Live at Mine on Saturday, 14th January 2006
John McGee gets all giddy and silly and drunk and strange things happen while watching bands.
Forgive me if I come on like a drunken raconteur but that's where the story begins, like all good stories should, in the pub, over a formerly nursed pint of cider now in smithereens on a tiled floor. A night trained onto my own celluloid for both this and one other reason - and here's the clincher, the reason why the story starts in the pub, why I'm slurring at you now, it's the night I fell over my own feet trying to traverse a seven step staircase literally four yards from my own front door. It bloody hurt, but you know what, bleeding ears get you all sorts of sympathy, people think you're dying. So why the carry on? Well, see this here experience, it was a similar car crash, dominated by some of the most truly bizarre episodes of my young life. Come nights end as I jockeyed round a packed dance floor squealing the high harmony to Good Vibrations I was free to reflect on the fact that one of the Kaiser Chiefs had solved a long standing debate between me and my dad, amused my own boyhood hero Steve Lamacq with my rye aside that 'even heroes use the bog' (apparently it'll make a great album title folks, you can have it on me, Lammo has spoken) and I tripped over my feet on numerous occasions, or at least I felt like I had. In fact it had only happened once and I'd caught myself from falling and not missed a single bar of my falsetto rendition of a Beach Boys classic in the meantime.
See, I think I might be about the seventh person to review/comment on/laud North East heroes Kubichek! on this site but it doesn't stop my five minutes on the soapbox- this is Durham's own speakers corner and I'm addressing you for the good of the nation, so listen up. If you bottled the phrase 'Bam! That was good wasn't it?' and played it over and over and over again, loudly and quickly and with feedback you might just about get to the level this band do. Opener 'Ach' sets the tone, offering a leg sweep of chiming guitars and a payoff of drumming which is so loud and fast it sparks fears of an oncoming nuclear holocaust. Sloppy writers call this band 'the next great thing to come from the North East' as though they are carrying the torch for a lineage including Maximo Park and The Futureheads in truth they carry to places that none of their forebears even think about. 'Hope Is Impossible' is the song Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite might have written if he'd been arsed about selling records while the double barrelled popgun salute of first single 'Nightjoy' and its B-Side 'Stutter' outdo their regional compadres in terms of guile, wit and power by being just that little bit less savoir faire. When asked afterwards why they didn't play certain (some of their best) songs they reply nonchalantly that 'we forgot about it'- which says everything about the band's depth. I feel like I did that time when I fell over y'know, just like, beaten up and bruised, not quite sure why I got there or why it all went wrong. But basking in the lucky brilliance of the situation, chuckling at every cup of tea I'm brought and the bonbons I got bought for 'being brave'. You know what, even the falling over was brilliant, it taught me a few things about myself. 'Bam! That was good wasn't it?' Yeah mate it was fucking mint. I'll just untie my shoelace and we'll go again shall we?
Coming after that the Joy Division monikered Komakino were always going to struggle to impact on my own partisan thought pattern. While Kubichek! set about belting us to shreds with their own mistral winds, Komakino were more like being face to face with a Flymo Hovervac set on blow. Saying that they made me feel like the proverbial 'dog with head out of window' is far from a veiled attack. After all, we all know that dogs really like having their heads out of the window- it makes them cool doesn't it? And I think by the same token, seeing Komakino makes me cool, cos they're, well, a cool band. They come over in the same trend as many current indie bands, plying their trade with tools borrowed from the business end of the 1970s and early 80s, Komakino have enough panache and direction to make them a little bit more special than some of their contemporaries. Much of this is added by the natural charisma and gravitas of impossibly thin waisted frontman Ryan Needham whose helium voiced Brian Molkoisms and passion for clinging to the venue's roof add spectacle and direction to the band. I never thought I'd say that a band who sounded like Bloc Party fronted by Placebo's diminutive kingpin would be anything other than horrific, but I'm spared by the poppy enthusiasm of singles 'Say Something' and 'Valentine' both of which would be excellent, perhaps by virtue that they were reminiscent of long forgotten New York nearly men Stellastarr* - a band who I openly eulogise about on street corners. It was just one of those lulls, you never remember conversation from monumental nights out do you, and Komakino are destined, much to my own chagrin, to be perhaps the haziest recollection I have of this particular evening.
Providing the night's cider smashing incident were the combined delights of Leeds four piece ˇForward, Russia! who were keen to inform us that 'this was their party' being as it was their single launch gig I had no real foot from which to argue. For those of you who don't know, this band is kind of a big deal apparently - a seal of approval from the aforementioned Steve Lamacq, the presence of three times Kaiser Chiefs at this gig and, perhaps most importantly, a great big whopping publishing deal with Warners says so. But why? Opener 'Thirteen' provides a short harrowing answer, its yelped vocals and scattergun rhythms arresting even the most placid bystander with a dance rock defibrillation of the highest order - it was not, as my mate Tom would have you believe, because of drummer Katie's bare, sweaty chest. Yes folks this band are 'that good' live, their boundless energy is lapped up by the crowd in terms of their delighted enthusiasm, each straining to copy singer Tom's every move. Difficult when you consider he is one of the most original and evocative frontmen I've ever seen - one minute strangling himself with the mic lead and the next three feet into the crowd - each impassioned yelp sounding like the crowning words of a dying statesman. The music comes somewhere in between the tuneful staccato noise terrorism of the last At the Drive-In record and the current wave of popular 80s influenced jerk-indie, but powered by drum and bass so fast and exhilarating it makes you wonder whether Goldie could splice it into one of his legendary junglist DJ sets - a combo which sees cult status awaiting them. Each song title is a number, apparently to stop any pre drawn conceptions from titles and each is as exhilarating as the next- though I give special mention to my own favourites from tonight 'Ten' and 'Fifteen Part 2'. The only criticism of the band is that each song sounds the same, but this is one that has been levelled at much more famous bands in the past for much more serious episodes, in this bands case it only seems to heighten the impact by upping the speed and stopping the need to pause between songs. And boy is that some impact. Like if someone dropped a full pint of cider- the whole bar just stops what they're doing and watches. And you just go back for more as though it never happened, knowing full well that it'll happen again one day soon. I look forward to it. Right now I'm off to pen the final songs of 'Even Heroes Use the Bog' - an album influenced by one wicked night and the high harmony of Good Vibrations - available at all good fallen down staircases near you.