Often the biggest of pleasures is surprise. I’d had the worst few weeks of my life for reasons too personal to explain, so had taken refuge from the black dog in an afternoon with old friends watching Watford take a two nil licking at the feet of our beloved Blackpool F.C. at Vicarage Road. The first surprise was watching Stephen Dobbie weave, seemingly impossibly, round one after another of the Hornets’ defense to score what might be the Tangerines’ goal of the season. (Football haters, please stick with me as we get more musical soon”Â¦) We ended winners, and this raised my mood from sluggish to almost normal – but there were highs to come. No really ”â actual highs. My football-watching friend Pete Dublo then suggested we head back to London, bathed in the orange glow of victory, to see a band he described as ”ËSilver Apples with John Bonham on drums’, doing a one-off in a small club in Stoke Newington.
The Monkey Bar at first looked cool, but proved to be surprisingly warm, with reassuringly well-bearded intellectual hipsters and a high quota of artists (the visual art/studio thing has migrated to the neighbourhood not because of creative magnetism or lay-lines but because of economics.) It was so warm that I got a free ego massage from meeting not one but two people who loved the Membranes, and who were loudly impressed when Pete introduced me as a man who used to be in them. Surprisingly one was a thrillingly drunk girl called Tracy – an indicator of how things have changed since I was a Membrane, our following back then being at clench-jawed, angry and disenfranchised bunch of mostly male misfits from the nation’s desolate satellite towns. I exaggerate. But we didn’t get girls. (Don’t tell me the Membranes got more handsome when I left.) So Pete and I talked art with the artists (Pete’s an artist too) and drank the Monkey Bar margaritas, served not in glasses but heavily-iced in stubby jam jars – lidded, shaken, limed and unleashed. This was a touch of S. Newington style I liked, the venue being a conversion from one-time delicatessen shop into bar/backroom gallery/small-scale music stage.
And then the off-screen click of an electrical switch filled the room with the familiar, hot valve sizzle of vintage amplification. Two slouchy guys stumbled up, took their places behind a stripped down drum kit and battered Farfisa organ and, with their musical intro proving as stumbling as their physical entrance, began to make noises, set to some levels (loud, LOUD, LOUDER), bark into a heavily distorting microphone, eventually find a mix – and then the rhythmic groove they were looking for. If the black dog was tempted to point his nose out from under the table at this point, he’d have got a bloody one. And so Die Munch Machine began to play. Hard, hard, driving drums. Distorted angst, held down by a pushing bass keyboard that dirtied the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and vibrated the myriad empty jam jars on the barroom tables. The sound paralleled my deep-down dirty mood like two trucks vying for position on an uphill stretch of the M62 Manchester to Leeds. It was glorious. And it came at me out of nowhere. A peak to a day I’d not expected. I’ve no idea what they were singing about. I couldn’t make out a single mud-fuzzed word. But who cares? And between songs, tattooed Tracy heckled the band with drunken wit, and danced when they played like she meant it. ”ËI could drink everyone here under the table!’ she declared. Then pointing at me, the biggest bloke in the bar, she said, “I could drink YOU under fucking the table!”Â I told her I’m certain she could. No surprise in that, I thought – but fuck, I’d enjoy losing.
Mark Tilton, April 2012