Call me Russ L

More bands should be named after long-billed birds

Posted in Music by Russ L on 6 January, 2006

Originally posted on 5/8/4

Last night I toddled off to The Medicine Bar in The Custard Factory to have a look at Pelican (instrumentalists from the USA), Jesu (latest band featuring Justin Broadrick o’ Godflesh/Techno Animal/Ice etc) and Deadsunrising (West Brom).

After an age-long, glancing-at-the-watch-and-thinking-“time’s-cracking-on-a-bit” wait, DSR began. The room, initially, seemed packed to the point of huge packed-ness, and I was pressed up against the back wall. After a while it became apparent that although the crowd was indeed dense, the typical semi-circle of emptiness in front of the stage was taking up a good third of the room. There’s me up the back like a suckah. Moral: use your elbows.

I moved and managed to procure sight of the band for about the last song and a half, and it became obvious very quickly that they really are a band you need to be able to see – I was previously thinking that they sounded alright but not the best I’ve ever seen them, but once they were within my field of vision they seemed ten times better. It seems that their movements, even when they’re being comparatively serious and not acting the giddy goat, are an important part of putting across the energy they convey, and if there’s one thing that DSR are about it’s energy. Moral: when watching Deadsunrising, make sure you watch and not just listen.

Jesu had a few technical problems to say the least. The bass kept vanishing. The sound was very muddy and unclear. One of the stage lights was shining directly, blindingly into their eyes, and they had to ask repeatedly to get something done about it. They didn’t seem entirely happy with what was in their monitors. Moral: If you’re going to use alienation caused by a modern technological society as a repeated theme throughout your work, try not to hurt technology’s feelings too much. Eventually it’ll turn round and bite you on the arse.

Despite all this, Jesu were fantastic. Their set very definitely told a story -more than you can say for most bands, although there was much animated discussion afterwards about what precisely that story was. I recall once reading an interview with Justin Broadrick in which he said that Godflesh were never meant to be aggressive; they were ‘the sound of someone being crushed.’ That summed them up brilliantly for me (I suppose he’d know, if anyone would), and similar forces were at play here… backwards. Seriously. The set began sounding like the last few week and weary survivors raising their heads after the deluge; in the middle (I’m particularly thinking of the bit with the militaristic drums) it sounded like resignation to the fact that They’re Coming For Us; at the end it sounded like resistance. Whichever way up, I thought their set was great. Moral: go and see them. Really. Hopefully there won’t be quite as many gremlins next time.

I’d heard a few bits and bobs by Pelican before, and I liked them but I wasn’t sure if I could eat a whole one. The problem didn’t really arise in the end; late running times meant that I had to leave after two songs. That which I saw, I enjoyed. They had more of a groove about them than I expected (my worst fear was a descent into sterile technicality), and my head was bobbed. Moral: god damn Travel West Midlands and their ideas about when the last bus should be.

– Russ L

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