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Queen Adreena
Vile Imbeciles
Queen AdreenaThe Luminaire, London
Tuesday May 27 2008

 

 

The vocalist stands sideways, dressed in an old brown suit jacket - art teacher chic. He's surrounded by a bunch of rock 'n' roll scruff-bags, making a low-down dirty punkzoid blues racket. There is much flailing and caterwauling; the jams are kicked out with a manic, gritty bump 'n' grind.

That's the Vile Imbeciles for you: like The Horrors if you tied them to the back of a hot rod, took 'em for a drag up the quarter mile, and then forced them, frazzled and dishevelled, to play a gig. Not bad, but I'm looking for something a bit better than not bad. The trouble is, The Birthday Party wrote the book on this stuff years ago - and their take is still definitive.

I have a confession to make. I am a born-again Queen Adreena fan. My faith - so strong in the early days, when the band came hammering out of the traps, at once so exhilaratingly soaked in rock 'n' roll juice, and yet at the same time so enticingly other - wavered and declined as Queen Adreena seemed to become becalmed in the alternorock doldrums.

A few years ago I remember going to a Queen Adreena gig and being rather unimpressed with what seemed to be their slow slide into a kind of messy, default-option quasi-metal racket. I recall I was also distinctly underwhelmed by their bassist of the time - Queen Adreena went through a period of changing their bassists like Spinal Tap changed their drummers. He was a perfectly competent muso of the just-stand-there-and-do-the-job school, but his barely-there presence seemed to create an awkward void on that side of the stage. And awkward voids just aren't what you want from Queen Adreena, are they?

But that was then, and this is now. It seems Queen Adreena have rediscovered their mojo (it was down the back of the sofa all the time). Their set a while back at the Forum, supporting The Damned, was a short, sharp blast of the good stuff, and that's why I've hauled myself up Kilburn High Road to the Luminaire - a small and cool venue, where Queen Adreena have lined up another bout of their own peculiar hellfire. Let's see if they can do the right thing again.

It's hot and crowded, but the band exude an offhand nonchalance. There are no words of greeting, no 'Hello London! How ya doin'?' Queen Adreena don't do banter. Instead, vocalist KatieJane Garside stands at the edge of the stage, surveying the audience with an unsettling gaze, as if she's lining up the targets.

And then - Wham! - they drop the rock 'n' roll, and it's like someone's just disconnected the brakes on the roller coaster.

Guitarist Crispin Gray is a shapeshifting glam-rock mannequin, snapping from one vogueish pose to another, peeling off guitar lines like sticky tape from a roll. He pauses only to cast nervous glances towards KatieJane, as she flops and totters around the stage as if only tangentally attached to this planet.

Not that she's out of control - quite the reverse. For all that KatieJane appears to be permanently on the brink of a freak-out, this is theatre. When she climbs onto a garden chair and harrangues us from on high; when she rushes over and collides with Crispin; when she wedges her wine bottle between her legs before swigging a mouthful and spaying it all over the front row (KatieJane favours a rather youthful dessert white: I can tell you this because I got it straight in the face) - this is performance, and while her inner demons might have helped to write the script, it's KatieJane herself who directs the show.

Even when she hurls herself into the audience, I bet she's calculated exactly which lucky punter will be the landing pad. And all the while she keeps up her otherworldly blues-diva vocal caterwaul - this may be a no-brainer point to make, but given that she's famous for her antics rather than her vocals, let the record show that KatieJane Garside is in fact a uniquely expressive - and, significantly, controlled - singer.

Queen AdreeenaHere's one more thing for the record: there are no awkward voids on the bass side of the stage tonight. Nomi Leonard, Queen Adreena's latest - and, I'd venture, greatest - bassist, is a swirl of white lace, purple hair and basslines like high voltage cables. She has a rock-solid musical connection with Pete Howard, looming gangster-like behind the drum kit. He nails every beat: Nomi ties 'em down.

The resulting slam and rumble, like Zulu warriors coming over the horizon, gives the music a backbone that is at once solid and sinuous. Snakes and steel girders, cats and concrete.

Heady stuff, and it's about half way in - round about the time 'Naked Ruby Blue' is let out to play - that it dawns on me that this is one of those classic gigs where it all just comes together in one kick-to-the-head experience.

Old songs and new songs crowd the set list - I think you're going to like 'Killer Tits', which has a a riff fit to skewer kebabs, and the old faves 'Fuck Me Doll' and 'Pretty Like Drugs' roar like they're on fire.

Yes, that peculiar hellfire is burning, the right stuff is in full effect tonight. Queen Adreena: mojo at full throttle. My faith is restored, and now I want to testify. And I think I've done just that.

impresse

Essential links:

Queen Adreena : Website | MySpace
Vile Imbeciles: MySpace

The Luminaire: Website | MySpace

 

For more photos from this gig, find Queen Adreena by name here.

For a review of The Dogbones at this same venue (with Crispin wearing the same suit), go here.

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
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