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The Human Value
Le Chat Noir
Venus Bogardus

The Junction, Bristol
Saturday May 12 2007

Well, we're certainly not in the Enormodome tonight. The Junction, Bristol's authentically scruffy punk pub, is a fine example of rock 'n' roll in the raw - but don't let the distinct absence of lavish furnishings, extensive audio-visual technology, or even a stage (the bands play on a section of raised Venus Bogardusfloor, conveniently located opposite the bar) fool you. This basic boozer has a fine reputation as one of the key tour stop-offs for any band wishing to take their music to a sussed, street-level crowd that knows what it likes, and has no truck with whatever the music biz thinks the next big thing should be. If that's you, tonight's gig is going to be up your street.

Tonight The Junction plays host to The Human Value, back from the USA for another stint on the UK gig circuit, and two other bands who I've never heard of before. Let's change that state of affairs right away, then, and say hello to Venus Bogardus. A classic guitar/bass/drums power trio, Venus Bogardus give it some down-home punk rock welly, but nail everything to neatly-constructed tunes which ensures that they never simply vanish into the bash-it-out zone. They are, in fact, a nifty new wave band, but with a hint or two in the sound that they're partial to some good old grungy stuff, too. They walk the tightrope between intelligently-constructed pop songs and visceral noisemaking with a certain natural aplomb that hits the spot with me within a couple of songs. I don't know if this is the kind of thing the hip kidz are calling 'art rock' these days, but I know this: I like it. We'll be checking this band out again, that's for sure.

Take one look at Le Chat Noir, and I'm willing to bet the first two words that spring into your brain will be as follows: White Stripes. A two-piece band featuring a female drummer and a male guitarist - there's only one comparison that you could possibly make, right? Well, maybe not so. Because Le Chat Noir cook up an exhilaratingly thrashy storm that comprehensively trashes any possible parallels with a certain red-and-white duo. Their set is a manic blast from the start: a barrage of mangled Le Chat Noirguitar, yelled-out vocals, and drums that thunder like a storm right overhead. Pummelling the drum kit with sticks the size of tree trunks, the drummer gives it the full John Bonham, writhing on her stool as if someone's just told her the toilets are closed. It's a full-on rampage, but with structure and Proper Songwriting lurking somewhere in the noise. It's certainly exactly the right racket for a no-shit show at The Junction, and I find myself chalking up another win on the band-scoreboard in my head.

The Human Value come bearing new songs and a new drummer, and their trademark assertive-but-cool attitude in full effect. Without any grandstanding, without even necessarily playing it particularly loud (although they do plenty of that, too), this band has the essential sit-up-and-pay-attention factor. And tonight, they take the brakes off. As if inspired by the rough and ready surroundings, The Human Value kick it like football's going out of fashion.

Brandishing drumsticks in fearsome fashion, Turu (vocals, cowbell, percussion on random items of furniture) fronts the band like Janis Joplin and Siouxsie Sioux are battling for control of her pscyche. It's a mighty, punchy performance, the songs stripped down like rally cars, and although the band have revamped almost the entire set since their last UK tour - many of the songs from the debut album have been elbowed out in favour of new material - the new stuff has all the fuzzed out, sparks-in-the-darkness feel that puts The Human Value squarely in the class-apart zone. Without a doubt, it's enough to transcend the prosaic surroundings of this scuffed-up punk pub, but then sometimes the best gigs happen in the most basic surroundings. We certainly scored three out of three tonight.

The Human Value

Essential links:

The Human Value: Website | MySpace
Le Chat Noir: Website | MySpace
Venus Bogardus: Website | MySpace

For more photos from this gig,
find the bands by name here.

 

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