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
There'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.
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).
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
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.