Wednesday, August 13, 2008
No Age / HEALTH @ The Scala, 11 August 2008
A Q&A about Monday's Upset! The Rhythm gig.
Q: What's so great about HEALTH?
A: Unsure. I could use the well-known 'music to be admired but not loved' cliche, but I'm not sure I even admire HEALTH's much feted debut album that much. It sounds to me like a collection of good ideas not very well put together. I consistently fail to understand the adulation heaped upon them. The remix album HEALTH//DISCO was so much more up my street and made the disparate parts hang together much more nicely.
Q: HEALTH are amazing live, yeah?
A: Still Unsure. I was expecting quite a lot from this set, but came away a little unsatisfied. I'd seen the LA noiseniks once before, last summer and quite enjoyed the madness, but maybe the fact that this was the first time I had been a gig since the birth of The Baby Growl coloured my judgement somewhat. Sure, there were a couple of really great moments at the Scala, most notably the point where everyone seemed to be drumming (don't ask me for track names silly), but most of the rest of it was just like the album - lots of sonic blasts and random screaming - with added on-stage energy. Two points in their favour though: 1) The drummer is an amazing powerhouse. Not subtle or complex, but boy can he hit 'em! 2) There was more on-stage camp than I was expecting, mainly in the tall figure of John Famiglietti. If you've seen them live, you'll know what I mean.
Q: How do you stage-dive from a low stage?
A: Climb onto the back of chair and fall backwards into the arms of your fans. Whilst playing guitar of course.
Q: How do you excite your fans without getting your gear trashed?
A: Can be tricky. The kids can get excited and storm the stage. This is the sort of thing that you're known for and would encourage. But it has its risks, like messing about with your guitar leads. It can cause problems, like stopping songs. But hey, it's punk rock.
Q: Do No Age live up to their fearsome live reputation?
A: Sort of. There were qualifying factors. First, I have a feeling that the gig might have been more thrilling had it been in a smaller venue, like Cargo or Bardens. But No Age have spent a lot of time playing London venues of that size and now their time has come to step up to the next level, which means places like The Scala. It's fine enough really, but the energy is obviously going to get dissipated more in a bigger space. Second, the sound was a bit rough to begin with. Now, with bands like No Age, that shouldn't really matter, but not hearing vocals is a bit of a problem. Still, the sound improved as the show progressed.
Q: So what's the No Age magic formula?
A: Punk pop energy. That's about it. On record, there's plenty of effects-drenched guitar bliss-outs, but live these are largely neglected in favour of straightforward fuzzed up two-minute power pop punk. Randy Randall's buzzing guitar, Dean Spunt's crashing drumming and shouted vocals and little messing about. Over the course of an hour in which they must have played most of their material from Weirdo Rippers and Nouns, the songs begin to sound a bit similar, but hey, it's a good song and when there's so much fun to be had, who's complaining?
Q: What next?
A: Bigger venues probably, which is not necessarily a good thing. Mind you, No Age do seem to have a bit of a bond with Upset! The Rhythm, so I don't see them running off in the direction of Live Nation any time soon. Despite the major label deal, Spunt and Randall's LA DIY roots still count for something.
mp3: HEALTH - Triceratops
mp3: HEALTH - Triceratops (Acid Girls RMX A)
mp3: No Age - Every Artist Has a Tragedy
mp3: No Age - Neck Escaper
Buy HEALTH and No Age albums from Rough Trade.
Video of No Age performing at the gig. More live action from HEALTH and (third band on the bill) Lovvers over at UTR's Youtube page.