Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Herzoga / The Young Knives @ The Sugarmill 29th Mach 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photo by Simon Bamford

Still somewhat euphoric from a tremendously successful single launch party last night, Herzoga were ready to take on tonight’s audience and win. They appear to have reached their goal by the end of their second song ‘Things to say’ as from my vantage point it appears that all eye’s and ears were on them, with even the bar being neglected.

Those who are acquainted with Herzoga’s performances will know that they are physical affairs, with bass player Steve Clarke’s propensity for wandering off into the audience, vocalist Matt Hick’s erratic catatonic moves, and drummer Mark Powell’s arbitrary grimacing and screaming. Tonight however allowed them literally little room for manoeuvre as the stage was crammed with equipment, but this was the only constraint in a performance that kicked like a shot of Absinthe

Tearing through their set with familiar songs such as ‘Things to say’, ‘Mega Savant’ and ‘It takes an Age’, sounding better than ever, current B side ‘You’ll see’ gave an insight into the more sinister side of
Herzoga that is currently prevailing. Appearing slightly in awe or perhaps in shock at what they were witnessing the audience’s response was initially somewhat on the nervous side but nevertheless positive.

Following brief banter between songs, ‘Blood school’ was delivered with frenetic energy and playing, with all three musicians appearing completely possessed by their own music. The mood was lightened somewhat with a rendition of ‘Nice Car’ with its acerbic lyrics on the irony of youth subculture and common ideals, giving the audience breathing space before they were transported to the dark, enigmatic ‘Swetmores’.

Leaving the stage to a tremendous reception from the audience Herzoga proved that their prickly organic brand of music has a synergy of its own; it lures you in, roughs you up a bit, and then gently puts you back down a little dazed but safe in the knowledge that you have thoroughly enjoyed
what has just happened to you.

With such tangibly electric performances as tonight’s 2009 could well be the graduation year for Herzoga, especially having recorded a second Maida Vale session for the BBC and plans for another tour.

Herzoga's current single ‘Swetmores’ is released on Broken Branch Records and is available from Music Mania and http://www.brokenbranch.co.uk/

When Young Knives took the stage, it was surprisingly an altogether a more sedate affair as they launched straight into ‘Terra Firma’ a quirky jerky song that grazed the edge of the top 40 in 2007. Looking like escapees from a Ronnie Barker look-a-like competition, brothers Henry Dartnell, and ‘House of Lords’ aka Thomas Dartnell playing guitar and bass respectively as well as sharing vocals, were compelling to watch.

After brief introductions they filled the venue with frenetic guitars and pounding drums, introducing the audience to some if the gems from their forthcoming album. Throughout the set Henry was keen to engage the audience, inviting them to throw beer at them offering them a tongue-in-cheek fight, and seemed genuinely pleased with the turn out for the night.

The clashing chords and dry delivery of almost spoken vocals combined with some close yet clashing harmonies suggest they may have bought into the Art Brut Franchise, with a touch of We are Scientists thrown into the mix. However, some of the songs such as ‘Turn Tail’ and ‘Love thy Name’ are simply melodies with more folksy roots, emphasising the role of narrator rather than rock star.

Picking up speed, they introduced ‘Reproduction’ which was laden with unpredictable key changes, and the introduction of a xylophone to the set. There seemed to be the underlying murmur of the audience singing along with this paradoxical song.

‘Up all night’ and ‘Turn Tail’ and ‘Here comes the Rumour mill’ were a real winners with the crowd who bounced along, which gave the band some long over due feedback, and seemed to be a milestone in the set. This seemed to rejuvenate them as they put even more energy into the performance of what seemed to be the songs that people had been waiting for.

Returning to the stage for a brief encore where Henry announced they would play “Classic Knives” and threw themselves into animated versions of ‘Weekends and Bleak days’ and ‘She’s Attracted to’. At this point the crowd threw themselves right back at the stage finally giving in to the music, and with a couple of plucky individuals reminding us that stage diving is indeed an art form, not just a leap of faith.

The unassuming appearance of The Young Knives is one of the characteristic’s that makes them compelling to watch, it’s like you’re trying to work out exactly what you’re watching, a time travel scene from an 80’s movie or a sitcom on BBC 3, however at the same time there is nothing contrived about them. They don’t appear to be aiming to be profound, or making brash anti-establishment statements, but in ultimately writing good idiosyncratic pop, and this they do in bucket full’s.


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