Tag: post-punk

Review of Fiende Fatale live at The Horn, St. Albans

By Daniel Margrain

In Steven Shea’s 2013 cult horror-adventure parody, Fiende Fatale, an assortment of DNA-cloned monsters and weirdos reconfigured from the carcasses of vampires, zombies, demons and others, find themselves confronting government and terrorist forces in a dystopian world devoid of meaning whose citizens are out of control.

As well as working at the level of a spoof, the short film mainly succeeds as a metaphor for a world spiraling ever-deeper, both spiritually and figuratively, into decay. With the enemy as much internalized as a result of the tactics of divide and rule, and brute force increasingly becoming the norm, the urban proletariat see violence as their only form of salvation against the tyranny of government – a kind of subterranean ‘fight club’ for lost souls.

The dark and claustrophobic venue, ‘The Horn’ in St. Albans fits neatly into this cinematic narrative. When headline band, Fiende Fatale, took to the venues small stage last Saturday evening, against a backdrop of the ever-present sight of ghouls, vampires and zombies in the run up to Halloween, the scene was set perfectly.

From two songs in, it was clear that the band are not easy to pigeon-hole. This is a testament to their creative and musical flair. Attending the same school, the north London ensemble have clearly imbued a multitude of influences – Lou Reed, Stooges, Sex Pistols, Roxy Music – among them.

The groups defining aesthetic is nevertheless one that is reminiscent of the art-rock and post-punk scenes of the early 1970s and early 1980s respectively. Indeed, the manner with which the group merge these influences seamlessly into their work is extremely impressive.

From the opening chords, the bands music, to this critics ears, doesn’t sound derivative, contrived or forced but rather discombobulating which is a mark of their distinctive musicality and artistic creative impulses.

Underneath the clever and often witty lyrics given free expressive reign by lead singer and guitarist, Matthew Magee – whose intensity is equal to Ian Curtis, and whose theatrics are reminiscent of Dave Vanian – is a band that musically, as a unit, are as tight as The Fall without Mark E Smith.

All the while, guitarist, Rolph Edwards regularly skews the formal structure of the groups sound to the point of cacophonous informality rooted in Captain Beefheart and the post-punk of say, the Gang of Four, while Alex Wright’s meaty bass and Dom Bowmans manic but disciplined drumming ensures that the spine of the sound remains intact.

Unfortunately my close friend and me had to leave during the bands rendition of the catchy ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ in order to catch the last train back to London so we missed all of the set. My one criticism is that the group do perhaps veer at times too much towards pop for my taste, but regardless they are talented musician’s who are keeping the spirit of rock and roll very much alive.

Fiende Fatale play The Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden, Thursday, 30th November.

 

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The Velvet Underground & Nico

By Daniel Margrain

The music and the synthesis of ideas that the Velvet Underground represented broke new ground in the 1960s. The group didn’t produce ‘songs’ that were indicative of popular music of the time but rather they were Freudian expressions of a lust for deviant but seductive behaviour; they were exotic, decadent and perverse fantasies.

This was allied to a form of hyper-urban realism that emerged from a combination of traditions – Pop artGerman ExpressionismFrench Existentialism and La Monte Young’s Minimilism. The group were about as far apart from their contemporaries as British Music Hall is to American Hardcore.

The groups debut, their supreme masterpiece, The Velvet Underground And Nico (1967)Velvet Underground and Nico.jpg, was recorded in two days in the spring of 1966 and released in January of the following year. Andy Warhol produced the album, managed the group and created the now iconic banana album cover artwork.

Lou Reed composed the melodies, wrote the lyrics and ‘drone strummed’ his rhythm guitar. John Cale arranged the sound and created the avant-garde atmospheres with his innovative use of a viola and keyboards interspersed with his bass playing. Maureen Tucker played the drums with an obsessive and frenzied, yet exotic, tribal repetitiveness and Stirling Morrison’s rhythm and blues or country-influenced guitar playing kept the sound grounded in the style of The Byrds.

All of this was embellished by the icy vocals of Nico who sang lead on three of the album’s tracks – the cold, spectral, autumnal odes of Femme Fatale, All Tomorrow’s Parties, I’ll Be Your Mirror – and back-up on Sunday Morning, all of them masterpieces.

But the songs Nico had no part in are equally, if not more mesmerizing – in particular, Black Angel’s Death Song, the percussive boogie of Waiting For My Man, the orgasmic chaos of Heroin, and the dissonant tribalism of European Son. If I had to pick a standout, it would be the Indian raga-imbued and decadent Venus In Furs which, in my view, is one of the masterpieces of all rock. Judge for yourselves:

But to single out one track for praise on an album where there is no weak link, is to do the album an injustice. The truth is, each individual piece on the album is a masterpiece in its own right culminating in a work that transcends the sum of its individual parts. All of the songs are immersed in an atmosphere that’s dark and oppressive but beguiling, epic and cool. It’s an album that fuses music and words in a manner that perfectly captures the tension of modernist metropolitan reality in all of its dark and decadent secrets. This manifests, as one critic puts it:

in sexual fetishes and cathartic sadism, in latent orgasms and unnerving noises;and in the living contrast between the urban ways of Reed and the patrician ways of Nico, between Berlin in the 30s and the 60s in New York, between the subculture of crisis and that of the apocalypse. The seduction of the album is derived not only from the quantity of ideas in it, but from the fusion of so many strong artistic personalities, all directed by Lou Reed, who functions as catalyst.”

The overriding feeling one gets after listening to this album is of a group who set out to produce a creative work of art as opposed to a commercial product. In these less enlightening times, that’s a legacy worth preserving. Arguably, punk aesthetics, alternative art rock and indie rock were born the moment the Velvet Underground walked into a recording studio. The influence of the Velvet’s debut can be heard in almost everything interesting that followed – from the new wave movement of the late 1970s through to the post-punk and shoegazing movements of the 1980s and 1990s.

Emerging from the UK indie scene generation of this latter period were the bands signed to the seminal Postcard record label, many of whom would not have started a band if it were not for this album. That’s an illustration of how significant The Velvet Underground And Nico was to my generation. But this is not only true of my generation but subsequent generations. It was Brian Eno who famously stated that while The Velvet Underground & Nico initially only sold 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”