From outside the West End Centre, tonight’s show must just sound like naked noise. And a quick glance at the clientele on their way in makes it easy to assume that all the mess is being made by weird beardy boys. But that would be a coward’s way out. Instead the brave and unbiased that enter find volume, sure, but there’s a friendly atmosphere, experimental charm, and truly beautiful sounds flying through the air too. Yeah, yeah, some of it might be weird, but it’s often wonderful too.
Looking and sounding like they’ve stayed up way too late drinking and listening to everything off of Steve Albini’s CV (yeah, even that Bush album) local trio Wow! Pigeon Eyes ruffle feathers first. And despite their more angular attacks the band make good on promises of pop music, combining their punk spit with some shining off-kilter melodies. Sure they’re sloppy and fuzzy and gloriously out-of-tune in places but they aren’t half satisfyingly loud and direct. And at least they ply their trade from an actual stage.
Next up see, Shield Your Eyes, Silent Front, and Cassette Cassee each stake a claim on a corner of the room and proceed to play a song in turn- kind of like Jools Holland without Jools Holland- and man does it work. Shield Your Eyes start, sounding raw and rusty even, but playing with a Kinsella-esque sense of abandon. Their more loose-limbed efforts suggest incredible things to come but their time is not now. Cassette Cassee are better, melding scything guitars, intensity, art, and drama to make the sort of noise At The Drive-In fans will start dribbling over. And of course it’s always good to have a frontman who spends more time yowling at an already disorientated audience than singing his lines.
Londoners Silent Front have a little more decorum. But just a little. Sounding like punk fans in a hardcore band playing Rage Against The Machine covers (also mixed with whatever else you need to make that feel really fucking good), the trio drive their tunes home with a goddamn hammer. ‘Misanthrope’ is a curling ball of rage, ‘One Off The List…’ prangs and roars like a jet engine and when the show finishes with frontman Phil bent double, screaming into his guitar, it’s clear that, if there has to be one, these three men take top prize from tonight’s tête a tête a tête.
The big win though, goes to Parisien two-man marauders, Pneu. Also forgoing a stage, the duo set up right in the middle of the room and tell absolutely no-one before launching into their grinding everything-core. They only know enough English to quickly thank the people crowding so tightly around them so spend the usual chat-time playing more songs that sound like exploding bombs, like Hella, back on the guided missile they hopped off before recording their last album, or like Death From Above 1979, only with more death. Hell, Mike Patton probably already has their phone numbers, Aldershot loves them too, and when Pneu screech to a halt tonight, everybody goes home happy. Beautiful after all then, but that thing about the beards was fairly accurate though.
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