24th January | Exchange
Photos: Rowan Allen
The news that breaks shortly after the doors open tonight at The Exchange can’t help but have an impact on the bands involved and the crowd that have arrived to watch one of the UK’s most exciting new propositions. The announcement of the passing of Mark E. Smith ripples slowly and strikingly through the quickly-filling room as Repo-Man take to the stage; having only just heard the news themselves, they are evidently and understandably finding it hard to process. It’s commendable to the attitude of the musicians involved and those in attendance that, without admission or consideration, everything sounds a little bit more powerful tonight – a bit brasher, a bit more animated, just as Mark delivered staunchly and liberatingly for 42 years of his life. It’s telling that DUDS go on to deliver one of the early sets of the year on this very occasion.
Repo-Man tear into an expressive and comprehensive set, one that explores the gritty, improvisational dimension to their approach and they do so with rasping and technical composure. Their music is focused in an off-kilter fashion, delivering sharp guitar scrawl, the surprisingly melodic bass control of Anthony Brown and Bojak, bound together by their vociferous and incensed mouthpiece. He in particular brandishes the very striking elements of their aesthetic, biting into words as they spill from his mouth with vehemence and a caustic snarl. ‘Oh Cecil’, in particular, cracks the hardest; the sudden surge from simmering disquiet into sudden discordance is fantastically impactful.
The Jelas are always a tentatively diverse group, with constantly progressive foundations. Tracks like ‘Library to Library’ exhibit the brightest sentiment of their music, while also highlighting the wonderful vocal synchronisation they possess live throughout. The trio especially achieve their aesthetic appeal through their impressively compelling songwriting, never dismissing the impact of melody, when they can flit through a variety of slightly unconventional passages and make it sound utterly captivating. It’s a much more focused performance than expected from them, while losing none of their spontaneous creativity.
DUDS are simply one of the most exciting and unequivocally rewarding live bands to have recently come out of the UK. Their 45-minute set couldn’t feel shorter if it tried, their penchant for short, sharp attacks that drive and dance working effortlessly in a set we wished lasted for hours. Touring in their full seven-piece formation, the scale of their sound is truly felt within such a context. The percussion and drums snap keenly, lead guitar flits and searches within the rhythms at play and brass thrums wealthily amongst the wiry and distinctive sound they have crafted. There’s a worry that the songs could blur into one long improvisational set, but with DUDS that’s quite impossible, due to just how strong their melody writing is. ‘Elastic Feel’ is an out-of-control ruckus, band and crowd dancing voluntarily together in such an interactive and enigmatic display. The swap of instruments mid-set simply motivates the idea of consistent development and possibility, each member singularly adept while working as a coherent whole. Live, what makes DUDS stand out profoundly from other bands of this particular ilk is their clarity in ferocity, ‘Reward Indifference’ and ‘No Remark’ in particular finding the feet of their crowd and forcing them into fluctuation with effortless mechanism.
It would be a fascinating watch for a neutral, but from an advocate of the group’s perspective it is revelry. DUDS will take this to the festivals, so don’t be surprised if they define your summer.