Terrorvision

(Rock City, Nottingham, Sunday 27th February)

I might as well warn you in advance that I am going to be utterly unable to bring to this review that false, disconnected, authoritative voice of objectivity that covers the enthusiast press like an intimate rash. You know the voice I mean: the one whose inaudible undertones are saying, ‘Using my vast knowledge, I have placed this one particular musical experience within the context of all others. Thus you are invited to accept one of two possibilities. Either I am right; or you are mental.’

That’s not going to be possible here, and the reason for that is this: Terrorvision were my first proper rock band, and I suppose on that basis, they will always be my favourite by default. I’m often accused of being a grumpy, negative sod, so it might seem incongruous that I would be so captivated by a band probably best known for a daft ode to Mexican paint-thinner. I lose count of the number of times I’ve been to see them play around nine or ten. I spent large chunks of time in my teens rummaging about in record shops all over the place, trying to find B-sides I’d not yet heard. Every music fan has got a first band they fell in love with; for better or worse, Terrorvision were mine. This is the only context I am prepared to offer you.

Even so, I had mixed feelings about this new tour. They’d been romping around on a pretty regular basis since they ‘split up’ in 2001, packaging a shameless, guiltless nostalgia trip around all their bounciest hits. Residual cynicism about has-beens trading their integrity against past triumphs would just melt away in the glare of singer Tony Wright’s silly, beaming grin. It was hard to leave one of these ‘last ever’ gigs without the feeling that even those who detested this band ought to be able to admit the rock scene was the poorer for their absence. Nevertheless, a suspicion nagged that their best days were behind them.

This time, though, there’s a new record to push, and a new bum on the drum throne (that of Cam Greenwood). And though it was a great night overall, in all honesty, by the end I felt my mixed feelings were not entirely unfounded.

For the most part, nothing much has changed. They’re still fucking loud, they’re still uncomplicated, and they’re still sporting more bounce to the ounce than an anorexic on a pogo stick. The old stand-bys still start up and run beautifully, and apart from Greenwood’s insistence on chucking about flashier fills than former drummer Shutty ever played – which do not really work, in my opinion – it’s exactly like I’m a 16-year-old virgin again (instead of a 30-year-old virgin).

The band do not seem to have aged one bit, which is a pretty good advertisement for the kind of abuse they put themselves to. The three original members must be well into their 40s by now, but they are giving it some of that let me tell you what. Wright never stops jumping, dancing, sweating or saying ‘shit hot’; Mark Yates still wears his guitar around his knees and looks cool even in a trilby with a feather in it; and although bassist Leigh Marklew now resembles a bald Bono at the UN, on account of his dapper bugeye shades/weskit/tie combo, he snarls and spits and hoofs his basslines about like they’ve just piddled on his carpet. For My House, Discotheque Wreck, Some People Say, Enteralterego and Alice What’s the Matter, among others, I’m pretty much in my rock show element, reliving all my neck-achiest moments.

Unfortunately, songs from the new album Super Delux fail to captivate me. They sound Terrorvision enough; bouncy, catchy, unpretentious rock tunes. But nothing ever leaps out at me. I could put this down to not having properly heard the new record yet, and just write it off, but I suspect that I might have gone too far down the path of dull sludgy psychedelic cosmic stoner nonsense to have my heart once again captured by an all-new Terrorvision. I also get the sense I’m not the only one feeling this way, but the crowd stays buzzed enough, and there are plenty of folk singing along to all the new stuff, so what the heck do I know?

Terrorvision are always going to be a special band to me, but it feels like we parted musical company somewhere along the way. I wish them all successes with the new record, I genuinely do. But while their live show is every bit as brilliant, energetic and fun-filled as ever, and while I will always love their oldies, it feels like I’ve moved on. I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.

http://www.terrorvision.com/

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Radiohead- The King Of Limbs

Radiohead do funny things to music critics. Each time they release a new record there’s a tornado of pseudo-smug intellectualisation and hyperbole that reeks of dinner parties and Richard Curtis movies. Witness a certain paper wondering whether they’ll save the music industry with their new album. Also witness the cavalcade of writers itching their tits off to get the first review of King of Limbs out after listening to it once, thesaurus at hand, trying to justify why they think it’s a masterpiece that’ll change the world or a hunk of shit that’s not as good as what they’ve done before blah blah blah.

We’re not like that here. We’re bone idle, mostly depressed and have the attention spans of people who’ve grown up with Michael Bay films, but we’re also honest, so you can rely on us not to be swept up in a tide of  pretension or hype. We’re far too gauche and ebullient for that.

So I’ll spit it out. The King Of Limbs is lovely. It’s been on a constant loop in Chateau Pigeon. It’s not the coming of a new age, it’s not going to save the industry, and E.T isn’t going to come rocketing back to Earth to stop Elliot sniffing glue because of it. It’s just five lads from Oxford making the music they want to make, and they just so happen to make better music than everyone else. It’s a terse reminder (clocking in at under 40 minutes) of why they’re so beloved by many an aging whippersnapper.

Of the 8 tracks only 1 is a bit duff (Feral is 3 minutes of nothing really). The rest are delicate, minimal mish mashes of Neil Young esque balladry and glitch-pop. Highlights include Morning Mr Magpie, which recalls a minimalist Optimistic, with it’s mournful crooning and bluesy guitars. Also excellent is Lotus Flower, which is a mongy off kilter groover. Separator is probably the best though, and recalls the somnambulant gloominess of OK Computer. As with Kid A, people will listen to the record once and dismiss it, and then herald it as album of the year, come the time.

