Lydia Lunch presents XXX Mass: London – live review

Lydia Lunch’s Big Sexy Noise
The Cesarians
Amusiacs
Tin Tone Army
The Lexington, London
28th Dec. 2012

Keith Goldhanger walks into a bar. Turns out that bar is playing host to a showcase of artists put together by Lydia Lunch, who headlines with her new project Big Sexy Noise. What are the odds of this happening?

London.

Brilliant.

Ignore all that stuff you hear about people not talking to each other on the rattling old underground or the overpriced beer in anywhere not called Wetherspoons.

Go for a beer on a Friday night (the last Friday of the year) in a previously selected pub, in this case, the one that sells “Flying Scotsman” ale, and it’s been known that it’s actually possible to walk through the door at 7pm, into a room containing a couple of drummers, a dozen people playing guitars made of biscuit tins and a lady known to the world as Lydia Lunch propping up a metal pillar in the middle of the room singing Sonic Youth songs. And Pink Floyd songs. And Sonics songs. The name of all this is the Tin-Tone Army and this is how the evening begins. Had I actually taken any notice of what I was venturing into before entering the building It may not have been such a surprise. But it was. And that’s just one example of what goes on around here if you look for it (or in this case don’t) – I bet you don’t get this in Lincoln. This is cool. Very bloody Cool.

Once upstairs and a tenner passed to gain entrance I realise that whilst I’ve been listening to Coldplay, learning how to speak to people on a mobile phone and how to use a computer during the past 15 years, some people like Amusiacs guitarist Jon Free has been making a lot of these guitars out of a lot of biscuit tins …oh, and chair legs….did I mention the chair legs? No? OK..biscuit tins and chair legs. He makes guitars from biscuit tins and chair legs – got that?

 

He’s been doing this whilst simultaneously improving his axe skills to a standard that is now high enough not to be ignored. These guitars sound ace so we are slightly disappointed when after just one song in the upstairs department of the building The Amusiacs replace their unique home made instruments with the kind of guitars we are used to hearing and seeing in every other band on the planet. The free (as in Jon, and as in do not have to pay for this bit) gig downstairs was to showcase the home made instruments, so I guess we should be happy now (we are).

It’s all a lovely racket that The Amusiacs make. Lead singer Meaghan Free (nee Wilkie, ex-Gin Palace, who were almost the same thing) sings the blues, shouts the blues, waves kicks and smiles the blues throughout whilst appearing to hold everything together in a cool calm manner during the bit’s that may feel a bit of a struggle to the band at times but are the perfect soundtrack for us who are trying to shake off our days of Christmas excess. The duet during the final number with Lydia Lunch was a sublime way to end the brief set. Jon was in loads of bands many years ago called things like Moist and Gin Palace and Penthouse.

Penthouse included a man who I believe is known to his mum as Charlie (Finke). Now if my memory serves me right this Charlie bloke used to throw himself around the stage more than an amphetamined Jesus Lizard front man, but now the mature man has himself a band with trumpets…yeah! And violins…yeah! And Piano’s…Yeeee….! The Cesarians’ is the name of this band and if you wanted to know what life would be like if John Spencer fronted the Arcade Fire then…well you wouldn’t, or if you had you’d be doing this yourself because this is good stuff that sways from the dirty messy hard nosed rock and roll that this evening seems to be built around and with moments almost krautrock/Stereolab in their repertoire. One song contains the wonderful chorus of “Why don’t you just fuck off” – To quote the old Kit Kat advert, that’s the single guys, in case you’re undecided (maybe it is already, I’m sure someone will point out all my inaccuracies at some stage.)

 

Finally….BIG SEXY NOISE, the current Lydia Lunch fronted project. What do I know about Lydia? She’s done loads of stuff. Acting, talking writing, singing, and collaborated with every cool person there is in the world that anyone (I’d like to think) over 40 inhabits nowadays (her Christmas cards must make very good reading) which means I’m not going to tap away here comparing this to previous exploits, or i’ll be here until next Christmas, but simply say what she’s doing tonight is fab.

 

Tune after tune of seedy, rough-edged, dirty rock made simple by having a backing band containing only a drummer and a guitarist, blasting out screeching top notch vocals against a backdrop of a blaring, distorted, messy, screeching guitar, brought to you this evening from that man James Johnson – previously or currently the Gallon Drunk front man. Welcome to London, Lydia. Ok, maybe you’ve been here for years now for all I know, but this city needs artists like yourself and curating an evening such as this is very welcome.

I’m very guilty of not indulging in a lot of Lydia Lunch’s work the past few years but after an evening like this it’s obviously my loss. Here’s another road to travel down that I need to find more time to play catch up on.

I hope others will shortly follow.

It’s a tough old world of entertainment out there nowadays. We’re all getting older, we’re all spoiled for choice and, as well as new things out there that are still waiting to be discovered, it’s also good to be reminded of what’s going on in the artistic lives of those artists who have been actively entertaining the masses for decades as opposed to months.

I think Lydia Lunch has found her musical soul mates here. These people who have been brought together in this room tonight deserve everyone’s attention. And yet again, I get the twinge of a nostalgic time where we used to watch these people many years ago (Johnson, Free, Finke) realising that they were stars in the making. Although none of them became the stars that I wanted them to be, and maybe expected them to be, just to see them strutting their stuff still at such a high, cool standard is enough for me to clap my hands and say yeah….and raise a glass (or five).

Maybe I’m as guilty as the next person in ignoring the past to seek out the new, but sometimes you know it’s good to put the brakes on and look in the rear mirror at what’s still going on elsewhere. These people may not have had the hits which ends up meaning we now have to enter (or refuse to enter) a large venue to watch 20 year old songs being played for 30 quid a pop along with the likes of those also willing to dig deep. But on evenings like this, it’s nice to know there’s a journey or two still ongoing (ongoing journeys are always more exciting than arriving) and that the new songs with new influences continue for those that have never forgotten how to do it.

There’s one or two albums of this stuff out there, currently lost in the mountain of stuff available today. It might be worth hunting these out. At this time of year when our inboxes are are full of the “New Artists to Look Forward To” – I hope this stuff filed under “Not so New” doesn’t get ignored in 2013.

Good stuff. Another good night out.

London’s burning.

Lydia Lunch does not appear to be one Facebook on twitter, and her official website seems to be down, but you can find her on Myspace and you can also check out this amazingly uncomfortable and acidic interview with Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Tin Tone Army can be found on their official website. You can visit Amusiacs on Facebook. The Cesarians have an official website as well.

Words by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found here.

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  1. Get this narcissistic bore off. The gratuitous attempts at being extreme and controversial remain´╗┐ uninteresting, and highly tedious. The emperor’s not only wearing no clothes but is stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence.

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