see all the photos from this show here

Pro Jekt
Scary Bitches
Earth Loop Recall
Upstairs At The Garage, London
Friday January 31
~photos and review by Uncle Nemesis

Flag Promotions' Friday night gigs in the small attic room over the Garage have previously been billed as 'Club Noir', but this time round the club name seems to have been dropped. Does this mean that Flag have acknowledged that these events are, when it comes right down to it, just plain old gigs, pure and simple? Well, whatever the philosophy behind the presence or absence of the brand-name, tonight we have a line-up of five bands of such radically different styles it's almost as if Flag plucked five names out of a hat at random and called the result a gig. What the hell: that's one way of doing it, I suppose.

Lupine are an odd assortment of individuals. They look less like a band than a random bunch of people who almost seem to have wandered on stage by accident. The guitarist is a beefy punk bloke, riffing away like a good 'un, while a skinny bassist in a beige singlet hides in the background. There's also a female backing singer in a mega-corset - but the real visual focus of the band is the lead vocalist, who sports spooky make-up and a frilly shirt which looks rather worryingly like it was half-inched from Nosferatu's wardrobe. He belts out the lyrics (most of which seem to incorporate schlock-horror fetish or vampire imagery) in a stentorian bawl, while maintaining a permanent foot-on-the-monitor pose throughout the entire set. At regular intervals, he throws his head back to keep his shaggy mane out of his eyes. He's obviously got this movement down to a fine art: I haven't seen anyone toss their hair with such debonair aplomb since I saw the Charlie's Angels movie. The music is fairly straightforward riff-and-holler stuff, driven along by a standard-issue bom-chucka-bom-chucka drum machine. It's entertaining enough in its way, although over the years there have been many, many bands in the goth scene who've done more or less this kind of stuff, and I'm not sure that a certain talent in the hair-tossing department is sufficient to elevate Lupine above the herd. However. They're still a very new band...sowe shall see.

[Postscript: after the set, I was approached by Lupine's lead singer who asked me to write a good review, to make up for the fact that the band had apparently been 'stitched up' by Meltdown magazine. Did I agree to his request? You decide!]

Earth Loop Recall are something different. Apparently, they're the latest signing to the Wasp Factory label, who are billing the band as the heirs to My Bloody Valentine's crown. That's enough to grab my attention, and I'm pleased to report that the band don't disappoint. There are three people on stage, on guitar, guitar, and keyboards, with a one-off appearance by a Deathboy bassist on one song. The music is dense, layered stuff, guitar-lines laid down like sediment. The band have the knack of building and building and building their songs, throwing in more and more until you wonder how much further they can take it. When the music eventually arrives at some sort of climax, a point of resolution, the release of tension is almost physical. This is good stuff: the feeling that the band are pushing, pushing, pushing their music until it breaks through a weird, intangible, barrier, is highly effective. The stage-left guitarist is also the only man I've ever seen who can play a Flying V without looking like a prat - and that's a recommendation in itself. Yep, Wasp Factory have picked a winner here. I only hope the label is aware that Earth Loop Recall have potential to make waves in the world of alternative music in general. One of the bizarre traits of Wasp Factory is that the label seems to aim itself almost exclusively at the goth audience, even though I don't think they've ever had a goth band on their books. It would be a great shame if Earth Loop Recall were shunted into the goth ghetto by their label's strange marketing policy. If I see the band suddenly playing a host of goffclubs, while ignoring the alternocircuit, I will be most annoyed. Earth Loop Recall are too good for that!

I find it hard to get a handle on the Scary Bitches. How seriously are we meant to take this band? The principal members are a couple of elaborately-attired women, all decked out in fantastical headgear and crazy costumes. Their show is more of a theatrical presentation than a set of songs - which does beg the question, how much attention are we supposed to pay to the music? Or should we simply regard the band as something akin to the comedy musical interlude at a Christmas pantomime, when Widow Twankey and her sister Twinkie come out to amuse us while the scenes are shifted behind the curtain? The songs themselves have a heavy-handed humour to them, as a glance at the titles reveals: 'You Always Eat The One You Love', 'Lesbian Vampires From Outer Space' - these are just as funny (or not) as the titles suggest. Let me shoot straight from the shoulder here. Once you've got over the costumes and the rather over-contrived craziness, there's not actually that much of interest to the band's music. It's all pretty much straight-down-the-line bluesey rock. The guitarist riffs away - she's strictly rhythm, she don't want to make it cry or sing - and, in truth, I suspect that if you stripped away all the Scary Bitches' costumery and tomfoolery you'd probably find a perfectly straightforward pub-rock band lurking beneath. I'm afraid that for me, the Scary Bitches come across as a novelty that very quickly wears off.

Pro Jekt are a relatively new outfit who've picked up a decent amount of interest on the UK scene in a fairly short time. The band name is not a typo - there really is a space between the Pro and the Jekt. As I'm sure you can guess, this came about because a certain US label objected to the band's choice of identity, so the gap had to be added to avoid confusion - and legal action. Frankly, I can't blame Projekt (the label) for objecting to Projekt (the band); and in any case, the P-word is so overused these days that it hardly counts as a brilliant band-name idea in the first place. There are already bands called Project Pitchfork, Project X, Cyber-tec Project, New Project - and, of course, everyone's got a side project! Still, here Pro Jekt are, legal gap firmly in place, on stage before our very eyes. And what are they like? Actually, rather good. They look like a bunch of diehard rockers, and there's certainly an element of hard rock-metal sound in the music. But Pro Jekt's secret weapon is the addition of banging dance grooves to the mix. Instead of a drummer, the band has a programmer/electronix-wizard lurking at the back of the stage, who feeds thumping great dance beats into the musical mish-mash. It's a real collision of styles, but, incredibly, it works. The bangin' beats drive everything forward in a full-on flow, while the guitar and bass slap a layer of good old rock over the top. The singer commands the stage with great presence, and the audience is won over. A thought occurs to me: I'd like to see Pro Jekt support Mesh - the two bands have more in common than you might at first assume, and it would be amusing to see how all the Mesh-fans react to a band who have that same dance-floor sensibility, but who also know how to rock. Surprising stuff.

Synthetic have been quiet for a while, but now it seems they're back. They have a new album in the works, and they're ready to hit the gig circuit again. I'm pleased to report that the crazily disparate elements which make up the three-headed Synthetic-monster are still present and correct. Paul Five does his OTT guitar-hero act, leaping and posing all over the stage, while somehow managing to remain absolutely in control of the music all the while. Sarn V is a reassuringly sensible presence on electronics, but it's Tim, on vocals, who grabs most of the attention. He's dressed in a bizarre combination of Dickensian rags and cybergoth style, a dreadlocked street urchin from the back streets of a future city, and he flops around the stage like a demented rag doll. He raps out the lyrics in a clipped English accent, while lurching and tumbling around the mic in an apparent state of other-consciousness. It's amusing (and, occasionally, rather alarming) to watch Tim progressively losing it as the gig unfolds: he really does seem to take himself off to other planes as he throws himself - literally - into the music. And yet Synthetic's ability to write a nifty pop song, with a cool dance-floor beat and some nicely layered guitars, is always well to the fore. This band is a precarious balance of randomness and control, but they haven't fallen off the tightrope yet. Long may they continue to teeter, that's what I say!

see all the photos from this show here


Scary Bitches:

Pro Jekt:

Earth Loop Recoil:

Lupine: (No website)

Flag Promotions:

Upstairs At The Garage:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: