Call me Russ L

London Never Sleeps, It Just…

Posted in Books, Music by Russ L on 27 November, 2006

I’ve been to London only five times in my life, and two of those have been to go and see the band Neurosis. I’m not, overall, too keen on the idea of commuting too far a-field for gigs (the idea of a touring rock band is usually that they travel to me, rather than vice versa. This feels altogether too much like the mountain going to Mohammed), but Neurosis are a special case. Once upon a time they were one of the most frequently/widely touring bands going, playing over three hundred gigs per year all over the world. All of a sudden, they stopped. Now they hardly play at all, and I suppose this country is lucky to get even one gig in the capital. Your correspondent accordingly made arrangements for passage to the southlands, on Saturday the 18th of November.

I was tired (I hadn’t slept too tough over the previous few nights) but happily anticipating what was to come as I set out. The train journey from Birmingham New Street to London Euston proceeded without the slightest problem, arriving slightly ahead of time. That was about the last bit of travel-related luck I had.

With a while before I could check into the ol’ Travelodge, I had a look at The British Library‘s gallery. Some interesting stuff indeed was to be seen – from the most ancient of sacred texts to modern manuscripts. The Codex Sinaiticus was, in an odd but real way, slightly humbling to be in the presence of. I was thoroughly chuffed to see the original ‘Alice In Wonderland’ (open on “Eat Me.” I love ‘Alice.’ More on that next month…), and amused to find that the manuscript of Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” looked like one of those letters from a mad person that we occasionally get at work. Elsewhere there were fragments of original copies of the Magna Carta, the only surviving medieval ‘Beowulf,’ some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, and all manner of other fascinating things. The non-permanent exhibition galleries were closed, though, and it really is a shame this little jaunt didn’t happen a week later – London: A Life In Maps sounds fantastic.

So, anyway, off to Travelodge’s Kings Cross Scottish House establishment. I’ve stayed in the main Kings Cross Travelodge (around the corner) before, and had no problem with it. I wasn’t too impressed with this one. The modernist architecture is something I get enough of at home in the West Midlands, but that’s by the by – this was by far the shabbiest Travelodge I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t dirty or unhygienic, but there were patches of wallpaper ripped off the walls, a grill falling off the radiator (which made a row when you turned it on) etc. You can complain about how these places don’t have any character of their own, but normally they are at least immaculately kept. I honestly would not recommend that particular one. You can get somewhere for considerably cheaper if you want it a bit grotty around the edges.

A bit of a nap (after watching a bit of Domino Day on the room’s telly. That was fantastic!) later and I was off to brave Trial By London’s Often-Feted Mass Transit System. With there being engineering works on some of the tube lines in the area that weekend, the 214 bus route from Kings Cross to Kentish Town was a tiny bit on the busy side. I managed to manoeuvre myself amongst the select few that managed to get on by the third one that turned up. Stranger pressed against stranger; the bus driver cursed and muttered as his breaking distances were doubled by the sheer weight he was carrying.

Arriving at The Forum in Kentish Town, I was unbelievably gratified to see that the queue to get in only stretched around one corner this time. I still have flashbacks about the scene outside last time Neurosis played here.

I’d already missed Capricorns’ opening set, though, it seems. Ah well. The main supporting act were Made Out Of Babies, whose ‘Trophy’ album I have and find perfectly alright-ish (even if I have hardly listened to it since I first got it). They’re generally described as noise-rock, and on record I can just about see that, but in a live setting their combination of bom-bo-bom-bom rhythms and the singer’s handwringing angst (little-girl-lost/Elektra-complex-gone-wrong stylee) came across as very nu-metal. That’s not an insult, it’s an observation. The fact that I was fairly nonplussed by them is co-incidental.

And so to Neurosis. We’ll get this out of the way first – having now seen them three times, I’m slightly concerned that they’re turning into an ordinary band for me, rather than the Mighty Heralds Of Making A Row that I’ve always previously viewed them as. Familiarity isn’t breeding anything even remotely close to contempt, but I do feel like I’m beginning to get ever so slightly… well, used to them. It’s not a big problem, but it’s not ideal.

They were still absolutely and monumentally titanic. The setlist given here seems more-or-less right to me (I’ve never seen them as a ‘song’ band, so I do find it difficult to be precise with this sort of thing), and this is where the fans who didn’t go start swearing about them actually playing ‘Eye’ and so forth.

The bass tone underpinning everything was close to frightening, adding a physical element to the proceedings wherever in the venue you stood, but it’s really indicative of them all over – they’re capable of sounding that much bigger than every other band, existing in some sort of limbo between popular music and an orchestra despite there only being five of them onstage. When this forms up into One Of Those Moments you really know about it – I don’t think I’ll forget the sensation of being plunged into the centre of the earth prompted by the kicking in of the slow riff in ‘The Doorway.’

I don’t think I’ll ever repeat my first live experience with them (J.B.’s in Dudley in 1999), when they created an addendum to the general theory of relativity and dilated time, but… well, gigs as good as this’ll do.

So, following a resting-of-my-weary-head back at the hotel, the following day saw a trip over to Camden Markets. I was hoping to get some Christmas presents, but nothing really leapt out as being perfect for anyone in particular. I love Camden Lock Market/The Stables Market nonetheless, though – I could just wander around for hours. I did, in fact.

