Friday, May 29, 2015

Drum's not dead


I spend the duration of Telegrapher's set mentally placing them squarely in the city's fine recent lineage of brutal rock duos - Winnebago Deal, Phantom Theory, 50ft Panda - only to overhear afterwards that they're actually normally a threesome and that the guitarist is missing due to an injured hand. If they can make this much of an impression when they're a man down, wielding sludgy bass riffs so meaty they're unsuitable for vegetarians, you can only salivate at the thought of what they might do when at full strength.

Sounding like an act straight out of the club listings guide on Chris Morris' Bluejam, DJ Young Conservative has - the merch table reveals - released both a split EP with the marvellously named Lonnie Bangford and an album boasting death metal-style artwork. All of which hardly prepares you for a strangely sinister and curiously compelling reinterpretation of prime 80s Pet Shop Boys by Vangelis and Public Service Broadcasting. He's not much to look at on stage, pressing keys and tinkering with radio static, but has the distinction of being a Tory I'd actually vote for.

When headliners Sly & The Family Drone start setting up, it soon becomes apparent why the Wheatsheaf has felt even cosier than normal. Drums, pedals and electronic gizmos, previously shrouded to the sides of the room, are wheeled into the centre of the floor, which is soon carpeted with a tangle of wires. The trio are a health and safety officer's nightmare, as well as a major headache for 'Sheaf soundman Joal Shearing.

A set that begins with the Walker Brothers' 'Make It Easy On Yourself' wafting gently through the PA and an invitation to cluster around close (they don't so much break the fourth wall as completely demolish it) ends in a chaotic racket, the communal bashing of countless drums and a short person with a paunch who's wearing only his pants while screaming his lungs out. Some might say that, for the father of a two-year-old, this climax is something of a busman's holiday. Not me, though - I'm too busy smiling and marvelling at the drummer's ability to keep all of his accomplices for the evening (including local noisenik Lee Riley) vaguely in time, despite himself being distracted by a bloke who looks like Frank Zappa continually waving a camera on a selfie stick in his face.

London-based promoters Burn The Jukebox are relatively new to Oxford, but on this evidence they're welcome back any time.

(This review appears in the June issue of Nightshift.)

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