Bleech flunk their first test tonight: always, always, thank Sheffield for having you. Don’t, on the other hand, begin with ‘We’re Bleech from Larnden’. The Kickliners do the proper thing as a young band, thanking Sheffield several times in thirty minutes and Cats:For:Peru must have done but I missed it. Same goes to Screaming Maldini. Although, having brought the crowd to climax from the start, thank yous lay trampled under their horn tipped, hand-clap heeled boots. They’re from around here, the relationships too close, the love’s implicit.
This isn’t about love though. Am I wrong to guess that Sheffield’s students are disinclined toward trenchant socio-geographic prejudices/allegiances? Am I more wrong to think that the crowd’s lukewarm reaction is because Bleech’s snarly grunge rock trades in authenticity rather than the blatant aestheticism of indie-whatever? Is it because the “’front man’” (as their website scare quotes) Jennifer O’Neill is aggressive and attractive? Are they just not good? Lauren Laverne doesn’t think so. But I think they suffer the same response female musicians face from many unaware rockists; that the trials of masculinity outstrip the trials of femininity, that ‘Rawk’ is the natural expression of maleness, like fighting and fucking and that woman in rawk are dissimulating posers. Bleech’s females also perform delicious butter-spun harmonies. This isn’t natural either. They can’t escape the conventional if they want to be rawk in a real sense, so it’s not surprising that one of Bleech’s songs contains the chorus ‘I wanna be me’.
Let’s just say that Bleech’s rawk is stubbornly 90s than 50s, which can’t be said for the glee-stricken Screaming Maldini or Cats:For:Peru’s ethno-drumming, uke-strumming, electro-warbling post-rock. All male four piece The Kickliners look like skinny ‘nerds’ (everything I understand about them discredits this) and represent their music in the correct fashion. The singer has Graham Coxon’s hair and glasses, the guitarist almost has thigh gap, like by some celestial ordination their metabolisms was directly related to their musical tastes; indie-rock bone-crushing by emaciated teenagers, agile, prone to menacing overtones and deliberately performed. Their nervy music is logically assembled and ruthlessly executed in the same way that Arctic Monkey’s diabolical ‘feel’ consumed most of the third record ‘Humbug’.
Well Cats:For:Peru confounded me a bit. They look positively dweeby after Bleech (a woman on drums? Nearly laughed up my creatine mate). The keys player is grinning a little too much for comfort. What is this? Well, it’s Pixies-styled world-beating rawk with a side order of stadium filler (for this metaphor I will be using U2, but you can use any successfully echoy band from the last thirty years) and a pinch of poly-rhythm jive. Not exactly MIA’s ‘World Town’ but perhaps a hamlet. The music is very musicianly yet anthemic, and I’ve never heard as many people explain Drop D tuning so quickly, all at once. That takes a certain kind of crowd.
Screaming Mal-mania. With all the clambering, I’m light and get bashed about so I give up taking notes. Probably for the best. The set is pummelling glitteriness. Starring, Ex-Horn Players! Choreographed diva-ing! ‘Ohs’ To Joy! They do an encore for Christ’s sake. No no, I liked the bit where percussion (maracas, cabasa, etc) were given to the audience, but ‘pass them back because we’ve only got four’! In Gina Walters, Screaming Maldini have a Donna Summer/Marina Diamonds in waiting. Plus, the show’s overwhelming power comes courtesy of live orchestration. New single ‘Summer, Sometimes’ and ‘Life In Glorious Stereo’ are cut from the same exuberant cloth and play on the most meta of all pop themes, how bloody marvellous it sounds to hear hundreds of people singing in time. All this screams for a punning title, something like ‘Horn Of Plenty’. Oh well, it’s not needed. I need to sit down…