Sometimes you know you’re in for a great gig when walk in the door. It can be something simple like the bar staff giving you a welcoming nod, or bumping into an old friend randomly beforehand, or being allowed to watch the soundcheck. This evening, as I walked into The Prince Albert, Max Turnbull, AKA Slim Twig, was sitting with this band eating what looking like a lovely dinner. As I walked through the door, he looked up and gave me a knowing nod. “Right”, I thought “This should be a good night”. As I was ordering a pint of porter, and having a good chat with a barman about the new Slayer album, Chris Martin walked in, ordered a pint of mild, gave me a sheepish smile that said “I know that you know who I am, but please don’t say anything as I get this a lot and I just want a quiet drink” Not being a massive Coldplay fan, and understanding these coded looks I continued with my Slayer bants. At the allotted time of 8.30 I went up to the music room and took up a seat at the back and let the evening unfold in front of me.
The first band on the bill were The Glugg. The first thing that struck the crowd was their outfits. They were mostly naked, save for jeans/shorts, and wrapped up in toilet rolls like ancient mummies. The second thing that struck us was their sound. It was a demented version of shronk, that leaned heavily towards doom/drone. Their use of saxophone and trumpet, along with keyboards, loops, blips and the standard rock guitar, bass, drums and vocals was at times mesmerising, and at others an awful din. They sounded like the Butthole Surfers covering Captain Beefheart or Sun Ra, while David Bowie, during his Glam period, produced them. At no time during their half hour set did they acknowledge the crowd or give any indication about the names/themes of the tracks. On the last track the bassist picked up the guitar, the guitarist moved to drums and the drummer switched to bass and vocals. While he sang/shouted/wailed his way through the song, he was wearing a cloak that made him looking the Ghost of Christmas future. Then as abruptly as they started, they stopped.
After a short interlude Bomber Jackets took to the stage. Their image and line up was the complete opposite of The Glugg. Bomber Jackets are an indie synth pop trio made up of Russell Walker on vocals, Daniel Bolger and Sian Dorrer both on keyboard/synth duties. Bolder’s image is one in the Jamie xx mould. Black bomber jacket – the irony of which wasn’t lost on the crowd, dark t-shirt and black jeans. Dorrer was in the generic indie uniform that is popular at the moment and Walker was wearing a nice shirt. Sadly their performance wasn’t as slick as their attire. While their intentions were obvious, big basslines and sharp beats, reminiscent of Jamie xx’s band and solo work, were punctured with Walker’s monotone vocals, think of a London Bernard Sumner or Mark E. Smith, and you’re on the right tracks. Unlike Sumner and MES, sadly, the lyrics weren’t as concise or to the point. At times you got the impression that this was outsider music, that Walker was in fact just saying things off the top of his head, but when they mentioned singles and albums you realised this wasn’t the case. After the originality and bombastic sounds of The Glugg, Bomber Jackets sounded flat. Maybe on record, when the vocals are clearer and recorded perfectly Bomber Jackets might sound like their influences, but on the night, it didn’t quite come off. Which is a shame, as the majority of the backing tracks were filled with clever composition and subtle flourishes of bass and drums.
After a shorter break, both opening bands either started later than expected or slightly overran, the main event, Slim Twig himself took to the stage. Opening with duelling guitars of ‘Trip Thru Bells’, pounding drums and pulsing bass made it sound like a cross between Iron Maiden and Funkadelic in 1971. Next came ‘Fog of Sex (N.S.I.S.)’ which rewrote Glam rock, but rammed it full of New York sleeze. ‘Textiles on Mainstreet’ was next on the list to be put through its paces. Who doesn’t love a pun title? Due to being on tour for a while the song was tight, but it didn’t feel like they were going through their paces. At the end Twig exclaimed “That song was written with my good friend Bach”. The crowd appreciated this jovial link and chuckled, this, in turn, appeared to make the band seem more relaxed, as in between the next few songs the links became funnier and more surreal. At one point Twig said to the other guitarist, Tony “If you aren’t going to sing, you can at least use the microphone to speak to the crowd” then followed a pretty awkward back and forth where Tony tried to come across as a relaxed and erudite, but sadly, came across nervous and uncomfortable, which made the whole thing funnier and was exactly what Twig wanted. ‘Black Country Rock’ was next up and lived up to its title. As the set progressed Twig started to morph in to Ted Nugent before our very eyes. The riffs got bigger and more gargantuan, very much like his hair which he was now twirling and slashing about with wild abandon. After ‘Slippin’ Slidin’’ he said to the crowd “This is our last song. We’ve got records, and T-shirts for sale out back. And thanks for texting through the set”. He then launched into an incredible cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s theme from the 1970 film ‘Cannabis’. This was one of the standout tracks of the evening. As the song progressed the bands interplay became tighter and more complex, until they were playing as one cohesive unit rather than four individuals.
All of the bands on the bill were so contrasting it was hard to get a united handle on them. You got the impression that the bands probably weren’t to Twig’s liking, but he probably didn’t have much say in the matter. That being said The Glugg had been a revelation and it would be good to see them again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Bomber Jackets at another time, would probably have been better, but on the night it didn’t quite work. Slim Twig is well worth checking out when he next comes to your town, as his sets are full of the kind of music that makes you glad you braved the elements on a December night to check out some live music. It was just a shame the evening didn’t flow as well as it could have.