Saturday, March 26, 2016

Starr quality


For a band boasting an excellent ditty about living your life according to the contents of fortune cookies, fate has dealt Kancho! a bad hand tonight, forced to open proceedings to a near-empty room. It means that the article offering advice on how to better engage with your audience that Mike Chilcott (bass/shouting) recently read online is largely redundant - though such advice is frankly unnecessary anyway when you sound like Rage Against The Machine and In Utero filtered through Lightning Bolt and have a drummer intent on showcasing an impressive repertoire of sex faces.

Even if you'd never read about or seen The Neon Violets before, you'd be able to hazard a guess as to what they might be like before they play a note simply by virtue of the onstage props that act as visual clues: patterned sheet, chimes, skull on amp. Sure enough, a game of psychedelic/stoner rock bingo ensues.

The trio are perhaps most reminiscent of The Warlocks, but also occasionally The Doors, had they got lost on their peyote-taking trip out in the desert and stumbled across one of Josh Homme's generator sessions taking place on the set of a spaghetti western. Entertaining enough, but they're arguably guilty of both taking themselves just a bit too seriously and not properly cutting loose until the last song.

After two British bands desperately trying to sound American come Ringo Deathstarr, an American band desperately trying to sound British. With that choice of name, they hardly seemed destined for longevity - more a stellar debut EP (tick), a decent first album (tick) and an underwhelming follow-up full-length (tick) before being dropped and disbanding - but six years have now elapsed since their first visit to Oxford and they're still going strong.

Opening with 'Starssha' from that eponymous debut EP might perhaps be a strategy calculated to underline how far they've come in the intervening period, but in truth the band's dilemma remains much the same as it was when they pitched up at the Jericho Tavern in 2009: how to pay homage to their heroes (principally My Bloody Valentine and - as Elliott Fraizer's curly William Reid-esque mop-top would suggest - The Jesus & Mary Chain) while simultaneously establishing their own identity.

The solution, it appears, is to attack their material with punky vigour rather than to deliver it in the statuesque style synonymous with shoegaze, and on occasion to dip a toe in hard rock waters to unexpected but not entirely unwelcome effect.

Allotted an hour and a quarter, their set barely scrapes 50 minutes. There are no complaints, though; the swoonsome 'Summertime', which forms a single-song encore, hints at an awareness that melody and tunefulness can only be obliterated for so long (albeit to rousing effect) before tinnitus and exhaustion set in.

(This review originally appeared in the April edition of Nightshift.)

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