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Trauma Pet

Islington Academy, London
Sunday March 28 2009




An electro-industrial extravaganza tonight. Well, mostly, but we'll get to that in a minute.

For now, openers System:FX are on stage, doing their industrial-beatz-and-shouty-distorty-vocals thing with impressive gusto. It must be said, though, that the impact of their racket is somewhat diminished by the fact that I've hard umpteen bands making this kind of noise over the years, many of them decked out in the same kind of hair-extensions-and-big-boots image as System:FX are sporting tonight. This is a very generic band, not in the business of mixing up influences or pushing any envelopes.

Fair enough, I hear you say - and indeed System:FX are not bad at what they do. But what they do has, frankly, been done to death now. I'll grant you there may well be an audience out there for a band which more or less reproduces the industrial floor at the Slimelight experience, any year since about 1997 onwards, in one handy package. I wish System:FX luck in locating it. But I don't think that audience will include me.

And now here comes the 'mostly'. Trauma Pet started out as an electro-duo a few years back, but swiftly grew into a full-scale rock band - guitar (two guitars, sometimes), bass, drums, the works. On this bill they're an incongruity, but that seems to be the way they like it.

Notwithstanding their none-more-rock approach, Trauma Pet only ever seem to play electro-industrial gigs such as this one. Last time I saw them, they were supporting Front Line Assembly. Their next gig is supporting KMFDM. They're certainly hurling themselves at the industrio-heads, but the contemporary rock crowd that would Trauma Petprobably go for the band in a big way if it ever got to see them play...never gets to see them play. If this is some sort of strategic career progression plan on the part of Trauma Pet, frankly it baffles me.

But here they are: slick and punchy and actually rather good. Trauma Pet don't seem to have any one over-riding influence, and I can't sum them up by simply reeling off a few comparisons. That's rare, and that's good. They're an individual band, very much of now.

Tonight they aquit themselves well, packing a nifty contemporary rock punch, notwithstanding a slightly awkward stage set-up. The backing vocalist has been rather cruelly stationed right up front, which means that when she's not actually singing she's forced to stand sheepishly in the spotlight with nothing to do, but the glacial presence of lead singer Elie - looking almost anime in her unfeasibly big boots - carries the show with suitable quantities of cool.

In a sense, Trauma Pet are in the same boat as System FX: they need to find their audience. In Trauma Pet's case I'm sure that audience does exist, and the band are certainly good enough to claim it for their own. But I doubt if they'll find their fanbase in the electro-industrial zone.

Now that we're talking of audiences, let's consider Client - who find themselves in the rather odd position of having a largely electro-indie following in the UK, while in Germany they're very much part of the electro-goth area. It's rare to see the band at a gig such as this in the UK. Client's usual home territory is among the pointy boots and angular hairstyles of the Shoreditch cool crowd.

Fortunately, a large Clientcontingent of German DAF fans in the crowd make the band welcome, and Client's governess-with-a-heart-of-gold schtick does the rest. Buttoned up in their trademark uniforms, but never show to raise an eyebrow or crack a smile, Client's appeal lies as much with their tendency to debunk their severe image as it does with the image itself.

The set is a touch-all-bases overview of the Client songbook, the band's early, eponymous, spoken-word statement of intent, 'Client', sounding almost awkward up against the later, more poppy songs. Even when the band get all cynical on 'In It For The Money' they can't help but go at it with a disarming grin and a poptastic swing. Client are the girls who lived next door to New Order, and absorbed the grooves through the walls: supercool electro chyx who aren't quite as aloof as they'd have us believe.

By the time DAF are ready to hit the go button virtually the entire front-of-stage area is packed out with German fans who've made a pilgrimage to London to catch their heroes in full effect. I hear German spoken all around me, and when DAF frontman Gabi Delgado speaks in German to the crowd - as he does, exclusively, all night - his words are greeted with shouts and cheers of understanding. This must be what globalisation is all about - I'm at a gig in London, listening to the Spanish frontman of a German band speaking to me in German, while the crowd greet the band's efforts with shouts of 'Zugabe!'.

Deutsche-Amerikanische Freundschaft (to give the band its full name, which, by and large, nobody ever does) date back to 1978, when Gabi Delgado and Robert Gorl joined forces as an electronic punk band, more or less - and, although in the years since then they've been responsible for plenty of muscular dancefloor anthems, and even had a hand in inventing EBM, you can tell they're still punks at heart. The show is a stripped-down, minimal affair: Robert Gorl powers away on a drum kit, while Gabi prowls the stage with an intensity entirely undiminished by the fact that he's been doing this, on and off, for 29 years.

The sound is a rhythmic onslaught, but always clean and ruthlessly focused, the vocals terse and effective. It's almost superfluous to metion that the dancefloor is heaving from the get-go. 'Der Mussolini' is an urgent surge, 'Alles DAFGegen Alle' a rush and push of pounding rhythm.

Yes, DAF have still got the chops. The effortless way they can light a fire under the arses of the audience without resorting to the tiresome jolly-ups ('Come on! Lemme see your hands in the air!' - you know the sort of thing) routinely employed by newer, lesser, bands, simply tells us something we already know. Face it, kids: the originals are still the best. Zugabe!




Essential links:

DAF: Website | MySpace
Client: Website | MySpace
Trauma Pet: Website | MySpace
System:FX: Website | MySpace

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


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