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Strait Laces, Hornets, Black Dunes in Ballymoney

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ATL | 16:56 UK time, Monday, 6 February 2012

Strait Laces Gig poster


Strait Laces, Hornets, Black Dunes.
Ma Kelly’s, Ballymoney
3rd February

It’s been said before, but there’s some strange kind of alchemy or chemistry or voodoo that goes on up at the North Coast, with the Coleraine-Portrush-Ballymoney area acting as some sort of Bermuda Triangle where good bands appear from, and nights mysteriously disappear in a haze.

First locals of the night are Black Dunes, purveyors of metallic sludge. Although featuring the odd yelp and yap, it’s practically instrumental as any vocals are lost in the mudslide. It’s not just noise though, rather they seem to circle round a dirty groove before locking onto it and bludgeoning us with many variations of it. It’s abrasive and confrontational, music to fall deep into, and be hypnotised by. Beware, these Dunes contain quicksand.

Hornets are less entranced by the idea of hypnosis, but they share a common love of brutality with our openers. Their sound is not so much a melody as an assault, banshee screeches over demented music in the same vein as the likes of Gallows. The relentless, frantic riffs are topped off with complimenting and competing vocals from all three members, the changing of focus adding to the deliberate confusion and dark dementia. This is music acting as a call to a circle pit, the aggression masking a groove that comes from the speeded up blues hiding in the hardcore. And yet, between songs they’re the nicest chaps you’re likely to meet, and instead, like their contemporaries such as Axis Of and Lantern For A Gale, they pour their fuel onto their musical fires. We’ll be hearing more from these dangerous insects.

Strait Laces hurry to the stage in an almost unannounced fashion as stage times have gone the way of best laid plans. It doesn’t seem to knock them off their stride though, as they quickly bring their melting pot of styles to the boil. Punk, funk, rock, and hardcore all compete for attention, this ability to put a multitude of styles in one song gives them the ability to switch from one direction to another without ever losing the inherent Strait-Laces-ishness of it.

Two new songs illustrate the point. Forthcoming single ‘Brave The Clutches’ stomps around like an evil clown with the sinister edge of a grinning, axe-wielding maniac in an abandoned fairground, yet it’s followed up with another newbie ‘You’ll Never Know’ which is almost pogo-pop-rock a la General Fiasco, but it doesn’t feel like a different band. This comfort in change, and coherence, and continuity recalls the likes of McLusky, and like them, Strait Laces love a nice shouty chorus, in this case for their closing number of the night, ‘Where The Wolf Roam’ with the title belted out repeatedly by all in attendance at the appropriate times.

Shake your (Bally)money maker indeed.

William Johnston




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