Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I love the Eighties

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster/The Dirty Backbeats/Wander Phantom, Leicester Charlotte, 30th December 2007

What sort of band books a national tour between Christmas and new year, then? Probably the sort that don't look like they have stable family units to go home to, thinking about it.

Wander Phantom, from just over the Nottinghamshire border, are 80s Matchbox's current regular touring partners and come from a similar area of the rock swamp. Two bass players don't so much slither around as anchor the sound to the floor while Callum Thompson makes like a goth David Thomas of Pere Ubu. It's efficient stoner rock not dissimilar to desert sludge rockers Kyuss (former employers of Josh Homme) but there's little in their five minute-plus songs to really mark them out.

Unlike the Dirty Backbeats. The last time I reviewed them for TAoN it got reprinted on their Myspace with, for some reason, a credit to Metro, and while this set isn't as fire and brimstone compelling as either that Summer Sundae warm-up party set or their livewire storming of the Musician stage at the festival itself a day later, it does nothing to dim the view that they might well be the finest Leicester currently has to offer, and going on the attempts at dancing to it all the city's cognescenti are very willing to give it back to them. At the risk of repeating myself descriptively, the electrified psychedelic blues suggests Captain Beefheart but with an amping up, once a malfunctioning bass has been sorted out, into Nuggets territory, the band sharp as a needle with the breakdowns and freakouts while Grant still prowls the stage like we might owe him money. A cover of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates's early rock'n'roll number one Shaking All Over dissolves into pure mania, while the Mark Lamarr Radio 2 show hit The Bop remains the showstopper. They seem from their Myspace bulletins to be playing a lot more gigs in London of late, so something could well be afoot for them in 2008. Let's hope so.

Someone's brought a toy chainsaw with them and is waving it above their head for all they're worth as The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster take the stage. Hard to think TEMBLD's psychotic punk-rockabilly gave them five top 40 singles, much less that permanently spinny-eyed Guy McKnight was once let onto Never Mind The Buzzcocks. They may have been dropped by Island after two albums, losing a member and disappearing for a couple of years but the formula is still there and still works - tribal voodoo drumming, bludgeon electrified blues-punk riffola and McKnight using either his lugubrious baritone or his impressive lung-shredding scream, as if Nick Cave had never given up on the Birthday Party. Nobody else dares to sound like them now, or at least when they try to they get it wrong (evening, the Horrors), which on tonight's evidence is both a blessing and a curse, the new songs pretty much working to the same formula as the old ones, so while the place evidently goes mad to Mister Mental and Celebrate Your Mother it all becomes one-paced - a wildly fast pace, admittedly - over time. McKnight's vocals and the guitars suffer from the Charlotte's renowned muffled sound, and when McKnight eventually has one of his usual wanders into the crowd it's to be curtailed when his mike breaks and he has to use that of his guitarist. While after eight years the fight has by no means gone out of them and 2008's third album should uphold their uberraucous tradition, tonight it doesn't seem to have completely clicked.


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