Hey Colossus Live In Birmingham

Hey Colossus, Bruxa Maria, Aja, Rainbow Grave, Squalor Fan, HAQ123               Wagon & Horses, Sep 29


Ack! Ack! Ack! get an eyeful of that fantastic ‘monsters of rock’ promo artwork would you. A couple of local promoters combine to put this juggernaut dream bill together, a loud and joyous farewell kiss to summer, and it does not disappoint. Squeezing this much greatness in takes both stages and an early kick off but there’s already a decent size crowd and a good atmosphere for the hot sound of young Birmingham – HAQ 123. Having made their debut and charmed us all on the imposingly big stage at Supersonic at the start of the summer, it’s fair to say they’ve got better already. The first thing anyone’s going to tell you about HAQ is that two thirds of the band are little kids. Warm encouraging smiles and appreciative nods spread through the crowd and there’s a small group of fans their own age down the front. It’s brilliant, life affirming stuff. They’re better than “hey, not bad for kids” and thankfully the furthest thing imaginable from over competent, hot-housed, stage school brats. Their songs are like mysterious kids’ drawings you can’t quite decipher so you ask and get a great story that rests on its own curious logic and leaves you both more impressed and more confused. Because the mental codes and structures you have for this stuff don’t apply here. So it goes with their songs, open ended and rough at the edges, peopled by strange characters. Dave, the ‘grown up’ one on bass (and tonight sporting a pair of flared jeans so capacious he might have smuggled the rest of the band in under them) does an admirable job sitting back and letting them lead it while making no concessions to their tender ears with his filthy sludgy riffs. Only their teenage years can stop them now.

Tough act to follow. In a more traditional opening act scenario I miss most of Squalor Fan in the bar but do make it upstairs before they’re done. One plays bass and grins another mans the table full of electronic whizz-bang gadgets. There’s some drones and some beats, some vocal samples and all sorts. I’m briefly minded of ‘Love Missile F1-11’, I’m briefly minded of both Suicide and OMD at different points. In some ways not all that far to travel but your mileage may vary.

Back downstairs it’s party time with Rainbow Grave, truly the most grindingly bleak and yet hilarious band you could hope for. Rainbow Grave’s relentless churning riffs of doom are a world where even working yourself into a rage about the appalling state of things and/or your own pitiful soul is just one more embarrassing charade, one more tired and stupid pose of disaffection. It’s thirty years now since Bullen made his name with Napalm Death’s ‘Scum’, even then sensing it was a dead end he couldn’t be bothered to walk down. Now he wears the futility of it all about his shoulders like a practical yet comfy car coat and dances an obscenely mocking parody of existential pain. Figuratively speaking of course, he actually plays guitar and yells at us. Previously the dark humour that undercuts the brutal unpleasantness of the lyrics gave an impression the band was not entirely a serious undertaking but tonight completely dispels that idea. Like their idols HAQ123 it’s clear Rainbow Grave have been practicing, they’re harder, meaner, uglier than before. They’ve even been making records. Although I suspect they’ll hate you for buying them.

Keeping things fierce Bruxa Maria come out swinging. Once again in a different configuration but still ruthlessly drilled and almost suffocatingly intense. Matt Cargill’s electro noise contributions are clearer in the mix tonight which is all to the good. Bruxa pull noise rock, hardcore, sludge and more into songs that twist and turn in unexpected ways but do it with such an impressive lightness of touch you never see the join. That said, the pounding bass in ‘Human Condition’ shows its roots in Gill’s love of techno a little more than it ever has before. They may have played new stuff, I’m not sure, with Bruxa I recognise riffs and sections more than songs and they do seem to run together into one gigantic beast laying waste like Godzilla stamping on your pathetic matchstick houses. Monster. You should have their album ‘Human Condition’ because it’s A) great and B) cheap as chips – but if not here’s a free download tune that came close to the end of the set and was crushing.

