John Maus @ Scala

 Maus in da house

14/08/12



The curious case of John Maus...  
A primitive animal with an acute mind. A experimental avant gardist with philosophical intelligence. An intellectual and a nut.
On recordings (Songs, Love Is Real, We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves), he'll appear rather tame. All humorous spirit and wise remarks, dressed up in vintage-style experimental synthpop. But nothing prepares you for the ferocious persona that cruises the stage.
This American beau soon turns into an American psycho, hollering, jumping and wandering barefoot in restless paranoia. Instead of a hello he welcomes us with a scream, which he keeps repeating throughout the set, releasing endless anger and frustration; all, it seems, a sonic portion of performance art, apart from unique personal expression, intended to provoke a reaction from the audience - any reaction.
Well, he succeeds, unfortunately. Unfortunately because his rather accessible bites of electronica (and, let's not kid ourselves, his cute looks) have earned him hipster status, popular among teenagers and twenty-somethings that just don't know how to handle such extremities.
Before I know it (and while thinking "hell yeah"), girls with a seemingly perpetual scream in their mouths shout out his name, picking up fights with anyone who tries to resist their mindlessness and crazy pushes; other easily impressionable boys imitate their hero in obviously unhealthy ways, cluelessly copying what they see. One of them even runs after Maus behind closed doors backstage. Is it John Maus, really, or a post modern Justin Bieber?
The sight was so unbearably witless I stopped enjoying it - helpless part of this teen hipster charade. I should start smacking somebody while I scream "Jooohnn" to my neighbour's ear to be on trend here (obviously they didn't care to listen to anything else - so long as they made their presence clear to the pretty boy in question). I remained cold while he played my favorite Rights For Gays and all the newer gems of We Must Become..., while he splashed himself with water and nearly tripped, kneeled and howled.
Maus plays an exceptionally short gig - and intense as hell. Fun indie rockers The Pheromoans (who had very interesting accessories on their heads, I must add) and synthpop noise-makers Peepholes didn't quite cover me. And one of the most stupid audiences I've seen in a while (yes you, you earned it) ruined what should've been the absolute peak.
So much for all his - musical and other - brilliance. Intelligence, I guess, is a two-way street...

Review and photography by Danai Molocha










PiL @ HMV Forum

Symphony in bass major

11/08/12

There's very few kinds of music I don't like. I have managed (cause I have genuinely opened my ears) to uncover masterpieces in everything from Elizabethan dances to musique concrete. But I've always had my issues with the dub dialect.
Along came PiL...
Cheekily spraying dub with the dark shades of post punk and the audacious rhetoric, sociological observations and stage antics of Johnny Lydon, Public Image Ltd twisted and twirled dub enough to make it attractive to my dismissive eyes. I instantly fell for the very first beats of 1983's This Is Not A Love Song and its predecessor Flowers of Romance, gradually working my way backwards from there to the genius Metal Box and First Issue.
Lydon's weirdo This Is Not A Love Song live in Tokyo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gkgp6Vv8zXU) permanently inked my young mind, the way David Byrne (and Talking Heads') nutty Once In A Lifetime (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw54-rCIrPs&feature=fvst) had left their imprint before him...
With the brand new This Is PiL (Lydon's artwork and design throughout) securing some promising new material, I was prepared for something decent, to say the least.
 They did better.

Opening fiercely with a marathon This Is Not A Love Song, they instantly stroke a chord and kept me dancing throughout. A mad core of fans swirled around me in the pit - and let me tell ya, it was an altogether jolly crowd, strewn with both old and new fans (and I do appreciate youths who embrace music history). All-time classic single Rise arose the same sing-a-long passion (although too... accessible for my taste); but the new material (One Drop, Deeper Water etc.) also received a warm welcome.
Lydon has conceived his own kind of stage puppetry, doubling as a puppet and a puppeteer with his cooky (somewhat anti-vogueing) moves and poses.
But there was something even stronger at times than the main man's prominent figure: Scott Firth's bass - which has never sounded on recording as truly sensational as it is on stage. The mighty instrument, which in the first PiL albums passed via the masterful hands of Jah Wobble, was impeccably manipulated by his latest successor giving pulse, goose-bumps, fever to the haunted listeners. Alternating bass guitar and upright bass Firth made the existence of electric guitar and drums almost obsolete, which is a lot to say for a notoriously unadventurous backing instrument (not there aren't other shining exceptions). PiL's bass is half the band - and it's orgasmic. How can you beat Death Disco?
An honorable mention goes to Lydon's attack of security people... Not so much for the numerous downright insolent "fuck you"'s, which rather evoked a pompous faux rebellion (rebellious as was his ad of English butter), but mostly for the spirited "don't harass the clientele" - the clientele who was crowd-surfing. Go Johnny!
We had found out the support act had cancelled the moment we arrived, but PiL ensured they made it up to us with a long, filling gig (plus an encore). If, in year 2012, they can't be a 100% what they used to (Lydon's deliciously wacky vocals, for one, have broken and shifted), their performance and music sure as hell are close.



