Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thank Holy Fuck it's Friday


I'm at the Zodiac, it's a Friday night and it's not long gone 8pm - which can mean only one thing: here come the support band, to a smattering of early birds.

Kelpe are in many respects like a credit crunch version of the headliners, a scaled-down twosome dealing in rhythmic electronica. In truth, they're just Kel McKeown accompanied by inventive drummer Chris Walmsley, a gun for hire who's also performed with Psapp and Voice Of The Seven Woods amongst others.

As fluffers for the crowd they do a reasonable job, but not much more than that, McKeown's fondness for stuttering synth gradually becoming more and more of an irritation, a stylistic crutch on which the songs seem to continually fall back.

Tell people you're going to see a band called Holy Fuck and watch them recoil in disgust. In many ways the name is unfortunate and does them a significant disservice, instantly conjuring up as it might visions of satanic metallers reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards through a mouthful of blood, when that could hardly be further from the truth. Still, there's a small measure of childish satisfaction in knowing that their presence might be upsetting Delirious?, who are themselves playing in the Zodiac's downstairs room...

But less about dreary worship music, and more about a band who don't just understand and write about euphoria, but actually make you FEEL it. A band who were one of the revelations of my Glastonbury. Just how good would they be now I'm familiar with their latest album, LP? Answer: very good indeed.

Not so long ago the received wisdom was that, like Amy Winehouse and a few bottles of Merlot, dance and rock couldn't be mixed without the consequences being very messy indeed. It took LCD Soundsystem to convince me, certainly, that a re-examination of that assumption might be in order. Since then, it's been comprehensively killed off by a few bands who have run with James Murphy's concept of making people move to repetitive rhythms played largely with live instruments: !!!, for a start, and now the New Yorkers' pals and former tourmates from across the Canadian border.

Clustered together almost on top of each other on stage, Holy Fuck consist of founder members and electronics wizards Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh, armed with a battalion of keyboards as well as a 35mm film synchroniser, plus a live rhythm section - and an amazingly tight one at that. There are no guitars, and the few vocals there are are so heavily processed and distorted as to become just another part of the sonic collage. They may have their roots in avant-garde experimental noise, but their music - lithe, sinuous, joyous - is far more accessible and animating than that might suggest.

While one punter near me, clearly not familiar with the usual uptight reserve of Oxford crowds, might see fit to admonish those around him by shouting "Come on you wankers", for the majority of the audience remaining statuesque is simply not an option. That the Torontonians would receive an enthusiastic welcome here could have been expected - they're in the midst of a tour with Oxford band du jour Foals (with whom they've produced a split 12" covering each other's songs, on sale at the merch stall), they've remixed Radiohead's 'Nude', and Yorke's crew repaid the favour by playing Holy Fuck's 'Lovely Allen' with a glowing endorsement when they stood in for Zane Lowe on Radio 1 back in January.

Most of LP sees the light of night, but the best being saved for last - a splendid closing trio of 'Royal Gregory', brilliant album opener 'Super Inuit' and 'Lovely Allen', the latter arms-in-the-air anthemic with its 'Hoppipolla'-esque piano line.

This being a Friday night, they're off stage by ten and there's no encore. But no worry - as a vindication of their choice of moniker, it's been impeccable.

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