Although it’s fairly warm out for the end of September AJA is doing her thing in the more comfortable confines of upstairs because no-one wants to roll around in their pants on the cobbles of a pub courtyard. I suppose I expected something similar to the performance at Supernormal. Not just from her but from the audience too and ultimately that just isn’t the case tonight. It’s confrontational and feral and it does sort of make the rock bands playing in the courtyard seem quite conventional but I think she loses the battle this time. I’m over in the corner with my mate who’s working one of the strobe lights so perhaps not in the best place to judge but she doesn’t seem to succeed in binding the crowd together to exorcise the pain, eliciting more of a typically brummie shrug of “steady there, love”. A couple of people later admit that they enjoyed it to start with but felt it descended into something voyeuristic that made them uncomfortable. That’s obviously a risk with this sort of performance, it may even be partly the point of it and I’m certain she’s played to smaller less appreciative audiences numerous times but it was disappointing. It has to be an exhausting and utterly draining thing to actually do, and ultimately unsustainable. Maybe in ten years time she’ll be onstage in elaborate headgear doing something more measured and we’ll cast our fading minds nostalgically back to when she used to scream in her pants and climb the pa.

The night has already proved a runaway success but the best is yet to come. It is an absolute joy to see Hey Colossus again. Tiny doubts that they might, despite the evidence of ‘The Guillotine’, miss Jonathon’s sparkling guitar parts or that maybe the full force noise of the evening’s entertainments thus far might make their shorter, more melodic songs, that now even have audible lyrics, seem a bit timid are immediately and comprehensively steamrollered by ‘Honest To God’ and a massive, rattling ‘Back In The Room’. They are ferociously loud and exhilarating, a tremendous amount of love flows back towards the stage. Sykes is in boisterous form, even managing to break a mic stand. As always I’m struck by how the separate parts combine with such elegance to build the colossus and set it stomping around the room. There’s complexity and richness in the texture of their roaring noise. The set draws heavily on ‘The Guillotine’ but stretches back across the last few remarkable albums (not quite back to the recently re-issued ‘Happy Birthday’), finishing on a punishingly great ‘Okktave Dokktor’ by the end of which I’m convinced it’s the best show I’ve ever seen them play. Honest To God.

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Calenture

Yeah, yeah I know “where’s the Supernormal write up?” So much things, so little time. Have a little Hey Colossusness baby. This is my favourite tune off ‘The Guillotine’ and they’ve made a little stolen footage video for it full of disturbed nuns and strange goins on. I’m firmly of the opinion that the passing resemblance of the self flagellating monk to their singer Sykes can’t have been a coincidence either. Calenture is a tropical fever suffered by sailors, often accompanied by hallucinations in which they would apparently picture the sea as lush green meadows and wish to dive overboard into them. ‘Calenture boy, why not just jump?’. Earlier today the HC boys unearthed this little promo clip from the original release of ‘Happy Birthday’ to celebrate it’s final arrival on the vinyls. In it nonchalant cows and Joe’s then young kids splash about in Somerset’s flooded fields as the grassy meadows become a sea. It seems unlikely that calenture affects cows.

 

 

May Colossus, Yay Colossus

on the evidence of this new video clip it looks like the boys had quite a bank holiday. Nonetheless amidst all the woodland capering there’s a stern warning to us all, and that is – snorting unicorn glitter leads to morris dancing and death. Just Say No kids. New album ‘The Guillotine’ arrives next month when every Englishman will be looking around and wishing we had a strong and stable Guillotine. If you want you can preorder it by clicking on this cover image.

 

Road Scholars

pic - Samantha Hayley

 

Even a mighty colossus needs to take a break for a cuppa and a fistful of biscuits every now and then. Having damn near herniated themselves delivering the two best records of their career in 2015 this year has been a pretty quiet one by comparison for our most beloved noise rock gentlemen. Not any longer, a heartening flurry of activity is picking up. By way of some kind of teaser/gift because they love us they put a couple of versions of tunes from ‘Eurogrumble’ on the bandcamps there. Recorded live in the studio during the making of the last album you can download them spiky little beasts on the pay what you will plan. Say ‘Thank You Hey Colossuses! It’s true you Are Nice Men’. Next month a retrospective ‘best of’ the first 10 years sees a vinyl release on MIE. ‘Dedicated to Uri Klangers’ first appeared as a joke/cassette for their 10th anniversary show and contains tracks from all the records up to ‘Cuckoo Live Like Cuckoo’ including the mammoth, mythic and amusingly entitled ‘Witchfinder General Hospital’.

