Tuesday October 8 2013
These days, it seems as if every bar up Dalston's
main drag has a live music venue squeezed into the basement.
Here we are, half way up the Kingsland Road, in yet another of London's new crop of rock 'n' roll cellars - under the agreeable (and not particularly rock 'n' roll) bar known as Birthdays.
Upstairs, representatives of London's creative industries chuck down the after-work designer lager. I bet you couldn't frisbee a beer mat across the room without hitting at least five graphic designers. Downstairs, things are somewhat more rough and ready...and it seems we've got a grrl riot going on.
Good Throb have a tuff, bass-driven sound. It's all lo-fi clattering, needling guitar over a crash 'n' growl bottom end, like the Gang of Four falling over a pile of dustbins. They also have a stage presence that owes very little to the usual showbizzy rock band moves. The band barely acknowledge that there's an audience in front of them. The singer strides to and fro, her vocals a terse, hoarse chant, as if harranguing her own set of demons. It's uncompromising stuff: the band practically dares the audience to like it, and probably doesn't much care if they don't.
Smell are not, as you might guess from the name, influenced by The Cramps.
Or perhaps they are - they're clearly influenced by something fast and gonzoid.
The singer spends quite a lot of time hurling himself about in the audience, yelping frenziedly all the while, as the band nail down a tight - and for all its knockabout thrashiness, it's impressively tight - rock 'n' roll racket.
Female Smell could probably be a perfectly conventional
rock band if they wanted - they've certainly got all the necesasary chops
lurking under their freeform goofing and general air of barely restrained
chaos. But they'd have to nail the singer's shoes to the stage first.
Female Smell are not a bad bunch, but i get the impression they haven't quite decided exactly how serious they want to be.
Comanechi walk a similar line between the funny stuff - in their case an endearing surrealism - and the serious stuff - which in their case is 100mph grunge-punk played with everything, including the antics of vocalist/guitarist Akiko Matsuura, on eleven. But tonight the surrealism has been reined in a bit. The guitarist is not wearing his giant soft-toy fish on his head (although he is sporting a nice woolly jumper), and there's a purposeful feeling of let's-get-down-to-business in the room.
The band plunge into their punker wig-out anthems in a burst of energy that instantly escalates from zero to max. Akiko wails and shrieks and hollers the vocals, as if Klaus Nomi and Courtney Love were battling for posession of her psyche.
She's a one-woman freak scene in a flapping feather boa, and it must be said that without her Comanechi would be a much less exciting proposition.
The lads keep the noise coming, hurling volleys of guitar 'n' drums at us like grenades, and that's all fine stuff in itself, you understand.
But Akiko brings the essential wild card element, the dollop of maverick glamour, that elevates Comanechi above all the other full-speed noisemakers on the gig circuit. She adds the mad art to the boys' well-honed craft, and a bit of mad art is always good. Someone pop upstairs and tell that to the graphic designers.