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:: European :: Desolation Angels :: Jackie O :: Loafer :: Lookin :: Loose Canon :: [Missed Her Bliss] :: Pamela Nude :: Somewhere Outside Tokyo :: Transelement :: Drift ::
15 December 2001 / Big Hands / Manchester
By DD Octagon / Kate Wheeler

It's Big Hands, it's Saturday and IT'S CHRISTMAAASSSS!! Nearly. Near enough for the pre-Xmas shenanigans of the Sov induced 12 Daze festival. Being of the too-many-bands-in-one-day variety of festival that are so popular round this way, we're kicking off early - too early in fact for Kate, so I'm starting the review in her absence.

First up then is LOOKIN, purveyors of American style melodic skate punk. It's a genre they obviously know well, as all the staples are there: spiky hair, silly faces, low-slung guitars and BIG hooks. They throw themselves around the stage with charisma and confidence, and produce a sound easily as good as most of the Green Day-esque bands who populate the upper echelons of the charts these days. A bit of polishing here, a dash of originality there and it's big future's all round. They did Silent night in a Blink-182 style. For those who weren't there - just imagine...!

TRANSELEMENT take a much more left of centre approach to music. Skewed, yet strangely plaintive melodies nestle in between slabs of ear shredding noise. The mixture of musical seduction followed by intense confrontation makes a strange brew, but one that becomes more intoxicating as the set goes on. And playing guitar with your teeth can only be applauded. Xmas song: When Santa Got Stuck up the Chimney. Nice.

Well here come's Kate so that's the beginning and end of my short reviewing career. I'm off to work on my novel.

As I take the pen shaped baton from the obliging Mr Octagon, dark, menacing vibes begin to emanate from the stage, on which 3 shadowy figures skulk in the demonic green and red light. And then, God save us, they begin to play. It may be Christmas but MISSED HER BLISS would be much more at home as Satan's little helpers. These guys are heavy with a humungous, monolithic capital "H" . Their third song in particular features the darkest most bowl curdling bass line in the known universe. We're afraid, very afraid, especially when they quite spectacularly beat the living shit out of "We 3 Kings". Truly wicked stuff.

SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE TOKYO are "wicked" in a somewhat different sense. With live bass and drums, synths and samples Tokyo specialise in squelchy electronica with a dark urban edge. It's always difficult to translate this kinda thang in a live context, but despite a few initial technical blips, Tokyo just about pull it off, getting into a nice, sleazy, danceable groove as the short set develops.

"I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar it meant that you were a protest singer" proclaimed that cheery old soothsayer Morrissey back in the day. So what are ACOUSTIC ANARCHY (aka Loose Cannon) protesting about? How jangley indie music ain't what it used to be perhaps? Certainly the Anarchists are making no concessions to The Man by doing anything so commercial as learning to play or sing. But if they did that they wouldn't be anarchists I suppose. Punk Acoustica... now there's a marketable concept.

No such shambolic indie posturing for the mighty EUROPEAN, the first band of the night to make me grin inanely with unbridled, tune driven joy. Rough reference points may include Spiritualized at their rock 'n roll-iest or Clinic at their most tuneful. However, in all honesty European have a buzz all of their own driven by great rinky dink, cute / evil keyboard lines and dirty but super melodic guitar hooks. They are essentially a band who understand the simple joy and beauty of a killer tune, led by a frontman who seems to mean every word he sings. They end with a storming and inspired hybrid of "I Saw 3 Ships'' and the Only Fools and Horses theme tune. I 've not seen European before but I can't wait to see them again.

Things turn a little more serious with PAMELA NUDE. They play the kind of torch song music forever destined to be described as "yearning" and "intense". However, like kindred spirits Oceansize, such clichéd adjectives do the band an injustice, since they are worth far more than this. What they perhaps lack in originality they make up for in skillful, heartfelt tunage and the sheer emotional impact of the singer's voice. And just because they sing about feelings and stuff doesn't mean they don't know how to have a laugh. Consequently the guitarist dons a halo, and the drummer a false beard for a surreal and scarily authentic festive Chris De Burgh cover.

DESOLATION ANGELS' chosen seasonal cover is a far more tender affair. There's not a dry eye in the house by the time the Angels end their set with a gorgeous, lilting adaptation of Silent Night. The rest of the set is as accomplished as ever with lush layers of minor chordage building their delicate fragile hearted sound, all topped off by a singer with a voice like, well, an Angel! How seasonally appropriate.

The only way far out sonic experimentalists DRIFT could be described as seasonally appropriate is if you were planning on spending the festive period in space. Their dark, insular electronic frequencies echo around the venue like a fucked up radio transmission from another galaxy. The effect is hypnotic, sometimes enchanting and nothing if not intriguing, with the alienation effect being enhanced even more by the fact that we can hardly see the strange silhouetted creatures producing the sound, prompting baffled comments from some audience members, such as - and I quote - "sounds pretty good but I can't be arsed watching nothing." I suppose that's one way of looking, or rather not looking at it.

Still, fear not for there's plenty to look at when THE OBSESSION storm the stage. Despite winning the prize for shoddiest Christmas cover of the day (a few hastily mumbled accapella lines of Little Donkey) thankfully the rest of the set is much more electric. Indeed it seems like the whole band have been charged up with several million volts of raw, sparkling energy before being unleashed on stage to give us all the biggest electric shock of our lives. The tunes sound as feisty and addictive as ever with proper ramalama chorus' aplenty in this short, sharp set. And as for spectacle, I can just about see Nick through the increasingly drunken haze before my eyes, crawling, climbing and fucking every available surface in Big Hands.

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, it is fair to say that by this point in the evening I am feeling a little intoxicated. But then so is Julian out of LOAFER and he's on stage, so that makes me feel a little better! Oh well, everyone knows the true spirit of Christmas is alcohol and Loafer (or in fact two thirds of Loafer and one third of Jackie O on drums) do an admirable job of stepping in at last minute to complete tonight's line up and entertain the merry masses. And entertained we are, with lots of big shiny Loafer tunes and a fine cover of "Lost in the Supermarket". Did someone say this band sound like The Clash?

And now there's only one thing left to say.... Jackie O! On come the bluesrawkpunkn'roll superstars for the final rock out of the night / year. Jackson does his best Elvis meets Mark E Smith on a rainy night in Vegas and we all put our hands in the air and dig the sleazy vibe. Then fall over. Well I do anyway.

What a night. Merrrie Chrishmaass everyone...



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