Never Come Back @ The Victoria, London
Saturday January 28 2012
This certainly isn't the first time I've been to a gig in a pub called The Victoria, but it is the first time I've been to this Victoria. We're in the border zone of London E8, where the badlands of Dalston give way to the not-quite-so-badlands of London Fields. Pound shops and kebab joints that way, agreeable tree-lined residential roads the other.
Tonight, Victoria's back room is hosting Never Come Back - a club night that occupies the border zone between post-punk guitar and interesting electronics. And I'm not about to speculate which one of those represents the badlands.
Our opening band tonight, Linea Aspera, seem to have sprung fully-formed from London's East End musical undergrowth. Perhaps the two members of the band - Ryan Ambridge on programming and electronix, Alison Lewis on vocals and other electronix - have spent the last six months locked in a rehearsal room, hammering away at Linea Aspera music until they'd nailed their art to the wall.
At any rate, their art is nailed. With a certain understated cool and a distinct absence of rock 'n' roll grandstanding, Linea Aspera click and glide and swoon and hum through a set of organic electronica. I'm not going to say synthpop, because that makes me think of EBM-blokes being all hand-staple-forehead over bangin' beatz - and that's not where we are tonight.
Linea Aspera are coming from more of a Chris And Cosey kind of direction: minimalist melancholia instead of overblown anguish, atmospherics rather than angst. The vocals trip lightly over the music, stepping carefully, slipping through the spaces between the beats.
And yes, in some ways it's all very 80s...but it also sounds like London, now.
M!R!M are fresh outta Italy with punctuation in their name. Two men, a guitar, a bass and a drum machine.
Endearingly, the bassist is wearing a nice warm woolly jumper, which makes him look like his mum has insisted he wrap up nice and warm for London in January. Fortunately, the racket M!R!M make is more leather jacket than fluffy jumper.
They're fast and spiky and full of tumbling tension, rattling off a series of pocket-rocket songs in which the guitar and bass duel mightily with the drum machine clatter. M!R!M have sufficient presence to make us forget that, in conventional rock band terms, they're not quite all there.
But still, their not-quite-there-ness might prove a problem if their master plan envisages the band making headway in the rock world. I mean, look at, say, Devilish Presley, who would probably own the punk/psychobilly crossover zone by now, if it wasn't for the drum machine factor.
Here in the left field, though, the crowd is happy to take M!R!M for what they are: high-tension post-punk, urban and overdriven. That sounds like London, now, too.
For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.