Noblesse Oblige/Neurotic Mass Movement/James Cook/Scant Regard

Electrowerkz, London - 3rd March 2012

"Criminally unsung"

[Noblesse Oblige: Sebastian Lee Pilipp photo]

[Noblesse Oblige: Valerie Renay photo]

Could it really have been two years since Berlin-based Nobless Oblige played in Old London Town? Apparently it had been so. Any appearance by this unpredictable male/female couple is a firm date in the dsoaudio diary. Tonight they were ably supported by three UK acts. First up was new name (if not a new face) Scant Regard.

Possibly best known for his work as guitarist with Rachel Stamp, Englishman Will Crewdson has an impressive professional CV that includes working with everyone from Adam Ant, Tom Jones, Bryan Ferry and Malcolm McLaren to Celine Dion (hey, we've all got bills to pay!). Scant Regard is his new solo project. The live set-up was a laptop for backing, Crewdson and his guitar. That’s bold. No place to hide and everyone can see what is being performed live and what isn’t. This needed to be really good if it was going to impress. 

Any thoughts of little-known support acts getting the evening off to a low-key start were instantly put to rights. It was as if, having pressed ‘Play’ on the laptop, Crewdson then started up a petrol chainsaw and began scything his way through the still air. Ingeniously, the non-stop blazing electric guitar also had a distinctive twang to it. Regard calls it spaghettilectro. Whichever descriptor you’d like, because this was sitting atop gorgeous patch analogue synth sounds the effect was as remarkable as it was rare. A bit like if Snog had been commissioned to write the score to a typically dark/bonkers David Lynch movie. 

I have a particular fondness for his Crunchy Church - not least because it is as good as a title like that promises. In the end, I couldn’t decide if Scant Regard was Chris Issacs with a flick knife or Cursor Miner’s redneck cousin. Whatever the truth of his familial lineage, he’s one hell of a talent with an astonishing sound. 

James Cook
was desperately earnest and reminded me of a youthful Andy McClusky of OMD. Clearly something of a muso with serious intent (he’s worked with IAMX’s Chris Corner), I found most of tonight’s material borderline in terms of personal tastes. Cooks’ frequently short quirkpop ditties are slightly hampered by his obvious influences, but then are equally aided by the fact that those influences are seemingly wide-ranging pulling in uncommon combinations. This results in moments of intrigue emerging in what was otherwise a touch too conventional. If he were not to try so hard, and meditate on what it is from those influences he wants to combine and reflect back, then I’d expect to be better disposed towards him. 

Neurotic Mass Movement
clearly have a following and clearly that following are absolutely loving what they do. If, like many here tonight, you’re partial to a bit of ballsy, rocking with the odd industrial tinge then you too might love NMM. The stage presence is a full one, with a disparate collection of distinctive individuals, fronted by Vietnamese female vocalist Yin. The performance by all on stage was as big and brash as their songs, but most eyes were on Yin who puts out considerably more energy than her slim frame might suggest. They left me entirely cold but, as is often the case, I seemed to be in the minority with that view. 

Finally, the main attraction: Noblesse Oblige. An act that are the very definition of underground; and like a choice few such acts are infinitely more rewarding live than their modest profile might imply. For me, NO is a band that must be placed in the ‘criminally unsung’ box. German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp and French actress Valerie Renay positively exude raw, animalistic energy, creating a sound that is absurdly sinister at times. This trait exemplified on the once-heard/never-forgotten Daddy (Don’t Touch Me There) which, if you’ve yet to hear it, is about what you think it is about. Moreover, the duo's attractively unhinged delivery (Lee Philipp looks like David Attenborough as teenager gangster Pinkie in Brighton Rock) always generates laughter in the crowds. As if recognising that it is becoming something of a signature tune for them, they finished tonight’s set with Daddy

Before that we got over and hour of glorious dark cabaret the like of which even (again) David Lynch would simultaneously be unnerved by and giggle at. Theirs is always a ‘show’ too. There may only be two of them on stage at any one time, but after a Noblesse Oblige gig you’re likely to feel slightly pummelled into a dazed and often confused state. Attending one of their gigs is a little bit like attending a party of a friend of a friend, at which you don’t actually know anyone other than your friend, and all the other guests are out of their heads on something that you’ve never heard of let alone tried. Yet rather than turn around and walking out you feel compelled to stay, even thinking you might just want to be a part of that odd crowd. Or maybe that’s just me. ;-) 

Whatever your take on what you see and hear at a Noblesse Oblige gig is, there is no arguing over the commitment and passion they turn up with time and time again. They’re like a couple of human dynamos up there on stage, with sweat dripping just a couple of songs into the set. The fact that there are few comparable acts is a reason to celebrate their scarcity, and to make sure that whenever they do decide to grace our shores with their presence again you put those dates firmly in your diary, so you too experience an evening that’s as rare as it is oblique. 8/10

Setlist: Intro/Equinox, When Thunder Breaks Up Under, Tropical Fever, The Great Electrifier, Beck And Call, Jalouse, Useless Man, Sambo, May They Come With Spears And Knives, Encores: 4 a.m., Daddy (Don't Touch Me There)

Rob Dyer

Live footage on dsoaudio's YouTube Channel