Thursday, June 03, 2010

This Is Not Le Weekend, Part Two: Peter Parker and The Sexual Objects, Tolbooth, Stirling, 29th May

The merchandise stall was the preserve of the last two bands on Saturday’s bill. At first glance it looked more like Peter Parker’s table, with their free button badges and 7" singles – one all to themselves (‘Swallow the Rockets’), and one split with The Sexual Objects (‘Pretty Living’). But there were some clear A4 folders too, containing four sleeveless 7"s (including the Objects’ otherwise unavailable ‘Full Penetration’), a couple of CDs, and a fanzine in a choice of light green or pink, proclaiming at the front: ‘The Creeping Bent organisation salutes the written word of our favourite oracle, Tangents / Unpopular Culture, and in particular their Fifty Thousand Reasons series, reprinted here with their kind permission.’ There follow John Carney’s words on Davy Henderson, Alan Horne and Dave McCullough. What a fabulous reminder of what’s important. Wasn’t there supposed to be a book of this series coming out? It should do so. Of course I felt a special thrill for having once been so ludicrously uninformed on the subject of the Fire Engines at the same website a few (six!) years ago. But I’m catching up, slowly.

This was my third time in the presence of The Sexual Objects. The first time, they began so unpromisingly with a round of slow rambunctious harmony singing before deigning to launch into their good stuff. Davy’s not-quite-American drawl sleazing nonsense the while. The parallel between that noise and Vic Godard’s messier recordings is only just dawning on me – the song title ‘Outta Place Again’ is a clue, referencing ‘Out Of Touch / View’, it is so strange to hear that sound shorn of its harsh London inflexions. My second time seeing them they supported Vic, and we missed the beginning of the set. But maybe they are a band best burst in upon in flagrante, in the white heat of their anti-passion. Davy’s drawls were great on that occasion, perving on ‘the beautiful girls of Peter Parker’, with whom they were about to release ‘Outta Place Again’ on that split single, and time-stretching the legendarily short Fire Engines live show, going on about ‘23 minutes seems like 23 freaking hours’ in reference to the Objects’ set length, and then ‘23 seconds becomes 23 years’ in reference to God knows what. There’s a playful arrogance to the man’s every move which can be irritating until you tune in and start to agree with it. In his article John Carney says, ‘For Davy though the Captain and his Magic Band were the thing, like say Love were for Michael Head. We’ve all got our touchstones.’ We do, but how rare and how brilliant is it to find a new one?

Peter Parker were fun, as last time. Roz’s cherry bob was in fine condition, and Jane was fabulously sarky. ‘Last time I was in Stirling I saw R.E.M.’, said Roz between songs. ‘Don’t tell jokes’ was the instant put down. Later on someone heckled something about women and apes, which Jane picked up: ‘What’s that? Women like apes? We have to, otherwise we’d be lesbians.’ [laughter] ‘Thanks for setting me up, doll.’ Then they ripped into Jeremy, stage left, for it being his 42nd birthday. ‘You wouldn’t think it, would you?’ ‘42, eh?’, etc., etc., for minutes on end. Jeremy stood stock still, moving not a facial muscle. You’d imagine he must be used to it. The music was full bodied jerky coquette pop, with one tune nicked wholesale from Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex’, and I was thinking maybe it didn’t quite hit home until the last song, ‘Once In A Lifetime’, with its two note nagging guitar married to a varispeed disco beat. Disco finales are great – see also The Lodger’s ‘Good Old Days’ set climax at Mono a month ago.

Back to that new touchstone. Whose band opened with a lurching swampy instrumental number like a stationary car revving in the rain, its wipers juddering unevenly as bulbs shoot from its snoot. Yeah. Davy’s head swaying lopsidedly and looking as always like he was trying to swallow his red Fender Jaguar directly through his stomach wall. I remember those mannerisms from that otherwise under-appreciated Fire Engines show. Giving the lie to the band name, this is not cock rock, it is visceral. They’re back on the harmonies for the second song and these are as bad as before, but this time I’m reminded of what Matt Groening said about Trout Mask Replica: ‘It’s the worst dreck... But they want it to sound that way.’ The out of tune male voice choir bit is the moat you have to cross before being admitted to the castle of ‘Merrie England’ et al. (I don’t know or care how ironic that is, but it is nice to have a Scottish singer singing about England in the run up to this dreadful World Cup season that is about to hit). The remainder of the set was thunderous. Just as it got into its stride I couldn’t help but peek at a text message someone in front of me was composing: ‘It’s a bit disappointing actually. There is no Jiz’. Which almost topped the single entendre of Davy’s announcement that The Sexual Objects’ album is to be called Cucumber. In the unlikely event that they haven’t already thought of this, Chris said he’d like the cover to be like The Velvet Underground & Nico except with a cucumber instead of a banana, please.

What did it sound like? I just stumbled across A Jumped Up Pantry Boy’s argument for Station to Station, which I can sort of see, but also a more down-to-earth Television for the vocals, Beefheart of course for the logic, and 1978 Subway Sect for the falling down stairs whilst playing aspect. Compared to The Nectarine No. 9, whose Received Transgressed & Transmitted I have recently been lapping up, they are a move from eclectic dub strangeness to relatively more straightforward rock, but there is a corresponding jump in energy which makes them irresistible. A few feet to the left of me, a man danced like he was dislocating his right arm with each gyration, lost in the elasticity of a sound which suggested everything. It’s art rock, but it pulls your body apart as much as it does your mind.

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