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Shadow Reichenstein
Spit Like This
Spit Like ThisUnderworld, London
Monday August 11 2008




The Underworld is by no means London's largest venue, but on nights when there isn't a good crowd in, the dancefloor can seem as wide and empty as the American prairies – and I speak as an ex-Underworld promoter who experienced just that phenomenon on a few occasions.

Tonight, the crowd numbers probably don't even hit 50, which obviously isn't good news for the bands, even if it does mean that service at the bar is refreshingly swift. Shadow Reichenstein, tonight's headliners, are virtually unknown in the UK, and while their hybrid deathrock/metal sound should, in theory, haul in a healthy crossover crowd, in practice the band's near-total lack of profile has resulted in a near-total absence of audience. In a smaller venue – say, Bar Monsta, just up the road – they might have got away with it, but whoever booked this gig into the Underworld was presumably in the grip of a crazed optimism. Either that, or they'd believed the hype.

But what the hell. The show must go on. Support band Spit Like This are a hard-gigging bunch, and under more favourable circumstances might have been able to bring in a useful crowd of their own fans. But they were added to the bill relatively late, and not even mentioned on some of the pre-gig publicity (not that there was much of that, either). Thus it is that the band has the awkward task of warming up a mostly empty venue.

Undaunted, they hammer through a set of shameless, gleeful glam as if an enormodome-style multitude stretches before them. With their trash aesthetic well to the fore – the stage is decked out with ropelights and shop window mannequins, like an explosion in a Selfridges Christmas display – Spit Like This are clearly not in the business of dwelling in sombre fashion on the great issues of the world. Nope, they're here to make a big, brash, glam-rock noise, somewhere between a fuelled-up New York Dolls and Aerosmith on eleven. It's only the vocalist's incongruous – but oddly endearing – English accent that drops a hint that this is a band more familiar with Camden High Street than Sunset Strip. Why, they've even got scarves tied to the microphone stand, a visual cue that places us firmly on Glam Planet. Spit Like This inhabit their trashy, flashy glammy world with such gung-ho enthusiasm that it's impossible not to rock out like a loon to their rambunctious racket. By the end of the set I swear I've started to grow big hair, and eyeliner has started to crawl unbidden across my face.

After Spit Like This and their impression of a rock 'n' roll Christmas tree, Shadow Reichenstein seem downbeat and monochrome by comparison. Dressed in black stormtrooper uniforms, they're clearly trying for some sort of threateningly purposeful image - either that, or they secretly wish they'd been born early enough to join the Hitler Youth. But wait - just in case the uniforms send out the wrong message, I see that the band has placed anti-fascist logos on their MySpace page, which is, I suppose, a relief. They're not bad guys after all, although it occurs to me that if Shadow Reichenstein don't want people to mistake them for fascists, it might be a good idea not to dress up in fascist-style uniforms in the first place.

So, the rock 'n' roll stormtroopers blow up a riff-heavy blitzkreig. The guitar is a wall of noise, the vocals are an assertive you-will-obey bark. It's a bit like watching a military academy version of the Ramones, or a more metallic verrsion of the Misfits (but then, the Misfits themselves are a more metallic version of the Misfits these days).

Shadow Reichenstein's brand of monolithic not-quite-metal thunders implacably off the stage like a Panzer division rolling over Belgium. The band's well-drilled rock blast is undeniably impressive in its relentless, controlled fury - while the bassist's sideburns, which are approximately the size of Arkansas, are undeniably impressive for their sheer scale. The band members throw shapes, and give it the full showbiz deal. They're working hard, that's for sure. But in the end, the music turns into a one-dimensional blare of assertive but oddly characterless metalnoize, and I find myself drawn, as if by a strange magnetism, to the bar.

Final score: plucky British glammies – one. Scary American stormtroopers - nil.


Essential links:

Shadow Reichenstein: Website | MySpace
Spit Like This: Website | MySpace

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