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KASMsKASMs
Televised Crimewave
Silhouette
Old Blue Last, London
Wednesday August 20 2008

 

 

In the upstairs room of the Old Blue (a 'trendy bar', according to The Sun, so it must be true) the artfully dishevelled post-punkers of London are gathering.

This gig brings together three of the newest and coolest bands of the new new wave. Sure, the gig itself isn't exactly a huge affair (the upstairs room at the Old Blue Last is only marginally bigger than the average suburban living room, if slightly more grubby) but here's the encouraging thing: right now, in London, gigs like this are happening most nights of the week, all over town.

I'm not going to go so far as to say we've got a whole new scene building up here - to identify it in such terms would probably be the kiss of death, and anyway the bands are too diverse to sit neatly in the same little generic box. But something is clearly happening.

What's happening right now is an opening set by Silhouette – a quietly powerful trio, three musicians whose self-contained, almost introspective demeanours neatly suit the nagging insistence of the music. Vocalist Helena is polite and self-effacing between the songs, but displays hidden reserves of gritty passion during them, as her vocals, moodily assertive without ever going over the top into rock 'n' roll grandstanding, duet and duel with her clanging guitar.

If nobody's compared Silhouette with PJ Harvey yet, I suspect it won't be long. And if Nick Cave wants a support band that's not just another bunch of blokes in black suits for his next tour, he might find one right here.

Televised CrimewaveIt turns out that 50% of Televised Crimewave were previously in Black Wire, proto-post-punk noisemakers who gave the vanilla indie scene of the early 21st century a gleeful kick up the arse – and were, in retrospect, probably a few years ahead of their time.

Fortunately, the indie zone is distinctly less vanilla these days, and Televised Crimewave, with their manic and chunky sound, fit right in to the present state of things.

The guitar schlangs and rings like a train on a tight curve (think of the guitar sound on the Gang Of Four's 'To Hell With Poverty' and you'll have the right racket), the drums wallop fearsomely, and the whole frantic onslaught is both held together and shoved out at us by a be-T-shirted vocalist who leaps around the stage (and, at times, off it) with a hyperactive energy that is only just this side of downright disturbing.

It's all a frantic scramble, but there's plenty of post-punk coiled-spring energy in the mix, a dollop of bona fide songwriting in there somewhere, and enough structure to keep it all from becoming an amiable mess. Curiously, the band's recorded music is somewhat more restrained than the crazed stuff they deliver tonight. The live incarnation of Televised Crimewave prances on the very cusp of chaos, but they never quite fall over.


KASMs have an unfathomable name, and a sound in which art-rock angularity unceremoniously collides with speedfreak energy. Their songs are meticulous tangles of barbed wire tension, guitars scrabbling with pointy fingernails over a dangerously swaying scaffolding of bass and drums. It's urban tribalism a-go-go, with a KASMssinger – Rachel Callaghan, all bobbed hair and bovver boots - shrieking over the top of the musical riot like someone's just dropped an ice cube down Siouxsie's neck.

As with Televised Crimewave, KASMs nail their fractured wails to some reassuringly tight songwriting structures, so even when it all gets freaky (and, at times, it gets very freaky) things never go entirely out of control. The KASMs jalopy might be a hurtling, ramshackle beast, but someone's got at least one finger on the steering wheel and a firm grip of the gear stick.

'Taxidermy' sounds like warfare in school assembly, all powerhouse rhythms and voodoo chanting; 'Siren Sister' is downright Lydia Lunch-like in its hurtling rhythms and vocal punctuation. All of this is delivered amid a swirling ruckus of on-stage action - and several times during the set, the crowd parts like a slightly panic-stricken Red Sea as Rachel hurls herself into the audience, accosting innocent punters and writhing mightily on the floorboards, while everyone stands around wearing 'What the fuck?' expressions.

The old dive-off-the-stage stunt always makes an impact (literally, if those floorboards come up to meet you a bit too fast) but, perhaps, KASMs rely on these antics a bit too much. First time is a moment of unexpected drama, second time is good fun. After that, the law of diminishing returns starts to apply. Those 'What the fuck?' expressions begin to be replaced by 'Oh, no, not again.'

KASMs really don't need to rely on this kind of stuff to make their presence felt. They've got their music – all blunt instruments in back alleys, steel splinters in the moonlight – to do that for them. And London's post-punkers can consider themselves well and truly skewered tonight.

 

Essential links:

KASMs: MySpace
Televised Crimewave: MySpace
Silhouette: MySpace

The Old Blue Last: MySpace

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

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.