Call me Russ L

Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a Battles

Posted in Music by Russ L on 13 July, 2011

Ah, nuts. I got a thought along the lines of “Ooh ooh ooh maybe I should start writing about things again”, got around to partially writing a post, and then left it a fortnight. I would call myself incorrigible, but realistically this is more of a lack of ever having been corriged in the first place.


Battles are a band I first came across at the 2005 Supersonic Festival, and Mary Mother O’Mercy they were super-duper. In the usual fashion, they were already well-known amongst those who know well and I’d read beforehand that they featured members of a whole pile of bands that I (mostly) didn’t know, but they were completely new to me and I really wasn’t expecting the fantastic and unconventional groove-a-thon that I heard on the day. Since then, I’d seen them another couple of times and even got some uncustomary rewards from the oft-distasteful chore of listening to recorded music – their “Mirrored” album from 2007 will ding your hum. When it turned out that they were due to play at The Institute on the 27th (thanks to Capsule), I was more than happy to have a bit of that.

Upon entering (via The Anchor, for an important pint on the way), I encountered some young person’s 4/4 discotheque music assayed by Young Montana, a fella-me-lad with hair far too indie-floppy to do that sort of thing convincingly. It got more interesting, though, as he added an assortment of odd little sounds around the edges of it all – not only the customary depth charge bass, but also steel drums, a sample of The Beach Boys playing “God Only Knows” in a hall of mirrors, and all sorts of gubbins. I liked him. I think he would’ve been better in a shorter burst (he went on for quite a while), but I liked him.

Battles were outstanding. They’re not the easiest to describe to someone who doesn’t know them – oddball mostly-instrumental rock, I suppose, with plenty of funny rhythms and timing but nevertheless always very catchy and groovy. Even someone who actively dislikes them (fools I tells ya) would have to admire their set-up – a particular mic to hit with a drumstick to make those wooden-y sort of sounds! The highest cymbal stand in the world! A man playing two keyboards at once, positioned at 45 degree downward angles! This is all just superb stuff.

It was all new stuff, unless I’m forgetting anything, but I suppose that makes sense given that the singer-bloke from the previous album had left them. The guest vocals from the newer one were replayed as recordings, although in two cases the starring turns had recorded a video to be played on big screens behind the band. Mattias Aguayo‘s “Ice Cream” made the most of this, using a pause-and-stutter effect on the video to create a cool new breakdown in the middle of the song. Gary Numan, on the other hand, reminded me (between the particular tone of his nasal vocals on his track “Heavy machines” and the heavy eyeliner and generally-looking-like-grim-death in this video) of no-one so much as Ozzy. Perhaps this was deliberate and in honour of Home Of Metal.

The final one-two was the best. “Futura” ended the main set and was altogether more forceful than on record, before the sole encore of “Sundome” proved to be enormously grooving. It really got me going, and I’m someone who rarely goes at all nowadays.

Early finish, too! Bosting.

Since then there’s been Grandad Tom’s funeral, the big strike day (involving picketing in Walsall and then the big demo in Birmingham), and a trip to That London for an operation. I may end up writing something about the last-named. Probably not, though.