Sunday, May 05, 2013

Something Special (Out And About)

Right. What now ? Ah yes. Three gigs, arrayed around the N1/N5 border: imagine a north London rip of the Korea DMZ, but with better kebab shops and a blue plaque to Joe Meek.

First came Wu-Block, the East Coast pairing of child of the Wu-clan and longtime world leader in gnarled MC-ing, Ghostface Killah, and his less celebrated sidekick, L.O.X. mainstay Sheek Louch. The two took to the Garage stage with the air a thick, encrusted fog of ganja and dry ice. Buoyed by champagne and dope, the decidedly non-straightedge Sheek and Ghost are genial hosts: whilst the set launched into life with hard & uncompromising turntablist rattle and vocal barrage, their demeanour was ever-avuncular, their between-song banter postively benign.

Towards the end of their allotted hour or so, when they'd clearly run out of Wu-Block material that they could be bothered to plunder (Ghostface also strangely deciding to eschew any mention of his own pending solo LP) they instead embarked on an entertaining karaoke / improv session, urging the DJ to spin random platters for them rather than attempt any actual, y'know, songs. There was also a bold, but in the end extremely successful take on "Protect Ya Neck", which involved brave / foolhardy audience members joining them to deliver the verses. And there was a Biggie tribute, as that bearhug of a bassline from "Hypnotise" briefly filled (and thrilled) the room. Boy, that man had *skills*. R.I.P.

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Next, we rocked up to the Hope & Anchor to see laconic social commentator Will Hung, multi-instrumentalist and Branagh lookalike John Procter and ex-Voice Of The Beehive bassist and champion starer, Martin Brett. The three will be known to anyone who has read this blog for any length of time by their collective moniker: I, Ludicrous.

I, Ludicrous would be the first to admit their thrall to the Fall. The lyrics to "Bloody Proud", "My Favourite Records" and "Never Been Hit By Mark E. Smith" are all testament to that, even before you throw in just how many I, L songs musically bristle with juddering, eighteen wheeler Fall-isms (tonight's main culprit being the brilliant "Argument In The Launderette") and the fact that I, L can often be spotted as paying punters at Fall gigs, even when they're not actually playing at them (over the years, they've suffered the vicissitudes of M.E.S. adding them to one Fall tour without telling them, and, many years later, chucking them unceremoniously off another one).

But there is one aching vista between the two bands, we suppose. Smith's lyrics and themes are complex, high-level and obscure, a mix of Ballardisms, sci-fi and his carefully curated persona of hip Northern priest / angry drunken uncle. I, Ludicrous, on the other hand never pretend to be other than *grounded*. Their songs make wider points about humanity all the time, but the subject-matter is relentlessly parochial: naming names, they gleefully write songs about themselves, their mates, the places they've worked ("When I Worked At Textline"), the watering holes they've drunk in ("Hackey's Wine Bar"), the house parties they've been to ("Graham Drew's Party"), their most esteemed 45s (that'll be "My Favourite Records" again). Tonight, we get the middle two of those.

There were new tunes too ("Chinese Businessman" was one, I think) as well as old ("My Baby's Got Jet Lag", the fabulous "Fabulous" and the not-so-hot "Chav It Up"), and along the way they promised us a new album in "about 2016", but the set's twin peaks were supplied when they revisited both sides of their most legendary flexi-disc: the strangely moving period piece "Three English Football Grounds" and Festive 50 bullet "Preposterous Tales", a last-orders tale of beer-fuelled exaggeration that frankly never grows stale. By way of hastily arranged encore, we also get "We're The Support Band", their insightfully dour tribute to interminable support acts. Age shall not wither them: even the fact that Will sports a Bullet For My Valentine T-shirt can't take the shine off this performance.

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And then, back to the Garage, we witness another trio, Repulsion. From Flint in Michigan, a name that nods to Polanski, but lyrics that leap from the pages of horror comics. The band whose tape-traded initial demo over 25 years ago effectively went "viral" and inspired the likes of Napalm Death over the water. Yet tonight, Repulsion are playing their first ever headline show in the UK (and only their second ever set in this country). As you would want, it's tight, merciless, head-down, almost tending towards the functional, but you have to concentrate because it's gone in a blink, a mere half an hour or so of piledriving drumming, occasional thrash-inspired and very short guitar solos, and a fug of high-speed noise from which discernible riffs sometimes break through, just as they did on that legendary demo.

They open, as they always have, with "The Stench Of Burning Death", doubly familiar since its intro was purloined by their Anglo admirers in Napalm for the latter's Peel Session version of "Deceiver". They punishingly pump out songs like "Spattered Cadavers", "Slaughter Of The Innocent", "Crematorium", "Six Foot Under" and a hungry, cranked-up and crunching "Driven To Insanity". They delve into covers territory twice: Slaughter and Venom (so no great surprises there). They dedicate a mid-set "Radiation Sickness" - one of their most complete songs - to the memory of the recently departed Jeff Hannemann. They replay "Helga (Lost Her Head)", one of the few products of their brief and overlooked 1991 'comeback'. They finish with the rousing double-strike of "Black Breath" and their unlikelily-titled signature tune, "Maggots In Your Coffin". They even reappear for a perfunctory if welcome two-song encore, and so "Horrified" still rings in our ears as we the sated punters spill back out on to the Holloway Road. It's not been astonishing: this was a bow from the old wave of grind, rather than the force of new wave nature that blew us away when we saw Wormrot a couple of years back. But it *has* been a more-than-satisfying skip down a leafily luscious memory lane.

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