Martin Creed Band, The Continuous Battle of Order
"But is it art?" is surely a question that follows Turner Prize winner Martin Creed around, and it's a question that could fairly be asked about his music. But first, the high art of The Continuous Battle of Order.
Opening with a fragmented clean guitar motif, TCBOO's hyperactive style sees them refuse to run with a single idea for more than a few measures. Retaining former band We Are Knives' use of guitar loops, they no longer build and build but duck and dive.
Hornby's teasing, gentle guitar work gives way in an instant to Craig Kearney's explosions of frantic, jazz inflected drumming. It's virtuosic stuff, and the festival crowd, most of whom won't have known what to expect, look stunned.
Their set contains a number of totally inspired and original moments - the "circular reasoning" mantra where the band break off to clap their hands and chant, the extended hi-hat solo, the moment when Hornby strums his electric guitar with the sound off in near-silence: combined, they make for a (literally, in some cases) jawdropping performance.
The sense of danger inherent, the risk of potential failure, are real and sure enough, in the last moment of the last song, what ought to have been a parting blast is instead a whimper when the guitar cuts out unexpectedly. And with that, they are gone.
That same feeling that something might go wrong at any moment is also present in Martin Creed's music. After warning us that there might be strobe lighting in the show ("but if you don't like strobe lighting, you can avoid it by opening and closing your eyes really fast"), the band play a series of quick, shambolic songs in a faux-na�ve style recalling early Pavement or The Fall. The band give the (I think false) impression that they can barely play their instruments, the drummer in particular looking like he's barely seen a drumkit before.
This childish musical pose is a vehicle for some childish songwriting - songs like "F*** Off", "Words" and "1234" contain their whole lyrics in their titles. It smacks a little of the work of fellow Scottish artist-cum-musician David Shrigley. However, listen a little more closely and there are some strong (and distinctively Scottish) melodies and a subtle technicality to the spiky, garagey sound the band carve out as the long set (about 25 songs) takes shape.
Things take a turn for the comedic with "Up / Down" - as the band play an ascending melody, a visual backdrop of a penis becomes slowly erect and, well, you can work out the rest.
Not everyone seems to enjoy the joke. During "Ahh", whose lyrics you can surely guess, the band play the chord of A. The next song, "A-Z" takes this idea and runs with it ("ahh ahh ahh / buh buh buh / cuh cuh cuh / duh duh duh" and so on).
Sure, there are stony faces during the closer "1-100", which sees the band count to a hundred over three chords and reminds me of a Big Train sketch; but the majority have been won over by the band's obvious joy. When they're called back on for an encore and play "101-200", it rounds off a unique night of contrasts and confrontation when at the very least noone can say they were bored.