Water Rats, London
Saturday July 31 2010
Just a flying visit, this. There are several bands on tonight, drawn from the bottomless aquifer of new music that, it seems, London is built on. If I had time to hang around, I could catch a Streets-style geezer-rap artist, a bunch of scuzz-rockers making their application to join the Black Rebel Motorcycle club, and a rock 'n' roll romantic troubadour guitar-guy (thumbnail sketches made after swift listens to the artists' tunes on MySpace: see if you can guess who's who).
But tonight I only have time for one band. So, I'd better choose carefully, then. And I choose...Blindness. The band's own description of themselves on their MySpace profile is brief and to the point. Blindless are, they tell us, 'electro filth'. I think I like them already. Yes, out of tonight's four bands, it's electro filth for me.
Blindness are new - they've only got a handful of gigs under their belts so far, athough the total is rising all the time. But you might recognise at least one member of the band from her previous convictions in the court of rock 'n' roll. Debbie Smith, on guitar, was formerly in Snowpony, Echobelly - and Curve.
Tonight I think she's definitely throwing us some curve-balls of guitar, for Blindness layer their songs in shuddering sheets of effect-laden guitar-noise. It sweeps in like tides, Debbie Smith hunching over her guitar and pedals as if willing the aural alchemy to happen. But the guitar doesn't have it all its own way. The sweeping guitar-tides break on the rocks of the beat. Programming and real drums, working together in an unholy alliance, slap down a rhythm that doesn't mess about. The basslines go striding relentlessly through the sonic surf as if they're wearing wading boots.
The way Blindness mash up the blurred fuzz of the guitar with the no-shit geometry of the rhythm is their not-very secret superpower, but there's a pop sensibility at work in the songwriting, too. The band don't just do noise.
Vocalist Beth Rettig strikes surrealist vogueing shapes in a dress that looks like it's had a bite taken out of it by a passing shark (what is it with me and my sea similies today?) and sings in a glassy croon that goes from soothing to scary in the space of a chorus.
As the set progresses, the scariness levels increase until she reaches some sort of overload and collapses on stage, lying there unmoving as the music convulses around her. She stays there for so long I almost feel I should step forward, touch her on the shoulder, and diffidently ask, 'Er...are you all right?'
She is, of course. And so are Blindness.
For more photos from this gig, find Blindness by name here.