Nick Cave has said that he went into the studio to begin the first Grinderman album sessions with nothing but a notepad, empty but for the words “No Pussy Blues”. All I’ve got at the start of this Sweet Baboo review is the phrase “worrying oompah tendency”. Yer man Steve Black has been riding a rising wave of popularity for a few years now, usually propelled by his wonky vocals/face/let’s-have-mildly-aberrant-sex schtick; tonight’s a rare full band appearance, but still doesn’t travel far from the ‘funny little songs’ box I’ve unfairly kept him in. Much better in side-projects (Meanz Heinz, Wickes), mouthed along words by the 20% of the chocka crowd not talking their arse off show the local affection levels.
Anyway, brutal honesty says this is Event time for one reason only: Truckers Of Husk‘s first gig for nearly two years is like some weird school reunion of slinky math rock freaks. The line up’s rejigged – out goes Swarthy Cello Man and Ben Now Of Brandyman, in comes a keyboardist, an extra guitarist and, most notably, rocking the permanent gay stormtrooper look, Kelson from Future Of The Left and Jarcrew. His bass is whacked up at high volume throughout, snaking through the twinkly-toed guitars like a horse’s cock. New material sounds either glassy and bleakly ’80s smooth, with a fair whack of drummer vocals (first two songs say ‘Bluetip’ and ‘Billy’ on the setlist) or pivoting weirdly on a rockabilly beat (‘Dino’). Chewy, tasty stuff, but not subject to the months of pummelling and tweaking in front of grinning chumps the rest of the set has had: big smiles and crap dancing break out as the serpentine rush of ‘Panther Party’ and, particularly, the endorphin feast of ‘Gracelands’ disco killer ‘Awesome Tapes From Africa’ and dusted off. A little tentative tonight maybe; still a fret-tapping joy.
Over in Chapter’s darkened room, Circa Regna Tonat are holding forth. Except the spindly rockers split up a few hours before the gig, leaving singer Dan Barnett to move into rescue rock, via a chair and an acoustic guitar. It’s a strangely sweet experience, Dan’s membership of additional bands Samoans and Rescue Party giving plenty material to play with, from ballsy, big hearted rawk to fret-tapping and pedal looping. Occasional over emotive yearn-vocals grate; a fantastic instrumental closer, quietly pitched between Mogwai and Ratatosk, strikes oil.
Press ups and Big Amps. Strange News From Another Star is Man Rock, though all the sweat and bad hormones are served with a nicely psychotic edge. Like a bull having sex with a china shop, their garage clatter flails noisily about, locking on to targets, crushing choruses. Songs from their ‘Full Frontal’ EP bang hardest – a shouty and ferocious ‘Oh My God They’ve Given Me The Suburbs’, a playful ‘Letter From The Queen’ with a ricocheting Barnett on guest screaming – but as ever, yer actual songs are only half the fun. The spew of compressed, ratchet-tight guitaring, the babbling stage banter; it all builds its own demented momentum, snowballing into ten final minutes of semi-nudity, instruments round audience members’ necks, and a wandering bass player gently coercing each person to shout into the microphone. It’s the kind of fun that’s dirty, addictive and slightly scary, and sticks Strange News into the top localist drawer every time.