Thursday, 30 September 2010

Grinderman, Leeds University Refectory, 27.09.10

The aural equivalent to being spat on, support act The Hunter Gracchus subject a bemused audience to 15 minutes of improvised white noise. This consists of electric guitar and violin feedback, a dying saxophone and the old cliché, a wailing woman; if you're planning on butchering your family with a pick axe and want some appropriate music to do it to, this band is for you. Once the blood from a few audience member's ears is mopped up from off the floor, Grinderman take to the stage, playing material from their first album 'Grinderman' and their recently released follow up, 'Grinderman 2'. Nick Cave's capabilities as a frontman/singer/songwriter/general God amongst men have been well documented and any word from me is frankly unnecessary. But I'll carry on anyway.

Fulfilling his dream of playing the 'Leeds University Cafeteria', Cave prowls and spits across the few metres of stage that he has available to him, his raw and pounding outbursts covering everything from mythical beasts to Gardener's Question Time. Grinderman banish the subtleties of Cave's other long term band The Bad Seeds (of which all three members of Grinderman also belong to), washed away in a sea of sweat and filthy lyrics and even filthier bass lines. What the band lack in imagination for album titles they make up for in the relentless barrages of sexual frustration and ferociously aggressive guitars and drums that characterise the Grinderman sound.

Amid all this, 'Palaces of Montezuma's melodic conventionality stands out, a rolling drum and bass line flowing underneath Cave's ode to a lover that he'll give her, amongst other things, "the spinal cord of JFK, wrapped in Marilyn Monroe's negligee" in return for a bit of "precious love". It's this twisted romanticism that gives Grinderman their unique spirit, all clearly passionate men, but also all wonderfully unhinged. The acoustic 'What I Know' shows a vulnerability to Cave's voice some may have forgotten existed while 'Get It On', 'No Pussy Blues' and 'Bellringer Blues' all burn with trademark Cave fury. Each song is bolstered by Warren Ellis' vicious stabs at his comically small electric guitar and violin, creating a noise that grates and enthralls at the same time. "Oh won't somebody touch me?" Cave pleads during the hyperactive 'Honeybee (Let's Fly To Mars)'- but the man is untouchable.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

MGMT, Manchester Apollo, 26.09.10

MGMT's fanbase can be split into two distinct groups- those that enjoy the semi-psychedelic extended endings to their proggy songs and those that endure them so that they can hear 'Electric Feel', 'Time To Pretend' or 'Kids'. The trouble for MGMT lies in the fact that those willing to fork out the £20 to see them play live seem to fall into the latter group, while the psych-pop lovers stay at home, either spending their money on recreational drugs or listening to bands who have done what MGMT are trying to do but better (The Teardrop Explodes, Pink Floyd, Television Personalities). Ditching the sound of their three most successful singles to go down a more experimental road, it has turned out to be a one-way-street, with the band happier player more ambitious left-field songs but the crowd apathetic to each new song, providing only unconvincing applause in the hope they'll hear a familiar synth riff sometime soon. At times the passivity of the crowd is understandable as the shifting musical styles and half-baked melodies lack a direction and point. But MGMT are capable of some interesting moments, most of them contained in the drifting and atmospheric 12-minutes of 'Siberian Breaks'. Yet it all seems to wash over the audience and this doesn't pass the duo by, as keyboardist Ben Goldwasser deadpans to the crowd "Siberian Breaks is over, you can come back now".

During 'The Handshake' the indifference in the crowd turns to frustration as a beer is launched midway from the audience, connecting with the drummer. He hurls his drumsticks back into the crowd in retaliation and gives us the finger, leaving the stage. (It later appears in the news that it was apparently a glass filled with piss- maybe the first time MGMT have had such a clear piece of feedback from a 'fan' regarding their altered sound*). The band then run through 'Kids' and an acoustic 'Congratulations'. 'Kids' is performed as usual to a backing track and the duo dance around the stage to the adoration of the crowd- but the half-hearted hand gestures and constant glances between the two suggests an in-joke that the majority of the audience aren't in on. Could it be an in-joke borne out of the frustration of playing oddball psychedelic-pop-rock for an hour and a half to minimal response only to then press play on a recording and get the biggest reaction of the night for a single keyboard riff? During the encore one desperate fan shouted behind me, 'Don't fuck about lads, play Electric Feel!'. The sad thing being they'd already played it.

*Even later it appears that it wasn't piss after all and was in fact beer. 

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Erland & The Carnival, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 21.09.10

Sounding like The Kinks playing folk songs at a village fete organised by someone with a penchant for psychedelic drugs, Erland & The Carnival are an engrossing incarnation that borrow as much from old traditional British folk songs as they do from modern British rock. They sound much the same live as they do on record, except with added wig-outs (remember these are folk-rock wig-outs, so band members stay firmly rooted to the stage and no one goes particularly mental). It’s a satisfying sound, convincing you that the beardy men and women who wrote the folk songs that the band update really did have thumping drums and blasts of electric guitar in mind to accompany their quaint songs when they wrote them 500 years ago, they just didn’t have the available tools. The audience chose to take advantage of The Brudenell’s copious amounts of upholstery rather than get up and dance but understandably- this isn’t folk music to jig to, it’s folk music to brood to, with tales of teenage suicide and tortuous unrequited love. Erland & The Carnival are one of the few bands around who are taking it upon themselves to blend folk and rock so literally.