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Lydia Lunch & Cypress Grove
We Are Birds Of Paradise
The Amusiacs

Verbalesque @ The Lexington, London
Monday August 27 2012


Verbalesque, they're calling it. That means there'll be a lot of words flying around at this gig. Not that this comes as a surprise where Lydia Lunch - who's compering, collaborating, and performing tonight - is concerned. Words are Lydia's weapons; the tools of her trade. So let's get into the firing range...or the workshop. Please select whichever metaphor suits you best.

The Amusiacs

To kick off the revels in the Lexington's upstairs room, Lydia introduces us to The Amusiacs - who are a kind of cabaret blues combination, all Canvey Island bump and grind, with a Liza Minelli-ish singer vamping and stamping up front. They're a lot of fun, striking just the right balance between stylised showbiz artifice and down 'n' dirty rock 'n' roll. They bring out guitars made from tin boxes, the drummer thwacks a metal washing-up bowl, and they get a right old clang and twang on. Good stuff, and exactly as sophisticated as it needs to be - which is to say, not very.

By way of a contrast, We Are Birds of Paradise are as stylised as all get-out. They're a twenty-first century chamber trio - violin, electrical piano, drums. They're all widows' weeds and inscrutable expressions. The drummer, in particular, is We ASre Birds Of Paradiseso inscrutable she's practically radiating a force field.

The Birds (we do call them the Birds, don't we?) play overwrought, hand-staple-forehead ballads full of melodrama and swooping vocals. It's as if Nick Cave, in the midst of one of his purple moments, suddenly found himself reincarnated as three feisty spinster minstrels in velvet and black lace.

But if you allow yourself to enter the We Are Birds Of Paradise world of Dickensian woe and turmoil, rage and passsion - and it does require a certain suspension of disbelief, not to mention a  willingness to give the usual rules of rock 'n' roll a holiday - their histrionic operettas do work rather well.

The singer's voice has an edge to it, a hint of scouring-powder abrasiveness, that ensures that even the most delicate songs never get too flimsy. And on the non-delicate songs - such as 'Mary', a rampaging tempest of high octane angst, complete with outbreaks of thrashy violin - We Ae Birds Of Paradise practically strip paint off the venue walls with their tumult. And any band who can whip up a Ted Nugent-style feedback symphony with a fiddle is fine by me. Beat that, Emilie Autumn!

In an almost-impromptu collaboration, Lydia Lunch joins the Birds, and to a soundtrack of moody piano and keening violin she launches into one of her lurid cautionary tales. "This is why you should never answer the door at 5.45am on a Sunday morning," she advises us. "Somebody's too high, somebody's just died, or somebody's arrived who wants to kill you."  Then again, it could just be the Jehovah's Witnesses, Lydia. By way of a big finish, they all pitch in to a clattering, percussive, 'Hangover Hotel', Lydia snarling out the words in a magnificent bile-soaked mantra as the Birds vamp an appropriately drama-laden accompaniment.

Lydia Lunch & Cypress GroveCypress Grove might have a name like a street address (Cypress Grove? Isn't that just down the road from Acacia Avenue?) but in fact he turns out to be a self-effacing, bespectacled blues dude, who, it seems, is Lydia's latest collaboator. They have an album in the works, and tonight we get a hint of what it'll contain.

To a backing of ecomomical guitar, we're taken on walk down 'St Mark's Place', hand in hand with the ghost of Jeffrey Lee Pierce - a song all the more affecting because its author is now dead...and also because St Mark's Place, once the centre of New York's colorful counterculture, isn't quite what it was.

It's a nod to Lydia Lunch's own past, as much as anything, a song that speaks of time passing, times gone.

But just in case anyone thought nostalgia was going to rule, we're unceremoniously brought up to date with a stalking, haunting, take on Mark Lanegan's 'Revolver'. But it's the swagger through Van Morrisin's 'TB Sheets' - "The only good song Van Morrison ever wrote," Lydia informs us in a tone that brooks no argument - that really hits home, in all its twitchy restlessness.

Words we got, and plenty of them, tonight. But it's the collisions and collabrations that Lydia Lunch seems to engineer with instinctive precision that made the night. The upcoming album with Cypress Grove is going to be one to look out for. Come to that, I'd rather like a whole album of Lydia and We Are Birds Of Paradise - but, then again, perhaps not. Sometimes, it's all about the moment. Sometimes, you just gotta be there.

Lydia Lunch: Website | MySpace | Facebook

We Are Birds Of Paradise: Website | MySpace | Facebook

The Amusiacs: Website | MySpace | Facebook

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

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