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Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London
Thursday July 2 2009



Notwithstanding its name - which makes the place sound like some sort of blowsy downtown cafe, the kind of place where you'd find Tom Waits grumbling to himself over a black coffee of a morning - the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen is a lot more rock 'n' roll than you might think. A big back room; a stage big enough to make a gig here seem like a real occasion. And, naturally, the traditional matt black decor. Which is entirely appropriate for this gig, because tonight we are here to rock.

Romance have a frontman who's obviously been necking the Iggy Pop pills. Hurling himself around, throwing shapes like he's just been on a rock 'n' roll geometry course, he's a one-man freak-out. The band, by contrast, remain impassive and covered in cool as they kick around a big rock racket by way of a soundtrack to his gyrations.

While this unashamed rockism might seem a little incongruous here in Hoxton - which is, after all, the ground zero of the new new wave - I say this: it never hurts to turn the guitars up loud and get your rock on. Romance have no truck with post-punk angularity. They do it loud and fast, and in the context of the scene from which they sprang - where, for the most part, angularity rules - that makes them a paradoxically radical proposition.

UlteriorGetting a rock on is a concept familiar to Ulterior, too, I'm sure. In fact, with their biker leathers and give-me-no-shit expressions, they look like they've just rolled up on a squadron of Harleys, looking for bother. This is a band that deliberately, knowingly, uses the styling cues of rock 'n' roll almost to challenge their audience. If Romance are a rock 'n' roll incongruity amid the angular new wavers of East London, Ulterior are a battered biker boot up its arse.

And yet, at the same time Ulterior have got one foot (in the other battered biker boot, of course) in the post-punk soup. Their hammering anthems are built upon Suicide-esque electronic pulses; the drums are a programmed splat-and-batter. Hurl some bassline thunder over the top, bring some guitar slicing in, top it all off with an aggrieved rock 'n' roll holler, and you've got a band that is at once as uber-rock as they come while also sounding entirely twenty-first century.

I don't know if Ulterior are, ultimately, ironists - the vocalist's repertoire of rock-god poses are so studied I'm sure he practices at home in front of the mirror; he must know how he comes across - or whether they mean it, maan. But the fact remains that they're effective. Their show is a gleeful, shameless, parade of rock moves, but in the context of that hurtling, battering sound, it all works. Hoxton has certainly had a dose of rock 'n' roll juice tonight.


Essential links:

Ulterior: MySpace
Romance: Website
| MySpace

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



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