The Roadhouse, Manchester, 12 November 2011.
Tonight shouldn’t have happened. As my comrades maraud Berlin and Paris to inflict old world European capitals with new northern lyricism and the electric sounds of Salford, I’d had it in mind to leave Manchester behind for the weekend and seek quieter times down south (Cheshire). But a broken water pipe in a Macclesfield terrace has put paid to that and with a sense of inevitability I turn to Underachievers like a trusted old friend.
I still hadn’t planned to write a review, as my companion this evening is insufficiently depraved. He spends much of the night explaining the finer points of the eurozone financial crisis to me so I didn’t think that there’d be much to write about. I sincerely believe that nobody wants to reads a music review that’s just a description of what bands sound like. Apart from bands, that is. Hackneyed comparisons with older, better bands, gushing praise or cynical puts downs … it’s like the judges in MasterChef waxing lyrical over a soufflé. The medium does not best befits words and if it’s any good you’d rather taste it for yourself.
But these few paragraphs are simply to testify to the greatness of the two bands that played tonight. It felt like someone should.
Opening up are Younghusband, a London-based four-piece who (sorry, can’t help myself) look and sound like the bastard child of Deer Hunter and the Charlatans and at times reminded me of a more groove-ridden Brian Jonestown Massacre. Also, the guy with the hat from the Orb is on guitar, which is good. They come out with the bassline of the night (everyone who was there will know the song I’m talking about) and prove themselves to be masters of the art of winning over a Manchester crowd, which essentially involves slagging off London. A lot. Doing it in between songs through a mic with the vocal effects left on makes it even better. My favourite is one delay-heavy rant in which the lead singer laments the fact that they’re having to return home tonight because this means confronting their problems and because ‘London is shit, shit, sht, sht, sht …’
Cider time and the night gains added edge when a Jewish girl I once knew walks in and starts giving me looks. At the time, I couldn’t explain my condition to her, my affliction, the way that the pain of others leaches onto the plutonium in my bloodstream and assails me (which I will not go into now, but which you can read about here, should you wish to know more), and so inevitably, given the tragedy of her people, we had to part after just one night of lust followed by hours of sleeplessness … me wide awake in wild-eyed horrors but all the while taking solace in the sight of this beautiful naked girl sleeping beside me … worthwhile suffering for, this, but I knew in the long-run I wouldn’t be able to stand it.
Turns out, she couldn’t stand me either.
In the morning, on our way to eat breakfast in a local café, we walked past a church.
‘I really like churches,’ she said innocuously, ‘but for some reason whenever I go inside one I start to feel really guilty.’
‘Why, for killing Christ?’ I immediately replied, with words that came out of my mouth and which were spoken aloud. Lame jokes about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are not everyone’s idea of pillow talk, apparently. There was no coming back from that.
I didn’t explain that the only way I can bear to stand the horrors is to fight them with a kind of pitch black laughter, just like music and words … the life forces.
So the looks are understandable, as is the obvious contempt of her friends, and I’m resigned to the fact of a few more nice people hating me because of an accident of instinct.
Young British Artists are the band of the moment, seemingly on the cusp of breaking through to the wider audiences and acclaim that their squealing, deranged art rock richly deserves. They’re proper good, hacking and sawing their way through a relentlessly high octane set that never slows for one second. The scally-looking baseball hat-wearing guitarist stoops and swings about the stage like a whirling dervish, getting lost in the music and putting his ASBOs behind him, while an ADHD kid puts his innate hyperactivity to equally good use on synths. The lead singer looks like what would’ve happened to Tintin if he’d taken up rock ‘n’roll and the new single, ‘Everything in Front of You’, is left as a final defiant ear-ringing statement of intent from a band who have found their moment and do not intend to let it pass by quietly.