If the centre of attention in Royal Trux was trying to look like the pioneer aviator and patently crackers billionaire Howard Hughes in his years as a hygiene obsessed recluse then he had a nailed. I couldn’t see if he was wearing tissue boxes for shoes but he may well have been. The greatest music is often made by those of the most eccentric and improbable appearance. But not tonight. They – the members of Royal Trux – seemed to think that it –a lazy proggy, jazzy, lazy – was pretty damn fine. But their obvious enjoyment of what sounded frankly, like an early rehearsal of what they were planning to showcase at the TRANSFORMER Festival only served to remind me of Saint Anthony’s damning indictment of jazz the people on the stage are having more fun than the audience. My attention span suitably exceeded I wandered over to the second stage where I woman I last encountered in a tiny tent on the Golden Mile. Her gypsy schick was suitably gloomy and melodramatic and remained just the right side of coming over like a tribute to madam Edith from ‘Ullo Ullo’. But, can I just say this, if you are ostensibly the centre of attention in a performance be it music, theatrical or, and this is especially relevant, mime and you are exceptionally short then you really do need to stand on a box or something or else no-one who isn’t stood in the front row can see you doing your thing. And your thing may be wonderful thing, this wasn’t.
I’ll tell you what is and/or are wonderful, The Fall. God I like watching the fall. Except of course that I don’t look at them, well not too much. Mark has started to look like he’s been propped up against a radiator and has, as consequence, melted. His clothes have got better, much better and I don’t know that I like that. I think I liked them better when it looked like the whole band had got dressed in a British Heart Foundation shop in the dark. I know my tailoring and could tell when he discarded his jacket three songs into the set. That it was a bit of quality schmutter. The music that issues forth from Prestwich’s best beat combo since 10cc is a delightful juxtaposition of instrumental virtuosity and the shambolic howls, yelps and squeals of a borderline belligerent drunk. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The band lacked the drive, tightness and tenacity of the gig at the splendid Lower Kersal Social Club three years ago A gig made all the more memorable for my partner when she discovered Mark attempting to access an empty stall in the Ladies powder room mid-performance. – the best I’d heard them but dammit they were still bloody good. Relentless, serious, committed and yet – curiously – dance-able they’re the Manc equivalent of the Motown’s Funk Brothers – reliable, tight anonymous. Which must make Mark either the Marvin or Smokey. Although he will be always be much more Diana Ross – a brilliant, eccentric diva.
Being down at the front for Swans reminded me of the scene in the homoerotic cocks-and-crosses classic ‘Valley of The Bees (1967) in which the two benighted and besotted knights of Christ chain themselves to rocks at high-tide so the waves to batter them in an attempt to cure their man lust. It doesn’t work, wouldn’t be a homoerotic classic, would it? Micheal Gira is Swans in the same way that Mark E Smith is The Fall, that is others are require to facilitate the noise that they unleash upon the world but it is a noise that plays in their heads first and for just like the urban myth that begins with Prince having a couple of ribs removed, if they could do it by themselves , they would. But there is no way that a noise this monumental could be made by a single human entity. There’s heavy lifting to be done here. I read that Michael Gira had got bored with Swans being labeled ‘loudest band on the planet’ and had deliberately turned it down a couple of notches. Well, not tonight.!The volume is very much part of what is happening hear. Its like another member of the band. ‘And over here and in your face, ladies-and-gentlemen, boys and girls please give it up , for volume.” . The ‘songs’ go on for either ten minutes, half-an-hour or a couple of days, If I’m honest I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that while they were happening I was utterly enthralled. No thinking about anything else. No feeling anything else. And certainly no fucking talking while it was playing. Fuck off talking to me at gigs, I don’t want to hear your fucking anecdote, if you must tell me in the pub later. Swans have been making music for thirty-five years and I don’t know most of it I do know that the music they but the sound they’re making music is terrible, beautiful and utterly elemental. It is like weather and that’s how you experience it like weather, different. There is one kind of weather its not like though, nice weather. These are vicious, swirling, pummeling storms of sound. At the centre is a craggy white-haired Merlin arms raised with increasing urgency the better to conjure this awesome bowel-loosening noise. The drummer, who looked like he’d take a couple rounds off Anthony Joshua, is a beast. But it was the keyboard player, whose display of breath-taking virtuosity and seemingly never-ending invention, impressed me most out of a collection of ridiculously brilliant musicians. It’s Gira’s music though and don’t you forget it and so, whilst not quite having Mark E’s zeal for wrecking classic line-ups, he’s disbanding this line-up, together for almost a decade, after this tour. Because that’s what artists do. He will presumably go off in a different direction. Maybe dubstep – rea My enjoyment of having my synapses sand-papered by Swans blistering, excoriating sonic assault was Only slightly spoiled by a small self-important uniformed woman with a headset mic who kept bobbing up like a fucking Meerkat about in front of Michael Gira, scanning the sea of blissed-out heads just in case they began beating on each other with the plastic beer bottles provided perhaps enraged at being charged four-and-a-half quid for a few mouthfuls of room-temperature Heineken. We’ve come to see them, not you, luv.
Royal Trux 4/10
The Fall 8/10