Skinny Girl Diet
Friday November 15 2013
I reckon Morrissey levels have been overstated a bit around here.
72% Morrissey are about 0% Morrissey, really. If you want my own breakdown, I'd say the band contains about 30% Black Sabbath, 20% Iron Butterfly, 23% sludge, 15% grunge, 7% prog and 5% all-purpose maximum heaviosity.
They're a slow 'n' low intrumental trio, generating massive slabs of ponderous sonic bombast - all their tunes sound like they've been hauled out of a very deep basement by a team of earnest archaeologists. One of the numbers is called 'Dirge'. Well, it would be, wouldn't it.
72% Morrissey's commitment to their concept, but if music was weather,
this stuff would be an oppressively cloudy day that never quite resolves
itself into a rainstorm.
After all that, Skinny Girl Diet's sardonic, disdainful grungecore workouts come as a touch of light relief. Taciturn and aloof as ever - apart from the drummer's occasional grin - the band, as ever, expertly exude an air of not being impressed with anything much.
You get the impression
that if something completely wonderful happened to Skinny Girl Diet
they'd still just stand there and say "So what?"
As an antidote to many other bands' slightly desperate air of please-like-us, the Skinny Girl Diet approach - all deadpan expressions, just this side of outright grumpiness - hints at a confidence in their art that is paradoxically engaging.
The Skinny Girl Diet art has changed a bit since I first clapped eyes on those deadpan expressions, mind. The engagingly naif clang and batter of the band's earlier days is increasingly shifting towards a kind of Sonic Youthy garage grind, complete with transatlantic drawled vocals.
The band's influence-source has shifted, it seems - from an essentially British, C86-ish take on riot grrl to a more American 90s grunge sound. Why, at times the band sound bizarrely like veterans of the US punk rock circuit: you could imagine them opening up for Babes In Toyland at the Whisky a-Go-Go, and making just this racket.
I'm a little dubious about this direction - it often ends up as a slow slide into default-metal (see Babes In Toyland for a useful example). Skinny Girl Diet make a pretty good grunge band, but I hope they're not planning to travel too far down the American rock freeway.
Manflu are probably the least likely band to travel on any freeway. They're
more of a random tangent across country, swerving around tree trunks and falling
into potholes as they go. And you certainly can't nail them down to any particular
set of influences - it's all in there, from punk to prog, no wave noise bursts
and meta-funk rhythm workouts. Somehow Manflu haul this disparate stuff together
and create a clanging, thrumming, multi-headed noise monster out of their box
The members of Manflu are a pretty disparate bunch, too: look at them, arrayed on stage like a surrealist army, looking like they should be in five different bands.
But, as with the audio, so with the visuals. Manflu's very diversity is their uniformity. They operate like a special forces squad - the gang of mavericks sent behind enemy lines to cause havoc before the regular troops go in.
Although it must be said that in her space-glam
silver tunic and Barbarella boots, reflecting the stage lights like a human
mirrorball, vocalist Aza Shade isn't exactly camoflaged. Not unless
she plans to invade an Aladdin Sane convention, anyway.
Manflu's brand of havoc is a heady brew indeed. Tonight they go careering through the songs on their debut album - this is the official launch gig, although the official release hasn't quite happened yet - and it's a gloriously pell-mell pile of rhythmic splendour, whacked out on stage with a heady combination of concentration and insousciant cool.
The traditional show-closer, 'Tek', which tends to be a relentless barrage of beats and strobes and guitar-schlangs at the best of times, is tonight given extra welly - and extra percussion, too, as Aza, a slipping through the strobe flashes in a sliver of silver, sends cymbal crashes into the hammering din. Havoc is duly caused - gloriously.