Shacklewell Arms, London
Saturday February 2 2013
Last night, Ulterior were in Amsterdam, playing the Grauzone Festival at the famed Melkweg, alongside Echo And The Bunnymen and A Certain Ratio.
Tonight they're in the ramshackle back room of a Dalston boozer with a bunch of DJs playing the ruff 'n' tuff end of EBM.
If that's a bit of a stark contrast, the band aren't showing it. But there's a certain irony in the way that no matter how far Ulterior travel, no matter how many high-profile events they play, they always seem to come back to the back rooms of the East End of London.
Which is probably just the way the London division of the Ulterior Barmy Army likes it. The room is rammed, with plenty of faces in evidence who were significantly not present when the band played at the Lexington in London N1 the other week. Shift the gig to London E8 and they all suddenly appear.
That's the trouble with London's East End rock 'n' roll cool zone - that crowd just doesn't travel. Not even to a neighbouring postcode area. It's up to the bands to bring the noise.
Fortunately, bringing the noise is what Ulterior do best.
Arrayed on stage like a footie gang ready to kick off, they could've stepped
out of an Irvine Welsh novel. But there are no histrionics, no rock 'n'
roll grandstanding. Ulterior just rev up their noise machine and let it
The ruthless tyranny of the machine-beat keeps everything tied down, disciplined - even though McG, on the electronics, is tucked away in the venue's bizarre book nook carved out of the back of the stage. He's barely visible, but we can certainly hear what he's up to in there.
Throw a blanket of guitar-roar over the killer beats, get the bass-boots stamping, and front the whole thing with Honey's baleful stare and hollering-from-the-rooftops vocal, and you've got the Ulterior sturm und drang in full effect. And the effect, in the compact and crowded back room of the Shacklewell Arms, is real steamroller stuff.
With a new album out, it's the new-stuff set: virtually all the oldies have been bounced out of the door. And in come the newies - the big, teetering-on-the-edge anthems that Ulterior now seem to specialise in.
'The Locus Of Control' tips itself over the edge of its own meticulous build-up into a forbidding, throbbing, monster of a song, and as for 'Body Hammer' - well, you don't need me to tell you about 'Body Hammer'. It's called 'Body Hammer'. The title tells you all you need to know.
Ulterior drop their bombs with their customary insousciant grace tonight. The East End rock 'n' roll kewl zone is duly laid waste. One day, I suppose, Ulterior will have to break away from London's E postcodes, one way or another. The back rooms of Dalston pubs might do wonders for one's cred, but there's a world out there.
And yet, and yet. In a way I hope Ulterior don't move on too soon. The Grauzone Festival was a fine event, I'm sure, but you can't beat the Ulterior pressure cooker blowing its safety valves in a confined space.