The Thekla, Bristol
27th September 2013
Japanese noise legends Mainliner played a powerful set at The Thekla. Philip Allen went along for Louder Than War.
Three piece Falling Stacks put on an impressive support slot considering the few here to appreciate it. Their intensity is much like that of headliners, Mainliner, but their influences lay more westward in the American underground labels such as Amphetamine Reptile or Discord. The sound emanating from the singer’s mouth contains the same piercing malevolence as David Yow (The Jesus Lizard) or Kurt Cobain (You know who he is, right?). Their set seems to scrape the sound across the floors whilst bouncing from wall to wall with caustic abandon. I am left convinced these guys can’t be from round here, they must be from Texas to be holding the hostility and frustration that shoots so accurately from their deadly shotgun shell songs. Blown away.
Noise rock legends, Mainliner manage to follow the support with the required amount of volume and fervency. The opening track is one of the longest (nigh on thirty minutes, I reckon), loudest, most transcendental songs I have heard from them. Bassist and singer, Kawabe Taigen, he of Bo Ningen fame, leads the set, pulling focus whilst setting guitarist Kawabata Makoto up for his trademark fret flourishes making the guitar the speaker, the voice, the source. It is a clever balance between playing the same riff over and over and injecting a new element to the circular mix. The audience is here for this. Makoto’s experimental approach to guitar playing is verging on childish, the sort any kid with a tennis racket has a propulsion to do. Somehow though, his mastery of his domain pushes each note towards extraordinary.
The few student freshers who are here for the club night afterwards are clearly out of their depth. Eyes wide and tilted heads, they try to compute such screeching tones into what they have experienced on Radio 1 but unable to form enough of an opinion, they move to the back of the club in order to breathe the unelectrified air. The set was made of at most five songs that wind and flow around repetitive phrases not too dissimilar from each other. Even though they stop between the songs, each seems like a continuation of the next. A mantra. A very loud mantra. Riffs chicane off the drummer, Koji Shimura’s tribal beatings with Taigen’s supportive basslines and interpretive vocals completing the triangle of power presented here.
They have been described as The Banana Splits of Noise (Google ‘Banana Splits 70’s Kids TV show’, young ones) and there is a humour to their serious work of dismantling rock preconceptions. Their albums are more straight ahead garage rock turned up to 12, but their live shows, whilst being equally loud are more mediative, though you would be silly not to be wearing earplugs at a gig like this – the ringing in your head is the feedback of a thousand riffs played with such style and dedication to the form that Mainliner’s reputation is maintained.
Mainliner can be found on Facebook.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.