Big Sexy Noise & Rock In Your Pocket
Bristol, The Fleece,
29th June 2012
Lydia Lunch combined forces with the brilliant Gallant Drunk a few years ago & they've been making music under the somewhat appropriate title "Big Sexy Noise" ever since. They're currently on a uk tour & played Bristol's Fleece last night. Louder Than War were there to see it & here's how it went down.
It's probably safe to say I've been waiting to see Lydia Lunch play live since I first got home from Selectadisc record shop in Nottingham with a copy of her album 'Hysterie', dropped the needle on it's run in groove & heard for the first time both the 22 seconds electric shock of Teenage Jesus & The Jerks "Red Alert (live)" & the spine tingling full on assault of "Orphans". Soon as Orphans finished I immediately lifted up the needle & replaced it at the start of the recored to replay those two tracks, something I repeated about 5 times. Since then "Orphans" has been my second favourite song of all time (behind just about anything by The Minutemen) & undoubtedly it's the single most played 'song' I've ever owned.
So obviously the question that was crossing my mind as I cycled down to the Fleece was whether or not I was making a mistake - it was 35 years ago Teenage Jesus & the Jerks were making the amazing, caustic, splintering music that I fell in love with that day in Nottingham, was there any chance Lydia Lunch's music would still contain the same brilliance & wonderment now as then? Most artists known for power & venom in their early days tend to mellow with age after all.
Teenage Jesus & the Jerks being long time boxed n bundled away the moniker La Lunch now makes music under is "Big Sexy Noise". Big Sexy Noise comprise of not only Lydia Lunch but also the filthy noise rock band Gallon Drunk, a band who've played with / knocked around with Nick Cave & who were much loved by one John Peel (you may still be able to track down the Peel session they did).
The support on the night were 'post-punk gutterdub rock'n'roll' (their words) band Rock In Your Pocket, a Bristol band who could almost have been created with this one gig in mind the similarities between the two bands being so uncanny - not just the fact that both bands have a female lead singer with a powerful presence & forceful vocals but also because both bands makes a similarly loud, addled, distorted, grungey music. On top of that Rock In Your Pocket have a guitarist, Ben Fisher, who makes similarly violent & accomplished use of his instrument as does Big Sexy Noise's James Johnston - and if that isn't the greatest compliment he's ever been paid then I'll be v surprised. I listened to their most recent release on Bandcamp (hear track above) before going down to the Fleece and although good it comes nowhere near close to capturing how good this band are live but it's still well worth a listen. They have a gig lined up in Bristol with the brilliant Poino & Big Joan on 24th Aug, you should all come.
And so to Big Sexy Noise. After the innitial devastation of realising they were flying sans Terry Edwards (who you'll know from such masterpieces as 'Terry Edwards Salutes the Magic Of The Fall' I managed to get down to realising almost immediately that this was definitely not going to be a disappointment. I'd pretty much consigned myself to the fact that Big Sexy Noise at The Fleece in 2012 was never going to come close to Teenage Jesus & The Jerks's at CBGB's in 1977 and am glad I had - though they came surprisingly close. (To what I imagine anyway, don't think my mum would've paid the airfare or even let me get close to cbgb's let alone enter the place in 1977).
Naturally for someone who's done so many live (and filmed) performance pieces as 'Mamma Lunch' (her words) she excels as a frontsperson. She positively commanded the place, entertaining from the off. James Johnston was phenomenal on lead guitar too, coaxing from his instrument some quite amazingly filthy, dirty, swampy blues inflected sounds, all of which was kind of distorted & very loud. Quite masterful. The third member of the band, Ian White on drums, was also no slouch either, creating the perfect big, crunching, base for the others to work with.
As for Lydia Lunch's singing, that was just as brilliant as I could have hoped. That she managed to not only stand up to the guitar / drum mayhem going on around her but also dominated it says pretty much everything you need to know. She may not be quite so much the shrieking vixen of old anymore but the gutturral yowling that's replaced the it can not only stand up to everything the band were throwing at us but even asserted itself over it, to the extent that it was hard to take ones eyes off her. This was music impossible not to move or be moved by & when I glanced around most of the audience seemed to be of the same opinion.
Quite rightly she only played recent material. I'm sure it would have only been a disappointment if she'd tried to relive any of the music from her No Wave era bands (Teenage Jesus, Beirut Slump, 8 Eyed Spy, Slow Choke) & although I'm sure people cry out for this all the time I'm glad she restrained herself. One of the highlights of the night both in terms of audience banter & music was the brilliant "Your love dont pay the rent" (See above) interspersing amongst the song some gentle bullying of male audience members before telling them she cant be arsed with them because (cue crunching guitar / drums) "your love dont pay the rent".
Following a career that's encompassed performances as a spoken word artist, a poet, a writer, a photographer and an actress it's nice to see she's come full circle & is back where she began, standing on stage in a small hot sweaty club playing fearlessly loud, violent, brutal music in front of a handful of people. Never compromising for a second. Whether or not it bothered her that the venue was barely a tenth full I don't know (it fucking bothered me but I've given up commenting on the general apathy of the people of Bristol for loud avant garde bands (see also the Arabrot / Poino / Manatees gig from Feb)) but what matters is that she's still playing the kind of confrontational music that she loves. And long may she keep on doing so.
Further reading: We recently reviewed Blank City, the documentary about No Wave in which Lydia Lunch features quite heavily. Read it here
Big Sexy Noise play Manchester's Ruby Lounge tonight (Saturday) & London's Islington O2 Academy tomorrow (Sunday).