Cardiff has boasted some big name bands in some small venues over the last few months, so HEALTH are a welcome addition to a line up of other notable American alternative bands such as Surfer Blood, Abe Vigoda and Wavves who have recently graced the stage here.
There is a fairly sizeable crowd from early on in the evening, which gives Saturday’s Kids plenty of opportunity to pedal their wares to lots of pairs of ears. This young 4 piece have done pretty well with their blend of post-punk, hardcore and noise rock, but I find their music hard to swallow sometimes. One of their vocalists seems to provide the main focus for the crowd with his best impression of David Yow or Mark E. Smith. The band can sound rather sloppy at times, and the most memorable part of their set is a riff that sounds suspiciously like Drinking And Driving by Black Flag. If they took some of the best elements from their songs and managed to be more cohesive, I think they’re a promising prospect, but after seeing them for the second time, I’m still unconvinced.
HEALTH hail from Los Angeles, California and play music that isn’t particularly easy to categorise. They incorporate tribal drums, pulsing electronics and waves of ring modulated noise whilst keeping a firm handle on melody. HEALTH announce where they are from and tell the crowd to, ‘Come closer to the stage, like at a normal show’. The crowd obliges and the band start playing their first song.
Considering that they have toured and shared a split 7” with vacuous electronic duo Crystal Castles, it would be easy to dismiss them as just another hipster band to throw on top of the pile. You have to also remember that they have released music on New York based Love Pump United, which has also put out music by less eardrum-friendly folk including Canadian nudity fans, Aids Wolf.
The band rips though songs without much break in momentum and I find myself transfixed by the mesmerising layers of percussion, atonal guitars and violent screams coated in electronics. More than once during the set, I find myself looking between the members to find the source of a sound that could be emanating from any them.
Throughout all the chaos is a real sense of melody, but the 4/4 beats and clean vocals are frequently unsettled by a break in rhythm or some alien-sounding electronic frequencies. Despite all of the chaos, the biggest reaction from the crowd comes during the singles USA Boys and Die Slow. USA Boys in particular has no jagged or harsh edges, and treads the line of more of a standard pop/dance song. I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but I swear that some members of the band look bored whilst playing it.
As quickly as the band had started by insulting the crowd (well, me) with their insinuations that we weren’t at a real show, they finish a short set with no encore. You do get the impression that you must have the right haircut and wear the right clothes to fit into the cool club along with HEALTH, which is compounded by the fact that their guitarist completely ignores my friend who compliments him outside after the show.
Minor douchebaggery aside, I would recommend anyone who writes the band off for being another Pitchfork approved hipster favourite, to check them out. I imagine that more mainstream success may be around the corner, but there’s enough discordance and noise to keep things interesting.