Live at Royal Park Cellars on Saturday, 14th July 2001
It's Saturday night, the cellars are dark, and Steve Kind is bellowing for us to greet rock uber-beasts CATYLYST, and as they take the stage amidst the roar of two distorted guitars, I'm sitting on the edge of my seat with my fist poised for punching the air and I'm ready to rock. Only Catylyst aren't. And the show gets off to a slow start as Chris has to leave to stage to get a pair of drumsticks for Wally. Who says drummers are stupid?
I was initially unimpressed by the start of the first song, as the intro seemed to be about twelve years long and reminded me of Nine Inch Nails (never a good thing), but when the boys commenced with their guitar racket I was a lot happier. And I bet that inverted cymbal could be heard all the way up to Hyde Park Corner.
The pre-programmed noises form an integral part of the Catylyst sound, rather than sounding like an afterthought, although a lot of them seem at odds with the loudness of the guitars - the 505 can sound a bit tinny. Terrifyingly, the arpeggios in the third song of the set seemed to be leading to Goth territory, which is something to be avoided at all costs, especially when Leeds is already cursed by having the tag of being a "goth town". On the other hand, the outro of "Fade In / Fade Out" reminded me a lot of Faith No More, which is mint. Catylyst have some quality riffs and their vocal harmonies and Wildhearts-style catchy choruses make them a three-piece slice of rock action that everybody should go to see.
One other criticism you could throw at Catylyst is that they don't do subtlety very well. This is something they could perhaps learn from HERROD.
Herrod have come on a lot in the past year and now seem to be finding their feet. Bits of flying drumstick and frequent cries of "monkey rock!" punctuate their set. Sadly, the lead vocals were too quiet, which made the words but not the tunes inaudible. Herrod are not as immediately catchy as Catylyst, but they're doing that wonky American art-quiet-rock style thing well, and they have managed to do so without copying - there's a part of Herrod that's forever Hebden Bridge.
It is a shame to note that a lot of people (who are probably not only deaf but also stupid) leave during Herrod's set. They don't know what they're missing, the philistines.
Herrod seem as if they're still a little bit unsure of themselves, but flashes of aceness which have been evident tonight, particularly during the instrumental which was disjointed and intricate and which I liked a lot, tell my spidysense that given more gigs, Herrod will perfect their unique sound and become a top-knacker band.
And then come 5'4", resplendent in floor length black number (Emma), a sling (Marcus), and a waistcoat made out of a pair of old curtains (Chris, filling in for the doofus with the knackered fingers).
When you come to see 5'4" you know you are guaranteed good-natured folky style songs that you can sing along with without really knowing them, a good laugh and a bit of a dance. The tomfoolery is well in evidence tonight (at one stage Neil knights Chris and crowns him with a visor), yet despite their best efforts, the band aren't really themselves.
Maybe a week of playing every night has taken its toll, or maybe it's the hastily recruited substitute who is gallantly being taught the songs live on stage by Marcus and making up solos on the spot (for which he wins an extra gold star), whatever it is, 5'4" don't play the best I have ever seen them. It's not a tangible problem - the onstage banter was there and the songs were all present and correct. As ever, large sections of the crowd are doing The Dance and enjoying themselves. It's a credit to 5'4" that they can have problems like they had that night and still play a good show and keep the people entertained.
I'd like to think that 5'4" have it up their collective sleeves to write some rockier, less folky stuff, and who knows? Maybe even a ballad. I guess 5'4" aren't really a ballad kinda band, but I'd like to see them try it, even just once, because I think they could do with more variety in their set.
Until then, let's all keep on monkeying in the rock world...