A couple of pints in The Worlds End and it was time to begin the long trip home, which ended up being the sort of irritating pain-in-the-arse you probably expect. It had worked out cheaper for me to get a train there and a coach back, and so off I set. The bus that was meant to go to Victoria stopped at Trafalgar (it did say ‘Trafalgar’ on the front, to be fair, but I didn’t know that was nearer than Victoria), and then the following one couldn’t go through Whitehall for reasons I’m still not clear about. Further confusion about the coach stations in Victoria (‘Victoria Coach Station’ is not the one you want for Greenline/Megabus – you need to go to the little undercover depot thing over the road) meant I would have been right down to the wire in terms of catching it on time, but it was late anyway. Arriving back in Birmingham few hours later, the train from Snow Hill to Rowley was delayed by nearly an hour.

There’s probably a moral in all of that somewhere, but I’m damned if I can figure it out.

~ Russ L, lavvin a dack me old china. Or whatever they say.


13 Responses

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  1. throughsilver said, on 27 November, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    It’s up!

    ‘this is where the fans who didn’t go start swearing about them actually playing ‘Eye’ and so forth’

    And that fact fucks the bollocking shit out of me, even now.

    ‘I don’t think I’ll ever repeat my first live experience with them (J.B.’s in Dudley in 1999), when they created an addendum to the general theory of relativity and dilated time, but… well, gigs as good as this’ll do.’

    Yeah, sounds like this was your version of my London 1999 experience. They were already my favourite band, but for some reason, the experience just wasn’t the eye-opener it had been in 1997.

    The earlier set being culled entirely from Through Silver In Blood might’ve been a factor…

  2. Tom said, on 29 November, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    I only found out about this gig at the last minute, and as much as I’d like to see Neurosis live… It’s the sort of thing I’d want to spend a good week psyching up for, listening to nothing but them to proper get in the mood for it.

    That and I wanted to save a bit of energy for Slayer on Monday night.

  3. Russ L said, on 29 November, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    I can imagine someone feeling like that, but Neurosis are pretty much the opposite for me – you can simply listen to them and immediately step over the threshold into another world.

    I’m being massively hyperbolic. There’s no need, is there? I think what I’m trying to say is that, for me, their music provides its own context. And that isn’t really relavent. I didn’t listen to them in the run-up to that, anyway.

    Ignore my rambling, I’m not very well.

    I opted out of going to see Slayer this time around. Too much crapola on the rest of the bill. I was at Baroness on the night of the Birmingham gig.

    Oh, and by the way – bonus points for anyone who can name where I got the title I used for this post.

  4. throughsilver said, on 29 November, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    ‘I can imagine someone feeling like that, but Neurosis are pretty much the opposite for me – you can simply listen to them and immediately step over the threshold into another world.’

    Ditto, but Tom has never seen them, so expectations vs. experience and all that. Can’t blame him, though – me and Rob pressured him into it on the night of. Short notice.

    I woke up the other day, thinking about ‘Crawl Back In’ (known to my friends as ‘that one off Sun That Never Sets that made throughsilver cry’), that they played it, and how much of an idiot I am. Missing that and Tool (with Mastofuckingdon in support) was kind of a wake up call, so expect reviews on Propagandhi and These Arms Are Snakes gigs in the next bloody month or so.

  5. throughsilver said, on 29 November, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Oh, and Catatonia.

  6. Russ L said, on 30 November, 2006 at 9:07 am

    Bonus points for the table on the left.

    Mastadon are a band that – officially – I Cannot See The Fuss About.

    Did you go to see Genghis Tron, incidentally?

  7. Tom said, on 30 November, 2006 at 11:10 am

    I wasn’t a big fan of Mastodon until I saw them at the London Astoria, shortly after Leviathan came out. They opened with the thirteen minute closing track, and just tore the place up from there.

    Had no idea they were supporting Tool though…

  8. throughsilver said, on 30 November, 2006 at 5:35 pm

    re: Mastodon.

    I was never that into them, and even denied Leviathan (apart from the greatness that is ‘Hearts Alive’). New album, while far from the best thing ever, is very good. Plus, Scott Kelly’s on it.

    re: Genghis Tron.

    After all that soul-searching and dilemma-dealing, I decided to see them. Rob suggested we see Borat beforehand, but I had a bad feeling; they were playing in a pub, let’s not forget. So we get there, without having seen the film, and it’s sold out. Ooh, I was operating in a state of dimished responsibility after that, let me tell you.

    Weird thing: I went to Crash Records to see if they had any tickets. Girl behind the counter had no idea where they were playing, seemed not to know who they were, and eventually said ‘oh, that place doesn’t sell tickets’.

    So who happened to be on the door that night?

    The girl from Crash…

  9. Russ L said, on 30 November, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    The thought of attempting to get a ticket-in-advance for that kind of gig wouldn’t even have entered my head. There must have been a lot of disappointed individuals.

    Edit: Well, if you are going to turn up foolishly late then I suppose you get what you deserve.

  10. throughsilver said, on 30 November, 2006 at 7:37 pm


    I hate the Leeds scene and will fight them all (one at a time). And you never know with tix – I got advance tix for gigs at Brudenell Social Club and Manchester Roadhouse, so there’s always a chance.

    Finally, you try spending hours in the fucking Fenton…

  11. Russ L said, on 1 December, 2006 at 8:33 am

    “I hate the Leeds scene and will fight them all (one at a time).”

    Want me to post that for you on Raw Nerve?

    I will if you want.

  12. throughsilver said, on 1 December, 2006 at 10:01 am

    If and when I get irked enough to do so, I’ll post it myself.

    And stop stirring, or I’ll start with the Russ L scene. ;)

  13. Russ L said, on 1 December, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Don’t pick on me, I’m poorly.

    And I would be forced to get my revenge via instigation.


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