Image: Workin’ Man Noise Unit & Lower Slaughter
The superb bill (the last night of the No Sleep Till Alton Towers tour) and atypically rammed Head Of Steam tonight suggest that if this was Box Records music industry mogul Matt Baty’s first gig as a promoter, he’s got the magic touch. Haikai No Ku opened in typically bleak but affecting form. If Blown Out are all about attaining escape velocity through liquid rhythms and stratospheric guitar, HNK are earthbound and muddy, abject and desperate but achieving a certain overdriven, grinding greatness nonetheless. This is the brown acid – the mean, bad, ugly trip. None of this is a criticism, you need to mix up the transcendent with the corporeal.
I first saw Lower Slaughter at Supernormal ’15, and they were a revelation: lurching, dirty hardcore fronted by the puckish and slightly hysterical Max Levy. Since then, Levy has departed and been replaced by Sinead from Divorce, to mixed effect: shorn of Levy’s antics, you’re free to take in quite what an intense, pummelling outfit Lower Slaughter are – like a prime-era Am Rep band. The downside is that whilst Sinead is a fierce and uncompromising frontwoman, her vocals aren’t necessarily the best fit, perhaps more conventionally rockish than necessary. Stirring stuff nonetheless, though.
Workin’ Man Noise Unit had already won music by releasing a tape called Drinking Stella To Make Music To Drink Stella To, and could have easily left it at that. But they only went and made one of the most fun noise rock albums of 2015 – Play Loud, a record that manages to kick your teeth in with riffs but still be inescapably melodic – and so it is tonight, the band slamming from one straight-up punk anthem to another, the dirty detuned hardcore guitar and electronic effects never overpowering the surprisingly well-crafted songs. In another life WMNU could have been Naked Raygun or Fugazi or Black Flag, choruses to bellow as you chug yr Stella, but they’re more inventive and experimental than that and temper the punk rock with angles and surprises, the electronics and (admitted barely audible) sax bringing something more contemporary and adding another texture. The band (augmented by various Lower Slaughter members due to an AWOL member) are clearly having the time of their lives (giddy, perhaps, with the thought of that impending trip to Alton Towers) and that kind of fun is infectious. I’ve never seen so many grins at a noise gig and that’s the WMNU magic right there.