“Love, love, love – yeah” , she sang, in a voice so disaffected it felt like an incitement. So bored, already, of a life barely lived. “Fuck, fuck, fuck – yeah,” Existential affect and disingenuous fatigue, a contrivance of youth as hollow as hope and yet strangely danceable.
As I write, there is a report on the radio about the representation of drug use in cinema. The commentator says that these days perhaps there is a vicarious thrill in seeing people allowed to do the things you are no longer allowed to do. HTRKs set at Festsaal found Jonnine Standish either “pilled up” or “pissed off” – somewhat hard to tell as she appeared to be singing through a bad toothache.
A smacked out chanteuse intoning monotone tales of ennui over a drum loop accompanied by sweeps and stabs of bass and ricocheting squalls of guitar pebbledash, Jonnine pouts and thanks us all for coming. Dressed in a black jacket and with a glass of wine in one hand and a castanet in the other, attacking the single drum at her side as if she was driving in a particularly difficult and wayward nail.
“Is there something on T.V?” she asks.
Though this is formula adopted by a thousand wannabe Nicos, there is methadone in HTRK’s postmodern madness. A measure of Suicide’s detached vehemence, from Nigel Yang, on guitar squeal, a measure of the Knife’s pastiche, from Sean Stewart on bass and the doors of the Berlin deathdisco were suddenly again open for business. I, for one, was happy to be on the guest list.
P.I.L was also on the menu for the main course, as Angus Andrews flapped his arms like a drunken crane – a weird hybrid of Nick Cave and Jerry Lewis.
A gawky figure, part second hand car salesman, part dime store evangelist, Angus Andrews, the Antipodean frontman of the Liars, spun and pirouetted around the stage in a cheap white three piece suit, beckoning to the crowd as Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross beat out a joint rhythm on the drum.
This is a band for whom the only constant sometimes seems like change. Starting out as Gang of Four also-rans in an overcrowded Williamsburg scene, Andrews and Hemphill then mutated into something far weirder, departing from their original rhythm section and relocating to Berlin, which appeared to have expanded the range and depth of their music.
Their last album Drums not Dead, found their lips flaming ever more as they explored an elaborate self analytic meta-narrative featuring their anima and animus, Drum and Mt Heart Attack
In their latest incarnation (joined by Jeremy Glover) at Festsaal on Saturday, they came on like a car full of early Floyd, driven by Beck,with John Lydon heckling them from the backseat while the Beta Band watch from the side of the road.
If this all sounds a little wigged out, that’s because it probably was. Angus Andrews and Hemphill are CalArts graduates and both attended post-punk 101- they know their Kleenex from their Public Image, This Heat from The Pop Group. Their latest sees them, reportedly, returning to the urgency of their earlier work, driven perhaps by Glover’s guitar, away from former introspection but any fears that this might be some record company appeasing exercise in “commercial viability” where fast allayed by the intensity of Andrew’s overbalanced dervish routine and Gross and Hempill’s interaction on the drums.
However cheap the comparison might seem (given they are both Aussies) Angus Andrews resembles his compatriot in the days of the Birthday Party. There is something of the drunken kung-fu of Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of the Hives, even a bit of Iggy Pop but gonzoid – a weird falsetto just on the right side of it all being played for laughs.
Angus Andrews occasionally seemed like a man in the throws of escaping possession by various past tropes but the band constantly located the groove and locked it down. Plaster casts of Everything, from their latest eponymous waxing, may feature the refrain “I want to run away”, but there is no sign of the crowd sharing the sentiment as the occasionally somewhat restrained audience at Festsaal erupted. This was the sound of Nu Rave colliding with Post Rock and damn it was good.