Friday, 13 December 2013

Hacked to pieces - Hacktivist at The Underworld - Live Review

Hacktivist *****
The Algorithm *****
Zoax ***1/2**

Camden Underworld 12th December 2013

Zoax ***1/2**
Adam Carroll and his band of loveable rogues serve up a bouncing, bumping, grinding and thoroughly enjoyable spicy soup starter on tonight's quite varied and eclectic festive menu. 

There are certainly hints of Defeater, Letlive and even dirty traces of charred ADTR (without the whiney pop punk croutons). It's heavy but melodic, engaging, energetic and has a reasonable kick. Having seen this lot support techy progmeisters The Safety Fire a couple of months ago, they've clearly moved up a gear even in such a short time.

The bow-tied Carroll, the goblin bastard offspring of Charles Dickens and Robbie Williams is in fine and beguiling form and the appetite is truly whetted as he whips a decent sized early crowd into a decent foam.

The Algorithm *****
I've said it before, so I won't dwell on it, but I just don't get The Algorithm Live. 

The album is sonically sensational and a floor filler at club nights up and down the land. And I bloody love it. But they're not a live act. Nowehere near. Despite the brilliant stick work (when he's not being drowned out by silicon and circuitry-driven blast beats) of Monuments' tub thumper Mike Malyan, it's NOT real. 

There's absolutely zero energy transference from the tiny frame of RĂ©mi Gallego as he twiddles his nobs and farts about on his box of buttons. Yeah the music is ridiculously clever. All Nintendo 8bit infused djenty dance, but ostensibly he's a producer pressing play on his hi-tech iPod.

Saying that, there's a decent horde of Jager and Sambucca-soused yoofs in the pit throwing themselves around dutifully and don't seem to give a shit whether it's 'real' or not. But it all feels a bit school disco. Only when what looks like Hacktivist's bassman Josh Gurner joins in for an impromptu 3/4 reggae drop does it even feel remotely like a band. Or anything vaguely human.

All in all, an anodyne, disappointing and strangely emotionless half an hour that abjectly fails to engender even a flicker of soul or engagement. The lack of a Dj lightshow doesn't aid things either to be honest. But the genius of Gallego really needs to stick to the studio and DJ sets and not try and make the very clever recorded synthetic rock music a physical thing. Or maybe he should get a guitarist. Or, even better, two.

Hacktivist *****
So it's time for some filth and real, raw emotion and guts to lift our wilted spirits up off the (dance) floor. And it's down to 5 street killers, back street abortionists and mean looking 'orrible bastards with more attitude than a really pissed of Tasmanian devil being stung on the bellend by a swarm of killer hornets. Enter Milton Keynes' dysfunctional bare-knuckled ninja collective to do the job.

Right from the off, the twin-barrelled rap of Ben Marvin and J Hurley backed with razor sharp, precise and heavy as undrained balls djenty bombast hits the spot and wins over the machine gun beating hearts of the baying, writhing, sweating, tumultuous mob.

For a band with so little work to choose from in their cannon (albeit every tune they do have is pretty much of classic status), the quintet put together a perfectly balanced set including one brilliantly aggressive new groove False Idols, the obligatory and always brilliant version of Niggas In Paris, favourites like Blades, Unlike Us, Cold Shoulders, their eponymous 'theme tune' Hacktivist and the middle finger in the air inspiring fuck you to the system anthem, Elevate.

The intensity of the pit during every song is another level. Stage diving, crowd surfing, frenzied and dizzying circle pits and sweat literally raining down from the smeggy, grime-laden ceiling: and it's fucking fantastic. The 'orrible bastards on stage seem to be enjoying it too, although it's always difficult to know whether guitarist Timfy James is ever happy as he wears that permanent I've got my foreskin caught in my zip, Wayne Rooneyesque 'fuck you' scowl.

Another truly breathtaking and brilliant performance from this most unholy Frankenstein/chimera/crossbred/inbred/fucked up monster cementing themselves further as one of the very best must-see live bands in the land. Even though they're fucking 'orrible,  mean-looking sons of bitches. They're probably nice to their mums though.


  1. ZOAX smashed it. Shame they had to play on such a small stage. Headliners should move thier shit out of the way and give everyone the space to perform.

    1. Fair point, but the Underworld is such a tiny shit bunker, it's inevitable that gear is going to get in the way. Especially, if like Hacktivist they've got quite a lot of kit. You're right about Zoax though. Expecting big things.

  2. Love the Algorithm (and I'm far from a "yoof") but didn't hang around for the Hacktivist as have already suffered one of their sets in the past - truly truly awful. That is probably unfair to the non-vocalists as their music is OK - it is the hackneyed vocal stylings which are frankly laughable in this day and age.

    In fact I think many bands would be far better without a vocalist - Monuments for one. Discuss.

    1. Agree on the non-vox, being a huge post and math rock fan (if they are actually genres). Don't really have too much time for 'rap' for the reasons you've outlined above (hackneyed, irrelevant), but the Hacktivist mix is a strangely alluring one. The djenty mash up certainly thought provoking, if not everyone's cup of tea. But that's what makes music so polarisingly brilliant.