Dead Blood Cells/Brutalist Architecture In The Sun/Turtle Circles/Inverted Scrotum

The Nags Head, Rochester - 8 July 2017

"Anarcho-karaoke and concrete pop - just what my musical soul needed"

Labeled in advance as "Digital Oblivion - A night of industrial, synthpop, darkwave and glam!", not only did this cracking little pub gig live up to the pre-gig hype, but it served up the most entertaining suite of band names I've seen in a while. The performances weren't too shabby either.

Inverted Scrotum, a digital hardcore two-piece from the swamp-lands of the Isle of Sheppy, were down to just one balaclava-clad bloke tonight. Fruity language on the Facebook event page for the gig about our openers apologised that (other half) DJ Nipps was doing 'dad with a job stuff' so this was 'a CptCumQuick solo show'.

It was a hot night, so I admired the vocalist for sticking with (or was that to?) the balaclava throughout the set. Live, this was anarcho-karaoke, with everything bar the lead vocals on backing - perhaps as a result of there being only one person on stage instead of the usual two? Still, this delivered more than I anticipated, and served up what they promised. Beyond the superficially imbecilic front lies some scathing commentary on the world we live in and life in general. With most songs clocking in at less than two minutes we got fifteen in total, including a well-chosen cover of Electric Six's Gay Bar.

Musically, I 'enjoyed' this more than I expected. Those with the fastest, breakneck beats and screeching guitar worked well. I was quickly taken back to the glory days of equally-provocative and stylistically remarkably similar Penis Bollocka (another Kent band - must be something in the water down here). Though it is very unlikely to ever happen (Penis Bollocka disbanded decades ago), I would love to have seen both bands on the same bill.

Inverted Scrotum setlist: Intro, Slut Lust, Bleed Out Slow, Thick Cunt, Shove It, Tesco Erotic Asphyxiation, I'm A Virgin (Troll Mix), Prolapse Queen, Piece of Meat, Hey Baby, 1 Man 1 Jar, Deathly Arousal, The Ballard of DJ Nipps, Pink Pony of Death, Gay Bar (Electric Six cover)

Digital Oblivion poster      Nags Head pub Rochester   Inverted Scrotum

Photos: [L-R] Gig poster, The Nags Head pub, Inverted Scrotum

The unconventional band names continued with Turtle Circles taking to the stage. Their 30 minutes or so took me right back to the days when I was a similar age, also playing gigs in pubs, with ambitions for greater things. There was something naturally appealing about this glam-goth-tings four-piece. A special nod of admiration for sticking with their fashion statements in what was an increasingly hot environment. The synth-player's full-length faux leather coat was the most impressive.

Musically they sounded probably like a lot of other youthful bands across the UK still trying to find their feet and their own, stand-out sound. The inclusion of a couple of cover versions says a lot about where they're coming from (if not where they ought to be going). Covering Bowie was a safe enough bet (and went down well particularly with the two older blokes in the corner that seemed utterly perplexed by Inverted Scrotum), and fitted in with their own material well. However, Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World was a waste of four minutes in a short set when you're trying to get people's attention with a distinctive sound of your own.

Creatively, it's early days for this lot, but there were definitely a couple of times that their own writing worked well, and hinted that there is some greater potential worth them sticking at it to uncover.

Turtle Circles setlist: Red and White, Lazy St. Peter, Greedo, Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover), Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover), Con Victed, Ask Forgiveness

The reason I was here tonight was on account of Brutalist Architecture In The Sun. I like their slightly self-deprecating/playful attitude (not an attribute in bands I much go for) because it tempers what could quite easily (but misguidedly) be labeled as pretentious. Brutalist are not pretentious but they are serious about creating striking (and indeed, slightly monolithic) music.

Last year's debut album Concrete Pop delivered on their live promise (and comes dsoaudio !recommended! BTW). Work on new material is well underway with plans for a series of EPs to be released over the next few months. Tonight's set drew mainly on the new material, rather than lean heavily on the first album, and it was refreshing to see a new band move quickly forward, and not rely for several years solely on their first album for their live sets.

Now a two-piece, co-writing team in the studio, with original founder member Dean Clarke leading the way, aided by lead vocalist Cye Thomas, the new material shows a step progression without losing any of the band's distinctive characteristics. There may be more of the obviously melodic than some of the more obtuse structures found on Concrete Pop.

Turtle Circles      Brutalist Architecture In The Sun   Dead Blood Cells

Photos [L-R]: Turtle Circles, Brutalist Architecture In The Sun, Dead Blood Cells

The duo already feel like a well-established team, with each taking full control of their roles. Clarke creates all the music live (well, as much of it as is reasonably possible by a single person) and provides backing vocals. Thomas is up front leading both the vocals and the show. Based in this neighbourhood, Brutalist had clearly tempted a bit of a crowd out tonight. So they went down a storm. But even objectively, they got the best reception of the whole night - and that didn't only come from fans.

They rattled through their set apace culminating with the epic-sounding Do We Ever Know The End?, then closing with Clarke taking up the lead vocal role for Take Control - where he struck nearly as many poses as lines he delivered; whilst the array of electric machines in the background blinked their LEDs reproducing the wonderful music they had been instructed to. I loved every minute, and their performance only consolidated my growing appreciation and respect for the band.

Brutalist Architecture In The Sun setlist: Towers, The Dirty Ones, Aliens On The Underground, Ride The Waves, Run And Hide, 2Horses, Running on Empty, Do We Ever Know The End?, Take Control

Dead Blood Cells were more interesting then affecting for me. There's a LOT of stuff going in their compositions! Probably at least 80% too much in each song, actually. Though many of the ideas are left field, and on their own (or in other songs entirely) they often gave pause for admiration, they failed to coalesce into coherent songs for me.

It's true, and perhaps a fault, that I like most composition to reside at either end of a spectrum of cohesive or completely random. Dead Blood Cells pretty much spanned that entire spectrum across their set, and frequently within individual songs! It sounded like a lot of disparate influences stubbornly refusing to come together into a single entity.
(The intro from Depeche Mode's World In My Eyes popped up mid-song at one point - and I'm not even sure the band noticed.)

Aside from thoroughly enjoying the Brutalist set, the big take away from this gig was I really need to go to more pub gigs. Having had a flurry of stadium gigs lately, anarcho-karaoke and concrete pop in a pub was just what my musical soul needed to get it back in balance. More please.  7/10

Review + Photos: Rob Dyer