PART CHIMP + GREY HAIRS + TWISTED ANKLE | LIVE REVIEW
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Thu 27 Apr
In the build-up to tonight’s show, former Future Of The Left man Jimmy Watkins took to Twitter to urge punters to arrive early enough to catch the opening act. More fool anyone who saw but failed to heed that advice.
Twisted Ankle – a “jazz trio for the deaf”, as their Bandcamp page has it – are little short of a revelation: aggressive, innovative, theatrical (witness the staged internecine squabble about politics), brilliantly silly (the song ostensibly about mistaking an ambulance for an ice cream van) and a real spectacle (particularly the gangly bassist, a rubberised surrealist caricature of Ian Curtis, whose array of moves means he seems at perpetual risk of tangling himself up in leads or tying his legs in knots).
If some of Twisted Ankle’s subject matter – the patriarchy, “the woes of being a cool man”, iron-pumping gym addicts – suggests an affinity with Pissed Jeans and their obsession with modern masculinity in crisis, then Nottingham’s Grey Hairs go a step further and actually sound like the Pennsylvanian speaker-destroyers, distilling post-hardcore, punk and hard rock into a similarly potent brew.
In vocalist James, these thirtysomething veterans of countless other bands (hence the name) have their very own Matt Korvette: a magnetic frontman who hangs onto the mic stand with the desperation of a sailor clinging to a mast in the midst of a stormy sea, eyeballs rolling back in his head, convulsing as though enduring an exorcism. Grey Hairs’ debut LP was called Colossal Downer and this year’s follow-up is named Serious Business. Only one of those epithets is applicable to this performance.
In the current climate, with a noise abatement order hanging over Fuel, and Womanby Street’s existence as a vibrant hub of the local music scene under threat, inviting Part Chimp to play at Clwb is either foolish or provocative. Since forming from the ashes of Ligament in 2000 (save for a period of uncharacteristic silence between 2011 and 2016), the headliners have been hell-bent on making an almighty noise/sludge racket of such volume that it makes your vision go blurry and leaves you not knowing which way is up.
The four-man breach of the peace are touring in support of their fourth album, handily titled IV and released on Mogwai’s Rock Action label. Not much has changed since 2009’s Thriller on the evidence of the likes of Bad Boon and Namekuji. The latter, which they’ve said is about “a mythogical Japanese slug-beast that invades and eats people’s dreams,” sounds like descending into the depths of hell in lead boots. Advancing years have clearly neither dulled their appetite for waging war on eardrums nor robbed them of their sense of humour – Bouncer’s Dream reimagines Joe Mangel’s dog’s infamous reverie as a nightmare.
When one of Tim Cedar’s guitar strings snaps barely two seconds into the opening song, you have to wonder whether a local nimby has nipped in to sabotage the set. In truth, though, the killjoys should be grateful for Part Chimp’s visit. After all, they appear to share the same ultimate objective: razing venerable gig venues to the ground and reducing Womanby Street to a desolate, eerily quiet cultural wasteland populated only by dazed, dead-eyed zombies. Given another 10 minutes, Part Chimp might just have achieved it.
words BEN WOOLHEAD photo NOEL GARDNER