Glasgow-based band Palms played at the launch of Covergirl’s Paris Burns single release at Power Lunches a couple of weeks ago. My respect for them grew from hearing their first song, and thinking, “hmm, not bad”, to being throughly obsessed with this song, Wolf, which they played at the end of their set.
There’s a 50s garage/dark country element to the vocals which puts you in mind of bands like the Dum Dum Girls, but the bassline is more menacing, the tempo more languid, than that “girl group” style normally employs. I was also actually weirdly reminded of Sleater Kinney in parts, and the Cramps-esque howl at the end sealed the deal for me. I love this song.
Palms – Wolf
Last Friday night @ the Lexington in London saw yet another memorable show organised by DIY promoters, Upset the Rhythm: After a 20 year hiatus, Ut, the legendary all-female band born out of the New York No Wave movement is performing live again.
Ut formed in ’78, amid the creative chaos of broke, experimental, art school New York. Their contemporaries included Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, DNA, James Chance and the Contortions, and after a move to the UK in ’81 they were often seen performing with bands such as the Fall and Birthday Party.
On Friday, Ut were fortunate to have London queer/indie heroes Peepholes and Trash Kit opening for them. Unluckily for me, I arrived too late to see Peepholes, but have no doubt they were as good as always.
This was apparently Trash Kit’s second to last show, as Ros the bass player is going to France for a while. I discovered the details of their hiatus after reading the most recent issue ofShotgun Seamstress, an American zine about black punks, put out by Osa of the New Bloods. This latest (and last) issue was brought out specifically in time for this show, and features a satisfyingly long interview with Rachel Aggs & Ros Murray of Trash Kit. During their performance, Rachel mentioned the fact that the zine was the driving force behind Trash Kit forming, so it seemed particularly poignant that both creative ventures were about to go on hiatus.
Trash Kit played a tight show. Emotionally powerful as always, joyful & weird, their punk rock dissonance shifts abruptly to funk-based experimentalism and back, with vocals that, while almost impossible to make out, are heartfelt and warm, lacking the cold calculation of a lot of post-punk-style bands. Definitely children of the Raincoats but also their self described love of Afrobeat is very much in evidence. Rachel Aggs’ songs are a queer mixed race girl’s dream, writing about hair and its “politics”, coming out, riding the bus and losing things. One of the songs has its backbone a Filipino drumming pattern. It’ll be sad to not have this literally life-affirming band on the scene for a while, though according to their blog they are recording an album, which is good news.
Ut’s performance began with Jacqui Ham rapping out some fairly grumpy requests to have the smoke machine turned off (the smoke machines are always a ridiculous feature of any gig), and she continued to portray this cantakerous figure throughout, but jesus christ she was an amazing musician! Ut’s music is less alienating than most that came out of the No Wave movement, and heads more towards Sonic Youth-accessibility. Dark and tuneful, but with much guitar distortion, and anxious vocals that set you on edge, so accessible is perhaps a misleading discription, depending on your taste in ear shredding noise.
Jacqui and her band mates Nina Canal and Sally Young traded instruments and vocal duties throughout, which made for a dynamic show, reflecting the experimental roots of No Wave: the rejection of convention and static boredom.
My favourite Ut song, the Nina Canal-sung Dr No from the Steve Albini produced album Griller, I think was a rare time in which they mucked up somewhat, but apart from that hiccup their performance was noticeably tight and energetic for band that hasn’t performed together for basically 21 years (I say basically, because apparently there was a secret gig that they played in London last year).
Not to drive a point home too hard, but I could have done without Jacqui Ham’s meanness, at one point when they were switching instruments a fan yelled out the name of a song he wanted and he got the sharp rebuff, “you gotta wait, mate”. We’re here to see you, not annoy you, Jacqui.
The visual experience of seeing 3 “older” women ripping it up is not to be downplayed either, as we drown in a sea of mediocre male bands making comebacks, or doing the rounds to make some money. Ut looked as though they’d never stopped (and indeed all 3 do still make music in other bands), but also like they didn’t really give a shit about impressing anyone with their old school kool cred. Wrapping the crowd in a wall of sound, they exuded a skill and confidence in their band that left me feeling mesmerised.
Ut – Swallow
This Saturday will see rare performances by London bands, Homosexual Death Drive and Skinny Girl Diet, as well as a raft of queer DJs previously heard at the likes of club nights Closet Mixtape, Razzmatazz, Shake-O-Rama and Suck My Left One.
