The Wants & PVA – The Waiting Room – September 16th 2019

I’d seen The Wants play when I was down in Brighton this year for The Great Escape. Then, their mix of angular, post-punk style had whetted an appetite (review here) that could now perhaps be sated by a Monday night freebie at Stoke Newington’s finest, The Waiting Room.

PVA are the support. It’s not until they take to the stage that I’m reminded that I’ve seen them before. I spend much of their opening number trying to get my memory to work eventually realising that it was barely weeks ago at The Old Blue Last, a gig I chose to simply enjoy and make no notes about.

But I recall liking this trio. Indeed, I might have even said so in passing comment to members of this distinctive genre-hopping band when they left that stage. They begin with an electro-punk soundclash banger, a phrase that could be ‘I was feeling so high’ shouted over the top of the track by Ella. PVA don’t want to let you settle though and before long we’re embracing industrial strobes and samples with post-punk dance noise. “I’m losing my voice“, says Ella unsurprisingly before PVA go all Hacienda circa 1990 on us. They pack a lot into this half hour set but there’s still time for Josh to vocoder his voice and take us into skewed dance-pop territory. “Like Cabaret Voltaire crossed with The XX”, says Shane, an impressed and charming screenwriter from LA I chat with in the break between bands. 

 

The Wants are two-thirds made up from members of those other prominent New York post-punkers, Bodega. I guess the maths behind that means you could call this a side project (of sorts). 

Dressed all in black with a concessionary pair of red socks, the  image is clearly important. They hurtle through their set; the urgent bass lines funking along whilst stalactite-shards of guitar stab into you. When Madison dances, it’s frenzied and angular; he bends into incredible poses like an action man with stiff joints. 

Lyrically, The Wants urge us to feel the weakness as we pick up the pieces. They remind us that they have no intimacy and so are never vulnerable. The cold, clinical tone, deliberately done, heightens the dramatic intent. 

It ends all too quickly. “We don’t have anymore”, says Madison after half an hour. But urged on by a crowd left wanting, a quick band chat leads to an encore of sorts; a strident instrumental piece that can’t fail to get us dancing. 

 

Peeping Drexels, H0nkies, Luxury Apartments and deep tan – The Old Blue Last – April 23rd 2019

Much as I adored my Easter break in Spain, I couldn’t help but pine a little for the gig scene I was missing back home. Feeling completely refreshed, it’s quite lovely to end a humid day returning to the day job with a sweaty night at the Old Blue Last. 

I drank far too much wine in Spain. It’s this that convinces me that a few weeks of lime and soda will do me right. I wasn’t taking into account my weak will and lily-liveried determination though, especially when faced with a sign that announces free cans of Old Blue Last lager between half eight and half nine. I succumb. It’s a tasty lager and a more-than-welcome freebie on this balmy evening.

Saxon Zine and Cool Brother have joined together to curate a trio of Tuesday night residencies at the Old Blue Last. Not being one of the cool kids, I have little idea what Saxon Zine and Cool Brother are. But I pick up an art-laden, well-produced fanzine from the merch desk The typeset demands reading glasses but Cool Brother certainly appears to have its finger on the pulse. I’m sure that Saxon Zine is the same. And it’s nothing short of lovely to witness a world of independent music/art writing and thinking in print form.

There’s four bands on tonight. It’s the headliner, Peeping Drexels, that had piqued my initial attention. Our paths have almost crossed before and, based on the few tracks I’d heard, it seemed right to do a reccy in advance of The Great Escape in a few weeks. 

They don’t disappoint. Younger than I’d imagined, this South London post-punk thing is all the rage right now. With obvious nods to the all-pervading influence of the Fat Whites, Peeping Drexels stumble around the stage as if the free beer has taken too much of a toll. Lead singer, Dylan Coates, can hardly keep his eyes open but that doesn’t stop him from nonchalantly lurching whilst angrily and angularly posing. He’s a bit yobby and a tad gobby; less spit than Joe Talbot and skinnier than Shaun Ryder but positioning himself somewhere between the two all the same. It’s thoroughly engaging stuff.

The band might adopt a shambolic stance but their playing is anything but. Tight as fuck they manoeuvre out of their post-punk comfort zone into Bhangra-based spaghetti western spaces. When they really funk things up, I’m reminded of a ‘Bummed’ era Happy Mondays. Kind of exhilarating.

 

As much as I enjoy Peeping Drexels, they’re not my night highlight. That accolade goes towards penultimate band, h0nkies. On paper it probably shouldn’t work. This five piece look the part and are hard to take your eyes off. Specialising in a skewed-psych Americana, I’d be completely showing my age if I said that there’s more than a passing resemblance to those legends from the late 1980’s, the Colorblind James Experience. I reminisce about considering a move to Memphis whilst the guys on stage playfully let off steam with their cowpunk skiffle. It might be laden with irony but it brings a smile to my face and for that I’m happy.

 

Luxury Apartments have great T-shirts. I spy this when I pick up the fanzine at the merch desk. On stage, they’re not appalling but rarely appealing. A traditional punk all-male three piece, they stick to tried and tested paths. Their manner is almost apologetic as the set is nervously delivered. Vocally, there are tinges of the late, great Pete Shelley if it wasn’t all so unintelligible. With a bit more stage nous and a desire to project their art, Luxury Apartments could be selling a lot more T-shirts. 

 

The evening is opened by deep tan. Another three piece and as a whole I like them. Projecting a Kenneth Anger film whilst they play (Inauguration of the pleasure dome for anyone interested), the occult and magick imagery goes well with their moody, light psychedelic throwback. Some tunes might arguably lack depth and progression but when deep tan’s stride is found there’s more than enough by way of tune and chorus to satisfy. 

 

Free beer, free fanzines and a free gig with four interesting acts. Oh London, I’ve missed you. 

Cross Wires – Your History Defaced

“When you’ve got Crosswires, Everything is Buzz Buzz,Everything is Beep Beep”

It is surely no accident that Cross Wires, a four piece from East London, share their name with a track from XTC’s first album. There’s a moment in ‘Modern Art’, the opening track from ‘Your History Defaced’, the dark and desirable new EP from Cross Wires, when you wonder if Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have got back together for one final studio blast. The meandering verse gives way to a skewed chorus that’s almost singalong if new wave post punk is your thing and you really hate the concept of singalongs.

 

Yep – Cross Wires have no crossed wires when it comes to understanding their place in the history of popular music. There’s a raw, deliberately under-produced excitement that permeates throughout this five track EP. “The past is always repeating, I can’t run away“, sings Jonathan Chapman within ‘Tab Clear’. This is an EP with a knowing nod towards early Jam, a dash of mod and a double serving of punk.

I asked Jonathan why Cross Wires had settled upon ‘Your History Defaced’ as a title for this EP:-

“All the songs on the EP are kind of twisted versions of things that have happened to me. The idea behind it was we are all carrying around this baggage with us and we all have our own reality. Two people can have two different versions of the same event. It comes from that idea really.”

That sense of unresolved baggage from the past looms large; ‘Last Stand’ tells the mournful tale of a woman who’s getting older and no longer ‘rules the town’ as she once did. Elsewhere, we have persistent ghosts living in houses, misunderstandings and future days filled with dread. This is music that can hardly be described as happy; it comes from too claustrophobic a place for that. Sonic Breakfast highly recommends that you give it a listen over at Bandcamp.