Wesley Gonzalez, formerly of Let’s Wrestle, claims to have assembled a stellar new live band – Steve Hillage of Gong, Neil Peart of Rush, Les Claypool of Primus and “Paul Gascoigne of Lindisfarne” – joining himself, “Greg Rusedski the tennis player.” Gonzalez-Rusedski has also channelled the demise of a relationship into his forthcoming third solo album Wax Limousine, showcased here at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach alongside material from its predecessor Appalling Human.
Tracks like Tried To Tell Me Something illustrate how Let’s Wrestle’s indie-punk has been left behind in favour of funk, disco-pop and yacht rock. Commanding the stage in much the same way as Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring, Gonzalez’s set concludes with Man Of The People, a tongue-in-cheek self-tribute both written and performed with headliners Young Knives.
“It’s so good to be back,” says Young Knives frontman Henry Dartnall on more than one occasion during the Cardiff gig – disconcerting from someone whose long hair, beard, robe and lack of shoes have him resembling like Jesus on day release from the cross. Anyone familiar with Young Knives from their first couple of albums may be more disconcerted still by some of the songs from comeback album Barbarians. The record’s in-your-face title track sets the tone, fuelled by disgust at humanity’s basest instincts; Society For Cutting Up Men, Sheep Tick and standout Swarm follow suit, unsettling in their aggression as well as their strangeness. The challenge of returning to stages with new material untested live has been helped by drummer Silke Blansjaar, also of Oxford bands Self Help and Candy Says, and who apparently turned up to her first practice with all of the songs already worked out.
While faith in Barbarians is in evidence, so too is a tentative willingness to revisit their late 00s flirtation with what constitutes success in indie terms. That yields fresh twists on fan favourites like Terra Firma and Turn Tail from 2008’s Superabundance, Dartnall’s brother The House Of Lords (aka Tom) temporarily leaving his electronic workstation to return to playing bass.
The evening wraps up with the even earlier Part Timer, from debut LP Voices Of Animals And Men, which takes a few of us right back to our first encounter with the brothers – round the corner at Cardiff Barfly in March 2006, when they used to dress like a sixth form chess team that had just discovered alcopops. We drift out onto Womanby Street reflecting on the fact that we’ve never been serenaded by a man wearing an illuminated car tyre around his neck before – and secure in the knowledge that Young Knives remain magnificently odd.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Wed 1 Dec
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD
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