Month Of Fridays #4 w. Clock Opera, Mammal Club, Waskerley Way @ The Cluny, Newcastle, 23. September 2011

I‘m actually quite looking forward to the end of these gigs. Partially because, as sparkling sendoffs go, I can’t imagine many better bands to provide it than Let’s Buy Happiness, but also because I’ll hopefully never again have to explain to someone how you can have 5 Fridays in a single month.

Tonight was only the fourth though, the metaphorical rounding of the last corner, and waiting to receive the baton were one man swarm of bees Waskerley Way, hyperactive genre-benders Mammal Club and facial-hair icons and kings of crescendo Clock Opera.

From the outset tonight there was a much better vibe than had been present 7 days ago. A powerful, but ultimately disconnected Eagulls performance, in front of what was a comparatively smaller crowd, had jolted us back to the comfortable groove of “just another gig” territory. Not a major problem of course, I’ve been to a few gigs lately where the promoters would have handed over their first born for that tag, but given the contrasting resplendence of the first two offerings, did feel like something of a let down.

Not tonight though. Where the shuffling of last week’s pack had left Holy Mammoth with an impossible gap to bridge, tonight’s bands complemented each other perfectly for style and scope alike.

I’m nothing if not punctual though, but dashing in just as I heard the opening notes was only comparable to performing a dawn raid on Willy Wonka’s Synth Shop. One man, standing centre stage and flanked by all sorts of superfluous amps, wires and instruments, blowing a clarinet into an echoed microphone while his laptop howled out the soundtrack to a Dalek gangbang. It was like watching Salvador Dali force a snake charmer to perform at gunpoint.

Frightening mental images aside, this was tonight’s openerWaskerley Way, and as it easy as it would be to just slap a tag of electronica on him and be done with it, that wouldn’t even be telling half the story. There’s a considerable dollop of nu-gaze in there and there’s the creeping suspicion that he’s trying to bore clean through your skull with a chisel stolen directly from My Bloody Valentine’s shed. Factor in the aforementioned clarinet, and we might have the makings of a new musical movement, although I don’t envy whoever has to come up with a name for it. Look-into-my-eyes-the-eyes-not-around-the-eyes-look-into-my-eyes-you’re-under, perhaps.

Audience reaction was universally of the “what on earth is he doing?” variety, but it was evenly spread between those watching uncomfortably through their hands, and those wide-eyed and mouthed with intrigue. ‘Different’ is probably the only adjective you’d get everyone to agree on, but ‘engrossing’ and ‘imaginative’ shouldn’t be too far behind. I’m going to stick my neck out here and endorse it.

But if, by the time everyone got home tonight, the jury was still out on Waskerley Way, then it long since returned to send us grinning to the electric chair of what was to follow.

It started with Mammal Club, a band inexplicable in every single way. From the impossible buffet of styles they call their own, to the singer’s fringe which seems to stretch on into time itself, they’ve somehow managed to soundtrack every hazy house party you’ve ever pulled at and still kept it so wonderfully pop conscious that they could potentially make a living out of it.

To have a sound that’s classically tinged and yet still laced with Jetson’s level programming is one thing, to make it rhythmically serrated but still abusively catchy is another, but to then throw in more astonishingly eccentric arcs and curves makes the whole thing utterly, utterly absurd.

In fact, the only thing more absurd, is that it actually works.

Few bands are capable of constantly keeping you guessing, but wrapped within Mammal Club’s set is more off-kilter, mind-bending inventiveness than should, strictly speaking, be possible. I made a similar comment when catching them at Split Parade, but I honestly think they’re now just one song, and one credible industry soundbite, away from being absolutely mega. Which I’d hate, because most people don’t deserve them.

It’s not even that the normal rules of sound seem to not apply to them, held somewhere within the dance moves of the front man lies a formula that will make you question most of what you were told in GCSE Physics. You’d happily take the piss out of him in a club, but with the rabidly paced backdrop of the music, it’s tailor-made hyperactivity and I absolutely fucking adore it.

So, after being first treated to something to consider, followed swiftly by something to enjoy, it was the turn of Clock Opera, an indietronic four-piece from that there London, to complete the set and give us something to adore. A role they’ve apparently become increasingly skilled at in a year that has seen both 6 Music and Radio 1 acclaim.

In short, Clock Opera are a lot more than simply a beard and its friends.

Presumably unable to fit the kitchen sink into the van (or leaving it behind to stop analogy merchants like myself from having an easy ride) they unfurled a set that takes solid, and it has to be said, surprisingly conventional tracks as a spine and then grows limbs of dreamy synth and improvised tin-pot bashing percussion.

Fronted by a man who looks like he’s escaped from somewhere for the day, and is imagining he’s in a band so hard that one has physically manifested around him, it’s easy to see why so much is now expected of them. Wielding a sound that’s rife with space-age melodrama, but still crisp and emotive enough not to put people off, it’s something like MGMT shanking their ball into Talking Head’s garden, and then arguing about how to get it back.

However, as I suppose is befitting of a band this clever, there was one glaring curve ball in their set. Despite treating us to a blistering arsenal of ‘chop pop’ masterpieces, the only song that really received any formal introduction was, by some way, the worst of the lot. Sandwiched in between a raft of tracks that boasted both subtly and searing horsepower, some strange rehash of U2′s City Of Blinding Lights was wheeled out.

Maybe that was just me, or maybe they were just making sure we were paying attention, whatever. Overall they were excellent, and another huge pat on the back is owed to those who managed to convince them to play a venue this small.

Most pleasing of all, and I promise I’ll stop banging this drum soon, is that for all their acclaim, ambition, hype, buzz or whatever, they complimented those they were following tonight. Just like the Jezebels a fortnight previous, and in a different sense Eagulls since, there was no grand overshadowing, just another example of how plush and fertile things are round here at the moment. Fitting then that we finish next week the same way we started, with a North-East band taking centre stage. Month of Fridays 5, if nothing else, will be emotional.

Yes, that’s five Fridays. In one month. No, it is possible. Fuck off.

By Adam Clery KYEO

Photos: Stephen Noble


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