Cerebral Ballzy and Zulu: The Joiners, Southampton – live review

Cerebral Ballzy and Zulu
Southampton, The Joiners.
9th July 2012

New Yorks finest hardcore crew, Cerebral Ballzy, are back in the UK doing what they do best, tearing up the countries venues & creating some of the best nights entertainment around. Ged Babey was at the Southampton date & reports back for us below.

Now that was the best ”˜circle pit’ I’ve seen at the Joiners for many, many a year! A mad, swirling, mass of bodies, sweat and flying beer, elbows and fists, grinning faces. A merry-go-round of teen-generate(d) madness. There’s gonna be some bruises and black eyes a-throbbing today.

I kept back, I’m too old and decrepit for that shit ”“ but its fantastic to watch and to see that there is a whole new generation of reckless youth who know that hardcore is the score. It’s macho and dangerous but its total involvement in the music and the moment. And yeah, there’s a lot of poseurs and dickheadery too as my teetotal friend pointed out, but lets not forget the significant emblems on the back of Honor Titus leather cut-off are not Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins but Beavis and Butthead.

I saw Cerebral Ballzy back in early 2011, and yeah it is a terrible band name, and despite being a chaotic fuck-up of a gig ”“ a 10 minute set, abandoned due to a broken kick-drum ”“it was one of the most amazing hardcore punk rock performances I’d seen in my life. (Now I may be prone to exaggeration but it WAS. I swear.) Blurry-eyed singer Titus was the focus; he went from jumping off the speaker stack to laying down behind the drumkit, wandering offstage to go for a piss, adopting the circle jerks logo pose, slurring and barking and gurning the dumbest rebel-lyrics imaginable. The others twitch and judder as they play as if the electric rush of the music is literally running thru their veins. They were loud, manic, fast and play Dead Boys-style junkie trash sped-up into hardcore thrash. It was pure unadulterated couldn’t-give-a-fuck punk rock. Un-PC, stupid and nihilistic. I made me feel both physically old ”“as I didn’t have the energy to throw myself around, I was mid-chemo) but mentally 16-again ”“ it made me feel violently happy, violently sick, delirious and angry but happy. They made me laugh out loud. They were fun.

I bought the album on the day it came out and it blew away every other bit of music I heard all year ”“ bar OFF! -in terms of intensity and physicality and plain stupid fun. So I was looking forward to a return visit and maybe a little more stage-time”¦.

First Zulu. They looked every inch a 1977 bottom of the bill Roxy or Vortex punk band ”“like the Unwanted”“ clumsy, mannered, posey but intense, a bit Crampsy (bass), a bit Meat Whiplash, a bit of early PIL(guitar), a lot of neck veins-bulging, bog-eyed screaming as the singer (in vest and tracky-bottoms) did his best Rotten/Rollins only ending up looking like a young Rik Mayall in Kevin Turvey Joins a Punk Band. Bassist Louis Simonon, complete with one of his dads old hats, looked the part but is a novice on his instrument. “We are Zooooo-loooooo!” the nutjob vocalist kept telling us. The drummer beat hell out of the kit and Zulu seemed to go down well with the young crowd. They are highly watchable, unintentionally funny and do look suitably malnourished and slightly unhinged. At least they actually sound like a self-taught punk band and not rich kids whose daddies have paid for music lessons and a College course in ”˜How to make it in Indie Rock’.

As soon as Ballzy hit the stage I noticed Mason, one of the guitarists, was missing ”¦ and then the drummer was also a stand-in or new-boy. Three-fifths of the original line-up is still a bargain for a fiver (though the t-shirts have quadrupled in price from a fiver to £20 since the last visit). With one guitar instead of two, they sounded different but just as fast and loose, in fact faster; more hardcore holocaust era, more Stupids than Circle Jerks.

Titus’ vocal inflections completely lose any clarity of diction at all and are just noises and gargled, garbled sounds. He has amazing charisma though, wrapped up in feigned disinterest and the otherworldlyness of the right royally wasted.

The new drummer is astounding ”“a real jazz player who can change speed in a blink. The bassist looks like he’s been working out and the guitar seems taller and even more Ramone-like.

They spit out all of the first album and a couple of new ones. The pit is mental. It sounds great so it doesn’t matter that the Joiners soundman is asleep at the wheel”¦ Zulu are watching Ballzy play and look impressed, a think bubble above their heads reads ”˜how do we become THAT good?’ Songs about pizza and puke just shouldn’t sound so life-affirming.

Maybe hardcore is an acquired taste and some people will just never get it. It’ll never be in-fashion, but it’ll never die if its done with this much verve. Thinking back to Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death and even Corporate Grave gigs in Southampton back in the day I don’t remember them being this much fun”¦ though they probably were.

A preview I read of the Ballzy tour said something along the lines of ”˜and remember that the Beastie Boys started out as a Noo York hardcore band”¦’ as if to say, they’ll grow out of it, develop, move into more commercial artistic waters. Bollocks. If they are as ”˜real’ as they seem to be they’ll just party themselves into the ground playing fast, dumb songs about partying themselves into the ground til one of them chokes on his own vomit”¦.

Cerebral Ballzy’s tour continues with the following dates:

07/11 – Newport, UK – Le Pub
07/12 – Liverpool, UK – Kazimir
07/13 – Tunbridge Wells, UK – The Forum
07/14 – Dour, Belgium – Dour Festival
07/18 – London, UK – Birthdays
07/20 – Oberhausen, Germany – Devilside Openair
07/21 – Milan, Italy – Rock in Irho
07/31 – NYC – Santos Party Haus

All words by Ged Babey, all photo’s © Steve Little-Triggers. More writing by Ged can be found here and more photo’s from this gig can be found here.

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3 comments on “Cerebral Ballzy and Zulu: The Joiners, Southampton – live review”

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  1. Despite the terrible name, they really are one of the few bands that could described as exciting to watch – amazing frenetic power and a great frontman – they don’t need to move on to be the 21st century Beasties – they’re fine as they are. Cherish them in the now.

  2. PS Great review by the way!

  3. hey men, I love cerebral ballzy but as a musician I see that something is wrong with the new drummer, the fast parts of the songs are so weird, he changed the original rythm playing lees the charles or the ride and that sucks! and otherwise I´ve got a hardcore band, we´re going to release a 9 track CD,if you wanna heard it ride to my mail. andonidelacruz@hotmail.com
    2 videos from a concert
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuZ2MWVCcJM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5nIwv4LMos

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