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Hostile Ambient Takeover

Part Chimp

Note to self – Not exactly sure whether this is what a mailing list looks like, or whether this is what fans of Southern Records look like, but either way they mostly seem to sport thick rimmed glasses and have a penis.

Southern Records Hostile Ambient Takeover #1 – 15th Jan 2003

Considering that there are women performing tonight, I am feeling a little in the minority here. The male to female ratio at this show must be 9:1. There are SOME girls in the crowd… it’s just a shame that it doesnt take too long to work out that they aren’t all here for the music. The particular group of ladies I have my eyes on are standing between the bar and the stage. One of them, we’ll call her pom-pom head for accuracy of description, actually applies spray perfume… IN A CROWD… in doing so she also manages to apply it to the insides of both my nostrils and MY MOUTH leaving a wonderful (and highly recommended) taste – something between window cleaner and toilet fresh. The ladies then whine loudly about the bar not taking credit cards (or the particular credit cards they are brandishing) and then strop out, demi-shouting back at the room “we’re off to find some REAL music”.

I’d slowly shake my head and furrow my brow in that disheartened way I often feel when faced with such situations, if it werent for the fact that the perfume flavour has forced me to grimace, gargoyle like for a good ten minutes yet. Besides… if the girls had wanted to learn a more constructive way of invading space, they would have been wise to stick it out and take heed from the first band I caught this evening, Cat On Form.

The sound tonight it a little muddy and generally not too great but, hell and mercy, give these folks 100 coins for effort! The Cats are one of those few bands who exude a genuinely raw energy (raw in that real punk rock way; raw in a vegan “i eat my vegetables” raw way) and what’s more amazing still is that this energy is seemingly channelled via two semi-naked sweaty young men, an equally sweaty young lady and a not so sweaty clothed chap, into some kind of acrobatic punch-drunk, math-rock, post-noise (semi) controlled chaos. They throw themselves about while spitting out reasons to listen, reasons perhaps to still believe that this kind of energy can be anything other than a parody of 70’s amphetamine fulled punk or 80’s/90’s angst fuelled hardcore. That it can be quite real, and now. They’ll hammer this home, screaming to the point of collapsing an internal organ…

And it’s this that really intrigues me most about Cat On Form. Their onstage performance is aggressive, but it appears to be almost carthartic, a kind of vent. If it’s a matter of performance therapy then I dont even want to know what ‘issues’ this band have. But it’s whether this is truly an expression of inner politics bursting to get out, or just some blatant act of exhibitionism that im not sure about… either way it’s amazing to watch, and as every paper that you’ll read will tell you – we are a nation of voyers. In which case, Cat On Form have something far more life affirming and potentially inspiring than any Big Brother programme could prevoke in us, and that I am sure of.

Unfortunately, most of the miserable, thick rimmed penis barers just stand motionless, supping on beer or pulling on a fag… im not sure they really get this whole “energy” thing… I get the feeling you could whack them round the back of the head with a copy of the Wire, and they’d keel over like a cardboard cut out or perhaps something weightier, like a bag of spuds. Which really is a shame, because Cat On Form really rock this evening. I may even go so far as to say that this particular performance was the best I have seen them play to date, in fact, hell, I said it and I’ll stand by it. Everyone in that room should have been in fits, contorting and writhing and rocking along if not in time, then at least in sympathy. But dont get me wrong. Cat On Form don’t appear to be the kind of band you go to see purely so as to shake your brains out of your ear in a headbanging fashion at, they also have their more paced moments. These last long enough for you (and them) to catch a breath, reflect, get a drink.

