Sabbathy thing that's going around like a dose of flu just now, Riddles are heavy and rhythmic and a bit Hawkwind around the edges, and none of that is a bad thing.
But they're also a fairly anonymous bunch. There's no charismatic front person, no distinctive vocal, just three lads in the purple twilight that passes for stage lighting at the Shacklewell Arms, doing that churning seventies rifferama - which, it must be said, Riddles do very well.
And that, in a way, is the trouble - all the Sabbathy bands around right now do it very well. But competent anonymity is not the stuff of which great rock 'n' roll is made.
You can't mistake Skinny Girl Diet. They're probably one of the least anonymous bands on the gig circuit at present, and for that alone we should cherish them. We should also cherish them for their deadpan Sonic Youthy grunge-grind thing, played as ever tonight with the band's trademark not-impressed expressions securely in place, their riffs economically unfolding like reverse origami, and the drums kicking up a ruckus without ever getting messy.
Skinny Girl Diet are a very controlled band. They're tight and precise and they probably rehearse for hours to achieve that insousciant air of what-the-hell-let's-just-do-it. The vocals do seem to be getting ever more American every time I see the band, though, which niggles at me. I've never spoken to the singer, but I bet she doesn't talk like Courtney Love's sardonic sister - but she sings that way. Skinny Girl Diet are a London band: what's wrong with letting us hear that?
I suspect Arrows Of Love rehearse quite intensively, too. Their full-on, crash-and-bash approach might look crazed and abandoned and barely under control, but behind it all I'm sure they know exactly what they're up to.
On the compact stage of the Shacklewell Arms they're a tightly concentrated array of firepower, a wonky whirlwind of scuzzy rocknoise, the singer freaking into the mic as if every song might just be his last.
The guitars dig in and the drums galumph, every beat walloping hard as if the drummer is descending on his kit from a great height, and a good old mosh breaks out down the front, like punk rock had just been invented.
Arrows Of Love are very fine ensemble noisemakers, their uninhibited racket all the more effective by being tied - loosely at times, and with fairly random knots, but still tied - to some neatly structured songs. Under the hammering racket there's probably a pop group struggling to get out.
But it doesn't struggle very hard. Arrows Of Love roar and clatter to a conclusion, and manage not to disintegrate before our very eyes. But then, I don't think there was really much chance of that. This band knows how to push the wildness to the very edge - but they also know how not to fall over it.