Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Heads: you win.

And So I Watch You From Afar *****
Mojo Fury *****
The Computers*****

Scala, London. May 03 2011

You know those quaint old films of Cream and Led Zeppelin performing in front of mahoosively-sideburned guys in cords with big glasses and mops of Fat Freddy hair? You know, nodding guys in afghans, trenchcoats or Army surplus jackets. Probably got a Greenslade, Caravan or Yes Double album dutifully tucked under the arm.
Heads are back. Hallelujliah!

Well, they’re back. Loads of them. Beards, waistcoats, semi flared jeans. The only thing missing was the whiff of Mary Jane or patchouli oil.Yup. Heads are back. And cool by all accounts. And they took over The Scala tonight.

So, what would the assembled mob of heads make of tonight's show?

The Scala for all its grandeur is still a bizarre set-up. Twice as wide as it is deep with viewing balconies redolent of 30's outdoor Lidos or, more prosaically, Strictly Come Dancing. Anyway, a smattering of heads had sparsely populated the floor with most reticently hanging back in the gods as the first band wandered on stage.

The Computers *****
The house lights dimmed and on wandered 4 fielders from Salisbury Boys' Grammar School first XI cricket team. At least that's what it looked like. Young blokes in whites. Weird.

The front man sporting the de rigeur inked arms bellowed in a Vincent Price-esque hammy but entertaining way about what we were about to receive and did his best to get the early admissions involved. Sadly, this was about as good as it got.

I know The Computers are being vaunted and talked about in glowing terms; but they just didn't cut it for me. The first song set off at encouragingly breakneck speed with jauntily loud guitars and big, screaming/shouting from our certainly alluring front man. But as the backing 'vocals' added just more of the same muddy yelling, my heart sank.

Screaming and yelling can be totally mesmerising and captivating. Take the magnificent Dillinger Escape Plan. The nihilistic Gallows. Cancer Bats. Or even 'pop' arriviste screamers like Architects. The difference is that they all do it with style. They balance it with melody. Or light and shade contrast with clean vox. Or back it up with dazzling rhythms and time signatures. None of this was present this evening. One muddy-fuzzy-mid-range-turgid-scream fest followed another. With little or no differentiation between them. Muddy awful. Just awful.
Another dynamic, original song from the sensational Computers..
The only saving grace was the frontman. He was eloquent, amusing, energetic, enigmatic and tried manfully to put on a show. Even taking his mic stand down onto the floor with him. But his band is no good. There. I said it. I don't care if they're on Radio 1 rotation. I thought they were rubbish . Uninspired, unoriginal, unlistenable shite.
They're probably going to be massive.

Mojo Fury*****
Next up were a bunch of lads (thankfully not in cricket whites or contrived coordinated kit) who thankfully moved things up a notch. They weren't brilliant by any means, but contrasted with the ugly muddy piunkabilly din from The Computers, they were always going to raise the bar. 

Mojo Fury; Lakesize rather than Oceansize. 

Keyboard noodlings added a much needed dynamic and despite the vocalists initial shouty delivery, they were far more interesting. There was certainly more than a nod to the fabulous (and now sadly defunct)  Oceansize and there was, thank heavens a nod to melody, harmony and, well music. The singers voice got progressively less growly and shouty throughout the set and there was some genuinely great stuff in there and proper smile-inducing moments. Not bad at all and I'd certainly like to see them again.

So, the Lido was now bulging ike an American's checked trousers and testing the seams. The atmosphere had built and the collective of heads were now in the mood for the main event.

Bloody hell. What a start. The diminutive Tony Wright kicks off into the riff from Beautifuluniversemasterchampion the opener to the stunning new album Gangs and the place melts down. The intensity doesn't drop an iota throughout the show. They are ridiculously tight, almost telepathic in their synchronisation and play their complex and majestic tunes without even a molecular trace of ego. This is a band in the truest sense. Reacting and inter-reacting. Visibly loving it. And each other. 

They combine thumpingly heavy riffs with delicate and intricate reels, arpeggios and noodlings. The Oirish/Celtic genealogy is apparent throughout their oeuvre with nods to jigs and diddle-ee-dit -de-dee excursions layered over brutal bass lines and stomach curdling bass drops.

The show continues apace hurtling through the next two tracks of the album in order. The breathtaking polyrhythmic Gang (Starting Never Stopping) followed by the hypnotically relentless Search:Party:Animal complete with menacing thunderous dark drops that have the crowd throwing themselves around and partying like a whiskey-soaked Belfast Bar on a raucous Saturday night.

Stage, anyone?
Older tunes like Think:Breathe:Destroy and D is for Django The Bastard keep the set bouncing and billowing splendidly all strung together with the diminutive Wright's great banter and likeable cheeky chappy show. The main set ends with Lifeproof, again from Gangs, to a genuinely fervent and adoring roar. Which kept going throughout the 'uncomfortable' period that bands face these days (now it's no longer fashionable to shout 'more' or 'encore' - although more than a few of the attendant heads did raise the old battle cry) before they triumphally returned to launch into the magnificent Set Guitars To Kill.

This was one of the most truly fabulous and engaging gigs I've been to in years and it just kept delivering. The Voiceless was next up as a second encore and the entertainment kept kicking, cuddling, seducing and butt-raping the dripping, baying hordes of heads.

Then that was it. The crowd had screamed its massive appreciation. The house lights flickered. It was time to go home.

I preferred them as a 4-piece.

Like fuck it was. The boys bounced back onto the stage, halting some of the heads from their exit-bound meander and kicked us in the neck with Clench Fists, Grit Teeth...Go! Things then got weird. And wonderful. Tony hauled a willing young Frizzy Head onto the stage, prompting the most wonderfully well-observed stage invasion ever. It felt like virtually half the crowd had made their way onto the stage. Hell, they had. It was amazing to watch. The Stage was completely full of heads. Loads of them. All gyrating and bouncing, while, incredibly, the band, undaunted continued playing the tune. Without missing a note.

A truly brilliant, original, spellbinding and astonishing end to a truly brilliant, original, spellbinding and astonishing gig. This lot are going to kill festivals. 

Wonderful. Simply wonderful.

More instrumental head music next. The brilliant Maybeshewill in a week or so.

More tunes soon, Bwoooar!

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