Tonight’s trip to Islington Mill was a spur-of-the-moment one. I might have missed out on enjoying the anticipation in the build-up to a Saturday night-out but instead it was refreshing to walk in to watch three bands and have no expectations.
The Louche FC have played a handful of gigs in Manchester over the past few months and have been warmly praised. And from tonight’s set I can see why. The four-piece wrap waves of noisy, shoegaze guitar over old-fashioned fifties innocence: songs about love, sweethearts and dreams – like Roy Orbison covered by Swervedriver or a noisier Mazzy Star. Some songs play out to 5 or 6 minutes in length but they avoid the pitfall of shoegaze – interminable drift – through propulsive drumming and great harmonic hooks. The band remain fairly immobile and expressionless throughout which is a shame. For the first song singer Kyoko Rathmell was without guitar and more animated. However better than this was in the final song, first when she took an unexpected step off the stage breaking up the static onstage line-up, and then as the song came to an end she angrily dropped her guitar to the floor and walked off stage. More of these edgy moments please.
Emperor Zero play an angry, taut post-punk, reminding me of both Gang of Four and The Fall but never feeling retro. Songs went from angry thrash to slower, industrial numbers with jagged guitar and punkish shouted or occasionally spoken vocals. Throughout singer Matt Boswell was an agitated presence, fidgeting and jerking his way across the stage, driven it seemed by rage and resentment rather than attention-seeking. It was a shame then that for most songs the lyrics were largely indecipherable (although I did catch a great line about “girls with books are more sexual”) so the cause of such anger remains unknown. The final two songs of their set were also their debut single: ‘Berlin’ and ‘Man With Red Eyes’. Vinyl copies were on sale at the gig and I’d recommend tracking it down but given it is a limited run of 19 copies (can this be right?) you better move quickly.
I knew nothing about The Vipers prior to tonight but I expected slinky and sexy garage-rock. Instead I was bludgeoned by a furiously fast punk-metal onslaught. Any subtlety was sacrificed for speed and volume it felt and as songs merged into each other the only thing that caught my curiosity was the fact they appeared to be performing with one guitarist and two bass players. The Vipers are tight and brutal – and possibly as announced from the stage this was their last gig – but they are not for me.
So two out of three bands worked for me. A good tally for an impromptu night out and even better value given admission on the door was only £3.