80s Matchbox pull of the great comeback!
80s Matchbox pull of the great comeback!

80s Matchbox : Manchester : live review

80s Matchbox B Line Disaster
Manchester Academy 4
Oct 29th 2012
live review

All the best rock n roll has an element of blood, sweat and chaos to it. It’s like war without the bad bits, it’s like sex with all the good bits.

It should not be like this.

Comebacks are fraught with problems. Trying to get back to that level of intensity for band and audience can be a tricky affair but 80s Matchbox B Line Disaster have really pulled this off.

To make this kind of music really work you need to hit a dark and dangerous first gear, 80s matchbox know this and have taken it to it’s extreme. It’s pretty wild in here and the moshpit is all flailing limbs and a triumphant carefree craziness that is cranked as frontman Guy Mcknight crowd surfs with a total abandon as the band hit first gear behind him.

80s Matchbox have been off the scene for too long, it maybe be only a couple of years since their last album, Blood And Fire in 2010 but it feels like a tombstone eternity.

Formed ten years ago, they were the Horrors before the Horrors, all wild unkempt hair, Dickensian wardrobes and a love of the dislacoted and dangerous.

Their dark, thundering songs of skewed garage rock were like the early Birthday Party (who I saw a few times) despite the fact they had never heard of them. This is the sort of the band that would have once been called a Goth band– that curious catchall term of a loose scene that the music media never understood. This was a world of real musical invention that came after punk where true pioneers existed, bending the shapes and possibilities thrown up by punk but have curiously been written out of the narrative by a music media heavily populated by champions of indie.

80s Matchbox arrived after this musical war and set their own agenda- switchblading across the music scene. Very much on their own, they attracted one of those fierce cult followings and opened the door to a dark, freak world to many young ears.

Their bass driven assaults with jagged guitar shapes and jazz juggernaut drums somehow created a music that broke out of the normal half filled mouldy pub circuit and they made a proper impact. Bands like these normally curl up and die in the public eye, with the music being far too heavy and weird to make an impact beyond the few crazy eyed diehards whose lives are soundtracked by such an insane and brawling musical template.

80s Matchbox even had a clutch of top 30 singles and hung around long enough to release three albums. Their music was honed down to an incisive and freakish power and they managed to carve out a big and loyal live flowing who understood their music was for pretty mental gigs and the intensity of their live performance hit a raw nerve in the UK underground.

To pull this off they had to have a musical ear and they managed to make their song of chaos and insanity into a weird sort of pop music. Pop music as it should be- full of the sex and chaos of real live and the uber fuck that is at the heart of all great rock n roll.

The band gradually imploded, music like this is tough to play and to maintain that level of wide eyed insanity doesn’t do anyone any good, first guitarist Andy Huxley left and then the band seemed to have called it quits until Nike bizarrely picked up on one of their songs, ‘Chicken’ for an advert.

The band reformed and was suddenly a going concern again. Whether the Nike ad sparked them back into action or the band had decided to reignite their freak power is hard to discern but tonight they seem more powerful than ever and deliver a set that is quite simply stunning in its focus and hypnotic brutality and raw power.

The venue is packed, there’s nearly 600 in here, which is quite remarkable for a band that operate outside the tame media version of alternative music.
Form the start this is going to explode and there is a tension of expectation in the room- the band hit the stage with the bass and drums already locked into that demonic groove with the bass cranked to the motherload of power. As the guitars slash across this tight frame work Guy McKnight tears across the stage and dives headlong onto the audience, crowd surfing like the leper messiah, his face smeared with white paint and with a trim moustache making him look like the villain from a 1920s black and white silent film. For a couple of minutes all you can see is legs and hear his voice and the level of intensity goes through the roof.

The set is relenting and powerful and the whole room throbs to the dislocated pulse of the band who still dress like they mean it in flurry of top hats, feathers and zig zag haircuts. The set is feral in its power but razor tight, their soundman (who was once in legendary Aberdeen Peel faces, APB) gets a clear and punchy, tight sound in a room where some bands can sound like a mess.

They have done that rarest of things returned more powerful and concise than they were before. This is a band that is on fire, a demonic hell breath power that makes this a fierce and foul comeback and a very welcome return to the frey.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.



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