A night of challenging music, acerbic wit, and uplifting song
There is an unholy racket floating up from the bowels of the earth underneath The Chippendale. It sounds like a bad smell, like something’s died in a gym sock, wafting up from the underground into the Friday night party in the beer garden. This turns out to be Party Dozen’s soundcheck (and not the zombie undead breaking free from their terrible subterranean prison as I had feared) and they are my new favourite band. This is based on the simple fact that anyone who can ferment a mess of noise like this is worthy of respect, fear, and (probably) quite a lot of expensive therapy. It is inventive and clever, and oddly beautiful – while also at times truly, wonderfully, biblically horrible.
Party Dozen are a two-piece made up of just a saxophonist and a drummer, which sounds like the very worst idea in all the world – except the drummer is accomplished scene noisenik Jonathan Boulet, and the saxophonist is running her instruments through more guitar pedals than My Bloody Valentine (and aims to make the same sort of noise). This is music for people who want to hear music in all its forms, not those who came to have a sing-song. There is some mind-blowing and technical playing, there is some horrendous racket, there are bits when your feet want to dance, but your brain wants to escape out the side of your head.
In a world made up of the neatly-pressed – and there are plenty of them up there in the beer garden – it’s a mischievous, impish delight to have someone like these two conducting savage and bloody raids on the surface-dwellers every now and again. What giddy and horrifying fun.
In a comical tagging accident, the Shrapnel that are playing tonight are not the thrash-metal Shrapnel tagged on the Facebook event page. I honestly can’t work out if I’m disappointed about this. On one hand, it would have been a weirdly fun thing to see an actual thrash band, in the wild, between the mind-bending bonkersness of Party Dozen and the tuneful racket of Unity Floors. On the other, this Shrapnel are tons of good. There are too many of them for the stage, so they spill out off the end of it, which is always fun, plus they rattle around like Pavement’s favourite marble in a glass bottle. There’s more than one tune I’m still humming after they’re done – there are few better signs than that, really.
It’s almost two years since I last saw Unity Floors (back at the beloved and missed Lansdowne in 2014) but they’ve clearly not been resting on laurels or taking it easy. They were always an accomplished pair, comfortable playing live and full of tune, but tonight they’re in another gear. Their 2013 Exotic Goldfish Blues LP – from which we still get a few tunes tonight – was a great big vat of enjoyment, but those old ones do stand out next to the newer ones, from the recent, excellent, Life Admin album. While “Nice Fit” is still a belter, new tracks off the new record have bigger and sharper teeth, and the full crowd here tonight get it. This is Big Jangle, loud as hell, rough as a badger, but full of great big slabs of song. “Young Professionals” in particular stands out, even more acerbic than on record, and the whole set just rings. Been a while – but it’s well worth the wait.
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