Sex Gang Children
Nine Day Decline
The Garage, London
Saturday May 24 2014
Last time I saw tonight's opening act, solo weird-blues merchant BO NE, it was 2008 and he was called [D-66].
Six years and a change
from one bafflingly unpronounceable name to another, BO NE is still
doing solo weird-blues, stomping and crashing and flailing at his guitar
while seated centre-stage as if leading a troop of boy scouts in a camp
fire singalong - although, personally, I'd be a bit worried if my old scout
leader had cackled quite so manically between songs.
The early-doors audience regards BO NE with caution, but the sheer racket he kicks up eventually wins over the doubters, and he departs - still cackling manically - to a decent gust of applause.
Nine Day Decline are a new band touting a well-tried idea: traditional gothic rock, all gruff vocals and a wall of Chameleons-esque guitar, a sound rooted in those heady days when The Sisters Of Mercy were still releasing records and Fields Of The Nephilim hadn't gone heavy metal.
As such, we more or less know what we're going to get before the band get going - and, sure enough, Nine Day Decline keep things pretty straightforward. Barreling gothic rock anthems rumble out like a fleet of black limousines, sleek and sturdy, and all with a steady leather-gloved hand on the steering wheel.
There are no unexpected influences showing through, no
musical tangents suddenly explored. Nine Day Decline know exactly where
they want to go, musically - and exactly where they don't want
to go, too. They aren't about to mess with our heads, veer off the beaten
track, or plunge into the undergrowth. But they do a sterling job of being
more gothic rock than a slab of polished obsidian.
The final song, 'Fall From Grace' actually mutates into the Sisters' 'Lucretia' in its final few bars, just in case anyone hadn't already made the essential connection. Nine Day Decline's chosen musical area comes with in-built limitations, as I'm sure the band are aware. But they stake out their territory with undeniable confidence.
I recall seeing Deadfilmstar back in 2003, at the
Whitby Gothic Weekend. Since then I've occasionally noticed the band
name cropping up in the gig guides. They seem
to have settled into a niche as an all-purpose support act, recruited
to fill a slot at any goth/industrial/metal-ish gig that needs an extra
A comfortable berth, in a way, and it certainly ensures a fairly steady stream of live dates. But I wonder if Deadfilmstar ever get that always the bridesmaid, never the bride feeling? You'd think (or hope) that after a decade of plugging away they'd have scrabbled up to headliner level.
Still, here they come, mob-handed and roaring out their all-purpose industrio-rock blare, the singer looming menacingly over the monitors, the keyboard player doing her extravagant arm-wavy thing. (When I reviewed Deadfilmstar in 2003, I said "She's apparently in the grip of some kind of intermittent enthusiasm rush: at random intervals, she waves her arms around manically as if she's signalling UFOs to land." I got an aggrieved email from a Deadfilmstar fan because of that. But fair comment, I think - and as true now as it was then.)
Deadfilmstar's gonzoid rock thunder does work, in a cartoonish, gung-ho kind of way, but they're not in the business of pushing any envelopes. Why, the very first song is 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' - that done-to-death cover which most bands save for a knockabout encore. By front-loading their set with the bleedin' obvious, Deadfilmstar do rather box themselves in. They're undemanding noisy fun - but you can see why headline status hasn't quite happened.
We're celebrating 30 years of the Sex Gang Children tonight, and I wonder if Andi Sex Gang - the darting, puckish figure at the centre of the band's sturm und drang - ever envisaged his early-80s post-punk sonic art project having such a lengthy lifespan.
It's been a long, strange
trip, that's for sure - with many line-up changes and, indeed, musical changes
along the way. The Sex Gang Children walk a zig-zag tightrope between avant-rock
strangeness and cabaret theatrics, and there's plenty of both on offer tonight.
It's a newies-plus-greatest hits set, a smattering of tunes from the new album Viva Vigilante, alongsode canter through the back catalogue - although the show takes a while to get going. There's a problem with the guitar lead (and the spare guitar lead, and the spare-spare guitar lead) which means that the opening tune, a slow-burn, heavily rhythymic take on 'Barbarossa' is even more of a drum-fest than I think the band intended. Some impromptu spoken word from Andi (who I suspect can pull an instant performance out of his pocket any time he likes) covers the gap: eventually the guitar rejoins the fray and the pace picks up.
The songs swoop and pirouette, while Andi Sex Gang himself, ever the master of ceremonies, does a fair amount of swooping and pirouetting himself. His face painted like a surrealist tribal mask, his gestures expansive, his voice keening and spiralling, he's as much a theatrical performer as a rock 'n' roll singer.
It says much for Andi Sex Gang's sense of theatre that he can pile on the melodrama - wailing and shapeshifting, acting out the songs as much as singing them - and still carry the audience with him. With any other performer, you'd be thinking "Oh, come off it" - with Andi Sex Gang, you're swept along in the swirl of the agony and the ecstasy, while the band conjures a high-drama soundtrack out of the ether.
There's romance: Edith Piaf's 'Les Amants d'un Jour' is a movie script rewritten as a song. "Working every day, in a cheap cafe" swoons Andi, making the mundane scenario seem oddly exotic.
And there's visceral noise, too. 'Maurita Mayer' is a hurtling romp, the audience singing along, and 'Deiche', always a high-tension sonic rush, is a mighty thing tonight, with former Sex Gang members joining the band on stage for a supergroup finish. One last line of spoken word from Andi - "Only kidding!" he says, and darts back into the wings, much to the relief of the more rock 'n' roll elements of the audience who thought we might be in for a poetry encore - and that's our lot.
That was a bravura show from a band that can wring the last drop of drama out of the hoary old rock gig experience. The Garage is a little short of theatrical trappings - there is, alas, no red velvet curtain to ring down across the stage as a grand finale. But for all that, we've been at the theatre tonight.
Nine Day Decline: Facebook
BO NE: Facebook