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Live: Victorian English Gentlemens Club, The Irascibles, Brandyman

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:26 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

I'm a long way from home. 154 miles if I came via Shrewsbury, 202 if I'd chanced the motorway. I can't remember. I was up at 5:30am. And I've had a couple of beers. I wasn't intending on reviewing this, but I heard stuff that intrigued me and have to share. The memories are fuzzy. Please forgive.

Brandyman are first to rip me away from the bar at Cardiff's Buffalo.

Two guitarists, oblivious to anything other than each other and the drummer's Gatling gun rhythms, draw veils of complexity in the restless and unpredictable riffs that duel beneath DC Gates' atypical delivery. DC Gates is an underground totem here in Cardiff. He's crumpled-suit louche but sharp as a snake's fang.

He sounds like he's auctioning souls in Lidl. Some strange scrapings but hard to decipher despite the fine sound. Gates' lyrics are conundrums of darkly surreal flotsam as crosshatched and intriguing as the planes of noise angled this way and that underneath them.

I'm fascinated by this mordant excellence. Imagine Body Count fronted by an English-speaking David R Edwards, or Captain Beefheart doing hardcore with a GB sticker on his back.

They were worth the journey alone. So much so that I bother Gates for the rest of the night with drunken non-sequiturs and smack-myself-in-the-face idiocy.

"What would you like to drink?"
"A brandy, please"

Of course you would.

Next up, the real reason I'm here. I've been in heart with The Irascibles for a few months, now. When I saw they were doing a gig the same day I had a meeting in Cardiff, I forewent the stupidly expensive vinyl copy of Emperor Tomato Ketchup on eBay in favour of a hotel for the night.

To ears socialised into expecting fuzz and noise obfuscating every damn moment, we have a shocking amount of clarity on stage. Singer/guitarist Nicky doesn't tarnish his Tele's clean ring with anything other than his fingers. The Moxham rhythm section play notes and beats that came down from the mountainside on stone tablets.

There is such a profound love for what we might loosely term rock n roll music writ subtly in every moment of their set: Hank Williams, Sun Records, Wilko Johnson, John Lee Hooker, David Lynch. But that last one was more to do with the scarlet light ambience in Buffalo. It never sounds like a history lesson. Just a jumble sale rustle through garments left so long in the attic that they look, well sound, like the future.

And can I say that Standing On The Surface brought love, sweet love, flooding into my heart? I had tears in my eyes, a wet manifestation of untrammelled joy.

People are dancing despite themselves. It's an irresistible thing.

If they get round to recording an album, it will be a wonder. Screw the all-too-knowing cassette revival, bring back the shellac 78. Again, worth the journey alone.

This is Victorian English Gentlemens Club's gig. They're giving birth to their excellent (and very weighty, literally) new single Bored In Belgium.

Their recent, second album Love On An Oil Rig is a journey to the edge of pop music, recalling Talking Heads, Bow Wow Wow, Adam Ant and Wire. If Victorian English Gentlemen were a stick of rock, you'd cut them in half and see the phrase 'attention to detail' writ right through them. Pennants hang from the ceiling, the band's cheeks glint with glitter, rhythms cross-pollinate with rhythms to form complex tapestries, insistent playground la las emboss the songs' darker territories.

They're great, I think, but a little aloof and unlovable. They're two aspects of the band I happen to love the most. But it can make for a live experience that feels as if it's being conducted at arms length. Impressive as their reproduction of the layering on the album is, I'd like to have seen them rip these songs into new shapes, bruise them, twist the framework, stick an angry tiger in the middle of them to see what would happen.

So, very good - Bored In Belgium, in particular - but letting us in, or letting it out, would have made it all the more memorable.

By this stage, I am, I'm sorry to say, quite close to plastered. Village boy visits the big city, meets lots of people who give him great music for nothing, tries to say thank you by buying each and every one of them a drink.

Afterwards my head hurt; my pocket was fuming; my heart was healed.



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