On doing some pre-gig research for Monday’s show, we discovered that the opening act, Worship, are classed by last.fm as “doom metal”. It doesn’t sound very promising, does it? We were expecting beards, and not the good kind. Imagine our surprise when Worship turned out to be three skinny indie lads from Reading and apparently not the band referred to on Last.fm. We were even more surprise when they turned out to be kind of brilliant. Imagine if HIM mated with White Lies and spawned a kind of weird electro, metal, funeral dirge baby. I think their sound could best be described as mesmeric and I can’t argue with The Guardian’s description, ‘sounds like a sonic cathedral.’ I suppose the only concern is that they’ve potentially stuck themselves with a bit of a naff name and they might need better stage banter than, “We’re selling vinyl. We don’t know where it is.”
So with the unusual occurrence of a brilliant opening act we expected great and wonderful things from Head Automatica. It appeared that Head Automatica also expected great and wonderful things from the audience. Unfortunately they decided to play a set comprised almost entirely of songs from an album they recorded but never released in 2009. Consequently it was material that was very familiar to the band but completely unfamiliar to the crowd, leaving both sides increasingly more frustrated with every song. It might have worked if the new material was electrifying but it all spiralled off into some kind of Howard Moon-esque 80’s jazz trance that was almost unlistenable.
To add insult to injury,when they did decide to play known material they went for unusual arrangements that rendered the original songs almost unrecognisable. For the most part the new arrangements were… ponderous. The Razor was brilliant. Beating Heart Baby was a disatrous. Half way through people started walking out, much to Daryl Palumbo’s evident disgust. It was genuinely one of the most bizarre and self-indulgent gigs I’ve ever been to and from the post-gig twitter comments, the feeling was shared by most of the audience. When a band performs only for their own entertainment, they can’t be annoyed when the audience fails to be entertained. Somehow I can’t imagine we’re going to see Head Automatica back in London anytime soon or that anyone will care.
One of my “pro” reviews. Clearly I am pretending that I write for the NME:
When seminal Britpop band, Blur made their 2009, it was only a matter of time before a slew of 90’s bands with fans still young enough to go to gigs started to crawl out of the woodwork, hungry for to capitulate on their former success. So far we’ve seen Suede and Reef sell-out reunion gigs and Bush hot on their heels promising new material. I’m not one to complain as an expat with a long love affair with British music, I didn’t get to see a lot of my favourite bands the first time around and it’s hard to resist the car-crash fascination of whether they’ll still be as good on round two. And really there is a lot to be said for going away and growing-up… after all look at what happened to Oasis.
Last night it was the turn of mystical rockers, Kula Shaker, famed not only for their flirtations with Eastern rhythms but also for their oh-so-posh front man, Crispin Mills’ occasional bizarre comments about Swastikas.
Unsurprisingly the sauna-like Relentless Garage is backed with ageing hippies and several bemused teenagers who have been dragged along by their parents. It’s a die-hard crowd since the tickets were the product of a fan-club competition and although we are all so hot that the sweat is sliding off the walls, Kula Shaker come out looking crisply cool, as if they’ve been beamed in straight from the 90’s… or is the 60’s since there’s a distinctive air of Sergeant Pepper in their outfits… either way no one appears to have aged.
Mills is instantly charming and the band’s energy is infectious. I don’t find myself quite in the throes of an apparent religious experience like the gentleman next to me but it’s easy to bounce along to old and new songs alike. We are treated to a series “of badly rehearsed” songs from the new album, Pilgrim’s Progress. One of which Mills claims to have forgotten the words to. The Eastern influences seem to have melted out in the new material but it still has that slightly trippy 60’s element and is sufficiently folky that you can imagine it providing the perfect soundtrack to a hazy summer BBQ. By the time they close with Govinda, the audience is drowning out the band, Mills is waving his arms around like a swami and the corpulent middle aged man next to me has gone into a state of existential ecstasy.
Whether Kula Shaker will inspire a legion of new fans is up for debate but I leave feeling like the old fan in me has been awakened and eager to add Pilgrims’s Progress to my summer soundtrack.