Headliners, Part Chimp, managed to give me neck ache and a bruised stomach muscle (rendering me unable to sit up straight for two days after the show) by forcing me with mere instruments, to rock out for their entire set. Yep, beginning to end, head bobbing, body flexing. I was there doing the dance of the dying dolphin and all for the love of loud guitars. Its funny you know… Part Chimp are one of those bands who, and Im not ashamed to admit, I do not own a record by. I have a couple of tracks on mix CDs but I have never gone out and bought a record of theirs. And SHAME ON ME because I quite like them live, and really should help fund these music making jaunts that end in shows so that they can do it more often and all of us can go and jump about like we were 15 again. But… thats not the funny thing (that I was getting to), the thing is that you dont really have to be familliar with them to enjoy their sound or their performace which is pretty rare I think.

Mostly I find that it helps immensly if you are familliar with a band before you see them live, if only because you have something to compare to… (or so you can feel smug when you notice the drummer cock up). Part Chimp’s formula is pretty basic, this is the post-rock/hardcore hybrid you would expect from a ligament/scarfo bleedout: a couple of bars of guitar and bass stuff, distressed vocals, foot stomping drums, perhaps a break, a bit of loud quite loud stuff, plenty of screaming, louder, delerious guitars, the end. They sweat like pigs, roll about the stage like hungry honey bears and look pretty much like every guy that has ever served you in Selectadisk, and this is ALL GOOD. This is why I like Part Chimp.

The Hoxton Haircuts who had turned up hoping for another 93 FE electro-clash trend setting party-hard were clearly left bemused by such sights, giving a mixture of stern and nauseus looks to the pogo/trobbing/hair-whippers that formed a tightly packed throng at the front of the stage, and indeed, also at the band, who were ripping chords through the speakers at a pace. But that was fine, who needs Haircuts anyway (apart from maybe, the Datsuns)? By this point my stomach-strained endorphins had kicked in and as I damaged my body further by jiggy-ing harder than I would normally muster, I was grinning like an ape myself. Ho. Ho.

* * *

Note to self: Fewer penis’ = fewer people.

Southern Records Hostile Ambient Takeover #2 – 12th Feb 2003

At the last HATO I got all girlie about being one of the few girls in the crowd. To my surprise and pleasure there seem on first appearances to be more girls at this show. Whether this means there are more girls who like Wheels/Jarcrew/pAper chAse enough to see them than those who like Cat On Form/ Part Chimp enough to see, I’m not sure… and conclusions are stinted when I realise that actually, this show is a lot emptier than the last one. A quick headcount and I note that there are about the same number of girls at the show as there were at the last one.. there are just fewer guys, and as such, fewer people in total. But it evens up the balance and, in a roundabout way, means that maybe girls are more committed when it comes to seeing a band they like? Or maybe it doesn’t… Hmm. One of these days I’ll study something important and learn some posh words and write a competent piece of work about what this girl:boy ratio at rock shows is all about. I’ll have to have made some kind of headway with working out an answer by that point, sure, but hey… I’ll let you know when it happens.

Once again I had missed the first band by the time I got to the show, but I did have a great conversation with a pebble-glassed pensioner about the threat of war and his “arabs that live next door” that “aint no terrorisers” on the (late) train to the gig. Makes up for everything that went before in the day, and indeed, any crap that came after. My faith in the public Joe (or ‘Derek’) was solid as a rock.

So I guess I was already in the mood for some good time Rock and Roll… which was mighty handy, because if nothing else, Jarcrew are into having a good time.

On first appearances, they look a little ‘thrown together at the last minute’. A little young. A little self-conscious. I don’t know anything about the band, so I assume that actually, they are all of these things. (Later investigation on their website reveals that they have been together for some time – long enough at least to get two reviews in Kerrang! and an NME review, along with a nomination for Best Newcomers in the Welsh Music Awards and are infact all around the same age as me) Which is fine, because I have absolutely nothing against a bit of young talent throwing themselves about in a mish-mash ode to their favourite bands so long as its with sufficient love and energy that it bleeds into the audience enough to appreciate it.

And we’re appreciating it.

