These days it sometimes seems as if every band-o-yesteryear is making a comeback - everybody from the Gang Of Four to Public Image Limited seems to be out there doing it again. Sometimes it's like post punk never stopped. But I suspect few of the reformed bands can claim that their return to the fray happened by special request of a rock star.
In Artery's case, that's exactly how it happened. It was Jarvis Cocker, no less, who convinced the band to reconvene and play again - intitially for his 2007 Meltdown festival in London. A fan of Artery since the band's first gigs around the Sheffield post-punk circuit of the early 80s, when they were swiftly tagged as 'Sheffield's answer to Joy Division', Jarvis jumped at the chance to get his old favourites back together. Artery regrouped to great acclaim - and then decided to carry on. Now, with a new EP under their belts, the band is building up a whole new audience in today's new wave circles.
Here at the Dice Club, which tonight is celebrating two years of hurling interesting noises at the pop kids of London, we have a chance to check on just how well the original new wavers fit in with the new new wavers. Incongrous collision, or seamless combination? Let's find out.
Talking of incongruous collisions, here's Stavin' Chains, who come on like John Lydon fronting Einsturzende Neubauten. That's 'Metal Box' period John Lydon, and old-school bash-and-crash Neubauten, by the way. In other words, the good stuff, and if you're going to draw inspiration from those artists, that's the era you need to be in.
Stavin' Chains fairly bristle with uncompromising attitude, and make a rattling, clattering, post-rock noise. In a way the vocalist seems the odd one out in his own band: his pissed-off demeanour sits uneasily with his reserved, implacable bandmates, who keep things businesslike and just get the job done (even when the job involves bashing bits of metal in the approved 'found sound' manner). But someone's got to express the existential angst of human existence, I suppose, and the vocalist - scowling and stroppy at the mic - fits the bill. So young, and yet so pissed off with life. Still, it's good to see a band dragging these influences into the twenty-first century. Drag away, gentlemen, drag away.
Pulsing like hospital equipment, thudding like a mystery train, Factory Floor may have a name that puts them slap in the middle of the old school industrial estate, but their sound is hypnotic, wired groove. A guitar gets entangled with a violin bow, effects and drums are shunted in and out. Throughout it all an electronic pulse just keeps on going.
Three humans lurk among the hardware, but Factory Floor are not in the business of trying to be pop stars. They don't jolly up the audience; they barely make eye contact with the crowd. They're self-effacing factotums in the midst of their art. Taciturn controllers of the industrial estate disco, their shadowy presence, mere shapes in front of the back-projection flicker, suits the scrapyard sci-fi of their sound. Their electro-pulse uncoils like a slo-mo Suicide; the beat picks up and rhythm unfurls. As it happens, I've spent many hours of my life on a factory floor. It was never like this, more's the pity. This Factory Floor has its own weird groove.
The lights come up for Artery, although not too much. While the band's supposed kinship with Joy Division was more of a contrivance cooked up by the music media rather than a real musical similarity, Artery have always been a band unafraid to gaze into the heart of darkness, even if they ended up taking their aesthetic to all sorts of other, brighter, places in the course of their original career. It's worth noting, as an illustrative aside, that Joy Division would surely never have called an album One Afternoon In A Hot Air Balloon, a title Artery carried off with aplomb.
Tonight, the reformed Artery, with a line-up that brings together members from all corners of the band's history, walk the line between ceremonious introspection and a sparky, insistent, off-kilter new wavey racket that sounds very contemprary in its balance between energy and control. Vocalist Mark Goldthorpe looks like he's exploring the corridors of his own mind as he stands centre-stage, staring into the middle distance as if he's seeing things the rest of us can't. At times he makes strange gestures, as if signalling UFOs to land.
And yet, for all this other-worldliness, he never stints on his real business: leading Artery's charge from the front. And 'charge' is right, for without ever being showy or overblown about it the band do have a dynamic, implacable, always-moving-forward feel to their music that gets the crowd moving, fans from the old days and intrigued newcomers alike.
'Into The Garden' is the slow-burn showstopper, inexorably building and increasing like an incoming tide, until waves of guitar break over the rocks. At that moment, you can see where the Joy Division comparison came in. But if Artery are prepared to give a nod to their post-punk contemporaries, they're even more prepared to push things their way. That approach works as well in the twenty-first century as it ever did.