“I’m John, he’s John and together we are John.” That’s the introductory pleasantries out of the way – now it’s time to get down to business. Which, in the case of this nigh-on-impossible-to-find-online duo, means thrashy punk played with the life-affirming, excitable-puppy enthusiasm of Japandroids and a commendable allergy to overcomplication. Imagine Royal Blood if they’d had their heads turned by Lightning Bolt rather than Muse and you’d be close.
When they last graced this stage, in support to local legends McLusky in December 2019, the Crystal Palace-based pair had recently released their second LP, Out Here On The Fringes. Two years on and their third, Nocturnal Manoeuvres, is about to drop. “You only wrote one album in lockdown?”, asks a cheeky punter. “There are only two of us – we don’t have that many ideas,” comes the reply. The heckler is then invited to join the band on the condition that he’s called John (he’s not), and I find myself speculating how they might sound with John Bonham, John Paul Jones, John Coltrane and Elton John also in their ranks.
A couple of the new tracks, especially album closer Non-Essential Hymn, slow the pace and thereby vary the angle of attack to good effect, but you can’t deny the delights of being battered by the more brutish Laszlo. John will never be a stadium rock band (indeed, they’ve got a song proclaiming as much): they belong in low-ceilinged sweat-pits like this, stirring up chaos and then splitting with no encore. Leave ‘em wanting more – either that or a long lie down in a darkened room with only whale song for company.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Thurs 9 Sept
words BEN WOOLHEAD photo PAUL GRACE
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