Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vic Godard and Subway Sect, Vladimir, Edinburgh School for the Deaf and The Creeping Ivies, Beat Generator Live!, Dundee, 25th March

Is there such a thing as zombie rock? Certainly Beat Happening thought so. There have been several occasions in the last few years at Dundee gigs (never elsewhere, for me) when the band has either walked backwards into the audience after a short while (Edinburgh School for the Deaf, Gong Fei), or gone ape from the off (Gropetown, who crawled all over the floor). The intention never seems to be to break the fourth wall, more to bend it outwards, heightening the claustrophobia of a small venue and generally creating disorder. It can be an impressive thing to watch, the first few times, but it also screams ‘gimmick’, and even the mention of the fact that Vladimir do it too bored me a bit – a good hunch, as it turned out: they were heavy, solid, oppressive. Not my thing, generally. What surprised me about Sunday’s support bands was how thrilling Edinburgh School for the Deaf were.

As far as I can tell, they have a good claim to be the instigators of this zombie trend, which is lucky, because they are absolutely ridiculous at it. Where Vladimir stood stocky and inert, save for some very deliberate primal scream therapy at the end of their set, Edinburgh School for the Deaf were runts rescued from drowning, all curvature of the spine and (from the singer) witch-like graspings at the air; the twin guitarists were like the Magic Band with rigor mortis. You wouldn’t want to employ these people. They would not shine at assessment centres. The previous times I’ve seen them, they’ve impressed without shifting a basic suspicion of all this affectation. This time... I don’t know, it just clicked. The moves were endearing because they were so dumb, powerful because so powerless. Of course the freaks get the sympathy, how could I forget that? And then, having me at their mercy, they dropped an incredible ‘Love is Terminal’, unrecognisably slow and turgid to begin, then bursting its banks into hurt wonder at the half way mark. Sung by the bassist, who stood on a monitor with his head touching the ceiling, apparently staring straight into a green stage light, inches from his face. It was wonderful.

The Creeping Ivies, on first, did their fun ’50s thing, complete with Vic Godard and Slits riffs (from ‘Johnny Thunders’ and ‘Love und Romance’, by my reckoning), the main difference from last November was the drummer’s smart and showbiz red jacket. They were a touch too loud, in common with the Totally Wired DJs who decreed by volume that no person should speak to another person between any band whatever, as long as the evening should last, because they wanted to play several Fall songs and ‘Candyskin’ at us (it felt like ‘at’ rather than ‘to’). Which admittedly sounded great, but it would have been nice to catch up with our friends, y’know?

Vic kicked off a sharp set with ‘Best Album’, which got me thinking about its applicability to non-album settings, and how he is always re-arranging his catalogue to form different ‘best albums’ from the same material; how it’s a constant and evolving process, and the magnificence of We Come As Aliens is not what the song’s about; how they’ll never leave, because they’ll never be done, which is a cheering thought. Freed from the encumbrance of a guitar for the most part, Vic was free to move, and what we got – joyously – was the poppiest set I’ve seen him play, edging towards the planned 1979 Now album with ‘Holiday Hymn’ and a song I didn’t know which sounded even better, moving on to ‘Won’t Turn Back’ from The End of the Surrey People with some preamble about its mid-90s Britpop context. Original Sect bassist Paul Myers, who has been away from the fray for some time, responded with curiosity to this, but Vic cut him short, assuring him he didn’t need to know about the context. That trio of songs made for the heart of the set, and for sky-high hopes about 1979 Now. It is far more interesting in prospect than 1978 Now, which documented a period already covered by contemporary recordings (albeit not a complete set). A properly recorded LP of Vic’s take on northern soul is something the world definitely needs to hear.

They played ‘Ambition’ and ‘Chain Smoking’ too, of course, the latter with manic abandon, which somehow they contrived to muster within the bounds of the stage. S. and I made our way home, and hopefully annoyed the neighbours singing the other version of ‘Chain Smoking’, in as close an approximation of the cracked Godard croon as we (well, I – she sang it properly) could muster. Any chance of that one next time, Vic?


Review delayed a few days waiting for Chris’ fab pics to emerge, and also because I didn’t want to offend Andy, who organised the gig, by not raving about his beloved Vladimir. But that is daft – another time, I’m sure.


Murray said...

I think if Vladimir had been on first I might've paid some attention to them, but after the other two acts they just didnt stand out at all.
I enjoyed the creeping ivies, but edinburgh school for the deaf were just brilliant, the whole package drew me in, exciting to watch and listen to.

music is great, it can evolve, how it sounds on the night is the only way it will ever sound, any recording is just a snapshot in time, heres a clip that might interest you .....

Chris said...

What excellent clips, thank you! Maybe you're right about the running order, I can imagine Vladimir wouldn't have seemed so static if they'd followed a less frenetic band. I kept thinking of Roger Daltrey too, which probably didn't help.

Andy said...

For what it's worth I thought all four bands were utterly brilliant on the night. I guess that's me being incredibly biased, they wouldn't have been on the bill if they weren't. Edinburgh School for the Deaf were probably the revelation in that, given the enforced line-up changes, I was a wee bit concerned they wouldn't gel but they were great.

Chris said...

They were great, you're right. Ill-informed quibbles aside, it was a brilliant gig, thanks so much for putting it on.

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