Poltergeist: Will and Les from the Bunnymen ride again – live review

Poltergeist
Incubate Festival,
Tilburg, the Netherlands,
22nd Sept 2013

Will and Les from the Bunnymen- even that sounds right.

The guitar and bass from one of our most endearing and enduring post punk groups have teamed up again, at last, to create a parallel project for the band that Will is still in and the one that Les is no longer with. A recent album was a great calling card that has so far slipped under the radar but if they keep playing shows like this they are going to be big in a way that their down to earth nature seems to shy away from.

There is nothing down to earth about the music though- this stuff really soars- it gives you the electric tingle with its fluid rushes and its spectral melodies and smouldering build ups- that start with classic WIll guitar lines and build to neo Stooges chord crushes in a way that Mogwai- the closest band I can think maybe because they themselves were inspired by the Bunnymen- do so well.

This is no mere retro run through though. This is an astonishing gig that sees the modest pair with the added firepower from current Bunny drummer, Nick Kilroe, play an instrumental set that is by parts, stunning and soaring, euphoric and melancholic and dripping with that stuff that we loved the prime time Bunnymen for.

Quite simply, Poltergeist are stunning. A highlight ina festival full of highlights and that’s saying something as Incubate is a real music and culture gem on the circuit.

Shut your eyes and you float away with the power and imagination of their music- a true trip, This is not just pastoral pysch but can also be a tough muscular take on the form that is built around a rhythm section that really swings- how good is it to hear the Les Bunny bass again- those cyclical bass lines that really groove along and hold it down tight with the rolling drums both providing a rock solid bass for Will’s flurries of electric fantasy on his antique guitar collection.

There are hints of the sunshine days of west coast US originators but with an added rainy day melancholia of the north west of England. The film projections at the back add to the trip and the band stand impassive all in white kagouls like some sort of Artic crack commando unit as lost in their music as the audience is.

Lets get the facts out of the way first Poltergeist is the one part current and one part former core of the wonderful Echo And The Bunnymen- Will Sergeant with his wonderful Captain Trips guitar style fired by his love of home brew and Les Pattinson- the band’s great bass player who gives them that powerful yet laconic swing. These days Will remains a Bunnyman whilst Les builds boats near Southport.

Join them together and you understand what made the Bunnymen such a mighty band. Of course Mac is not here and of course Mac is one of the great singers and oozes the rock star thing but this is a different adventure and a chance for two of the other originals to stake their claim to the Bunny-sound and a chance to really create away from the pressure of running a big band or a chance, in Les’s case, to play again.

This freedom to soar, this freedom to jam and run with the electricity is perfect for Will, whose guitar defies boundaries but never gets self indulgent- he may talk prog but those years growing up in and around punk have given him and innate bullshit detector and his playing is remarkable in that it reaches for the heavens without all the baggage- it’s astonishing stuff.

Poltergeist take full advantage of the discipline of being a tripped out instrumental trio and they create an atmosphere that is quite brilliant and quite psychedelic- like we said Will is fond of calling the band prog and, whilst we don’t want to belittle his huge musical depth of knowledge, this band is far closer to the sweeping atmospherics of the Early Bunnymen or the floating menagerie of possibility of early trip music or the rushes of early punk or the limitless raw power of garage rock but also with the idea of being progressive which is quite different from prog and therein lies the true dichotomy of the whole thing- by temporarily escaping the Bunnymen they have somehow ended up sounding more like the Bunnymen than the Bunnymen themselves but it’s their own version, their own unique twist on their own plot because that is what comes out of their fingers and they can’t fake it.

Without having to try and shoe horn the sound into silly ideas like hit records and radio formats they sound potentially bigger and more accessible in a music world where all these boundaries have long gone.

They will be playing more dates soon- we insist you go and see them.

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