From the Dismemberment Plan meets Les Savy Fav style stompers (complete with ADD synths and jiggly bass lines), to the Rolling Stones meets Wolf Colonel bluesy-garage-noise numbers and the more ambient Warp-y mini-disk soundscapes, we are appreciating it. Appreciating it enough in fact, for them to sell out of CDs… which I must admit, surprised me a little. While their individual tunes seem well crafted, well played and interesting enough (the odd sample here, some forsetto whelps and some godawful harmonies where you wouldn’t expect them), their overall sound seems a little undecided.

To make up for this, a lot of focus goes on showmanship – the main vocalist, a Mick Jagger-hand-clapper-booty-wiggler type who threw in some Tim Les Savy Fav crowd invasion and lobbed playing cards at the audience; the bassist, a Lóreal peach faced, hair flicker/metal type thrashing hair this way and that; a small and insane drummer (who reminded me of both Pippen from the Lord of The Rings films and RHCP’s Flea) who favoured tipping his drum kit over and playing the bass drum with sticks in a squatting position… etc etc. And while this held the audience’s attention for the 45 mins or so that they seemed to be on, it aint going to carry over to record.

Back in Ammanford, Wales they may be the avant-alternative needed to bash Lostprofits off the top of the Welsh Alt-Rock Charts, in the wider world of Spiky Art Rock, they aren’t the most arty, most spiky or most rock. However, all that said, Jarcrew positively OOOZE with the energy and passion of a young band who love what they’re doing, and as long as they keep that fresh, I have no doubt they will settle into a sound (however eclectic) of their own.

I’m debating going over and buying their CD, (Breakdance Euphoria Kids, Complete Control Music) to see if I’m right about them not working on record, whilst simultaneously having a conversation about stuff I wont bore you with now, and buying a drink when I realise to my horror that as a usual driver and as such, non-alcohol-drinker, the price of a beer vs. volume of liquid is ridiculous. I debate upping sticks and moving to Wales where home brew is (apparently) very cheap and very popular, remember I’m not much of a drinker anyway and resolve all the issues battling for space in my brain (which I picture rather like watching your hard-disk defragment) in time to see the pAper chAse take the stage.

Mid first line of the first track, the mic dips to inaudible levels and while we can see the singer screaming his heart out and ruffling his hair, and pointing with eyes glaring, at the audience… we cant hear him. The crowd stand, bopping, not throbbing or dancing, just bopping – eyes fixed, trying to work out what exactly is going on… feeling slightly awkward, motioning their inclusion in this disaster to the band with their helpless faces and half-hearted but encouraging smiles.

And what an irony, for a band who released an EP (Cntrl-Alt-Delete-U on Divot.) which was billed as “a commentary on the average human’s reliance on technology and the division it has drawn between nature and such…”. Witness the divide! On one side, a band beating out their frustrations in a public arena, on the other, a befuddled group of people trying to make ends of the situation and in the middle – TECHNOLOGY letting us down. In hindsight, I’m sure the band will make this connection, and appreciate it. In the present, I can imagine they were fairly disheartened and frustrated.

But good for us of course, because by the time the mic came back, The pAper chAse were just about ready to explode. Watch! As the beardy bassist swoons with his tool as if digging graves… Marvel! At the little angular man with the stark emotion and strained vocals… Ignore! The keyboard guy who didn’t really do anything interesting so I wont talk about him (or the drummer for that matter, notable for his tattoos and time-keeping only). Wonder! about how they manage to be so darn EMO and not kill me standing.

I’ve had my fill of EMO. I’ll be honest… and while we could all debate for a whole long while about what it is, let’s not. At their best, pAper chAse remind me of Gang of Four, or maybe a little bit PIL-esque. At their worst they remind me of later day Dismemberment Plan, after they lost their ZING and got all … “This is a song about being in love, and falling out of love, and loving someone else who doesn’t love you back” and stuff.
For me, they are a band who work better on record.

Which is a good place to end tonight – I saw two bands, one makes great records, one makes a great show, but neither did both for me.

Southern Records
Part Chimp
Cat on Form
pAper chAse