A Factory Night
Biting Tongues + Section XXVBiting Tongues
Following on from the BR ticket salesman, we have a scraggly looking roadie and someone’s dad onstage fiddling about with the kit. Hang on! There’s more of them! Bugger me – it’s the entire BR track maintenance crew! One of them, who reminds me of the guy who used to stand outside the Student Union building selling Socialist Worker, steps up to the mike and announces: “We are Biting Tongues”.
Geez! – imagine something sort of jazz-funk-noise-fusion thing with a bit of a coldwave flavour to it. Think shoegaze with brass. Think Talking Heads with the Roxy Music taken out. Think The Happy Mondays on the wrong drugs. No – you don’t have time to think – because this music demands (or rather requisitions) your total attention.
The first thing that strikes me is that they are brilliant musicians – certainly Graham Massey (Cornet, guitar and later alto sax) and Howard Walmsley (Tenor Sax & Synth) are a match for anyone I’ve ever seen. Secondly, they’re tight as a gnat’s chuff. And have in Phil Kirby (I think) a drummer who combines creation and destruction beyond the limits of anything I’d previously imagined possible. I mean this guy can really turn a drumkit into an instrument. Thirdly, at times they are all off on a trip all at once. Not like sedate jazz where each virtuoso steps up for a solo, it’s more like wahey – Let’s all solo all at once and make it sound like World War III. Without even a hint of missing a beat.
All that going on behind Ken Holling’s vocals – nay – exhortations! As his vocal technique and content undoubtedly owes more to the age of great dictators than it does to modern day wimps like Tony Blair or Robbie Williams. Not that I took any notes on the content – probably for the same reason as they don’t give you a running commentary on a rollercoaster – there’s just too much else going on.
Did I mention the bass player? Yes, he was very good.
Oh and boy, do they look like they’re having a ball onstage. Big grins all round, playful interaction, I’d guess at a fair amount of improvisation, but these guys are delighted to be here in Brussels and are delighted to be performing in front of an audience, and it is pretty infectious.
I got chance to have a chat with Graham and Howard afterwards. The band live all over the place, so rehearsals are difficult. In fact, for this gig (they’ve been doing one a year for the past 4 years), they just all turned up here and performed with no prior rehearsal.
They apparently have a fairly weak claim to being a proper Factory band, as a lot of stuff had been released on a different label (I’d never heard of Biting Tongues before tonight). “Not exactly easy listening” I says to Graham, who quite agreed, and suggested I tried to imagine how it went down ¼ of a century ago. Indeed, even after nearly 30 years of listening to music, Biting Tongues is not something that goes in one ear and out of the other – it stays somewhat uncomfortably stuck and rattles about in your head vomiting out noise and ideas. The stuff they have on MySpace is equally challenging, though different in its effect - a bit more trippy, and I’m far more conscious of the importance of the lyrics. Really pioneering stuff!
Top anecdotes. It would seem that Tony Wilson’s coffin really did have the very last Factory number (no - it’s not a joke – that’s exactly what he would have wanted), and there were some of the original Vikings present tonight (unofficial fanclub, but they were also attributed a factory number). It was generally agreed that Hookey had lost all semblance of credibility though. Not because he was absent for a Manchester Against Cancer gig, but he was playing something where Snow Patrol (cringe) were headlining.
I made a note – Factory = not what you what to listen to – More a matter of what you ought to listen to.
23:45, and we’re running just a little bit on the late side. Section 25 did not inspire me to write an awful lot. That’s despite a new lineup and a better, more consistant and more confident performance than I’d seen last year at the Ancienne Belgique with Peter Hook.
There’s a new member on keyboards & backing vocals, even taking over the lead for one song, it would seem that it’s no other than a 3rd member of the Cassidy Clan, daughter Bethany. Apparently her 1st ever live appearance with the band. I can only give Larry full credit for giving the lass a proper education – it was a recurring topic of conversation all night – how do you get the kids interested in something other than chart crap.
I’m not going to write stuff just for the sake of it – I’ve already seen some other reviews posted, so please go & look there. Let’s face it – Biting Tongues were one very tough act to follow. As far as I’m concerned, Section25 played Friendly Fires and Dirty Disco, and that kept me happy, but after Biting Tongues, I was feeling somewhat shell-shocked, and SXXV just passed me by as a joyous musical interlude, and a bit of a breather in expectation of what still had to come.