Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Start-stop erotic cabaret

Selfish Cunt @ Bring Your Own Poison
Rhythm Factory
Tuesday 18 May

“Dividing the nervous few who have heard or seen them, art/punk duo Selfish Cunt aren't simply an in-joke too far perpetrated by the denizens of London's trendy Hoxton - more a malignancy at the heart of the fashionable life. Singer Martin Tomlinson and guitarist Patrick Constable create unruly anti-songs, angry unravellings of beatbox stuffer, garage noise and invective. Tomlinson is Suicide's Frankie Teardrop recast as a violent gay dandy, and genuinely menacing debut double A-side single Britain is Shit /Fuck the Poor is the most brutal state-of-the-national address since the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen.”
The Guardian’s recent 40 Greatest Bands in Britiain Today feature

Dealer to Pete ‘Libertines’ Doherty/auteur of pop smash ‘For Lovers’ Wolfman and his Side-Effects (ha-ha) made like Sue Cook and pulled out. No shame really, as at least the price dropped to £6 from a tenner.

Selfish Cunt is rock as cathartic theatre, the performance and the message far more important than the medium (Britain is shit; full of lies; white men spouting shit in their shirts). That’s because their media are a guitarist who has not moved on from that first thrill of playing loud blues-rock in his bedroom, uninventive ‘industrial’ techno drills and mostly inaudible lyrics from Martin Tomlinson. I’m all for back-to-basics punk without the nostalgia but aesthetically, it fails to work in noise, dance or agit-pop terms. “Sheep on drugs” – Don suggested. Schlock-horror.

So visually they are more captivating. Or rather he is captivating. Heavily mascara-ed, Tomlinson looks like a lithe Richey Edwards and prowls the stage constantly gyrating, leaving it to stare manically into the eyes of those at the front, contorting his torso and limbs. Provocation was his game; self-effacing coquetry was his return. The singer from the previous band was accosted for simulated rape. Then he took his trousers off, revealing a natty pair of pants.

It would be great if the Cunt could transcend their art-rock trappings while keeping their emetic act relatively intact, storm the public consciousness and kill their complacency. And the braindead irony of the art college crowd (Chas ‘n Dave played by the DJ). And the relentless look-at-how-tuned-in-we-are lifestylisation of serious papers like The Guardian. The democratisation (marketisation) of media and entertainment means they can get up on stage in any London shithole on any given day and knock one off. But their commentary on Sick UK is meaningless unless Matt in Mansfield and Kylie in Carlisle start questioning their branded milieus.

But Cunts, you were not nearly as bad as the b(l)and that proceeded you. Judging from the Rhythm Factory site, it was probably the mostly female Soho Dolls. Dreadful sub-glam dirges and electro-pop about a decadent demimonde these trustfunders would know nothing about, incorporating an interminable break while they worked out what the fuck they were doing between songs 1-2, mumbled lyrics and a sound that was far too quiet. Tellingly, each song started with a good electronic riff or electro beat before subsequent layering suggested a band without a clue.

With their inoffensive good looks and now-as-then sound, it will probably be this lot that get tarted up and succeed after some music exec, while having his adventures filmed, goes in search of a manufactured electroclash band.

pics from a previous gig

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Monday, May 17, 2004

Sounds of a soccer play-off, in Staffordshire

Aldershot Town v Shrewsbury Town
Nationwide Conference Play-Off Final
Britannia Stadium, Stoke, 16 May

Shrewsbury won 3-0 on penalties

The perpetual wheeze, belch and blast of a thousand rave horns told us that the game would have a ‘carnival atmosphere’, bolstered by it being beautiful day in the Potteries.

A town of military nostalgia and disproportionate pride given its parlous state, Aldershot had two drummers to give songs that extra momentum. One is the standard snare drum roll fare, the other the even more basic bass drum thud. Basic, but very emphatic with the right tune and the occasional break. Wrong (to these ears): endless ‘Great Escape’ renditions/other triumphalisms. At times, you could be in Ulster. Right: a wordless celebratory rumble that I’m sure is the riff from Incredible Bongo Band’s Apache. However, I am unwilling to give credit for such an approved cultural reference (this song is rosetta stone for hip-hoppers). Given an old Shots’ favourite mimics the tune to Rainbow, I await confirmation of its source.

Ever-inventive the 6,500 ’Shots then attacked the Shrews with satire, citing their rural base as feedstock for inbred chants. “Your mother is your sister, your brother is your father – the Shrewsbury family”. A lovely whoop along to the Addams Family refrain. Shrewsbury, a big market town about 50 miles away from Stoke, brought over 13,000 fans but contrasted by singing very little. Sometimes this can be seen as the sign of a confident fanbase, content to rely on their team to produce and celebrate at an appropriate time. Not here, the majority of the blue and yellow fell firmly into the “here for the day out” category. This is always slightly biased, as obviously the noise reverberates the most the nearer it is to you.

Continued exhortation and commendable enthusiasm from the Aldershotites were to no avail. Extra-time. Penalties. Shrewsbury miss their first: mighty howls of schadenfreude and derision from the north Hampshire masses. This is a lovely characteristic of tribal fare such as football – disproportionate joy in other’s failings. But Aldershot miss all theirs to lose. Their noise rebounds two-fold. Relieved if not ecstatic, the Shrews are a league club again after a year out. Gutted, the Shots can wait to regain their status as it’s been 12 years already.

We did not fancy sticking round for the bland pleasantries of the presentation, overamplified by corporate representatives of the sponsors. As we trudged out and round the policed roundabouts and bland consumption taverns the last sound was of comparative silence. Yet no poetic allusion can be made to Simon & Garfunkel or even to the four minutes and thirty three seconds of Cage. This was the furtive mobbing up of the scum – including loads of Stoke who weren’t at the game – via hushed code into mobile or similar directive from the luminous-jacketed law. A Hampshire bobby implores Darren to get back on the bus; so desperate for a ruck he says “But I’ve got a hotel”. All in all sufficient reminders of the delights of watching (lower-division) football, and to quicken up our strides towards the car.
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