The Moon Club, Cardiff, Sat 15 Feb
Threatmantics are probably the only contenders for best folk-punk-country band in Cardiff, but they’d be deserved winners anyway. Heddwyn Davies’ violin is subtly threaded in between the guitar and bass in some parts, and in others it’s a fuzzed-up scalpel, slicing through the rest of the instruments. Theirs is a post-punk anything-goes attitude to music, a defiance of genre that doesn’t feel affected.
I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy Brooklyn’s So So Glos because of their uncomplicated, straight-up rock‘n’roll, but by the end of the set I found myself really warming to them because of their uncomplicated, straight up rock‘n’roll. The band come on looking like the casting director’s idea of a motorcycle gang and loudly proclaim their belief in the mythic power of rock.
“To paraphrase Kurt Cobain, ‘The world will end when the kids stop caring about rock ’n’ roll,’” says vocalist/bassist Alex Levine. “Never!” comes the predictable cry from the back of the room. “Exactly!” says Levine. “Let’s prove them wrong.” The punters whoop and it’s only reading my notes later that I realise that Levine’s response makes no sense at all. Perhaps that’s the point he’s trying to make – r‘n’r doesn’t have to make sense, you just have to feel it. The So So Glos appear to be feeling it, and when they finish by asking the audience, “Do you think we could come back sometime?” the answer is unequivocal.
Ezra Furman arrives wearing a red velvet jacket and a skinny tie. Hunched over the microphone, he’s Elvis Costello as a croupier; Neil Hamburger cleaned up and fronting a barroom band. “The night is so fucking young. And there’s so many ways we can spoil it for you.” Furman specialises in between-song monologues which are endearingly self-deprecating. The audience eats this shit up and loves him for it. Later on, when he says “It’s great that you came you out for this kind of show. ‘Rock‘n’roll’, we called it in my youth,” it’s not clear whether he’s cocking a snook at bands with delusions of authenticity or at himself.
Furman and his band, the Boy-Friends, perform with an assurance that is magnetic. From the rolling indie of My Zero (the reaction this elicits suggests an actual hit rather than a few-weeks-old album track), to the 12/8 lilt of 50s-style ballad Bloodsucking Whore, whole genres are encapsulated within single songs. Here is a recapitulation of rock history that is not burdened with a tedious reverence, nor smirking at its own cleverness.
The set finishes but it’s clear that no-one’s leaving without an encore. Furman returns without the band, with an acoustic guitar, singing Cherry Lane. It’s a beautiful, tender song about the kind of loneliness you find in an Edward Hopper painting, and it’s delivered with a touching earnestness. Furman’s voice is a thing of wonder, a cracked whine that wraps itself around his clever, funny, caustic lyrics. After that he’s gone, and no matter how much the audience whoop and cheer and stamp their feet he’s not coming back.
words DAVID GRIFFITHS photo KEVIN PICK