Call me Russ L

Singular mathematics

Posted in Music by Russ L on 8 January, 2006

Originally posted on 23/12/5.

Off I toddled to The Hare And Hounds in Kings Heath in South Birmingham on Saturday the 17th, for my third of four consecutive gigs in four nights. It’s only the second time I’ve been there, but I’ve decided that I really like it. The upstairs room is a deceptive size (it’s big and allows for plenty of breathing space, but somehow feels smaller and more intimate due to half of it being filled with tables), and with cans of export for a pound each you can’t complain.

I did have my concerns about this one, though. Two of the five bands on the bill were described in the advertising blurb as playing ‘math-rock.’ Fine if you’re American, but the word we (used to) commonly use over here is ‘maths.’ It’s a contraction of ‘mathematics,’ and sounds much less ugly to me. I realise that’s merely a matter of conditioning and what one is used to, but there we are – it is the case nonetheless. Of course everyone involved with rock music always want to be Americans (bless ’em), and ultimately it’s just one more word that I find ugly passing into common usage (no big deal), but what I’m getting increasingly annoyed about is the Stalinist Revisionism that seems to be being employed about its past. “I’ve always said ‘math’,” they’ll claim; “I’ve never heard anyone say ‘maths’ in my life.” They either lie or are deluded. Bands who propagate this are not off to a good start with me.

It seems that I digress. I missed the first band. Looking on the positive side, these were one of the mathsssssssssss-rock bands, and so I’m spared from having to write a splenetic rant. Looking on the negative side, they were called ‘Cornish Tin Miners,’ and so I’m prevented from cracking a joke about them being undercut by a band from Malaysia with cheaper costs.

The Hubble Constant were the first band I saw. It’s worth noting (so I’m told) that they normally have a singer, who for whatever reason wasn’t at this gig. Sans vocals (bar one little bit by the guitarist on one song) they had a stab at loads o’ different styles – a post rock frame with punky bits, metallic bits, one ska part… allsorts. They were more ‘interesting’ than they were ‘likeable,’ but still fairly likeable. I will start using sensible sentence structure at some point in the future, I promise.

Burnst were our other mathssssssss-rock band, but if I can be serious now it’s purely a co-incidence that their music didn’t really blow me away. They came across as your standard (mathematical)-rock sort of thing, with what I’m relatively certain was some very clever musicianship at times. Balls to that if you’re not doing anything with it, though. I’m interested in art and I’m interested in entertainment. Craftsmanship offers little to me.

That’s a general point more than it is directed to Burnst: I didn’t think they were bad by any means, and they did bring some enjoyable moments, but I’m unlikely to go out of my way for them. What should be noted, of course, were the background visuals. Every band at this gig had videos projected onto a screen behind them. I hadn’t noticed them during The Hubble Constant’s set because I’m not a very visually minded person (when you’re as ugly as I am it’s something you tend to de-emphasise), but Burnst had footage of some sort of East-Asian religious ritual. Massed ranks of monks shook their arms at each other, and I was left wishing more rock bands bothered a little bit more when it comes to giving you something to look at. Some bands have natural presence and others don’t (and throwing yourself about the place only really tends to add anything if you already have ‘it’, I think); if you haven’t then adding background projections or dancers or whatever else has to be worth considering at the very least.

The awards for Band- and Background-Projections-Of-The-Evening go to Mothertrucker. I was informed afterwards that the scenes utilised were from the film ‘Duel,’ but you basically had a chap in a car managing to overtake a huuuuuge swerving lorry, before having it pursue him at a dangerous tailgating distance. Right up his jacksi, so to speak. This then cut to a tense and paranoid scene in a cafe, where our car driver surveyed a series of trucker-types sitting at the counter and seemed to have a bit of a mini-breakdown.

What made this great, though, was the way it seemed to mesh up together with the music. Since I’ve no way of assessing the extent to which I’ve been subconsciously affected by the ‘truck’ connection, I’ll merely observe that Mother Trucker’s mix of BIG STONKING RIFFS and then slightly quieter bits and then more BIG STONKING RIFFS was perfectly suited to the themes of 1) large vehicles; and B) a man being pushed over the brink.

I’ve written many times before of how much I like MoTro (you’ve truly Made It when you have an abbreviation. I will make efforts to spread this) so I feel like I’m repeating myself here, but even if the background film had been stripped away they would have rocked. They have riffs, you see. They’re big. And they stonk. That’s good.

I was a bit (not extremely, but a bit) drunk by the time our headliners took the stage, and as a result ended up paying no mind whatsoever to their backing images. Oh well. Una Corda (for it was they) are a funny case for me at the time of writing. The first time I saw them I thought they were just OK. The second time I quite liked them. The third time – this time – I found them merely OK again. Due to my tardiness in the waffling of my waffle, I have since seen them again, and found them absolutely amazing. It is therefore a touch on the difficult side to write about them here without being influenced by my more recent experience. I do recall echoing some of my earlier thoughts after this particular gig, though – they play a standard version of the rockier end of post-rock, in which the loud parts sound decent but the quiet parts sound entirely generic. Stick around for a bit, though. When I eventually get around to writing about their more recent gig I’ll be saying something different.

~ Russ L

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