Local music can feel pretty smug with itself of late. If you see it walking through town with a self satisfied look and a cocky spring in its step, forgive it, it has a lot to be pleased with itself about at the moment. It isn’t enough that we have great bands, both local and from further afield tripping over themselves to be part of our little musical back water, acts as diverse as Jazz Morley, Ugly Duckling, The Manic Shine, Thea Gilmore and even ex-Scorpions supremo Uli Jon Roth bringing his eldritch musical dabbling to our very doors. Also of note recently was the remarkable step up that has been gained by Quantum rockers (or Quantum glockers even) Super Squarecloud, with the addition of a new member to their ranks. Somehow with out losing the off kilter, weirdness that has always been their hallmark, they have gained a more coherent pop sensibility, dare I say it, a more accessible sound that should open them up to a whole host of new listeners without alienating those who already get their lateral thinking, warped musical trip. But the main point of this scribbling art attack is another band who have changed their tack and come out fighting.
I’m glad to see that The Furnace is getting its act together again. More gigs seem to be taking place and more diversity within those bookings is most welcome. Gradually shaking off its creatures of the night association has not been easy on the DJ’s and promoters who have been driving the change, but hopefully those Buffy The Vampire Slayer fixated, pretend pagan, narrow minded, goth-metalers who bemoan the loss of their lair, but who in reality never supported in particularly great numbers anyway, will now be relegated to the chat rooms and forums where they can ritually curse the new direction and bitch about the old days viewed through blood-tinted spectacles.
But tonight it was all about another transformation. When Nudybronque guitarist, Aiden, had told me that even though their front man had abruptly left but they were going to honour existing gigs as a three piece, I knew it would still work, the question was, would it work well enough.
Opening band, The Fixed, is a name that is always accompanied by disclaimers and subtexts regarding their age, but music like any art form is all about the finished product and ifs and buts have to be dropped if they are to be taken seriously. There is no under 18’s section in the record shop and bands between eight and eighty have to compete on a level playing field. Whilst on record they are decent enough indie fare, the obvious product of some obvious influences, live their boisterous “ how wacky are we” approach, the choreographed impromptu antics and the constant “how are we all doing” aimed at three friends down the front also doing their best to be wild and wacky, hides the fact that they don’t yet have the songs. A bit less show and a bit more tell is in order, they play okay but it’s all about style over substance for now.
Secret Lives, normally a band I enjoy were marred with so many sound issues that I will just gloss over their set which brings us to the crux of the matter. Can Nudybronque cut it as a three piece?
When they were a four piece, having a charismatic, clowning, focus in the form of Mike at the front often detracted from the fact that the other three were really producing something a bit special musically, tonight with nothing to obscure the fact, it became obvious to everyone. Even though Aiden always did the lions share of the singing, now filling that vacant front of band spot, not only has he risen to the occasion but the band seems to have become much more than the sum of it’s parts. Wielding his guitar like a chainsaw massacre, he has become everything he need to be, the reserved confidence of before has evolved into in-your face aggression, not just getting the job done but doing so with a wild flair, their punked up pop is now music with menaces.
I love three piece bands, there is a sort of musical economy about them, everyone has a job to do and has to be good at it for it to work, be it Luke gleefully skipping around whilst building melodic basslines that are so essential to the Nudybronque sound, or Wolfman hammering away at the back, like all good drummers the unsung hero of the hour and the musical foundation to any good band. If you doubt the drummer’s importance, just look down at your feet and consider what you are dancing along too.
People often try to argue that there is a difference between the local music scene and bands from out of town, make a point that they are happy to support outsiders in the same way that people latch on to acts that have made it on to TV as if that imbues them with some cool that they didn’t have before. It is why if you see any hipsters in the street you should always point and laugh at them for perpetuating this idea. The only difference between touring and home-grown bands is geography. Tonight Nudybronque showed just how fallacious that idea is, they may have been playing their home patch, but they are now ready for the big leagues.