Clan Of Xymox
Saturday March 1 2014
Well, here's a surprise. Sebastian Bartz seems to have got himself some new band members - and a somewhat toughened-up sound that works rather well.
I recall, the last
time I saw Sebastian Bartz (also right here at
Electrowerkz, as it happens) I was rather bemused to find that his image
- edgy, twenty-first century art-noir - didn't match his music - 80s
retropoppy stuff, basically. But
now the music has been given a reboot (or possibly just a boot up the arse)
and tonight Sebastian Bartz rips it up in futuristic punk rock style.
There's a lot more fizz and clout in the racket; the songs move faster, hit harder, and, at times, come over all knowingly melodramatic in a way that recalls S.C.U.M in their pomp. Since S.C.U.M are no more, that's probably an astute move in itself - gap in the market, and all that stuff. Sebastian Bartz just might have hit his patch of paydirt.
The Partly Faithful are also touting a revised line-up tonight: Karou, from Deadline, is handling the guitar chores in place of the band's apparently now ex-guitarist, Anouska Haze.
The Partly Faithful do seem to be experiencing some Siouxsie And the Banshees-style problems in the guitarist department. At the last count, and including temporary stand-ins among the full members, five different people have spanked the Partly Faithful's plank, which is a slightly alarming total for an outfit that's still essentially a new band.
Still, tonight the Partly Faithful come roaring out of the traps with all their seething tension intact, Karou's guitar lending the songs a heavy-duty grind and shudder.
It's a rather more rock sound than usual - while still retaining all the spiky left-fieldness that is the Partly Faithful's style - and while it ain't subtle, the slab-o-noise approach suits the band rather well.
Vocalist Ed leans out over the crowd and brandishes his illuminated mic stand like a surrealist preacher at Speaker's Corner, the bass clanks like an oil tanker weighing anchor, and the whole thing builds to a heady swirl of taut, skittering noise.
All of which is what the Partly Faithful do best,
of course: out of all the bands to emerge from the contemporary
post-punk zone, they're probably the most audio-visually out there. That
might count against any mainstream success for the band, I suppose - but
then, I think a more pressing issue is that ever-fluctuating line-up.
Tonight's theme seems to be revised line-ups, because here comes Clan Of Xymox: a three-piece economy package without, on this occasion, Mojca on bass.
This does rather take the edge off the visual side of things - essentially, the Xymox performance boils down to founder member and all-round main man Ronny Moorings standing impassively centre-stage, rolling out his magesterial gothic rock anthems without breaking sweat or putting a hair out of place.
There's a guitarist throwng shapes gamely enough alongside him, and a laptop-controller chap lurking at the back, but to all intents and purposes it's Ronny's show.
It's the band's 30th anniversary, so we get a career-spanning selection of songs. The set kicks off with some newies, and progresses at a stately pace in the direction of some oldies, although it must be said that there's little evidence of a musical journey.
Everything is delivered with the same unruffled composure, arranged with the same sonorous grandiloquence, and everything has Ronny's black velvet vocal - like a cross between Andrew Eldritch and Bing Crosby - draped carefully over the top.
New songs, from the band's latest album - 'The Climate Changed' , 'Love's On Diet' (an oddly awkward title - surely love should be on a diet?) dovetail neatly with slightly older songs - 'Love Got Lost', 'In Love We Trust', 'Emily' - all of which are rolled out with their Sisters Of Mercy-esque orotundity intact.
We get a couple of covers, too: a slightly too respectful tiptoe though David Bowie's 'Heroes', and a strangely humourless version of Shocking Blue's disco hit 'Venus', on which Xymox completely fail to get their pants down and party.
You get the impression that nothing - not
fire, pestilence, earthquakes or comedy cover versions - could crack Ronny
Moorings' dispassionate stoicism.
It's the oldies that get the biggest cheers tonight - the handful of songs from Xymox's earliest incarnation as edgy post-punk contenders, before the band's reinvention as decorous, respectable gothic rockers. 'Muscoviet Musquito' still retains its air of cold war-era, mittel-European alienation; 'A Day' is still the agitated anthem it always was, and Ronny's shouts of "Where are you?" are the nearest thing to emotional involvement he's demonstrated all night.
Clan Of Xymox have carved out a niche for themselves as purveyors of rich, rolling, authoratitive gothic rock, which they play with an unflappable competence and a complete absence of palaver. After 30 years and umpteen albums, they're the ultimate classic rock band of the goth scene.
It's a status they've quietly filched from under the noses of the obvious contenders, the Sisters Of Mercy, who conked out as a recording band long ago, and who in any case would run a mile before admitting to ownership of the g-word. Xymox have no such qualms - and if it's polished, imperturbable gothic rock you want, they've got lots of it. But with the best will in the world, it's not exactly edge of the seat stuff.
For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.