enough mud at the wall, they say, and some of it will stick. In a rather
muddy nutshell, that seems to be The Human
Value's touring strategy. The band has temporarily relocated
from their home territory of California to spend a couple of months
slogging around the back-room-of-a-pub venues of the British indie circuit,
playing anywhere they can scare up a gig, with any other bands who happen
to be shunted onto the bill. Not the most scientific way of building
up an audience, of course: it's sheer chance whether the crowds are
sympathetic, or indeed whether you'll get a crowd at all. But you've
got to admire the band's rock 'n' roll grit. If they don't come away
from this tour with an enthusiastic new fanbase, it won't be because
they haven't put the miles in.
Tonight The Human Value play what, I suppose, counts as your typical British indie venue: a ramshackle room, entirely decorated in the traditional scuffed matt black, stuck round the back of a Camden Town boozer. It's by no means the Enormodome, but I'm sure that compared to some of the primitive places the band have encountered on their tour the dear old Dublin Castle counts as high tech heaven. The PA is (slightly) bigger than a school disco rig, and - miracle of miracles - the venue even has stage lighting. The band find themselves sandwiched between a selection of indie chancers of the blue-jeans-and-T-shirts variety. The Human Value, in their minimalist-noir outfits, immediately look different. No, more than that: they immediately look interesting.
There's just time to get a drink in before the band starts. At the bar I'm served a pint of John Smith's by the world's most disdainful rock chick, who wears a cut-down Jack Daniel's T-shirt with so much attitude it's almost a threat. Then, for the umpteenth time in my life, I find myself doing one of my favourite things - standing in a grubby venue, beer in hand, letting a turbulent rock 'n' roll cacophony wash over me. Yes, 'turbulent' does indeed describe The Human Value's racket rather well. Their music is full of edges and angles, scrapes and collisions, like a speeded-up film of rush-hour traffic. Bumps and tumbles, a big, rolling, motorised sound, Turu's vocal pulling it all along and imposing a cross-grained authority on every song. Yet the band never lose control. Even when they rampage through 'Give Me', their new single (and, more or less, signature song), running red lights all the way and definitely exceeding the speed limit, there's a sense that they're clinging firmly to the steering wheel of their careering juggernaut. Lynnae's drums hammer an implacable, effortless staccato; Hiram's guitar sound swells and crashes, filling the room with sound.
Now here's a thing. The Human Value have no bass guitar in the line-up. That, I suppose, proves that the karmic balance of rock 'n' roll is still fully functional. As soon as The Violets, until recently our favourite band-without-a-bassist, get themselves a four-string handler, along come The Human Value to fill the bass-free band gap. But, although there's no bassplank being spanked tonight, there's plenty in the bottom end: lots of rumbling, reverbed, distorted noise, shaking the ramshackle stage and causing fragments of paint to detach themselves from the Dublin Castle's haphazardly decorated walls. It's a wonder that a band so stripped-down, so minimal (look at that drum kit, who needs rack toms anyway?) can make such an impressively huge noise. And there's the essential difference between The Human Value on record: taut, precise, tipping their hats to the speed cops even as they feather the accelerator. And then there's The Human Value on stage: turning it up to twelve, and giving us all a white-knucke ride. 'Complications', with its squalling dual vocals, slithers through like a train sliding on greasy rails, while 'Tonight' builds up to a suitably cacophonous climax. An encouraging rattle of applause runs around the crowd - even if nobody's quite sure of the identity of this band, some sort of connection seems to have been made.
that's the authentic British indie circuit experience for you, I suppose.
Giving it loads in small, black-painted rooms to audiences who might,
if you get lucky, quite like you, but aren't necessarily sure who you
are. It's not a fast track to superstardom, that's for sure. But if
ever there was a band which deserved to leap from this stage to a bigger
stage, that band is The Human Value. Let's hope the mud is sticky.
For more photos from this gig, find The Human Value by name here.