Lesbian Bed Death
Saturday July 19 2014
The Unicorn is a fine lesson in how to do a rock
pub: you don't do
a rock pub. You just do a pub, and let the rest happen naturally.
Instead of the trying-too-hard themed-to-death environment of certain rock 'n' roll boozers I could mention, the Unicorn doesn't go OTT on artificially scuzzy 'rock' decor. In fact, aside from a few posters advertising upcoming gigs, it doesn't do rock decor at all. But in the bar you'll encounter a cross-section of London's leather jacketed inhabitants, and up the back you'll find a decent-sized stage.
And tonight, on that stage, we find
an assortment of London's scuzzy guitar slingers, who, jointly and severally,
are here to Bring The Rock. Starting with...
The Tango Pirates. Or, at least, two of them: guitarist/vocalist Danny Fury and bassist Vera Wild - plus occasional guest appearances from their rock 'n' roll mates. But, mostly, it's just the duo, doing a minimalist troubadour take on some Tango Pirates songs, which actually sound pretty good stripped down to the bare essentials. I particularly like the rather witty song about how life is so much better when you're dead...it might even be called 'Life Is So Much Better when You're Dead'. We'll be back for more of that stuff, I think.
Now let's take a lurch into the punk zone, courtesy of Jettyson. They've got a brash, tough, no-frills sound and a vocalist with a fine don't-mess-with-me caterwaul. In a way they're a bit like Penetration...a garagey, bare-bones Penetration, all tight arrangements and plenty of strop.
The singer dances
around the stage and gives us her best punk rock holler - it's not complex
stuff, that's for sure, but if you want complex there's always progressive
rock. Tonight, we want it simple and direct, and I like the way Jettyson
do it to us.
Lesbian Bed Death have a baffling name (but it certainly makes you look twice, which I dare say is the point) and a big, thundering, rock racket that sometimes sidles up close to the metal zone, but never quite crosses the line.
The band's vocalist is personable and friendly between songs, and transforms herself into a full-throated rock valkyrie during them.
She's the reason Lesbian Bed Death are, for all their assault-and-battery racket, an accessible proposition - without her, the band would be all cake mix but no icing. The lads hammer away like a heavy freight train storming a gradient, and if you like your riffs crunchy and your beats punchy, they certainly deliver. But it's the singer who grabs - and keeps - your attention.
Here come the Healthy Junkies, in a squall of glammy
guitar and some quality flouncing from vocalist Nina Courson, who makes
a very fine glam-punk diva.
She has just the right combination of assertiveness and coquettishness, and although she's always engaging and friendly, clearly having a good time in the centere of the band's rock 'n' roll storm, you know she's not about to take any nonsense. So, nobody try any stage diving, OK?
The band pitch in to their robust rockers with a dextrous touch. 'Manifesto' - always a fave of mine - is bold and assertive, the guitar shoving the song up into the lodge-in-your-brain chorus - and, it must be said, Healthy Junkies are very good at writing lodge-in-your-brain choruses.
There's a pop sensibility to their songs which rubs up against the rock just enough to keep things fluid and nimble. But Healthy Junkies can do the unashamed, no holds barred, loud and messy stuff, too, as they demonstrate on 'If You Talk To Her It's Over'.
It's a great pounding grunge-meets-krautrock thing, with an ever-circling Bo Diddley-ish rhythm and great swathes of effect-soaked mutant blues guitar. Most bands would keep an anthem like that for the big finish: Healthy Junkies chuck it in as the fourth song of the set. The Rock has definitely been brought.
For more photos from this gig, find Healthy Junkies by name here.