Reasons to Remain
Reasons To Remain have an awful lot of friends here tonight, but they really don’t need them to boost their egos or their overall impression, because they really are exceptionally bloody good. Despite the fact that they all look about fifteen, RTR create very ballsy rock indeed. Grinding it’s teeth somewhere between post-hardcore, cerebral emo and melodic punk-metal in an early Manics vein, there’s an element of Idlewild-ish indie in there somewhere but only as a rough comparison to suggest that they share a similar uncompromising blend of vigour, attitude and intelligent songcraft, rather than a reflective musical similarity.
Perhaps their most accessible track, “A Day That Changed The World”, begins with inticing drama, building as dual guitar melodies take over and carry it away to strange and unexpected places. It pretty much shapes what follows, as harmonious riffs and widdly fretsurfing punctuate their thoughtfully constructed and surprisingly intellectual songs with a great deal of firm effectiveness.
Although their frontman/bassist has a rather adolescent voice, it’s remarkably strong and seems to convey the band’s material with considerable efficiency, giving RTR a confident quality that’s missing from many other bands with considerably broader experience. Despite being rhythmically a little haphazard and clumsy in places, their delivery is mature and interesting enough for anyone to see that although it’s still very early days and what’s happening at the moment isn’t wholly original, they’ve got strong conceptual objectives and they’re gonna get stronger.
Watch Reasons To Remain closely over the next year. They might be rough around the edges in places, but they’ve got some pretty effective weaponry in their armoury.
It’s peculiar really, how things fucking up can actually make things better sometimes. Imagine an athlete who failed to jump the first hurdle and fell arse over head. Going back to start again would be pointless and wouldn’t solve anything, even if they let him. So, when a band have to start again because half a minute into their first song something made it all go tits-up, you’d imagine that it’d make them feel a bit frustrated and tarnish their enthusiasm. Not Carnies though. It’d be that way for even many firmly established bands, so it’s a testimony to both the loyalty of their fans and the band’s extraordinary sense of purpose, that it suddenly works in their favour. It’s as if they treated the initial burst as just a casual wake-up call to get people out of the bogs and into the moshpit, because Carnies couldn’t have made a more impressive impact if they’d spent months planning it. Total and utter screeching, fist-dragging, bollock-busting, brain-shaking, rock ‘n’ roll with attitude and intelligence in equal measure, they’re like New Model Army’s bastard emo offspring. Carnie-core, if you like.
Whatever previous arrogant cockiness Carnies may have had has now been replaced by tense and balanced vitriolic menace that flows steadily throughout with unnerving control and confidence. Their singer is a madly manic little git, spitting verbal bile and phlegm in multiple directions as he rants, spins, writhes and bounds around the stage like a man possessed, and when he’s got his guitar on, he’s just as scarily dangerous and unpredictable as when he hasn’t. Probably something to do with his haircut.
Their oldest tune tonight “So Am I” has a bass-driven chug-a-lug drumskin-breaking intro leading into something almost funky, but darker and more rebellious. Guitars bite in with whiplike force, but it’s surprisingly uncluttered in comparison to their newer material. It’s inclusion is a forceful reminder of exactly how much they’ve developed. In contrast, the newer material like the theatrically exciting nu-metal funk of ‘Fire Away’ is from a different band in many respects. They’re more pissed off, more assured in their individuality and more focussed on how good they can be rather than how good they are.
Carnies are just excellent. Experience and enjoy.
The Darkness allegedly once had to cancel a gig because one of them cut his finger while making some sandwiches. What utter poofs. 9 Volt’s drummer Dave Richardson is so racked with flu, lurgies and delirium-inducing illness, that he’s barely able to function as a musician tonight, let alone as a human being. His partner-in-rhythm, bassist Greg Cheney, a cross between a surfer dude and Chewbacca, recently played gigs despite his important finger (the one used for rude gesticulation, plucking strings and pleasing ladies) being bone-poking-through-the-skin broken. Does this sort of thing stop them? No. It’s because 9 Volt are so rock and roll that you’d have to kill them first, and even then chain down the coffin lids just in case.
