Termites, Gravenhurst, Komakino

The Thekla, Bristol on Wed 20th Apr 2005

Komakino may have looked like a bunch of Barleys (and were treated as such by sections of the crowd) but in their defence they did rock something solid. Theirs was an urgent, itchy, exasperated punked-up posh rock of indistinctive generic origin, backed by fuzzy, ringing guitars and rapid, intense drumming. Their vocalist appeared to aspire to androgyny strutted and pouted in a perfect pantomime of studied cool and lazy indifference that was never really going to fly with this crowd. I felt a bit sorry for them really.

Somebody should have told them that haircuts and bandages tied below the knee (what the fuck is with that?) automatically qualify them for the firing squad in the eyes of Bristol's anti-fashion police - did nobody in their camp do their homework? Mind you, they shouldn't go around name dropping the NME and act like it's no big deal to them; that would be like Gravenhurst constantly mentioning they're signed to Warp Records. Which he is. Sorry they are. No, maybe it's just him. I don't know.

This, I suppose, it my problem with Gravenhurst, who were up next. They or he are the antithesis of Komakino - while their indifference felt feigned, his seems utterly genuine, he honestly appears as if he couldn't give a fuck that half the crowd where dancing their way into ecstasy while the other were (allegedly) exchanging hair gel tips, or that the applause was a mixture of the polite, the rapturous, the loyal and the bemused. No, he, or they, are going to play whatever the fuck he/they want and don't really care to much about what audiences think about it. Hence we are treated to a Hendrix style interpretation of The Kinks "See my friends" that is absolutely flawless but, to me at least, flaccid. "So what," I think, "if you've got a superb rhythm section? So what if you've got a loop station and a phase shifter? Where are the fucking songs?"

When the songs did arrive the lines seemed so predictable: "We can't function outside/ Of these dreams of suicide." Oh come on!! That sounds like a poem I wrote when I was 15. My feelings fluctuated throughout the set, making me doubt my own criticism; the band's playing was so subtle, so perfect. You understand that Gravenhurst wasn't bad; in fact they were brilliant. They rocked, they ruled, they soared. I just expected more. The thing is Gravenhurst isn't a them, it's a him - Nick Talbot. Interviews are never with the whole band, just with him, and though I don't know for sure I bet my last overdraft extension on the fact that only he has a contract with Warp.

He writes the sings, he drives the band creatively and decides which musical direction they go in. Yet this performance was all about the band. I was expecting songs that don't come, almost to the extent that I ignore the soundscapes that do. Then right on cue, "Black Holes in the Sand", played almost solo for the first 3 minutes, arrives. With it's non-sensical repetitive refrains I can't for the life of me work out why it is good. Best not to try and rationalise these things I suppose.

Luckily Termites come on and rock. They do care about whether the crowd enjoys themselves or not; they do have tunes and they do have songs. In there somewhere. It doesn't really matter. To a mildly distracting backdrop of projected motorcycle crashes and other video nastys, their project a masticated pulp of multi-genre pop bashed out on bass, drums, guitars, keys and, for the encore, musical saw and melodica. I forget to write notes. It is a masterful performance, and I'm particularly impressed by the fact, that despite being dressed in NME-friendly garb, they manage to win over Gravenhurst's crowd easily enough.

There's a is smart, intelligent pop that wanders across psychedelic, art-rock and tv-theme influences, filling with squirling guitars and frantic keys the gap left between sense and meaning. The lyrics are largely inaudible, apart from the high pitched "tick, tick, boom!" but it doesn't matter as this is most definitely a band, with vocal duties being shared out, and thus it is all about the performance, the music, the dynamism which is there in spades. Hence moments, such as the end of Bolt Gun when they all drop lifeless to the stage, are as important a moment in the story being told as the lines of the song themselves (which actually talk about the mind-saping nature of modern television). The Termites rock.

article by: Adrian KK Hicks

published: 26/04/2005 09:46


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