The Water Rats, London
18th June 2013
The pioneering Hüsker Dü drummer / co-songwriter played a show in London the other night to support his soon to be released solo album ‘The Argument’.
The Water Rats: a small but well-trodden gig venue but a stone’s throw from Kings Cross station and famous for debut London performances from acts as disparate as Bob Dylan, Oasis and Katy Perry. Intimate but comfortable, and perfect to host the full-band comeback of Grant Hart, pioneering co-songwriter of ‘80s alternative legends Husker Du, and with a not-inconsiderable post-Husker back catalogue to draw on too.
First up were 3-piece Uncle Tim from Leamington. They packed a punch with their grunge-influenced blues rock, and at times reminded of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The guitarist / singer knew his way around the fretboard and wasn’t afraid to throw in a cheeky solo. Stand-out song was ‘9-Bar’, which reminded us of early Sub Pop.
Next act Thirty Six Strategies gave a relentless half hour of upbeat, uptempo melodic hardcore, all played at breakneck speed with hooks that lingered long after they finished. Striking frontwoman Kirsty has the looks of Hayley Williams’ naughtier, punkier younger sister, but her diminutive frame belies a big voice that perfectly complimented the – frankly – often Husker-esque tuneage. Throw in a bit of mid-period Dischord and maybe something as commercial as Garbage and you’re along the right lines. Final song ‘Forget Me Not’, from their forthcoming debut MCD, ‘Strategy One’ (out on Boss Tuneage in early July), rounded off a memorable set from a band to watch out for.
And finally the main event… Mr Grant Hart and The Burn / Burning. Gone are the chubby hippy looks for a man who looks beyond his 54 years but whose voice has, if anything, got better with time. Dapperly dressed in a tweed blazer and red winklepickers, and superbly backed by a young Irish band half his age, he is back with a vengeance to promote his imminent double album on giant independent label Domino.
This was no nostalgic run through the back catalogue though; this was a showcase of the album’s highlights with a few old favourites interspersed throughout. New songs such as ‘Is The Sky The Limit?’, with it’s lilting keyboards and poignant vocal melodies, were a wonderful indication of what is to come with the release of the album, whilst songs such as ‘She Floated Away’ reminded us what had been in a band as enduring and influential as Husker Du.
Grant’s instantly recognisable voice was strong throughout the set, and complimented perfectly by guitarist Colm O’ Herlihy’s sweet harmonies. ‘2541’, supposedly the song that started the beginning of the end of Husker Du was greeted with approval and singalongs, none more so than from Therapy? Frontman Andy Cairns, himself once a coverer of Grant Hart (‘Diane’).
A couple of full band encores was followed by the young backing band triumphantly exiting stage left for Grant to play ‘Flexible Flyer’ and ‘Never Talking To You Again’, just him and his semi acoustic. A quick, heartfelt run through and he was gone to have a fag, chat and mingle outside the venue.
It was a night to remember, and whilst he doesn’t command the crowds his former bandmate and frenemy Bob Mould does, his set was as equally valid and inspiring as Bob’s last month at the Electric Ballroom in its own unique way.
Thirty Six Strategies are on Facebook HERE.
All word by Peter Campbell.