The Ups and Downs and Ups of a Rock and Roll Band…….

The perversity and downright awkwardness of the rock and roll biz, together with the occasional glorious wonder that emerges from it, has been perfectly embodied, reflected and demonstrated in three gigs featuring Kill Pretty over the last fortnight. This trio of musical events perhaps sums up the year for me in respect of “Aural Endeavours” and places to see artists perform in the Greater Manchester area, and in this instance just beyond in the Lancashire Hills..

What is clear is that the appetite for live music in local pubs and clubs appears to have rapidly deteriorated as 2012 has unfolded. I don’t suppose the weather has helped and the combination of bone chilling temperatures, and more rain than is absolutely necessary to make the flowers grow, must deter people from venturing out into the night. However it is profoundly disappointing to see only a few hardy souls at these gigs.

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Tim Lyons of Sandells

Friday 7th December saw (The) Sandells and Kill Pretty at the Crescent public house on the Crescent (naturally) in Salford. It’s a damp night but the “gangs all here” including several noteable faces from the post-punk scene of the late 70s , and a lot more faces from the current Manchester music scen(e). It’s gratifying that some people do make the effort to come out of Manchester City Centre on a Friday night to see two bands that have, in one way or another, dominated my listening through the year.  Another band – Belter from London – have broken down on the way up the M6 so consequently the two remaining acts get to do longer  sets.

The concert room at the Crescent is relatively full as Sandells invite us into their unique and hypnotic world of Kraut-punk…..the band are in fine form moving effortlessly between “songs” and collective improvisation. The extra time for the set allows the band to stretch out and explore new areas. Kloos, Lyons and Benson seem to have developed a telepathic understanding their aural soundscapes are refreshing and new, but also reverential/referential to the music that has influenced them. It was all a bit Ornette Coleman meets Damo Suzuki round at Michael Rother’s place for a jam and a good time.

This is my 11th Kill Pretty gig this year and tonight they are wonderfully anarchic and a little bit heavy. New song “Back Passage Boys” seems to borrow a riff from Tony Iommi and is full of the usual Moss baleful intent. The band has consistently moved the set list around over those eleven gigs and there has been significant development in the last 12 months from the power punk pop of the Shangri-La gig to this more overtly assertive approach. The whole thing revolves around Josh’s lead bass and MJ Leigh’s drumming with Dutton Senior creating waves of Sonic Youth like guitar noise as the palette on which Moet paints his word pictures. The collective view from the band was that it was bit loose this time around but generally good fun as an enthusiastic crowd join in with some serious moshing around. The down sides are broken guitar strings and broken bass strings that litter the set. Josh ends up using Tim Lyons bass after snapping one of his own strings.

20121208 ML1
This man looks nothing like Arthur Lowe

Onto the following night at the Blue Cat Cafe in Stockport – a place I have always reckoned as a great venue for live music, but has gone down seriously in my estimation since this event.  A double shift with MJ Leigh playing a set with Kill Pretty and then The Blimp. Well that’s the theory. Unfortunately Kill Pretty  are struggling with the monitors and the owner thinks Chris’s guitar is too loud. Chris explains he is on notch one on his volume and that turning down means turning it off – the owner still thinks it is too loud and the band decide that they cannot continue. A great pity because the sparse crowd that were there seem to enjoy what is played. Messrs Moss and Dutton decamp into the night obviously at odds with the “man” whilst Mr Leigh stays behind to play with his other band. The only observation I would make was that two songs from Kill Pretty is significantly more satisfying than whole sets from a lot of other bands I get to see. Why it was felt that Chris’ guitar was too loud when The Blimp were at a similar volume is a complete mystery to me. It may be that a band with the power and intensity of Kill Pretty was just too much for a small venue of this nature. Anyway it may be closing soon so the point is moot.

The Blimp are just as good as when I saw them a couple of weeks back, better in fact. The “General” is still snapping guitar strings at an alarming rate and goes through two in the one set this time around…..we get the rare appearance of “50 CC No Silencer” which Mike has never played before. and a brand new song, which again Mike has not played. “Wonga” makes an appearance as the staple tune when the guitar is being restrung, and it’s good to hear “Art Job”, “Snowglobe”, and “Rifleman”. The band move from power punk mania, through psych/kraut to Zappaesque almost jazzy workouts. This lightens the mood somewhat after the earlier shenanigans.

Move on seven days and up the M61 and across the M65 to Blackburn for an Anti-Fascist Awareness event at the Sir Charles Napier. A fine establishment with a great concert room on the first floor which has a couple of very interesting murals featuring scantily clad fantasy maidens and a Conan type figure flexing his muscles and magical powers. Four bands this time around with Kill Pretty headlining. First up are Corned Beef who hail from Clitheroe and describe themselves as punk/ska/hardcore – I enjoyed the majority of their set which had a lot of variety and was impressed with some of the less obvious material they played – some very interesting chord sequences were in play. I guess the only observation is that the variety of genres of music they play is a tad confusing – but I did like the slower more measured stuff a lot. I shall be checking out their album on Bandcamp on the back of this performance.

The mural at the Sir Charles Napier
The mural at the Sir Charles Napier

Next up are The Sanity Clause who deliver old style punk of The Clash ilk with some venom, great hooks and an honest attitude. They hail from various parts of the M65 corridor. I caught them at the Salford Music Festival in October and they improve on a second listening. They are very tight and they get some of the audience dancing.

Third on the bill are Addictive Philosphy  who are from Derby and comprise the interesting line up of trumpet, twin guitars, bass and drums. My immediate reaction to the band was this was a ska version of Fucked Up – they describe themselves as “slow rocksteady into ska and punk finishing with thrash” which is pretty aposite. The variety in the music is pretty compelling and the use of trumpet in this setting is remarkably fresh, and more importantly, it works. They will require further investigation I feel.

Finally it’s Kill Pretty. 

Of the three gigs mentioned in this review this is by far their best performance. It’s the best sound the band have had over the three performances and I think that allows them to deliver a more polished and , dare I say it, professional set. Highlights are the second ever appearance of the excellent “Devil Resides” and the increasingly potent “Super Soaraway Sun”. Having seen the band 13 times now I have to say this is their best performance to date with all of the various elements falling into place to create a barrage of sound which is unmistakably unique, extremely varied and immensely satisfying. About half way through the set I started to get the buzz I got when I saw The Fall at the Band on the Wall in May 1982 – this is a band you can invest your time and energy into. I like bands that make me think and this group both energise me and stimulate me mentally. A truly fantastic performance and this is the last gig I shall be attending in 2012 a rather wonderful way to finish the year.

20121208 JD1

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