Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Les Savy Fav, Sweep The Leg Johnny
Pull The Strings, Comedy Pub & Fleece & Firkin, Bristol

Some people say it’s not what you’ve got, but what you do with it that counts. Others may claim that size is everything. Well, judging by recent events, Bristol’s Pull The Strings collective have got it sorted on both counts. With four gigs in five weeks, things seem to be about to go into overdrive, as a gang of local aspirants are joined by the cream of the Southern records roster for the ultimate in alt.rock extravaganzas.

Kicking off proceedings, and neatly coinciding with the release of their debut album ‘Founded By Sportsmen & Outlaws’, are local jazz-punk types Soeza, who intriguingly decide to celebrate the occasion by unveiling a set half-filled with brand new material. Perhaps not the wisest sales strategy, but then who needs marketing when you’ve got a song called ‘From Crown To Anus’. Both rousing and rowdy, Soeza take Fugazi as a starting point, and then strap on a discordant horn section that will have Dexy’s fans writhing around the floor in ecstasy as ‘Young’s Elastic Constant’ and ‘CSE Woodwork’ make them a hard act to follow.

A feat not made any easier but the microphone’s sudden death sometime just before Chicagoans 90 Day Men take the stage. Stripped of their vocals, much of the impetus is lost from their edgy freeform-jazz gone DC hardcore onslaught, although extra points should be awarded for having a bassist with a hairstyle straight out of Eraserhead.

Having become rather ubiquitous on Bristol’s live music scene of late, Chikinki are now a refined mix of garage riffs and cyclic noise, the electric bass-drums driving them onwards as forthcoming single ‘Like It Or Leave It’ stamps Rupert’s sexually-obsessed lyrics onto a backdrop of distorted electronica and drum’n’bass, while ‘Robot Age’ goes a long way towards invoking the paranoia-infused rhetoric of the Make Up.

No matter how accomplished Chikinki have become, there’s no way that anyone can match Les Savy Fav right now. The appearance of Brooklyn’s finest practically guarantees a memorable gig, and they seem incapable of disappointing. As ever, they’re a chaotic experience, with singer Tim Harrington so fond of his audience that he spends most of the set in the midst of the crowd, encouraging people to dance on chairs, gently fondling his fans while barking out his vocals. Before the night is over, he’s crawled through the crowd on his hands and knees, and knocked out the lights with a mike-stand, yet this does nothing to detract from the music. ‘Who Rocks The Party?’ bellows Harrington as they reach the climax of their performance, when quite obviously, Les Savy Fav not rock only the party, but rock the Birthday Party and Brainiac as well.

Alter-ego of local post-rockers the Signal, the Pendulum Swings open the second phase of Pull The Strings gigs, exhibiting a tendency for vibrant dynamics that mark them out as more post-grunge than anything else, though doused with a liberal sprinkling of the Red House Painters, as their resonating motorik builds towards a climatic melee of barbed guitars and thundering drums.

Coming from a similar direction as Bristol’s own Kiska, Tristeza tease the traditional hardcore template and add in copious amounts of jazz to the mix, as their soothing sounds and gradual tempo changes act as the morning after 90 Day Men’s big night out. Gradually, as their set progresses, Tristeza add more and more to their music, with looping space-rock intros giving way to repetitious grooves which soon phase back out into white noise, as the drum-kit begins to fall apart under the pounding of their exuberant sticksman, who calmly reassembles his kit while the others keep playing, etching out a framework which sees them evolving into a post-punk King Crimson.

The return of Sweep The Leg Johnny to Bristol proves a more than sufficient finale to events, and ups the ante to such a level that they just can’t be matched for skill or showmanship. Falling somewhere between Miles Davis fronting the Stooges and an emo Captain Beefheart, Sweep are a relentless proposition, capable of forcing the audience into awe-induced submission, as signer and saxophonist Steven Sostak channels such energy and conviction into his performance that by the end he’s sweating so much that he appears to have wet himself, and you’re even willing to believe him when he says that the new song they play tonight is actually called ‘Sometimes My Balls Feel Like Tits’, during which Sostak’s saxophone duels with the guitars, switching tempo and rhythm seemingly at random, until each time you think that they’re coming to a close, Sweep shoot off in an entirely different direction, which, like the band themselves, is utterly enthralling every time.