Seize The Chair
The Murder Act
Saturday June 14 2014
Churning and gurning like the Bad Seeds in a bad mood, The Murder Act mix heads-down intensity with a large dollop of in-your-face pissed-offness.
The result is a relentlessly intense barrage of overdriven,
effect-soaked sound that - fortunately - never ends
up as mere mess and noise. The Murder Act keep a tight grip on their structure.
Even as the singer jerks and twitches behind his mic stand, hollering at us as if he's just recieved an alarming revelation from a particularly apocalyptic god, the band provide sturdy musical scaffolding. The bass and drums lock tight in a stomping, floorboard-thumping dance, the two guitars sweep and scrabble and needle and push each other around. If The Murder Act were a night out, they'd be that edge-of-chaos moment just before the fight breaks out.
Punishingly loud and never less than relentless, I dare say The Murder Act could be heavy going if you're not in the mood. But as a soundtrack for those Saturday night feelings of existential agony (you do get those feelings, right?) they make some kind of roaring, clamouring, sense.
Now that we've all been pushed to the very brink of the abyss by The Murder Act's rampaging sonic doom, here comes a band to cheer us up, tell us a few jokes, haul us back from the edge and tell us everything will be all right.
Seize The Chair are a quirky, surfy, beat group, all fizzingly energetic songs and an amiably geeky boys next door demeanour. They sound like a garage-punk XTC, a proto-psychedelic Rezillos fresh from the student common room. Seize The Chair's bouncy likeability makes them the freak-pop group you can take home to meet your parents, which is nice. But I'm not sure whether that genial charm is a help or a hinderance in the crazy world of rock 'n' roll.
Fortunately, perhaps, the evening's entertainment is wrenched back in the direction of interesting weirdness now, as Manflu emerge to plunge us into the prog-punk polyrhythmic zone.
Manflu are taciturn and reserved. They practically exude a force field of here-we-stand-we-can-do-no-other. If you took Manflu home to meet your parents they'd probably just sit there, staring balefully into the middle distance while their tea went cold. In short, Manflu don't do cheery.
But that's OK, because Manflu generate a wildly cacophonous bump 'n' grind, rhythms firing off in all directions, guitar slicing through like sonic ley lines, the hum and thrum of synth cropping up where you least expect it.
Aza Shade presides over this disparate dancehall din in a silver trouser
punk rock disco queen with a deadpan vocal delivery. "I'm a wizard," she informs
us, matter-of-factly, while the band kick the groove into strange shapes
behind her, like a bunch of toughs in an alley. "And you're not." Nobody
dares to disagree.
Tonight Manflu are launching the vinyl edition of their debut album, so they're playing to a partisan crowd who get it, dig it, and are happy to have lots of it. I do wonder what the wider world would make of Manflu, though - assuming the wider world ever gets to hear the band, given that there seem to be ever-fewer routes from the underground to the overground these days.
I wonder would the Jools Holland audience think if the comfortable
AOR-ness of the show was interrupted by a sudden burst of the screeching,
skittering, 'James Chance Coronary'? It goes down a treat tonight, but is
it the stuff of which BBC 6 Music sessions are made?
God only knows what the mainstream crowd would make of 'Tek', the traditional set-closer. Naturally, it's a strobe-heavy sensory overload of pummelling drums and stabbing guitar, and it tips us unceremoniously into a post-apocalytptic discotheque - a fun place to be, if you're in the Manflu Barmy Army, but downright scary for any civilians in the firing line, I should think. Get inside the force field while you can, kids.
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