Review and photography by Danai Molocha

Punk lore


Zero Boys @ The Boston Arms 02/08/12 Three bands in total opened for this amazing US punk band, which has been riding a thunderous Vicious Circle for decades. Noise Complaint were a punk heart-attack, a dynamite that you never knew when it will explode. But the veterans of the night showed that, set against their much younger brothers, they still lead the punk game.
Noise Complaint
With looks, admittedly, dangerously close to those rocking dads that air-guitar in family reunions, Zero Boys all but adhere to the rules. Their loud yellow debut Vicious Circle (1982) was a wicked punk masterpiece, that made the American Midwest a force to be reckoned with; and it was played in full force exactly three decades later.
The crowd, on the contrary, looked particularly young (though a lot of us raised our hands when Mayhem asked who was already born in 1979) and we respectfully pogoed and jumped and crowd-surfed to the classics: Amphetamine Addiction, New Generation, Dirty Alleys/Dirty Minds, Civilisations Dying (and they even mentioned The Hives' cover).
The more I think about it... Man, what a record!
And they snack in a couple of top notch covers there too, with first and foremost Magazine's Back to Nature.
That night I entered an empty Boston Arms exhausted and in doubt, only for those Boys to revive me within the first couple of songs. Ace!
Agnostic Front @ The Underworld 08/08/12 First, an enthusiastic thumbs up to the support bands, New Jersey's The Mongoloids and Melbourne's Deez Nuts (sadly I missed California's Take Offense - and they did sound promising). Powerful stuff...
As for the hardcore New York heroes du jour (and they are always du jour), they carry a weight that is hard for any punk fan to ignore.
Guitarist/founder Vinnie Stigma kept flashing the capital STIGMA logo on his mighty instrument, sealing periodically the band's (and his own) sovereignty.
But what I really went crazy over were Roger Miret's vocals. Less apparent (to me, at least) on recordings, his voice combusted and choked with each word giving the illusion that it caved in under the anger and pain of his words.
Agnostic Front
The band's pit hit Gotta Go (from 1998's Something's Gotta Give) naturally dominated the filthy dancefloor. But I have to point out that the band also released, just a year ago, a pretty decent tenth record My Life My Way (Nuclear Blast Records), and I thoroughly enjoyed thrashing myself into the pit for the title song, or the Spanish A Mi Manera.
Basically, Agnostic Front preach one thing, no matter the language: Just do it your way.



Review and photography of Noise Complaint and Zero Boys live by Danai Molocha

Cyclobe, Myrninerest @ Queen Elizabeth Hall

ALBION-HYPNAGOGUE-GHOST
Hallucinatory Queer British Paganism


04/08/12

Sulphur
Temptations to visit Antony Hegarty's Metldown aplenty.
But the above event was primarily chosen cause a) I have a weak spot for prolific and multi-tasking David Tibet, b) I'm always interested in a dash of Jarman (whose films were to accompany the music) and, c) it was cheap.
The surreal and promising voyage begun with Derek Jarman's short A Journey to Avebury (1971), with a familiarly introvert and melancholy soundtrack by Myrninerest - David Tibet and guitarist/pianist James Blackshaw's new music project. A succession of foggy and somewhat amorphous English landscapes, dancing in the dark sonic shades of Myrninerest, set the tone for the band's first performance; which, as expected, wasn't far from the duo's sadscapes with Current 93, but it did involve a couple of added colleagues. A lamenting guitar by Blackshaw loyally followed Tibet's fervid recounts of love, loss and faith, over an addictive scrim of repetitive notes. I occasionally missed Current 93's over-overpoweringly sad melodies, but there was nothing fundamentally missing from this brooding mix.
Myrninerest
What was about to follow, though, was the evening's big surprise. Having experienced Derek Jarman's unorthodox cinematic vision in Jubilee and The Last of England - and having been perplexed, bored, and also quite intrigued inbetween, I hadn't expected the trifecta Sulphur (1973), Tarot and Garden of Luxor (1972) to be so unequivocally beguiling. Majestic, enigmatic, decidedly odd, the films were as inwardly menacing as Cyclobe's soundtrack. From electronics to bagpipe, Cyclobe's music is imaginatively experimental, as is hauntingly repetitive (hail to The Moths of Pre-Sleep). Fans of Coil are already aware of Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown's musical background and associations; and here, for the first time in the UK, they introduced Cyclobe's disquieting sonic collection with four well-chosen associates. Artists/filmmakers Alex Rose, Fred Tomaselli, Anna Thew and David Larcher devised the creative backdrop.
The mystery special guest was non other than Mr Hegarty himself, who was seen hovering in the darkness before he joined his guests on stage for some potent vocals.
Cyclobe
I've been forever hearing about his unmistakable falsetto causing massive waves of goose-bumps and feelings and whatnot - but I've always found it quite appalling. I interviewed Hegarty a few years back and I can honestly declare, nevertheless, that I hate the voice but I like the man. After his moody contribution to Cyclobe's psychotic soundscapes, I can finally admit I like that too.
Here's to the curator for having this year's mega Meltdown. Antony, you did well.



Review by Danai Molocha