Once again I'm down Brick Lane, heading for 93 Feet East and another night of curious cacophonies courtesy of the In Your Ear/Uber crew. Top stars tonight are These New Puritans - a band I first saw supporting The Violets in a room above a pub late last year.
In a way it's odd to find, a mere matter of months later, that These New Puritans have scrabbled their way up to a headline slot, for on the face of it they're hardly a band with conventional mass appeal. Their music is intense and uncompromising, their image is downbeat and dour. All members of the band seem to dress in shades of grey. I remember, when I first caught sight of the band at that Violets gig, all sitting around a pub table, they looked like a black and white photograph.
The fact that a band so drastically at variance to what the kids are usually presumed to want can make headway like this should alert even the most gormless music biz observer to the fact that something is going on here. Right now there's a growing audience for uneasy-listening music. The left field has staked its claim to the centre. The weird kids are about to wreak their revenge, or at least gatecrash the party and steal all the booze. And, speaking as a weird kid of many years' standing, that's fine by me.
Here comes our support band for tonight: Blah Blah Blasé, a very new combo with an even newer name (it appears they were called Blah Blah Blah until about five minutes before the gig).
The three band members are all wearing blue T-shirts with one-third of the old name eblazoned thereon, thus spelling it out across the stage. All very conceptual, although the eleventh-hour name change means the concept has taken a bit of a knock. Nothing a swift visit to the While-U-Wait T-shirt bar can't fix, of course.
The vocalist looks familiar - I'm sure I last saw him fronting Twisted Charm. Does this mean Blah Blah Blasé are a side project, or a new main project? I can tell you this much: they're a stripped-down no-wave-ish project. The minimal thud of a drum machine drives the songs along, the guitar and bass lock horns and draw jagged shapes in the air. The vocals honk and holler over the top, and it all gets very CBGB. It's actually rather good, if slightly hesitant.
The band's newness sometimes shows through; occasionally, there's a sense that nobody on stage quite knows what's coming next. But that's OK. Nobody's looking for slickness tonight. Those jagged shapes are what it's all about. Yes, this stuff does the job. Anyone with a healthy interest in the post-punk undergrowth should file this band in the 'one to watch' section. Blasé? I suspect you won't be.
These New Puritans have painted their drum kit matt black. For some reason, I find this very encouraging. It's as if the band are laying out their stall, alerting us to their essential aesthetic even before they get on stage. The drums just sit there, implacably black, frowning at us like a heap of rock 'n' roll coal. The band thus strike a suitably dour note before anyone's even hit a beat.
Then the human element of These New Puritans appear, skinny and monochrome, all eyes and nerves, and they pitch right in to their noise. Now, I hope I don't have to point out that These New Puritans derive their name from the title of a song by The Fall - you knew that already, right?
And, as it turns out, there's a hint of The Fall's bashed-up, jalopy-on-the-bypass churning machinery in These New Puritans' sound. It's all a dense mesh of riff and rhythm, hammering along like the Rat Fink rally team, but always with a firm grip on the wheel. This is a band which always maintains lane discipline, no matter how heavily they're stamping on the gas.
Those matt black drums box it all in and keep it all tidy, even as the music tries to get messed up. It's that sense that the band are straining against their own self-imposed leashes, heeling-and toeing on the brake and accelerator simultaneously, that makes it work. It's an unrepentantly awkward pounding rush of sound.
The guitar sound fills the space around the band like cavity insulation foam; the keboards wangle in with sharp, buzzing interjections. The singer glances, wide-eyed, this way and that, as if scanning the crowd for friends and enemies, his voice sliding over the music in a near-dissonant rant, while the other New Puritans maintain stern demeanours of frowning concentration.
At times, These New Puritans come across like the product of a love tryst between Mark E Smith and Ian Curtis in an alley behind the Russell Club in Manchester in about 1979: at other times, they're very 21st Century new wave. Mostly, they sound like they're melting down scrap metal inside their heads. Either way, I like this stuff. Weird kids rule OK.
Blah Blah Blasé: MySpace
For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.