I've been wanting to watch Feral Five for yonks, having shared space on the Ralph's Life CD last year that raised money for mental heath charities.
This gig was to celebrate the launch of a compilation CD by the band/label Gertrude called Songs About Women (in the 21st Century) at the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel Road. I'm sorry not to have got there earlier because it had clearly been a really successful night, but it was great to have the opportunity to see Terry and Andy at last. The photo shows them just before their set.
'Dr Who dark theme' and 'Siouxsie Quatro' summarised the first song. They play guitar/percussion (Terry) and bass (Andy) and are accompanied by a computer beatbox that thankfully doesn't dominate the sound. I like it when computers know their place, and walked out of a gig a couple of weeks ago after seeing the Macs lined up on stage and overhearing the shocking arrogance of the producer just before the act came on (and didn't review it, because it was so upsetting).
Everything here builds around a deep dark, dirty bass groove, sliced up into chunks with electric guitar attacks or neat riffs; Terry sings acerbic lyrics over these sounds and the computer contributes atmospheres and beats underneath it all. Sometimes Terry, Andy and the drum machine nod in the dark to techno, and sometimes Jungle underpins their music. Sometimes they could be the B52s without the hysteria.
Strung Out is murder disco of the first order; I wonder if they've been listening to Sylvester? Over the grumbling and thwacking in the background, Terry's almost bratty boy-sounding vocals are a refreshing change from the over-Beyonce'd or hyper-Adele'd norm, relating much more to punk than to the music-college honed perfectionism that sometimes seems to have taken over all of the space in the universe. She has a upbeat and clear-sounding voice that delivers these short, punchy songs with aplomb.
People are dancing and in the audience, and for the first ever time, I see women headbanging.
The new single Angel Road is a stunner. Terry uses a builder's mallet and scraper as percussion and Andy takes to the microphone; the beats are sparser, and the bass line reminds me somehow of the style of Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth. Lush-sounding electronic noise moves through the track, which conjures up a sense of emptiness and loneliness and begs to be the theme tune for a black and white film about Kansas, post tornado. They encore with Germ Free Adolescents, joined by a sax player. Although this is a very different version to Poly's, I think she would be very flattered at the thought of her song being re-worked so many years later.
The Gertrude tracks can all be heard here and downloaded for free:
And you can hear Feral Five here: http://feralfive.moonfruit.com/
It was great to see Felix in the audience; she has been helping female musicians for a long time and she did a great interview last year for this current research I'm doing. And Rasha was there too; keep in touch!
Confession: the first thing that I wrote in my notebook was a comment about the disgusting toilets at the Rhythm Factory. Owners, whoever you are, if the punters knew just how much money you make out of flogging them alcoholic drinks that send them scurrying to your horrible bogs, they would be scandalised. Get a grip!