Bird's Nest, London - 14 February 2014

"Nice to see cymbals customised with a hacksaw"

[Gig photo]Howls and Econo struck me as being quite similar to each other and both could be roughly described as what the kids are calling ‘noisecore’, so I’ll deal with them both at the same time.

Both bands were impressively tight and could play really well, with songs that swerved from riff to riff and time-signature to time-signature in the style of At the Drive In. Econo especially had a rhythm section which featured an almost jazzy interplay between the drums and bass, although both drummers were impressive. But (and it’s a big but) neither of the bands seemed to understand that songs are meant to grab you in the gut, not the brain. Without something to pull you in on an emotional level, all that technical ability is essentially just showing off, and as such is no better than a 20 minute prog-rock keyboard solo.

Both bands suffered from a pronounced lack of dynamics, pretty much going from ‘Loud’ to ‘Loud’ and missing out ‘Quiet’ altogether, as well as what I call ‘Jack Nicholson Syndrome’ – it’s all very well always having everything dialled up to 10, but it means that you don’t leave yourself any room to manoeuvre, or build up any tension/release. A drop-out every so often would have made a hell of a difference. To be fair, neither band were bad as such, and both had elements that I really liked; Econo’s lyrics (when I could catch them) were really good, and when Howls stepped back and slowed the tempo down, as they did in the last song, they had a doomy, menacing presence, but these were all too brief flashes of interest in otherwise uninvolving sets. 5/10

Which brings us to the mighty Lamo. Consisting of just drums plus vocals/guitar, I suppose there was a theoretical possibility of them being somewhat overshadowed by the barrage of the previous two (full) bands. I’m glad to say it was a theoretical possibility that did not come to pass. With a much looser approach, and actual proper singing (I know! Singing!), they were a much needed relief.

There was still noise, courtesy of a howling, fucked up guitar sound and impressively muscular drumming (it’s always nice to see cymbals customised with a hacksaw, and anyone playing with reversed sticks is a good sign), but as with all the best ‘noise’ bands, each song has a tune at its heart with the distortion and feedback merely the icing on the cake. It’s hard to talk about the set-up Lamo use without mentioning a certain very famous two piece known for their stupid trousers and being Blues bores of the highest order, but there really is no comparison. Rather than taking their cues from purist figures like Leadbelly or Robert Johnson, Lamo are closer to the swamp-blues of Junkyard era Birthday Party (this is a good thing) cross-fertilised with a healthy dose of Silverfish (this is also a good thing).

With favourites like Gerrajob and Edicotatop belted out in short order, it was a slightly truncated set, and they weren’t quite as focussed as I’ve seen them before, but they well received by the crowd. I’d like to see them play at a bigger venue with a proper stage and a better PA, as the facilities at the Bird’s Nest are pretty basic, but if they continue to perform to this level, that shouldn’t be too long in coming. 

Nick Hydra