Follow the band’s giddying journey all the way from its sludgy noise splatter infancy up to pristine pop smash ‘Hot Grave’ and the inevitable birth of boy band alter ego Henry Blacker. It’s a tale as thrilling as Jersey Boys and yet as old as time. Probably. A lot of this stuff is hard to find now, (and most of what’s left has been flying out of their webstore) so it looks like being a handy treat. Some of it I’ve never heard, some of it I can’t even track down and some I’m digging back out for a listen. Can’t find my copy of ‘RRR’ which is annoying me today. Seems the second edition of Cuckoo…’ with the groovy 3D sleeve is about sold out. In a weak moment I made my black and white one 3D with the highlighter pens off Miss Hoover’s desk. The results were disappointing I confess. In even more up to the minute news they’ve been off touring Europe while we’re still allowed over there and a new record is due in spring. rocking good news.

their excellent website

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cultural vandalism

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Still a whole hundred days until christmas but here’s a lovely little present and perhaps a little help with writing that all important letter to Santa in the shape of a free download comp from the wonderful Riot Season. Unless you’re some kind of desperate completist obsessive who already has all these records you’re going to want this. Filthy, rockin’ sludge in a variety of flavours from the last couple of years of their releases and a couple of old gems from Hey Colossus and Dethscalator. Shit $ Shine channel Big Stick on their latest effort, there’s raw noisy punk rock from Workin’ Man Noise Unit and Tropical Trash, huge psych slabs from Blown Out, Khunnt and Sloath, the ridiculously great Bad Guys, Henry Blacker,  Menimals, Early Mammal, Dodge Meteor, Mainliner + the furious Art Of Burning Water. The whole thing stinks of diesel and coats your hands in something hard to wash off. Bargain.

we should thank Revolt Of The Apes for this great Hey Colossus tech schematic…

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Astronaut Music From Bedlam

Finally got round to putting together a new Panic & Carousels column for Narc – you can read it here.

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This one has Woven Skull, Girl Sweat, Sly & The Family Drone, drcarlsonalbion, Hey Colossus, Melvins, Girl Sweat, Boris, Concrete Tapes, St James Infirmary, Khünnt, Peter J Smyth and Cluster.

As usual, it comes with a mix – stuff that’s mentioned in the column, stuff I should have mentioned, and a few things just because they fit.

Here’s the tracklisting:

  1. Portland Vows – Free Milk
  2. Melvins – War Pussy
  3. Boris – Heavy Rock Industry
  4. Hey Colossus – Wired, Brainless (version)
  5. drcarlsonalbion – She Moved Thru’ The Fair
  6. Blown Out – Gravitic Imploder
  7. Girl Sweat – The Floor Swallowed Me Whole
  8. Nisennenmondai – #3
  9. Ex-Easter Island Head – Ten Bells
  10. Acidliner – Home
  11. Four Tet – Pockets (Minimal Version)
  12. Hoofus & IX Tab – The Ploughs & The Machines
  13. Preston Field Audio – Café Daydream
  14. The Comet Is Coming – Space Carnival
  15. Kamasi Washington – Final Thought
  16. Swans – Finally, Peace
  17. Steve Gunn – Park Bench Smile
  18. St James Infirmary – All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
  19. Peter J Smyth – It’s Gone
  20. Brian Eno – Fickle Sun (III): I’m Set Free
  21. Preston Field Audio – Brass
  22. Cluster & Eno – Base Apex
  23. Sly & The Family Drone – Your Mum’s A Provincial Rock Club
  24. Woven Skull – The Forest Of Everything II

Losing Control…

Right then pop pickers, just about our favourite band around here (not that we keep track) Hey Colossus have a new thing available! wooh, and indeed, hoo! Splendid new one ‘All The Humans’ could easily have come off either of the last two albums and is a hypnotic, psych/drone lurch that takes a few listens to really get its hooks in you. Now I can’t stop listening to it. No idea what Sykes is on about, keeping warm in hospital and so on, but then that’s about standard. I know controlled brevity is their current thing but they could definitely stretch this out to twice the length live and it’d be great. There’s the nice video for it above, looks like sparklers at the start. Anyone remember MBV having that film of sparklers behind them onstage? That was damn cool. There’s a couple of alternate versions of tunes from ‘In Black & Gold’ on the B side in the traditional fashion. Released in honour of another live campaign out on the european mainland. Sending all our best bands to the EU and what do we get in return eh? Someone should alert the Brexit loons. It’s available as one of those frustratingly handsome but impractical lumps of dead media, the cassingle. Or for a reasonable pound a track download, out friday, preorder on their bandcamp

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