Saturday, 19 January 2013

The School of Hard Knox. Mallory Knox and Spycatcher Live review. The Garage.

Mallory Knox *****
Spycatcher *****
Coastline ***1/2**

Upstairs at The Garage Tuesday 15th Jan 2013

Been a while since I've been wedged into the 2nd Highbury Scout hut that is Upstairs at the <insert Sponsor's name> Garage. And every time I come back, I've always forgotten how small it is. I'm not sure even the 2nd Highbury scouts would find enough room to tie a decent reef knot let alone for an uplifiting game of British Bulldog. 

No matter, tonight, it's sold out and is one of London's hottest tickets thanks to the tipped-for-the top band de jour; fenland's finest young tyros Mallory Knox. Which has had the most remarkable effect on the make up of the crowd. 

There's almost a line across the middle of the scout hut with all the kids crammed in at the front but from halfway back, blokes with beards, man bags and feature spectacles. An unholy mix of industry types, press and musos. It really feels like the school play with all the mums and dads at the back watching adoringly and watchfully over the wee ones under the stage lights. Weird.

Coastline ***1/2**

Anyway, opening tonights scout hut jamboree are Kent's tidy tunesters Coastline. They produce a smooth, rich and silky set full of hooks, jangles, spangles, harmonies, refrains and melodies that get the already decent sized crowd tapping toes and nodding bonces rather than dervishly pitting and getting involved. 

Having seen these boys on two or three occasions, I've always worried about them finding a truly defining edge. Undeniably talented, thoroughly enjoyable and impressive, the vexed question still raises its head. 

There are just so many very good bands in this space (Canterbury, Natives, Hey Vanity, the remodelled WATO, Jumping Ships etc etc) Which, by the way, is brilliant and a true indication that rock music is as strong as it ever was and reaching a wider, more 'mainstream' audience. Not that Coastline are me toos or any less good than most of the others; far from it, on tonight's slick and uplifting performance, they're clearly right up there. It's just that final 10% of difference that's needed. Not a gimmick or a forced signature sound, but a sustainable and definable difference that sets them apart.

Saying that, they're still so young and soaking up influences, ideas, inspiration and experiences as they tread the boards up and down the country. And, in short, they do a bloody good job tonight.

 Check out some of their excellent tuneage here>

Spycatcher *****

After the smooth, cultured and slick Kentish Korma of Coastline, it's time to plunge for the hotter, more mental parts of the menu. As a complete contrast punky, poppy, grizzly and spiky noisy bastards Spycatcher are next on the scout hut stage.

The first thing to notice however, is that they appear to be a five piece no longer. Shorn of on guitarist/key tickler, the home counties quartet launch into the ridiculously infectious Remember Where You Were When Michael Jackson Died. And the sound seems to show no ill effect from the loss of a limb. In fact, arguably, it's more raw, tighter and cleaner. But still fiery and full of burning hot piss.

Steve Sears' bluff punk vocals are so far removed from the Coastline boys almost choirboy-like tight harmonising that the feeling of shock is almost tangible down in the kiddy pit. But, the taste buds are re-tuned and dropped jaws hoisted back up as the assault continues.

Spycatcher are one of those bands who genuinely have found a niche. Very difficult to put a finger on where they fit or what, (if it's needed by OCD suffering tiresome musos) genre they should be filed under. There is definitely a true punky edge but one with roots both sides of the pond. 

One moment you could be in a punky hardcore NY basement back in the 80s, the next at an early Slipknot jam session. Without the masks. There are influences and references swirling round the head like a trippy psychedelic dream sequence. Dark shadows of Glassjaw, Minor Threat, Million Dead,The Clash and Black Flag, lighter motes of The Damned and Eddy And The Hotrods, King Blues and even UK hardcore nods to TRC and Gallows (unsurprising I suppose, given Sears' involvement). 

The overall effect is stunning. Pop heart, punk testicles and a rock anus. The set  is a brilliant mix of light and shade, heavier bombs and melodic interludes. Drew Elliot takes on the responsibility of two guitars into one with aplomb. Mixing up jangles, chugs, slides and graces perfectly. Vitriolic, wry, witty and personal pathos-drenched lyrics sit side by side. Real life by a real band. Making a really good noise. Amen.

Fill your ear buckets with some of their splendid noise here>

Mallory Knox *****

By now, the scout jamboree is in full swing. And the 2nd Highbury Scout hut rammed to it's bulging walls. Cambridge's newest radio-friendly rock and roll darlings are set to do unspeakable things to our rear ends.

With so much expectation, hype, air-play, press coverage and intertweetsocial noise around these guys with the new album Signals dropping imminently, they've got a lot to live up to tonight.

But as soon as the first tune belts out, anxieties are eased, pants soiled, hearts lifted and wee, well, weed. The youthful acolytes sing back every word to huge new tunes Lighthouse, Death Rattle, Wake up and even Beggars which was only given its first official airing last week. These kids learn fast!

The sound is massive, Mikey Chapman's vocals pristine and spot on throughout. And they're loving it up on stage. Milking the crowd's fervour. Cajoling and interacting without arrogance, self-import or rock star wankiness. It feels genuine. Thankfully.

It's not hard see the fizzy atmosphere here transported to bigger spaces, halls and arenas in the not so distant future. The hype looks as though it's well worth the ink, airtime, pixels and hot air. The new album (recorded at the beginning of last year with the brilliant Dan Lancaster) is set to catapult these boys even further into the rockosphere with it's radio-friendly hooks, anthems and oo oohs. And tonight's consummate performance underlines this.

But there's thankfully also room for their sharper teeth to be bared with older material and favourites like Resuscitate and Oceans diving into their heavier side; complete with chugs, drops and breakdowns and getting the young 'uns pitting and moshing sweatily  

They shouldn't forget this edge if they're going to maintain the originality and interesting fusion. While it's welcomed news that rock is apparently going to be the next mainstream flavour, there are bands tilting at the genre from the other side, think Lawson, The Script et al. It's not going to be long before One Direction get Telecatsered and Blackstarred up. Perish the thought.  And, I'm sure the last thing the brilliant crop of acts like acts like Mallory Knox, LTA, Deaf Havana and Don Broco need is to be subsumed my the mire of mainstream blandness.

As long as Thug Workout still gets live airings by the Brocans, Nicotene And Alcohol Saved my Life by JV-G and his boys, Far Q by LTA  and the bigger, heavier heritage is not eschewed exclusively in favour of accessibility and 'niceness' then we are saved. And Mallory Knox will be leading the flag waving for vibrant British rock music for a good while yet, I'm sure.

Tonight is an encouraging portent of big things to come. Bring it on.

Don't believe me? Then feast your ears on these beauties. here>

Spycatcher duo Drew and Will's alt-folk alter egos Dirty Leaves and then This Town Needs Guns Next.

More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

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