Homosexual Death Drive, who are Charlotte Cooper and Kay Hyatt, describe themselves as “no-fi amateurish haters”, which suits the mission statement of SCUMBAG to a T. Their name came about when they were told of Lee Edelman’s book, “No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive”. It’s a catchy name, alright.
Lee says: “queerness can never define an identity; it can only disturb one”.
Homosexual Death Drive’s performance is eagerly anticipated, after their last outing at the Rat Star in 2010, playing at Club Milk’s final show, which you can read a review of here.
Skinny Girl Diet also played the Club Milk show (p.s I missed that show, so am going on rave reviews of both these bands from friends of mine who managed to attend). The band features Delilah Holliday on guitar, Ursula Holliday on drums & Amelia Cutler on bass. Their sound is dark and grungey with post punk vocal stlying. Everett True’s written a review.
SCUMBAG the club night was originally conceived while me & my housemate, recently evicted from our old home, and feeling fairly broke and scummy, hot on the heels of a scabies outbreak and a mouse infestation, carried our roadside-find table from Brixton to our moldy new house in Peckham through the snow last winter (because we couldn’t affort a taxi).
We felt like putting on a fun night to cheer ourselves up, but in the wake of recent evils inflicted by the government, we thought it’d also be a good opportunity for our community to share with each other stories & wisdom regarding how to survive in a hostile climate.
You will be able to pick up the inaugural issue of the SCUMBAG zine, which is a collaborative effort by us and our friends, filled with tales of outrage, DIY tips & tricks, scams & scandals, queer lessons learned and quite a bit about the library… It’s a hard world out there, and when it comes down to it, we know where the real scum lies….
We’re taking contributions for the next zine, so email them to email@example.com.
In the immortal words of Juile Ruin: “It’s time we point the finger at who the real criminals are”.
See you Saturday, @ the Bird’s Nest, 32 Deptford Church St, SE8 4RZ, 8.30-1am (FREE).
Last month I saw Canadian band, Austra, play at the Corsica Studios in Elephant & Castle at the recommendation of a friend, and they blew my mind. They were an act more polished than I’ve been used to seeing in the last few months, which took some getting used to, but by the end, all I could think was, “how the hell did I get to see that for only £3?”.
Austra were at the end of a tour which had included SXSW, but there wasn’t much sign of burnout, lead singer Katie Stelmanis’ classically trained voice soared over the heads of the crowd, and fanboys scribbled feverishly away in their notebooks as the band covered what I imagine was largely the contents of their debut album, Feel It Break , to be released on 17th May.
Austra is dark, dramatic pop, and as their label Domino says, the first single of their upcoming record, “Beat & the Pulse” is “the warmest cold track of the year”. It’s also been stuck in my head for days…
Austra – Beat & the Pulse
Sounding like the meeting point between Young Marble Giants and DIY hardcore, Woolf are more uncategorisable than other new London bands playing the queer/indie/punk circuit at the moment, but nevertheless this is a band comprised of members of other bands from these scenes: Roseanne Barrr, Corey Orbison, Gender Fascist & NZ girl punk band Toxic Shock Syndrome, among others.
The name “Woolf” kind of makes me think of serious, book reading, woods-walking girls with a penchant for fierce animals and whiskey drinking. Which kind of describes the music pretty well, actually.
Woolf have a sort of “offness” and an awkwardness about them, which at first I put down to the idea that maybe the band members (Colette on vocals, Sophie on drums, Georgina on guitar & Irene on bass) were all perhaps bringing their own idea of what sort of music Woolf should be playing; this was a new band after all, and I wondered if there was a bit of a schism between the “punk” and the “experimental”. After seeing a few of their shows, however, I realised this was the point of Woolf, they exude a no-wave, dark punk sound which resists categorisation and provides a challenging listen. When they’re on, their “off” is amazing.
The last show I saw them at (Brighton Queer Mutiny at the Cowley Club), their timing was spot on and the menace & often anti-climactic bad-mood, ellipticism was perfectly evoked. (You probably don’t know me, but let me tell you, “anti-climactic, bad-mood, ellipticism” is a very good thing). Most of their songs leave you unsettled. A few, like “December” are out-and-out girlpunk, and easier to get your head around.
Colette’s vocals are outstanding. “Witch” is my favourite – “I met you…in Dulwich woods”...What is this song about? Dunno, but south London never sounded so creepy.