The Lexington, London
Wednesdasy December 12 2012
Somewhere in the rock 'n' roll filing cabinet of my brain, I'm sure I've already got an entry for Lovechilde. Ah, yes, that's it - I saw them back in 2010, supporting KASMS. "A gentleman with garage-punk hair plays guitar and sings; a lady whacks a drumkit", I said, politely and descriptively.
We'll have to change that description a bit, because this latest incarnation of Lovechilde is a two-gent affair. No drums, now, either - just guitar and electronix.
And no more garage-punk, either. The nu-Lovechilde play a rather downbeat brand of introspective indie-electro that roils atmospherically without ever quite hitting home.
Not terrible stuff in its way, but it's not the stuff of which moshpits are made, either. I'd hesitate to advise Lovechilde to have another rethink - they've already re-invented the band once, after all - but this music needs some focal points, some sticky-out bits that snag the attention. On tonight's showing, it doesn't quite have them.
The Voyeurist also have an entry in my rock 'n' roll filing cabinet, because I've seen them at this very venue supporting Robots In Disguise. I see I was a little non-committal in that review, declaring - again - that while the music wasn't bad, it lacked any truly distinctive qualities.
If truth be told, there are a lot of bands about whom that sort of thing can be said. The inspired mavericks, the one-offs, the bands that invade your consciousness without so much as a by-your-leave, are rare beasts. Conversely, it's not often you'll neet a really ghastly outfit. Most bands tend to be, basically, OK.
And that, in turn, means that a great deal of music reviewing boils down to finding ever-more ways of describing bands as OK.
The Voyeurist kick their guitar 'n' electronics mash-up around with perfect competence. It's a little bit indie, a little bit eighties, a little bit twenty-first century post-punk. Incidentally, the band's website is a Tumblr full of cryptic art images - very twenty-first century post-punk, that, and possibly an indication of how the band see themselves.
But tonight, it's all about how we see the band. The guitarist hunches alarmingly over his pedals - seriously, is the human spine supposed to be able to make that shape? - while the singer is self-contained, self-assured, getting the job done. The music swirls and churns. Yeah, The Voyeurist are not bad. In fact, based purely on their ability to do what they do, they're good. But, for me, the band go no further than that.
The Voyeurist? They're OK.
I don't have to search my mental filing cabinet to figure out if I've reviewed Ulterior before. I've been writing about the band on a regular basis since 2008 - long before the mainstream media caught on to the band, long before they became stars of the Deutsche schwarze szene. Yep, just stick with me, and I'll show you tomorrow's stars today, folks.
And, of course, Ulterior are definitely in the 'inspired mavericks' bracket. Look at them, looming in the smoke like a rock 'n' roll footie crew, all leather jackets and yeah-what stares.
Here's Honey, lead vocalist, hunching over the mic stand like Renton out of Trainspotting. And here comes the beat, a machine-driven rhythm as unstoppable as an approaching train.
Drop the bass 'n' guitar noise on top of that, and Ulterior detonate into a big, blam-and-blatter noise bomb. Everything is structured, everything is precise. But it's a racket fit to take out buildings.
The Lexington isn't entirely rammed tonight - the East End kewl kids who I'm sure would show up if this gig was a mile down the road at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen don't seem to have made the arduous trek up City Road, and that means that Ulterior's noise-bombs don't have quite as big a target as we might expect. The band have to work hard to find the drop zone for their sonic attack.
But the attack keeps coming. The skidding guitar and fractured vocal yelp of 'Skydancing', the growling garage groove of 'Psycic Chic', and even the brutal trance of 'Dream Dream' - they're all deployed with the implacable attitude of a bomber crew rolling out the tallboys.
In the end, as Ulterior's final percussion grenades bounce off the walls, it's a win for the inspired mavericks, somewhat against odds. Which may have more to do with the peculiar rock 'n' roll psychology of London than anything to do with Ulterior themselves.
But one thing's clear. Here's a band, if it wasn't already obvious, several levels above a mere OK.
For more photos from this gig,
find Ulterior by name here.