Ye Nuns @ The Lexington, London 29 Sept
People are well jealous that this our first Ye Nuns gig. No seriously, it’s causing quite a stir in the conversation at the three metre deep bar queue, everyone trying to stay patient and polite but now getting edgy about missing the show.
It is a show, a splash of bold in a cold, cruel world; a place you grin with strangers; wriggle hips and twist like someone’s Dad at a wedding. And the reason hipsters allow themselves this uncharacteristic behaviour is this: the music is fine, bad ass garage rock and roll, played with flair, experience and total confidence, and with unexpected psychedelic twists and turns (‘Monk Time’, ‘Complication’), or delicious punk tantrums (‘Cuckoo’, ‘Shut Up’).
Ye Nuns, play songs from The Monks repertoire, who were an avante-garde German band from the 1960s. You can hear the timeline in the keyboard’s random gestures. Bands like The White Stripes and The Fall have cited The Monks experimental sound as an influence. The original line-up even went as far as adopting the monk’s tonsure hairstyle, wearing a uniform of black, with nooses worn as neckties and coining the very apt phrase “gallows rock”. Yes, there was a UK punk band, of the same name, but this particular crew were originally American GI’s, based in Germany, who developed a 60s sound, but with a difference. That is, patterns continue rather hypnotically, probably why they have been called the forefathers of Krautrock, but with something unexpected underneath. Tonight this garage bliss gets started when Ye Nuns’ Debbie Smith (Curve, Echobelly, Blindness), on electric banjo, suddenly dives and turns the tune somewhere else, cape swinging, digging deep, or when Delia Sparrow (Mambo Taxi, A-Lines), standing spooky-still, grins and breaks into hard guitar. (She says the little screw for her pedal to play loudly is broken, but we wouldn’t know.)
The lyrics are bitter-sweet, ironic – which includes a dig at The Sound Of Music . To this crew the songs are like old friends: the set list being a collection of nicknames for the songs and which we have to compete for, post gig, with a determined lunge, like a coveted sales item in a bargain box.
“I wish this was my first Nuns gig,” huffs some obscure drummer we vaguely remember being in alot of cool Camden bands. “I’m so jealous!” sighs the fashion student with the amazing fringe (imagine an arrow head, red). “My holiday treat,” beams Gary Walker, who is TGA fave Austra’s, manager, and based in Berlin.
So is Ye Nuns a fun band? Well yes, but only because these girls are exceptional musicians with a great attitude – you can’t “just do it” with these song structures and whimsies, they’re making it look easy. It IS significant that women in indie music are equal, always different, in the skills set, to their male peers because back when the likes of Bikini Kill, The Breeders, Throwing Muses and Riot Grrrrl inspired us all, this wasn’t the case – not in the indie world at least. If there is a feminine language it’s in the attitude of the band, in terms of flexibility; there are Ye Nuns stunt doubles, when real life gets in the way of billings, no heirarchy, only a mutual obsession to play music they love, with a wild abandon. A “tribute band” though? The answer is in a question: would they be good for weddings, birthdays and funerals? Yes, but only for very, very cool people.