Beatles, Bones and Smokin’ Strings

Beach Skulls, Kill Pretty, Raw Bones

Mello Mello, Liverpool

24th October 2013

So here we are in the womb of the UK music scene, where rock and pop life was conceived around 50 years ago by four lovable mop-tops who went on to rule the world.

It’s a dampiish, getting chilly now, Thursday night at the back end of autumn and as we negotiate the mesmerising one way system of Liverpool’s cultural quarter I reflect on the wide variety of notable establishments for putting on music in the area. Something I think Gtr Manc might benefit from. There’s certainly a bohemian feel to the area with the narrow back streets uncovering a wide variety of fascinating places to visit, actually in the centre of the city, and not tucked away in some inaccessible student quarter.

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We are at Mello Mello, a vegetarian eating house, which is long, narrow, utilitarian, slighty faded but buzzing with an early evening feel. There’s a lot of people about as Mr Hook and his travelling band are in the locality, and no doubt quite a few of the punters will be in the area to grab that one. We however are offering “free rock and roll” tonight in the shape of Beach Skulls, Raw Bones (who are both local) and Kill Pretty who are quite clearly not. There is a slight panic when it appears that the headliners (Raw Bones) don’t actually use a conventional drum kit and sound check using an amplified tea chest – impressive stuff but more of that later. However the sound man, in a feat of amazing prestidigitation pulls a full kit from behind the velvet red curtain at the side of the stage. Mr Leigh attempts to construct the kit but there is a problem with the snare stand but at least we do have the requisite percussion equipment with which to proceed.

Lagers are bought – and wallets are quickly emptied as the price of the ales is somewhat excessive – i’m probably spolied by the still competitive price of the nectar of the gods (Joseph Holts Best Bitter) in the Ape and Apple the previous day (£2.56 a pint) – and it’s with some relief that a handful of free beer tokens arrive from the promoter. I smile to myself that my erstwhile companion Mr Doyle, who could not make it over for this show – will be slightly annoyed when he finds he has missed out on that little opportunity.

Beach Skulls - Ryan Jackson
Beach Skulls – Ryan Jackson

First up are Beach Skulls a two piece who describe themselves as  Surf/Lo Fi/Beach pop – Moet thinks they sound like Orange Juice, I think they sound like The Go Betweens – they are probably somewhere between the two offering an interesting mix of reverbered surf guitar and vocals, some compelling tunes and a robust rhythmic approach which is most entertaining. Checking out their EP “The Brooklyn Jive” indeed reveals a song called “Orange Juice” – it’s Peter Gunn meets The Cramps with an off kilter no-wave feel. The chord changes and riffs are very recognisable, and the guitar sounds are well known, but the pair appear to have created a style of their own which modernises the garage feel into something a little darker, but at the same time having a pop sensibility. They are most enjoyable and need to be checked out further. You will be able to hear samples of their work on Aural Delights Podcast  51. You can access their works to date on Bandcamp.

Mr Dutton attempting the world guitar string breaking record.
Mr Dutton attempting the world guitar string breaking record.

Next up, the unbridled madness of Kill Pretty is brought to Liverpool for the first time. They kick off with the venomous trio of tunes from the forthcoming album – “Super Soaraway Sun”, “I Hate Everything” and “Swastika Girls” and I have to say that this the band at their very best. Pungent, violent, unrelenting and teetering on the edge of madness. There’s a good buzz about the band in the audience and things are going well. However after a bravura performance of “Manchester” (King Cotton as was) the evil spirits of gigging decide to descend upon the band wherein a combination of pedal failures, broken strings and other weirdness lead to a hastily rearranged set. At one point the string situation gets so bad that Vince from Raw Bones lends Chris his guitar. Afterwards the band seem a little downbeat about it all but the audience response is very good and my view is that they managed to carry off a fine performance in difficult circumstances. And as Moet said “we will be back”.

Raw Bones
Raw Bones

And to close matters a fascinating performance from Raw Bones. Not a conventional line up – two chaps beating on the aforementioned amplified tea chests in a hypnotic jungle drums style, two bass players  – one electric (played by what appears to be a vicar who is away from his parish for the evening) and an acoustic double, and an electric guitar (doubled through a Peavey and a Marshall amp). The lack of convention is continued with the lead singer performing out front of the band on the floor of the restuarant whilst the musicians hammer away behind the red velvet curtain for the first couple of numbers. It’s a form of mutant blues with impressive rhythmic variations, and the vocalist with his mountain of dread locks and occasional sip from a hip flask is a powerful focal point for the band. They play a lengthy set and the initial adrenaline rush of the band is somewhat dissipated by a longer closing number – but on a balance a very entertaining, and theatrical, performance. There is certainly an attempt to put on a bit of a visual show with the variety of characters on the stage. Attempts to get hold of some of their material to feature on a future podcast are frustrated, however I will continue in my efforts to track them down.

All in all a very good evenings entertainment rounded of nicely with the appearance of two thirds of Positronik at the end of the evening – they had just been around the corner to see the aforementioned Mr Hook.

Kill Pretty are now in Iceland for their first non-UK engagement and plans are underway to secure pre-Christmas gigs after the bass player and the drummer get back from their journeys to foreign climes.

Raw Bones
Raw Bones
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