Red Lorry Yellow Lorry @ Slimelight
aaamusic | On 21, Oct 2010
London, 16th October
It is Saturday in inner London at 8pm in mid-October. Given the temperature and light levels are not exactly going to be improving within the next twelve hours, I find myself: 1) very thankful Slimelight open their doors reasonably close to the time printed on the ticket, and 2) feeling that given the circumstances and band on offer, the atmosphere is rather spot-on.
The stage times of the two bands were pushed back to accommodate for those fortunate enough to be seeing Killing Joke play at the Apollo, so Luxury Stranger were onstage at half past 9. Last time I saw them, the sound system was more than a little overloaded by their effects pedals and sheer volume and so what came out was a sound similar to Motörhead playing in a soup can. This time around, however, the sound system was much improved, and so the audience were treated to the full power of their set. Their innovative use of effects combined with their post-punk roots results in a sound somewhat akin to a heavier and more immediate version of ‘Faith’-era Cure, immediate and emotive with truly orchestrated arrangements of a power trio instrumentation. Live, they create a sound to rival a five-piece band in the way they experiment with how to create atmosphere, the bass usually grounded in seismic and steely Rickenbacker, the drums simultaneously desolate yet complete, and the guitars are textured in their mesmeric riffs and wailing solo moments, and the emotive and powerful vocals bring to mind Ian McCulloch and Robert Smith. Their frontman Simon York is entirely their frontman, not so much in conduct (the band never appear to upstage one another, all giving their considerable musical expression priority) as appearance, with his red, white and black face paint running down his face as the set progressed, creating an almost inhuman aura to the whole band. The set contained tracks from their first album, as well as material for future releases. There was barely a single fault in the band’s performance despite issues with the monitor levels, and they valiantly and professionally commandeered the room, getting so involved in the set that they were unaware of their 45 minutes being up. The contrast between their surreal yet friendly presence and undeniably human songs made for a great support and for all intents and purposes would have been a good headline slot. Luxury Stranger are a band who seem to be constantly playing gigs, and it shows in their confidence and mastery of their own music, the result being an inspirational, theatrical, luxuriously strange performance of passionately made and wholeheartedly performed music.
In direct and stark contrast, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry had next to nothing in the way of stage banter, theatrics or even aesthetic consideration. They came on stage, played their instruments, and left. However, this was quite possibly the best thing they could do. Their brand of gloomy yet turbulent post-punk does not require nor appreciate any flirtation with the audience. There are four men on stage, they have come to play, and that is exactly what they will do. I suppose that the easiest way to describe their sound would be an atmospheric, intelligent yet searing hybrid of Joy Division and Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’, blending morose baritone/monotone vocals and rampant tribal drumming with lively basslines and droning yet intricate guitarwork for half the set and varying it with moments of droning bass, abrasive high-pitched guitar, bitter bordering on vicious singing and angular 4/4 rhythms. As a notable point for those contemplating seeing the Lorries, they are considerably on the punk side of post-punk and their relentless onslaught of a set that ploughed from one intense song to the next induced a euphoric mania amongst those present that grew into a loose moshpit, as those at the front were compelled to keep moving by the sheer force of the band’s music. The band were on full form that night, not once showing off yet being entirely awe-inspiring in their own spiky manner. Every last aspect of their set was in possession of a primal yet calculated intensity and perhaps because there were no breaks in the music, there were no slumps or weak points I could pick out. It all blended into a long and fluid mass of swirling guitars, throbbing bass and persistently energetic drums. If asked to point out bandmembers’ stellar moments, I’m not sure if I’d be able to do that either, as they all poured 110% into their roles. On merit of their sound in general, the drums are perhaps most immediately noticeable in the rampant bare-bones Joy Division approach as they sprawl over everything before drawing it in tight, but within this skeleton embrace was flawlessly played guitar riffs played with that 80s post-punk malignant and keening effects sound that has in its own way become iconic, yet in this case I wouldn’t hesitate to put this status down to the material played just as much if not more than the distinctive tones. The bass was a constant presence, malevolent and brooding one second and ominously mobile the next as it created deep groves to move the audience with in its own forceful yet never overdone manner. The vocals are deep and unmistakably menacing yet never cross over to the cliché or caricature they could easily fall into, instead retaining a subtle passion and indeed a subtle ferocity. The band didn’t go offstage before the encore, but went straight on with it, refusing to break their flow and this was ideal given the mood of the evening.
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry aren’t a huggable band, and you might feel intimidated by their no-nonsense approach. However, there is no way on earth you could ever deny that they are truly masters of their craft, and Luxury Stranger were the ideal foil, being just as talented and passionate yet with an attitude and approach that is very much their own. In closing, both bands are highly recommended, but not necessarily for the casual/ironic gig-goer or faint of heart. They are the real deal, and this night only cemented this notion.
Author & Photos: Katie H-Halinski