This is what we want from live music in London’s independent venues. A screaming punk triumph that takes a quiet Holloway Road crowd by the scruff of the neck and turns it into a wild rabble. A Skinny Girl Diet gig is a real experience; a voyage, although a pretty short one. They start fairly slowly with ‘Comedown Intro’ and end the main set with ‘Comedown Outro’. It’s basically the same track, bookending the show, but the contrast between the beginning and the end couldn’t be greater, as the first rendition seems to leave a tentative audience with a lot of thinking to do, while the reprise is delivered to a madly moshing mess.
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After ‘Outro’, the moshers want more, but they get just one extra track, full of screams and ending with feedback, knocked over mic stands and guitars on the deck. It’s a song from Skinny Girl Diet’s second album, says singer and guitarist Delilah Holliday. Earlier on, she also bills ‘Outsider’ as a song from the second album. It may seem impossible, but these new tracks bristle with even more DIY punk attitude, verging on hardcore, than the sound on their first LP, ‘Heavyflow’. The title defines their musical genre — it’s certainly heavy and it flows mighty fast. Plus, it’s a clever feminist pun. Their self-released album encapsulates Skinny Girl Diet’s output over the past few years. Tonight, all but a handful of the album’s 14 tracks are given a live airing.
As the show gets going, Delilah’s guitar playing quickly moves from slowish and seductive on ‘Comedown’ to the thick sounding thoroughbred American punk rock riffs that characterise “Fix Me’ and ‘Silver Spoons’. The band’s political spirit is highlighted by the line about “police corruption causing no government disruption” in ‘Silver Spoons’. Vicious unbridled screeching, which really starts seriously on ‘Okay’, gets the crowd onside. A guitar solo of sorts ends ‘Witch of the Waste’ as the band move up through the gears, track by track.
Delilah’s scuzzy guitar on ‘Eyes That Paralyse’ is full of menace, as thrash metal, hardcore and old school punk collide. Amelia Cutler’s bassis heavy as hell. When Delilah shouts 2-3-4-5-6-7-8, the playing gets improbably faster. ‘Yeti’ reveals influences from Nirvana-style grunge and shows off Ursula Holliday’s fine drumming. There’s a jazziness to her sticks on some tracks (‘Comedown’) but it’s the raw power and sheer speed of her playing that’s most impressive.
Cutler lays down rippling, muscular and melodic bass, and cuts an imposing figure in trainers with huge platform soles. She wrestles with Delilah as ‘Yeti’ finishes and does her own screaming in ‘Wolf Pack’, ending up bent over on her knees shrieking at the stage. ‘Pretty Song’ is another thrash, full of shouted passion. “I don’t know what to say,” Delilah yells over the hardcore punk backing. The slow-quiet/fast-loud formula from Pixies is turned into slow-loud/very-very-fast-loud on ‘Bored’, with another dose of thrash/hardcore and the moshers by now going bananas for every squeal. Somehow an album’s worth of tracks squeeze into a manic half hour; less. Anger is an energy, as a great old punk once said. Skinny Girl Diet have energy by the bucket load.