“Your mother’s coming out on a seven-inch!”. Ah, le mot juste. Still readjusting to Barfly’s particular charms (Tetleys and the scent of piss, essentially), it’s mere minutes before Facel Vega’s innocent plugging of a forthcoming release is zinged right back at them by an army-coated wag. More of him later. Meantime, tonight’s too-early openers are on cracking form. They do the loud-fast-rules stuff just fine, and with more than enough twisty, yelpy Blood Brothers dynamics, brattish charm and jerking histrionics from the rail-thin frontman to snare any passing indie noiseniks. If they actually get the chance to, that is, as gigs are apparently more sporadic than usual on account of them living at opposite ends of the country. Shame. The split LP with Harbour is a doozy. Go get.
Japanese Voyeurs claim they welcome those enjoying “burgers, Gummo, Acid King, Kyuss and dinosaurs” while eschewing “club anthems, Hannah Montana, cream tea and pleasantries”. Hmm. I recently had a burger and a cream tea in the same day, Japanese Voyeurs; where does that leave me? It’s a moot point, perhaps, as from tonight’s evidence any similarities to Acid King or Kyuss amount to a female vocalist and the odd downtuned guitar respectively. We’re squarely in ’92 grunge territory here, and sadly not in a good way; there are promisingly heavy interludes but they’re lost in unspectacular ditties and the sort of vaguely gothy bad-ickle-girl lyrics that dozens of poor Kat Bjelland clones turned out years ago. And the keyboard player must surely own the van, or he’d be shaking his Timotei locks and jabbing out meek one-note doodles in another band.
Is it fair or even relevant to ask whether Damien ’Pink Eyes’ Abraham is the punk Tim Harrington? Of course it’s not, you moron, so shut up. OK, well, they’re both fat guys who like stripping off and have masses of charisma. Both funny guys, in their own way, with Abraham playing the natural, engaging raconteur to Harrington’s hilarious non-sequitur king. Both exude an infectious, inclusive enthusiasm that flips the standard rock crowd invasion over into a manic, all-eyes-on-me walkabout. And both, you could argue, have utilised their magnetic personalities to propel their not especially radio-friendly bands up festival bills, affording them must-see status and a cross-genre appeal their chuntering, epic hardcore (or arty post-punk) might not otherwise have found.
Which is a long way of saying, Fucked Up are a strange sort of phenomenon. Nothing much here sets their third Cardiff visit in 18 months apart from the first two (a jaw-dropping, frenzied sweatbox on Clwb’s ground floor and a rug-pulling mid-bill slot before the Bronx upstairs months later). There may well be people here who’ve seen all three, and more besides on the endless tour-festival-tour cycle the Toronto six-piece have enjoyed this last few years. This band loyalty – keep them coming back, every show is different – isn’t easy to pull off. Tonight, as you watch Abraham’s bandmates blaze heads-down through another layered epic, pausing to observe his antics with wry, familiar amusement (again, a sight Les Savy Fav fans would recognise) you realise that, for the punk kids hollering along as they high-five the marauding singer and the casual observers grinning at the back, the music and the spectacle come as one and make it worth endless repeated viewings.
They’ve got the tunes, no mistake. ‘Crusades’ is dispatched dangerously early at a sea of jabbing index fingers, but a set balanced typically neatly between familiar ‘Chemistry…’ material and completist-friendly older stuff has more than enough in reserve. It’s weird how an hour plus of relentless five, six minute punk ragers avoids sagging. It helps when Abraham’s circling the room, patting, stroking and high-fiving all and sundry with a crushed pint pot stuck to his forehead. Our army-coated pal is notably placated after being dragged onstage to slow dance with Abraham’s heaving sweat-sodden bulk. “Bez from the Happy Mondays, everyone!”. That’ll learn him. Miles of mic cabling allow him to fulfil his promise of visiting street level mid-song (“there’s free beer and cocaine up there”, apparently), and the banter is well-balanced between endearing anecdotes, fuck-yeah social politics and a level of self-awareness and mockery which can draw the sting from crowds far more rowdy than tonight’s beaming lot. It takes something to bring music like theirs across genres without being remotely watered down, and whether he’d admit it or not he’s a big part of why Fucked Up draw you back again and again.