Gig review: Turning Green/Laser Crabs/Mr Finn at The Engine Room, Brighton on Thursday January 24th 2008
CD single review Turning Green: Everybody’s Just A Little Bit/Bleeding Anthem [Fat Northerner Records FNRTUR001]
My first outing of the New Year having had a quiet few weeks enforced by a bout of the Lurgi that wouldn’t go away – still coughing well, by the way – found me at The Engine Room on the corner of Preston Street and the seafront’s Kings Road. This is probably the most insalubrious venue I’ve attended in a long long time. The actual performance space was quite acceptable, the bar staff was very pleasant and friendly but the temperature was seemingly below zero and the men’s toilets smelt like a farmyard. There wasn’t a big crowd present but these few brave souls were certainly out to enjoy themselves and they weren’t going to be disappointed. In fact they were treated to an evening of rare entertainment indeed.
Ollie, aka Mr Finn was the first lamb to the slaughter. If you haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing this one-off true Brighton-type eccentric in action then your life is nowhere near complete. He is in the general area of rant-electronica and performs his epic raps employing loops and echoes on collected and produced by his wonderful box of hi-tech trickery which stands on a set of hand turned chip’n’dale legs from a previous century. The wonderful set was sadly interrupted by a power failure to which the artist’s response was “Oops! I broke it,” even though it was in fact a trip out or similar fault with the in-house set up. But Ollie was able to keep us amused while the problem was fixed. He is a consummate entertainer and incredibly amusing while being totally self-effacing. Make it a New Year resolution to seek out the Fantastic Mr Finn this year or die in the process!
Then we got The Laser Crabs. Now I saw these guys last year in Lewes and thought – yeah OK – but wasn’t totally convinced. I now realise my reticence was caused by my own snobbery and inability to accept that not every band can be 100% original or demonstrate 100% virtuosity. It’s really OK to be a little bit derivative and also to be a work in progress – everyone has to develop from small beginnings and find their true identity. So, yes, they do sound a bit like several other bands I’ve seen and yes they do produce a few bum notes, but hey – so what? They DO exhibit a fiery enthusiasm to entertain and once they get going – they really rock. My previous opinion was that maybe they’re just going along with the current Noughties thrashy guitar-band style and maybe the previous performance was not quite upto their usual standard, but this time I was really impressed. They took a few numbers to warm up but they reached a watershed with a really hot version of ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ and from then on in they cruised.
Vocalist Ben English hasn’t got a particularly original voice but he leads the outfit with the panache of a true showman and except when he manages to pull the mike off it’s lead, which happened a few times, the strength of his singing is the mainstay of the band’s appeal. Guitarist Jack Goldsmith is no strum and thrash merchant – he’s a genuinely talented instrumentalist and there’s plenty of scope for his skills to be given a bit more prominence in the mix. As in all good bands, anchorage is provided from the engine room of the drums and bass [to mix a couple of metaphors!]. Drummer Felix Crowhurst is economic but very convincing with his skin work and Chris Martin [not that one!] is more than solid on bass – in fact he contributes heavily to the group’s sound.
Watching Laser Crabs in action at this gig has taught me a valuable lesson I shan’t forget in a hurry – that is – don’t dismiss someone just because they don’t have a totally unique persona. Rather look at the whole picture – for as in this case - the entertainment value can far outweigh any shortcomings arising out of prejudice and false expectations.
Headlining the evening, was the mighty Turning Green. I always think I can't have much more to tell you about this outfit’s attributes but they always prove me wrong by managing to highlight a strength I wasn’t previously aware of. Tonight, although they weren’t perhaps quite as tight as they usually are, they played with intensity previously unwitnessed by Yours Truly. I can only suggest that their recent sojourn in a Spanish studio allowed them to develop their repertoire to an extent that not only did they come up with a number of new tunes but they were able to finely hone several of our old favourites. They also displayed remarkable powers of improvisation when guitarist Dunstan found himself short of so many strings, that he had to take time out to change them. Sam Walker gave us a very exciting impromptu drum solo and Dunstan himself entertained us with a recitation of the Gruffalo while adjusting machine heads and tuning his instrument.
The purpose of this whole occasion was to unleash Turning Green’s new single on a not-so-unsuspecting world. I say this because the songs contained on the CD have become staples in the TG cannon over the past year or so and the band’s fan-base is already well familiarised with both ‘Bleeding Anthem’ and ‘Everybody’s Just a Little Bit’ as well-loved and expected components of every performance. What’s new is perhaps the somewhat sophisticated arrangement and the added newly acquired intensity mentioned above. The radio edit of ‘Everybody’s Just a Little Bit’ successfully substitutes the possibly offending phrase which would otherwise make it unplayable pre-watershed. [But don’t worry – you’ll get the fully unexpurgated version when you purchase the product!] The extended percussive introduction is especially attractive and makes a welcome change to the usual sort of stuff currently available. ‘Bleeding Anthem’ is a very tasty number in which Matt Gest excels with his jazzy keyboard noodlings while he and Dan-the-Dan produce their most evil pop-eyed vocal stylings to date. The whole track is somewhat reminiscent of an old Arthur Brown production – this is maybe something which could enthuse any radio programme producer looking for sounds which are outside today’s mainstream. Hopefully it will lead to some airplay and wider exposure for the group – they’ve certainly worked hard for it and it’s long overdue.