Gig Review by Daron Billings with Gig Photography by Ian Dunn

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It’s been ruddy ages since I went to a gig like this. By that I mean a sweaty, loud, energy fuelled orgy of noise, boys and their toys…well instruments…but that don’t rhyme so well. First up, pretty much the opposite of the all that, Mutes. A mute is, as any fool knows, someone who’s pretty darn quiet. Whilst Mutes (actually just one dude…James Brown…you’re contractually obliged to say, “no, not that one” anytime you mention his name) isn’t the noisiest band in the world his own rather beautiful concoction of layered vocals, dreamy sounds and lo-fi production values is surprisingly powerful. This evening he eschews (yes, I’ve been reading dictionaries again) his more bedroomcore side to begin with and channels more of an early 80s indie / shoegazing vibe…all jangly guitars and tambourine sounds. Right up my floppy fringed street. Perhaps keen to shake things up a bit he then spent a few minutes torturing a guitar, making it do diiirrrtttty, baaaaddddd things…but I liked it. The whole thing culminated far too soon with an enormous sonic fit of noise, looped and built up then gradually slowed down with some knob twiddling until…all…was…mute. James Brown, the hardest working man in slowbusiness.

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By contrast Dead Sea Skulls go straight for the jugular. They’ve got a secret weapon though. Ash is quite possibly the best thing to happen to drumming since Gene Krupa (ask your dads…no, grandads…actually maybe make that your great granddads). Not content with pounding the skins he’s the band’s lead singer too. Being a singing drummer generally means you’re hidden behind your kit, Ash gets over this by playing standing up…a sight and sound that seems more remarkable each time I see him. Drum-believable. Musically they’re a kind of Kings of the Stone Age, rawer than Homme’s outfit but with that similar knack for producing intensely catchy tunes. Flanked by a bassist and guitarist the riffage is, pardon my French, fucking glorious and by the time they get to set closer Coming On Strong (imagine Led Zep and AC/DC in a battle to the death) anyone who hasn’t fallen for them frankly doesn’t have ears.

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Last up, and celebrating the release of their rather spanking new EP, it’s Layers. Any fears that recent fatherhood and engagement (awww bless…more on this later) would have taken the edge of lead singer Lance’s performance were rapidly dispelled. Famous for his neck threatening backflips and relentlessly energetic performances (seriously, the man makes the Duracell Bunny look like a slacker) he and the band kick off (‘kick off’ being the right phrase too) with the punk fuelled Mind On Fire, two minutes of pedal to the metal machine gun drumming, filthy guitars and Lance leaping about like he’s on hot coals. By the end of it the drum mic’s lying halfway across the stage like it’s trying to crawl away. Now that’s how you start a show. You’d think they’d struggle to keep up the pace but pretty soon Lance is hurdling over the barrier and careering through the crowd, frequently vanishing into a pit of bodies. Layers have…well…layers though and Hands (again off the debut EP) is more of a slow burner with the odd SOAD style guitar flourish thrown in for good measure. “Commit yourself” sang Lance, before pulling off a groin destroying scissor kick accompanied by another full on blast of headbanger rock, proof indeed that he practices what he preaches…

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Not Enough (again off the EP) with its cool funky bassline and math rock guitars along with new song, The Fight (receiving its debut this evening) – shades of SOAD at their best again along with a subtle but discernible reggae beat in the background – both hum with the kind of intriguing fusion that I reckon the band could make their own. As if to underline this genre blurring potential they delivered a soulful semi acoustic cover of Skunk Anansie’s Hedonism too, leading the crowd in a singalong that ends with a visibly emotional lead singer thanking us for our support. The pleasure was all ours my friend. There had to be an encore and it had to be Gradually, the EP’s epic closing number. Joined by a mini string section onstage this has the feel of The Chili Peppers at their low key prime and it smoulders gently for several minutes before bursting into life as Lance makes another leap into the crowd reappearing at the back of the room on top of the bar. Hey, that’s one way to get a drink.

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Making his way onto the stage again a moist eyed Lance (that might just’ve been the sweat though) dedicated the night to his new fiancé…a suitably loved up ending from a band that’s oh so easy to fall in love with.

Layers EP is out now on Till Deaf Do Us Party Records. Buy it here you muthas.

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