Review | Peepholes

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Humousexual, King Alfred Man Of Lesiure, Mülltüte, Peepholes, Left Leg, Expensive @ Power Lunches, 8 Feb

Six bands for six Pounds? With packed bills at recessionista-friendly prices, promoters National Minimum Rage are doing their bit to beat the triple-dip blues. Yeah it’s back to Power Lunches for the girls are, one of our favourite London venues, DIYing it for the people. There’s one awkward compromise with the real world, in the shape of an actual bag-checking doorman but otherwise nothing’s changed. A reverse rainbow of ultra-hip 12″ vinyl teeters over the cafe bar, friendly faces sell demo tapes at the merch table, and you still have to shed several layers of skin to acclimatise to the downstairs furnace that serves as the venue proper; might cut down on heating bills for the rest of the winter and just come here every night.

We miss first act, Expensive, one of Grace Denton’s many musical projects, but whip across town hoping to catch Left Leg, mostly ’cause we dig the way they crank out their unique take on Minutemen/Big Flame-style agit-grrrunk – and partly ’cause we happen to know they trace their roots as a band back to the second wave of UK riot grrrl. The scene, is in its own quiet/loud way, is as strong as ever. Tonight is attended by most of Trash Kit, Covergirl, and My Therapist Says Hot Damn, and the CEOs of Milk, Everard and Tuff Enuff records, with Tobi Fail of Riots Not Diets on the wheels of grrrl: the beat goes on. Anyhow, we manage to miss Left Leg too.

Mülltüte are on next. Jan Wieners tells says their name means ‘rubbish’; they fail to live up to it, playing tight, fast early-Eighties hardcore, US style. We couldn’t tell you what language the songs were in, let alone their lyrics, but the energy in their sonic assault is universal enough.

Then it’s Peepholes’ turn, promoting their new-ish debut full-length album The Overspill to a charged-up full-capacity crowd. They manage to combine the tribal drumming and staccato vocals you’d expect from sometime Covergirl member Katia Barrett, with a half futuristic/half retro ‘analogue tenderness’ courtesy of Nick Carlisle on synths. Vocals fade in and out of decipherability, used as punctuation and harmony. The insistent electro pulse recalls something of the texture and atmosphere of Fad Gadget or early New Order, but refracted though a prism of voguish lo-fi noise.

Standout track is ‘The Conversation’, in a sense, it having the most memorable vocal hook, but ultimately what we take away is the feel of this gig. While their album was recorded part-improvised (in this very venue) and then embellished in the studio, what you get from the live Peepholes experience is the fundamentals – a more skeletal, elemental sound built on propulsive rhythms and pure impact. The combination of primitive intensity and that lack of narrative contrasted to a standard ‘rock’ performance opens up a space you can lose yourself in, so that the music moves you in more ways than one.

Mining obscurer materials still are King Alfred, Man of Leisure, whose deconstructed pop brought a tentative, abstract ambience to the evening. Current album Hate Mail is a short stark delight. In hindsight, the DIY cassette-culture of the early 80s probably represents the true aesthetic and politics of punk better than any other sub-genre, but the fact that anyone can do it doesn’t mean anyone can do it well. KAMOL’s sound may just be slightly too experimental to hold the attention of a large live audience for long, but it’s never less than entrancing.

Coy minimalist pop-punk duo Humousexual are the ‘headliners’, over ten years of sporadic activity having brought them a legendary status in certain circles. It’s not hard to see why they’re held in such affection either: they write classic pop ditties not a million miles away from the style of a band like Milky Wimpshake, perform them using a single guitar and bass tom, and comprehensively fail to promote them (they have no official web presence at all). Tonight they’re pretty tight, the vocals are hesitant but the crowd already knows the songs. A power-cut half way through the set has us hoping for an acappella climax but instead they start again, very much re-energised. The set ends with a room full of happy faces dancing and singing along with their love song to South London, ‘Oh Camberwell’.

The underground is alive and well. Come on down sometime.

Kofi Smith

Photo: by Kofi Smith for the girls are

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