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Lydia Lunch / Big Sexy Noise flyerLydia Lunch and Big Sexy Noise
Manflu
Corsica Studios, London
Thursday December 9 2010

 

As I've remarked before - possibly in relation to this very venue - good stuff always seems to happen under railway arches. Corsica Studios occupies several such arches under Elephant And Castle railway station - built 1863, in case you're taking notes - in a decidedly unfashionable corner of London. One stop out from Blackfriars and it's another world, I tell ya. But, down here, in the bowels of the brickwork, there's a space where the good stuff can happen, and tonight certainly looks like good stuff to me. But the proof of the gig is in the, er, gigging - so let's bring on a band.

Manflu are all rattle and clang and sturm and drang. They're tight but loose, cerebral and slightly scary, rhythms firing off in all directions. Imagine a cross between Xmal Deutschland and Sonic Youth, coldwave and no-wave in occasional harmony, and that's almost Manflu. They occupy that fuzzy area where avant-rock starts shading into prog, and it's not often you'll hear me mention the p-word without making comedy gagging noises.

But while Manflu might fling time-changes around like they've all got different metronomes in their heads, that's not the whole story. No matter how wayward their rhytms might get, they force their music into a purposeful, post-punky push forward - and always with curt nod in the direction of the heart of darkness. The Manflu racket has a compellingly cold-eyed edge. The guitarist throws a succession of faintly disturbing shapes; the singer fixes the crowd with a frosty stare - she's so frosty, she doesn't even take her coat off until half way through the set. When they fire up the stobe and the never-ending metallic K.O. of their endurance-test showstopper 'Tek' breaks out, the crowd is well and truly skewered.

Manflu / Lydia Lunch

Talking of artists who are slightly scary, here's Lydia Lunch - playing tonight with her band of low life ruffians who, in another life, trade as Gallon Drunk. With Lydia on board the band becomes Big Sexy Noise, and that's a 'does what it says on the tin' situation right there. Because Big Sexy Noise are all bump and grind, slink and slide. This is music viewed through a whisky glass darkly, music to soundtrack the drinking session after the hangover after the night before.

Lydia herself is cheerfully sardonic, dishing out scorn and sideswipes with equal glee as the band brews up a churning blues. Terry Edwards lays down squalls of sax like sonic scribbles over the scuffed-shoe shuffle of 'Gospel Singer'; James Johnston hunches over his guitar and sketches out the riffs as if with a freshly sharpened quill. 'Your Love Don't Pay My Rent' is, of course, a thumping, pulverizing, grindhouse anthem, the entire song a withering put-down from which there is no comeback. When Lydia tells you, you stay told. Mind you, Lydia should worry, as she sends her loser lover down the road. She's got 'Another Man Comin' While The Bed Is Still Warm'.

If there's a theme to Big Sexy Noise's songs, that's it right there: Lydia as the sharp-tounged, take-no-shit female half of whatever relationship she fancies getting into - or getting out of. It's rare - more rare than it should be - to hear songs sung from the female perspective that place the protagonist in such an unequivocal position of control. But this is Lydia Lunch. We expect nothing less.

 

Lydia Lunch: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Big Sexy Noise: Website | MySpace

Manflu: MySpace | Facebook

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.
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