Monday, 26 September 2011

827 MALE BONDING, The History Of Apple Pie, Kutosis, Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (downstairs), Sunday 25 September 2011

After a 7 week gig hiatus which seemed a whole lot longer, I finally kick-start a hectic gigging Autumn with a trip over the bridge to Cardiff, and it’s another welcome return to my gig schedule; no, not to the Clwb Ifor Bach, but to a certain Mr. Kevin Hendrick! I’d heard a breathless rush of a track by Male Bonding on the radio at the gym, no less, and further investigation revealed said band featured Kev, Seafood’s former flaxen-haired bassist supreme! It’s been a long 7 years since last seeing him in action, so I was well up for a Male Bonding gig, however Cardiff on an unfriendly Sunday night was the nearest their current tour passed to Swindon! OK then...

Thus it was that I blasted down on my own in increasing inky darkness, parking up in an NCP in the shadow of the Millennium Stadium for the £2 night rate, and hitting the venue - the small, Swindon Vic-style downstairs room tonight - in time for openers Kutosis, on at 8. I’d been in touch with Cardiff-domiciled friend Craig Gurney, who couldn’t join me tonight but recommended I check out this young local 3-piece. After a difficult, shouty opener, they settled down to some choppy, angular rhythms and dynamic, discordant guitar work, overlaid with some yelping vocals. Exuding an air of claustrophobic tension and some occasional militaristic drumbeats similar to Comsat Angels, they had a couple of very good numbers (albeit not the ones Craig suggested I look out for – both omitted from the set!) in “Island”, with some in your face call and response vocals, and a more conventional rocker “Shadows”. An impressive start. Tour support The History Of Apple Pie followed on swiftly; an eclectic looking bunch, they opened with some mangled, jagged guitar and Pixies-ish mood, then settled into a more textured, harmonic, almost shoe-gazey approach which was eminently listenable if not particularly memorable. With smooth nasal vocals courtesy of their Asian female vocalist, Lush were an obvious if not entirely inaccurate comparison. Not bad actually…

Ran into Kev in the foyer afterwards for a surprise greeting and a brief chat, before he and the band set up, and I took my viewing spot stage (well, floor) left, down the front, for Male Bonding’s 9.45 start. From the outset they were “on it”, with opener “Nitemare” scooted through in an amphetamine-fast whirl of cacophonic melody and harmony, setting the tone for the set. Like Kev’s former charges Seafood, this lot also channels late 80’s US rock, but eschew any notion of light and shade, instead going for an all-out 100mph speed assault, thereby recalling the likes of very early Teenage Fanclub, albeit on helium and at 78 rpm! Their relentless guitar attack was nevertheless exciting and rambunctious, with the (deliberately?) submerged and detached vocals throwing more emphasis on their clearly overworked drummer. Joyously raggedy-arsed at times, this was a set of speedy jagged pop thrills from easily the most exciting new band I’ve come across this year (and yes, I wish that statement held more gravitas than it does). A mid-set “Tame The Sun” got me really grooving down the front, their token slow number “Franklin” was nevertheless a deliciously haunting delight, and as far as I was concerned, the metronomic groove of set closer “Bones”, which concluded an impossibly fast 45 minute set, could have lasted another half hour at least!

Tremendous stuff, and nice to catch up afterwards with Kev, one of the most affable and friendly blokes I’ve come across in rock, for another brief chat before I hit the road for a midnight return. Great to have him back in another thrilling “live” band in Male Bonding!

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