There's a man on stage hammering away at his strap-on, while wearing a goofy grin which suggests he's having the time of his life. Is this some sort of weird sex show? Well, unless your definition of sex is really weird, no. This is Shy Child: a drums 'n' keytar duo, who may have a minimal line-up (and, given that a keytar is frankly a bit of a naff instrument, a rather uncool one to boot) but who nevertheless manage to generate a manic, squawking rush of frenzied wave-pop that hits innocent bystanbders equally in the head and the feet. 'Noise Won't Stop' is their big anthem, an insistent piece of whacked-out dancefloor freaking fit to paste a grin on the most cynical old curmudgeon. Speaking as that cynical old curmudgeon, I find myself warming to Shy Child in spite of myself. Their frantic beats and squeaks work their way into my psyche. Resistance is useless: that noise won't stop.
It was a genius idea when the band started, twenty years ago, and it's a genius idea now. When The Young Gods hit upon the notion of making towering, rumbling industrial anthems with nothing but a drum kit and a sampler in their armoury, they more or less redefined the rules of rock 'n' roll. Who needs a squadron of shape-throwing guitarists and a vanload of Marshall stacks, when you can trap all the essential noises in a box and call them forth, suitably manipulated and deranged, at the touch of a key? Who, indeed, says that electronic-based bands must inevitably make wimpy dance pop? Who says you can't rock a sampler like a stratocaster?
Tonight The Young Gods show that their concept is as watertight as it ever was. Building their looming musical skyscrapers on a bedrock-deep bass rumble, they vibrate the foundations of the venue as if channelling distant earthquakes. But the Young Gods sound is very organic, as warm and steamy as a well-fermented compost heap, and the band, far from adopting the personas of impersonal cyberboffins or future-rock heroes, come across as scruffy bohemians on a mission. You could say that this individual approach has, perhaps, held the band back from the higher rungs of the success ladder. If they'd put a bit more conventional rock 'n' roll into their music, and groomed themselves to resemble youth culture icons, they'd probably be where Nine Inch Nails are today. But then, of course, they'd be much less interesting.
In amongst the heady yet sepulchural rumble of the music, there's detail and tangents. We get an acoustic interlude, featuring a guitar tuned to resembe a sitar, and what vocalist Franz Treichler describes with a grin as a 'flying saucer' - effectively an inverted steel drum, which produces celestial chimes in response to the lightest touch of human fingers. Now, you wouldn't get that at a Ministry gig, would you? Nor, indeed, would you get a mashed-up Gary Glitter song, but when The Young Gods launch into their curiously delicate take on 'Did You Miss Me?' - a brave performance in itself, given that Gary Glitter is hardly in anybody's good books these days - the effect is so other-worldly you'd think they'd reinvented music on the spot. It would be easy to throw The Young Gods the conventional accolade, and declare them to be ahead of the crowd - but then, in twenty years, although the crowd has learned much from them, in truth they've always been out on their own. Industrial deities by default? Well, maybe. Personally, I prefer to think of the band as sampler-punks extraordinaire.
more photos from this gig, find The Young Gods here.