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The Dogbones flyerThe Dogbones
Maleficent
The Dead Finks

Bull & Gate, London
Saturday April 18 2009

 

 

 

Dead finks don't talk, said Brian Eno, but The Dead Finks certainly make enough noise. Guitar, drums, and an Evolution keyboard that's been suitably adjusted to sound like something old in a wood-veneer cabinet: The Dead Finks drag the past through the future backwards. They deal in drones and clatter, beats and sweeps. They sound like The Grateful Dead if they'd gone techno in about 1973, and they're thus the kind of band that could only arise in London in the twenty-first century.

The drums give everything shape and form, and ensure that even in their most outré moments the The Dead Finks rock. The closing number is a full-length workout on The Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray', and while I always maintain that bands should never end their sets with a cover (because it leaves the audience with someone else's song in their heads, rather than one of the band's own), this time it works. The lengthy deconstruction at the end - as the song is dismantled down to just drums and electronics - works rather well.
The Dead FinksFor all that, I'm a little wary of recommending The Dead Finks as a hot band to watch. Their MySpace page is loaded with recordings that sound, by and large, like fragmented and incomplete bedroom demos, none of which seem to feature the full band, and there's a distinct lack of upcoming gigs. So, I'm not sure how much of a real band The Dead Finks are. But I hope they kick their activity levels up a gear or two. They've got something here.

MaleficentThere's no doubt that Maleficent are a real band, even if their colourful performances that mix theatre with burlesque, mime with music hall, are some way beyond your usual squint-at-the-fretboard rock 'n' roll merchants. But even at their most extravagant, there's a solid foundation of punchy rock music underneath everything.

This is the latest in a flurry of gigs to plug their debut CD, Demize, and tonight they've turned up the theatrics up to eleven. The Bull And Gate has a good size stage, and decent lighting, too (it's practically the only small venue in London that hasn't sold its soul to the wishy-washy god of feebly glimmering LEDs). That means bands can cut loose with the visuals if they have a mind to do so, and cutting loose with the visuals is certainly Maleficent's thing.

Prancing extravagantly around the stage, the focal point of the Maleficent riff machine, vocalist Martini is a glamourous and slightly scary mistress of ceremoinies, while bassist Dr Sickz, in his evil children's entertainer mask, is simply scary. (The bit where he climbs up the PA stacks and launches himself at the stage is definitely scary. The way he manages to keep playing even when he lands on his arse is definitely impressive).

Trading vocal lines and theatrical moves with co-vocalist Mortimer Cain, Martini stalks and prowls the stage, letting rip with an impressive rock diva vocal. Meanwhile, Maleficent's musical collision between programmed bump 'n' grind rhythms and killer rock riffs provides the soundtrack - you can't argue with the rush and roar of 'Demize', or the menacing lope of 'Malice And Desire', possibly Maleficent's most melodramatic anthem (and they're not exactly under-stocked in that department). Maleficent push the usual notion of what a rock band should be into a strange kind of Grand Guignol-meets-Grindhouse zone. And that's no mean feat in the prosaic surroundings of the Bull And Gate.

The DogbonesThe Dogbones are also in the business of pushing the usual rock band concept into strange areas, and while they may not go for the theatrical jugular quite as much as Maleficent (occasional bouts of glam-slam shape-throwing by Crispin Gray aside), they're certainly not averse to messing with the parameters.

Two drummers - Bambi from Selfish Cunt, Vince Johnson from Daisy Chainsaw - share a kick drum and assorted tom-toms. But no snares. Snares are for wimps. The aforementioned Crispin Gray and Nomi Leonard (both, of course, on leave from the court of Queen Adreena) swap between bass, guitar, and vocals.

Curiously, for a band which could be regarded as some sort of alternative supergroup, tonight's crowd does not appear to be significantly rammed with Selfish Cunt fans or Queen Adreena acolytes. It seems that The Dogbones are building up their own audience from people who like what they do, not necessarily people who dig their other bands. That might amount to doing it the hard way, of course - an influx of Queen Adreena's loyal subjects woud've boosted tonight's crowd quite usefully - but at least The Dogbones can be sure that the fans at the front are there for the right reasons.

Powering through their abrasive yet nimble bubblegum-grunge songs, tribal drums pounding, spikes of ragged guitar poking through choruses that billow like sheets on a washing line, The Dogbones balance with deceptive ease on the watershed between ripped-up punk rock and an agile, nimble pop sensibility. 'Give Us A Kiss', a cynical blast at the machinations of the music biz - and I wonder how much of it is drawn from experience - manages to incorporate a lilting chorus as a counterpoint to the bile and wormwood of the verses. It's a fine line, but The Dogbones strut along it with a jaunty ease, even when they're punking it up.

Essential Links:

The Dogbones: MySpace
Maleficent: Website | MySpace
The Dead Finks:
MySpace

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

The Dogbones

 

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