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Comanechi flyerComanechi
Stranger Son

The Lexington, London
Friday March 22 2013


Up the Lexy for a night curated by The Quietus and Wire, no less. It's not clear exactly who out of those two has selected which of tonight's bands, but at least we can be sure that the bands have been selected, rather than just pulled out of the venue manager's gissa-gig pile at random.

Whoever gave Mambas the nod must be a fan of 90s indie-dance, mind. That's the Mambas modus operandi: a loping mid-tempo beat that grooves along like a vintage Soup Dragons 12", while layers of synth and guitar ebb and flow behind a trancey female voice.

It's not bad stuff in its way, although a little short of dynamics. It's the kind of music you'd hear early doors at a 90s indie disco, while everybody's putting their coats in the cloakroom and getting the first round in. Decent enough in a toe-tapping way, but you know the DJ is saving the really good stuff for later.

Earnest and muso-ish, studiedly downbeat, Stranger Son come on like a neofolk version of The Fall. Their songs are weighty dissertations on the state of the world and the human condition. One song appears to be a near blow-by-blow account of the Algerian war of independence, which seems to go on almost as long as the war itself.

The words are enunciated with a certain gawky gravity by the vocalist, who looms awkwardly over his music stand like a head prefect who's unexpectedly Mambas / Stranger Sonbeen asked to lead the school assembly. His musician colleagues keep their heads down and diligently attend to business, although the bassist occasionally essays a few bobs and weaves as if he's suppressing a secret desire to rock out.

But Stranger Son are strangers to showbiz. They keep everything sober and pensive on stage, and that's fine by me. It's not like I want fireworks and exotic dancers (well, not all the time).

And yet I find myself wishing the band would kick things up into a higher gear, hit some sort of groove, wrap those sternly didactic words in music that's more visceral than cerebral. Stranger Son never quite do it, though. Top marks for the head prefect, but maybe it's time to let the delinquent kids have a go.

And here come the delinquent kids. Comanechi were a duo last time I saw them - with vocalist Akiko Matsuura fronting the band while also playing drums. Not an impossible feat, but one that clearly has its limitations.

So now, Comanechi are a trio. Simon Petrovich occupies his customary position stage-right, churning out the heavy heavy riffage from behind a curtain of hair, Charlie Heaton is a human motion blur on drums, and Akiko, now on vocals and more guitar, is free to get into the audience's faces.

Which, it must be said, she does with great glee, hollering and freaking in a silver leotard like one of Ziggy Stardust's glam-rock nightmares come to life. And yes, rock is the operative word.

Comanechi make a huge and heavy noise. For all their flailing craziness, for all their artful surrealism - at one point the guitarist wears a soft-toy goldfish on his head, don't ask me why - and for all Akiko's disarming between-song charm, Comanechi grab that ol' rock beast by the scruff of its neck and nail its hide to the wall.

There's a heap of new songs in the set tonight, from the new album You Owe Me Nothing But Love, but notwithstanding the presence of the L-word in that title Comanechi have not gone all soft and ballad-y on us. They stack the riffs up high and wide, as heavy-duty as any bunch of conventionally hairy-arsed rock gods - and perhaps, if it wasn't for Akiko's whimsical humour and Barbarella-on-a-budget stagewear, they would seem much more of a mainstream proposition.

But add Akiko to the mix and suddenly Comanechi are staking out the left field even as they rock out the rest of us. By the time the band thunder to the finish line with the double-whammy of 'Death Threat' and 'Death Of You' the crowd is moshing like we're at a Motorhead gig. Roaring like a big, weird machine, Comanechi make heavy rock it's OK for art-punks to like.


Comanechi: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Stranger Son: Website | Facebook

Mambas: Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find Comanechi by name here.

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