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Bad For Lazarus posterBad For Lazarus
God Damn
18 Nightmares At The Lux
Zoëtrøpe

Bull & Gate, London
Friday February 1 2013

 

 

Like anyone of good sense and discernment, I'm here for Zoëtrøpe. But there are three other bands above them tonight, so in order to get top value for my quids I'll be sticking around. Do I feel lucky, I wonder.

Here come Zoëtrøpe now, self-effacing in the Bull & Gate's default-purple spotlights. Zoëtrøpe are a little different every time I see them: there's a sense that this band's art is under construction. When I first saw Zoëtrøpe they were doing a more or less straight-up riot grrl thing, all lo-fi spikiness and outbreaks of punker fervour. It's not like they've walked away from any of that, you understand, but now it's leavened with detail, and a certain thoughtful quality.

The songwriting, it seems, is getting more cerebral. The band is heading into territory once occupied by the likes of the Au Pairs or Penetration - intelligence and jagged edges in the pursuit of pop. When the band suddenly yell "Don't look at me!" and the drums go crazy it's almost incongruous - a moment of crash-bash contrivance from a band who aren't really doing that stuff any more. It's intriguing to watch Zoëtrøpe shift their ground more or less as we watch - and all the more so because I think they're going somewhere interesting.

Zoetrope / 18 Nightmares At The Lux

Talking of incongruity,
18 Nightmares At The Lux are youthful and fresh-faced, and play a rather indie-ish take on low-slung, garagey rock 'n' roll. The idea - I assume - is to give it some of that Gun Club firewater: play it fast and fuzztone, old-school Americana forced through a punker filter. Not a bad notion in itself - and hey, it certainly worked for the Gun Club. But the band's earnest indie-kid approach doesn't quite fit the music. They're a bit too restrained to really unleash the scuzz, and too much of a neat and tidy bunch to pull off the badlands swagger convincingly.

Yes, I know what you're going to say: it's the music that matters, man. It's not about appearances. Well, actually, it is about appearances. Rock 'n' roll is an audio-visual art form. The reason 18 Nightmares At The Lux are on stage tonight is so we can see them. If the visuals didn't figure, none of us would be here. So, yes, looks are a key part of the art, and for 18 Nightmares it's not quite happening. Still, give it a few years of rock 'n' roll living and I'm sure they'll acquire the essential touch of gutter glitter, in both sound and vision. Just don't moisturise too much, guys.

Ah, the West Midlands, legendary incubator of all things 'eavy. And it's still hapening, it seems, for God Damn are fresh in from Wolverhampton with hair down to here and everything on eleven. A heavy rock - not heavy metal, the distinction is important - power trio, God Damn pitch up somewhere between grunge, hardcore, and yer actual vintage Black Country rock. Sometimes they're all slow 'n' low like down-home SABBAFFF, other times they're kicking it fast and gonzoid like Fucked Up. But it all hangs together in a solid wall of rocknoize. Maybe it's the Wolverhampton accents that make it work. At any rate, something is making it work. Because it works.

God Damn / Bad For Lazarus

I can't quite remember if The Darkness are a going concern at the moment (I seem to recall they've split and reformed at least once), but if they are indeed currently residing in the Where Are They Now file, fans of seventies-tastic extravaganzo-rock need have no fear. Here come Bad For Lazarus to fill the gap.

A riot of shameless showboating, rock-god posing, and more hair tossing than a vintage episode of Charlie's Angels, Bad For Lazarus make Spinal Tap look like an exercise in studied minimalism. Their songs are brash rawk workouts that would probably seem just the job in a sleazoid bar on Hollywood's Sunset Strip, but are just a little incongruous at the Bull & Gate, Kentish Town, London NW5.

They've got all the moves down, that's for sure, and they certainly know how to crank the rock. But Bad For Lazarus end up looking too much like a parody to me. I know, I know. Not for the first time, I know what you're going to say. You're going to tell me it's not meant to be taken seriously, it's good time rock 'n' roll, they're in it for the grins - right? Well, sure, all that is fine and dandy if the band can pull it off without looking like a rather naff bunch of try-hards. But it's a fine line, and Bad For Lazarus, alas, end up on the wrong side of it.

There you are, then. An honourable mention for God Damn, but in the end my initial suspicions were right. Tonight, this was Zoëtrøpe's gig.

 

Bad For Lazarus: Website | Facebook

God Damn: Website | Facebook

18 Nightmares At The Lux: Website | Facebook

Zoëtrøpe: Website | Facebook

 

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

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