9 Volt’s music is a neck-snapping, shape-throwing celebration of all the things that made heavy rock fun before it started taking itself too seriously. Epic dramatic structures without self-indulgence or wankiness, intelligently crafted tunes with the correct balance of commerciality and expressive exploration, and good old fashioned balls-out attitude. We like 9 Volt around here.
“Insomnia”, perhaps their most in-your-face anthem, is a paranoid emotional gritty chunk of hymn-like brain-rock. Received with almost fanatic enthusiasm, the lads really can’t believe their luck and are milking the reaction they have tonight for all it’s worth. Chucking sweeties to the kids with the munchies, Choad suddenly becomes Justin Hawkins for the night and leads the chant of “9-Volt, 9-Volt” with a big shit-eating grin and the confident stage presence of a true star in the making. The headbangers are invited to the front, the moshpit is alive with frenzied dandruff-swapping, dead-limbed bodies and a tune like “Battery Acid” puts the icing on the (hash) cake. Fuck, this is fun. Roaring splendidly, they’re metal to the point of chrome plating, but with enough alternative weighty drama to turn your mind to mush.
9 Volt’s tunes hover somewhere between grungy Alice In Chains fractured beauty, the cerebral inspiration of Korn and the progressive explorations of Diamond Head, but there are hot meaty injections of tongue-in-cheek humour and Darkness-tinged reckless anthemia. However, it’s a cut above the likes of Hawkins and Co, considerably more grown up and designed for those who don’t want to dumb down in order to rock until their balls shake.
Even instrumental difficulties hardly matter tonight. They’ve got the crowd on their side and the likes of “Frayed” become intense bleeding monsters, with rippling riffs and epic atmospherics, full of testosterone and hair. Demanding attention with flippant boldness, 9 Volt are heavy rock for the 21st century with exactly the right amounts of fun and involvement to give them enormously wide appeal. Catch ‘em in venues like this while you still can.
Zucchini have a surprise for us tonight. The Hastings trio have decided to expand and add guitarist ‘Danny Boy’ to their line up, which widens their sound, giving them a harder, more brutal edge.
Zucchini’s alternative hard rock emo positively drips with passion and intrigue. Having such a professionally glossy finish is extraordinarily rare for an unsigned band, but it seems as if little things like a recording contract are just minor technicalities, as Zucchini concentrate on making the best tunes they can and playing them as if they were enormous hits. And why not.
“Say What You Mean” for example, is a crunchy, catty, whiplashing anthem of breathtakingly huge proportions. It’s music that’s spawned from the same primordial soup that bore Therapy, The Foos and a hundred other alternative rock bastards, but with the calculated and callous acumen of the emo generation. Rock music that siphons your brain out of your earholes, basically.
Zucchini perform with astonishing aplomb and style. Adam Hart has the coolest bass, with groovy blue lights down the fretboard, Dave Howell’s drums are juicy and expressive yet as hard-hitting as a brick in the face, but it’s Ross Page’s show, without a doubt. The guy’s got a throat of steel and tonsils of greasy leather, all rage and attitude, but there’s an earthiness to his stage persona, which is almost charming. Collectively, Zucchini deliver the goods with intrepidity, poise and bucketloads of charisma and when armed with tunes as bloody and succulent as raw steak, it really is the only possible way to behave.
Zucchini have a rich stock of gem-like ditties, that twitch and howl like bitches on heat. Although offering nothing by way of form that Therapy didn’t offer first, it doesn’t matter, because despite what you may find in the mainstream to compare them to, their music doesn’t just deserve respect, it demands it. There’s cut-glass class and expertly crafted tunesmithery going on, creating melodies that stick in your brain like shit to a blanket. Experimenting with pace and grip, but remaining totally focussed and in control, Zucchini never lose the momentum and even switching back to trio-status for ‘LTD’ sees them handling the change with exquisite precision and slick timing.
In a market where supply is ever-evolving and constantly changing to suit the impatient demands of ‘right-here-right-now’ music fans, it could be argued that Zucchini may have missed the bus somewhat, in that there are now a myriad of similar bands to choose from. But fuck that. Talent shines through with Zucchini and if you give them an opportunity, you’ll see that they can claim their share respectfully enough.
Without doubt, one of the most consistently high quality evenings this place has seen for bloody ages.