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Ulterior flyerUlterior
Islington Boys' Club
Neurotic Mass Movement

Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen, London
Wednesday March 9 2011

 

 

 

Uterior are no strangers to the black-painted back room of the Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen. They've passed this way before, at earlier stages of  their relentless scrabble up the twenty-first century post-punk ladder. But Ulterior always seemed like the rock 'n' roll gategrashers at the party: a no-shit rock band blasting their way through the angles and earnestness of London's new wave scene, spilling drinks on the carpet and knocking the ornaments off the mantelpiece as they went.

Tonight Ulterior crash-land on the East End to host their own party - their debut album, Wild In Wildlife, is out, and this is the gig to launch it. Tonight the post-punks are going to get poked with a big rock stick.

But before Ulterior get to brandish their big rock stick, we have some support bands. Neurotic Mass Movement have a name like a techno compilation album, but in fact they're a strange combination of ethereal atmospheres and barbed-wire guitar, swooning electronics and outbursts of rawboned rhythm. They're a paradox on all sorts of levels. One minute they're veering dangerously close to Enya territory as the vocalist croons delicately over some spooky lullaby, next minute the guitar cranks up and it all gets dramatic and abrasive.

It's the dramatic and abrasive bits that strike home with me - but then, I do tend to come at any sort of music from the punk rock angle, so I would say that, wouldn't I. But whichever way they push it, Neurotic Mass Movement are never less than compellingly intense, and even in their quietest moments there's a severe intent about what they do that  even at their most ethereal moments keeps things from getting easy listening. The band walks the line between ambience and avant-rock, which is an odd notion in itself - who knew that there was a line between ambience and avant-rock? - but their understated fierceness is the balancing factor.

Neurotic Mass Movement / Islington Boys' Club

Islington Boys' Club are a bit of a balancing act, too. A guitarist, bassist, and drummer kick around an alternorock racket which has a certain dynamism in itself. But the factor that keeps the band off the meat and potatoes section of the menu is the vocalist. He looks like he's beamed down from some sort of spacerock happening, hand-jiving and throwing shapes behind seventies shades. He unleashes a keening wail that counterpoints the music in a werid-but-it-works kind of way, and it's this odd combination - the lads keeping themselves in the background, the vocalist strutting his stuff up front almost as if he's in a different band - that balances Islington Boys' Club on the line between indie-rock conventionality and something a bit more...out there.

It's not all plain sailing tonight, mind: some unspecified technical hitch means the guitar conks out, whereupon the guitarist has a rock 'n' roll moment and flings his instrument into the crowd in disgust. This fails to fix the problem. Still, it's all showbiz, innit.

UlteriorSince we last clapped eyes on Ulterior, the band have been round Europe as tour support to The Sisters Of Mercy. Going by the amount of smoke billowing across the stage tonight they've picked up a few tricks from Eldritch's mob. Well, one trick, at least, for the wall of fog has been the Sisters' schtick ever since the early days.

While the Sisters always seem to get away with it - and let's face it, the Sisters have got away with quite a lot over the years - I don't necessarily think it's the kind of visual presentation that suits every band. You know how it is. It's always good to let Johnny Punter see what he's paid for.

But what the hell. Here they come, looming menacingly in the mist, the machine-beat hammering, electronics shrieking like circling banshees, guitar slicing in. Ulterior aren't just a band, they're a distillation of the rock 'n' roll experience poured straight into your brain via the means of amplified sound. You can see why they never quite fitted in among the cerebral asceticism of the East End post-punk scene. There are no angles here. Ulterior come straight for you, foot to the floor and guns blazing.

It's not all 100mph stuff, though. Ulterior have some slowies, too, although 'slowies' doesn't mean 'softies'. 'Dream Dream' has an air of imposing menace, striding forward on a thunking bassline, while 'Big City Black Rain' is the epic ballad, and a breathing space inserted into the hurtling techno-rock riot that comprises most of the set. Because, when Ulterior do crank it up to 100mph, they make perfect sense. They have songs like runaway juggernauts, songs that fill the room with ominous velocity, the off-beats thwacking off the back wall like bullets.

Vocalist Honey emerges from the fog in his shades (further evidence of Ulterior's cool: they can wear sunglasses in a darkened room and make it look perfectly natural). 'Where were you three years ago?' he enquires of the audience. Well, personally, three years ago I was going to Ulterior gigs, and there are reviews in this very webzine to prove it - but he's got a point. Ulterior's heads are well and truly above the parapet now.  The London post-punk crowd has capitulated in the face of their rock 'n' roll onslaught. That territory has been conquered. Now it's everybody else's turn.

 

Ulterior: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Islington Boys' Club: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Neurotic Mass Movement: Website | MySpace | Facebook

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

For reviews of the Ulterior album, and the Islington Boys' Club single, look here.

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