Live at The Vine on Thursday, 19th February 2004
Whiskas - Transmission promoter and tonight's doorman - is stressed. The doors are open, thirty punters are milling around already and The Black Helicopters are still sound checking. The stage is awash with a vast array of instruments, laptops, keys and other electronic gubbins. These things cause delay. I question him inanely and send him into overdrive.
But you can tell it's going to be good; besides the stress for those involved, there's a good vibe in the audience. Transmission have helped us along our way with !!! on the CD player and some accurate descriptions of what to expect.
"The bastard offspring of J&MC mixing The Beatings and Slint with some instrument thrashing. Ear-bleedingly loud guitar noise with added sleazy scuzz-rock thrills" relates to openers The Black Helicopters. Two phrases I'd pick up on are "ear-bleedingly loud" and the reference to Jesus & Mary Chain. The Black Helicopters are indeed very loud, the loudest of any band I've seen at The Vine. Those astute readers will discuss the use of the term loud, and perceived volume levels and suchlike. To me, it's just a bloody, noisy racket. Rather abrasive, and of all comparisons I've read the J&MC one is possibly the most accurate. One guitar keeps chugging away; others distribute layers of more effects-laden guitars over the top. At times BRMC could be used as a modern-day influence. The vocals don't really "sing" in a conventional way, but they suit. In a recent review we wrote that the drummer should be given a leather jacket to complete the look, but I don't think I've ever actually seen Sean anything other than topless on stage. He just keeps pounding away. Sweaty bugger.
Possibly too uncouth for your first timer listener but once you've acquire the taste The Black Helicopters are nothing short of exciting.
The advertising blurb on the flyer for Sheffield's 65 Days of Static really confuses me, so I won't relay it to you. But I did manage to find some other quotes that'd be useful pointers to locate where the Static are at. Logo Magazine said, "like Fonda 500 with guitars, like Aphex Twin on Mogadon, like Mogwai in an exceptionally good mood (in a field)" whereas those assembled at the door to The Vine suggest they sound a bit like "Mogwai playing over a Squarepusher album". The four-piece dish out what are essentially post-rock guitar tunes with additional beats, sound bites and other bits and pieces from what I think was a laptop. Refreshing. The first and final tracks include the only vocals of the set, and those are samples. There is a mic, but this is used only to say "Thank you". The two tunes are also rather similar in nature, a frenzy of loud (again in context), angular guitars that gives the band freedom to shift about a bit and explore the floor space. The second track included what I thought was an annoying drumbeat. "Chk, chk tickety chk", said the guy behind me at the end emulating rather well the artificial beat I had come to hate over the previous five minutes. "Grrr", said I. "That was a fucking ace sound", said he. Matter of taste I guess, but personally it reminded me of the beats you got out of free CD coverdisk software back when PCs came with a Weezer video preinstalled. I couldn't even impress myself with those. This was a minor gripe though; overall the band impressed most of the audience, myself included. The third song was an ambient, swirling epic; you can't pin 65 Days of Static down to one particular style. I overhead at least three people say "They were really good" as I moved back at the conclusion. Really good indeed.
Threekseven are a local band consisting, according to their biography, of three regular members. I missed them take to the stage but when I managed to secure a vantage spot there seemed to be four. When I shifted my head slightly to the left another appeared, and then to the right and there's a whole string section. I think I counted eight crammed up on stage, give or take one or two. Throughout the set roles and instruments changed hands, members left and rejoined the stage and the front-row audience was rather transient with a regular flow of band members. The beer convinced me at one stage that if I were to move closer, I too would get to play. Not quite. Transmission described their music as "ambient post-rock sounds with added machine driven bleeps and bangs. Massively creative, massively loud and a tad Mogwai at times." They were attention grabbing from the off, and are immensely talented musicians. I don't know their background but I get the feeling they are music students, successfully taking their music in many different directions with relative ease. It gives a certain flow to the atmospheric nature of their art, producing highs and lows of emotion in the listener. A more than creditable performance, although for me personally it got a little tiresome towards the end. My main complaint is that the vocals, limited throughout to just "ahhh" and "ooooh", may well have added to the ambience at first but grated after a while with thoughts of a lack of lyrical inspiration. They did their job though, and you can maybe say that Threekseven are more creators of music (the voice being an integral part) than storytellers. But it does detract.
I feel like I've waffled on for ages, and now that it comes to the headline act I'm short for words. The name Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies allows for open debate on the "crap name" front. I rather like it, although it does sound a bit "emo". The band are in the instrumental post-rock mould though, and I haven't seen it mentioned before so I'm probably way off the mark but two of us at least thought that the boy - he does look rather young - standing at the back with his school-boy shirt/tie effect and slung guitar posturing, looked a little like the guy in Busted (the one that can sing a little better than the others). Sorry. Their songs are rather epic in nature, appropriate to the post-rock meanderings they contain. They have some in-jokes with members of the crowd. Band rules are discussed. It's all light hearted and enjoyable. A good reception and numerous calls of "more!" result in an unplanned encore that lasts a further seven or so minutes. I can't really say much more, suffice to say that I really liked them. They have a mini-album out now and a new single is planned, so if you missed this gig you can check those out. There are free downloads too. Useless, I know. Sorry.