See I can do proper shitty music journalism.

Anyway, the continued success of Radiohead conforts me in some ways. Here’s a band doing what the hell they want, and no one will tell them otherwise. They’re just ambling away in a quaint village, making lovely glitchy pop songs, given clarity by Thom Yorke’s delicate falsetto and world weariness. They give no fuck.

It sounds like Radiohead basically. They’ve always sounded like Radiohead, and it confuses me when people think they stopped sounding like Radiohead. People cried that Kid A was commercial suicide and moaned that it didn’t sound like what they’d done before, but they’re talking out their heavily subbed arses. Kid A wasn’t an exercise in wild experimentation, it was 9 slightly odd pop songs and an ambient drone. And now here we are 10 years later, and some of those same people are now moaning that The King of Limbs is just the same old Radiohead. They can never make their minds up, especially when there’s a deadline. This is why you should never listen to critics. Myself included. In fact you shouldn’t listen to anyone really. Instead you should watch the amazing video they did for Lotus Flower. Dance Thom, dance.

Lovely stuff.

www.thekingoflimbs.com

Colour Haze, Rotor, Sungrazer

(Underworld, Camden, Friday 4th February)

It is difficult coming to terms with the fact that you are not cool. Nothing you do or say is cool. We are not cool people. I am not cool now, possibly never was, and definitely never will be again. I’m barrelling full throttle towards middle age; everything you kids like nowadays is as baffling anachronism to me, and all the sarcastic tweeting in the universe is not going to change that. It’s time we grew up, don’t you think?

Stoner rock is not cool music. Its fans are not cool people, and nor are the guys who play it. We’re all white, middle class, middle-aged dorks, clinging desperately to the trappings of a subculture that doesn’t need, want or deserve us, and the musicians are the nerdiest of the lot. You don’t see many fashionable kids at the Colour Haze concert, and why do you suppose that is? As fans, we’d probably like to pretend it’s because the music is too dense, too complicated, and the kids too stupid. This helps us sleep at night, but it’s bullshit. The kids are all watching My Chemical Romance and sexting on their cleverphones. They couldn’t give a shit about your stoner rock because it sounds like it emerged from the 1970s, and the 1970s were fucking brown.

Point being: It’s a night for throwbacks, and all the town’s oldest swingers have made it out tonight.

Arriving at 7pm for the doors opening, we are immediately dismayed to have to queue for nearly half an hour just to get hold of the tickets we reserved three months ago. This means Sungrazer are already halfway through their set and we haven’t even got to the bar yet. I very much like Sungrazer’s album, but have not got around to reviewing them because I am at a loss for anything to say besides ‘I like Sungrazer’. Tonight, they seem to be playing all their songs at 75 per cent speed. We watch a handful of these strange slow-mo songs and then they fuck off, not in slow-mo, swiftly replaced by Rotor.

I’ve never really been that bothered with Rotor, even though they tickle all my boxes. So it proves tonight. I have a wee look, a wee listen, a wee wee-wee, and I think ‘yeah they’re alright.’ Lots of what they play seems to come from their newest record 4, but it could be other stuff too, I’m not really sure. I give them alright out of ten. I’d have rather seen more Sungrazer to be honest, but when you’re our age, it’s nice to get chance for a sit down, isn’t it?

Still, I am shrieking a different tune by the time the headliners emerge. I head directly to the front and refuse to move until I have to. And that turns out to be a few minutes later, when during Aquamaria, some ballbag attempts to start a mosh. Perhaps it is the age talking again, but I have always disliked moshpits; and they seem especially inappropriate at a gig for the perma-stoned, where literally all of one’s faculties are needed to Fucking Dig That Fucking Riff Man Unfgh. Nobody is really all that impressed, and eventually the instigators stop and we can all get back to stroking our beards.

Colour Haze turn Underworld into a sauna. There is something indefinably incredible in the way they combine melody and heaviness with the warmest of tones to produce music that can crush your skull and elevate your mind all at once. In their song structures, they tread similar ground to Zappa, Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel; following sinuous compositions from one end to another, without much repetition, and with all the immediate vitality of a jam. Except it’s not a jam, it’s stuff we know intimately and love, and it’s practically note-perfect. You can even hear people in the crowd singing along with the guitar solos.

In as much as there’s a formula to this music, it goes like this: You set a hook, then gradually, gently, you wind that line in, tighter and tighter. You don’t let go until the tension, comprising riffs, ruffs and bass fuzz, is at absolute breaking point. Then you flick it all into the air, and punt it off between the uprights, leaving the listener riding a dynamic sine wave that kicks like psylocibin.

Here is what I mean:

Via Moon, Tempel, and All, a blazing rendition of Peace, Brothers and Sisters! is intended to give way to Love as the set’s closer. And this is the tune I’ve been waiting to hear. So it is disappointing when the venue decides to cut power to the PA system five notes into it. There’s no rock past 10.30pm, apparently. The atmosphere fizzles, the band apologises, and we all awkwardly hang about to see if the joint will relent. They don’t, so we just sort of shuffle off out the door and into the night and that is fucking well that.

It is an absolutely shitty way to end such an incredible gig, and now I have balls so blue they could hatch out into Smurfs.