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LIVE REPORT: Chrome
Joe Banks , June 25th, 2014 12:44

"A black hole in the noise": Joe Banks reports from Electrowerkz in London for Chrome's first show there in 25 years. Photo by Grimm S Brinkmann

Walking into Electrowerkz is like stepping back in time to an era of scuzzy chic, when basing your club on the set of Alien (though it's actually closer to Red Dwarf) was a totally radical concept. There's black paint peeling off the low ceilings, the walls are exuding a background fug of hash, patchouli oil and BO, and the sound manages to be both harsh and muddy.

Which of course makes it the perfect venue for Chrome to be playing their first London gig in 25 years. Here's a band whose genuinely unique brand of sci-fi garage rock has been on the periphery of every happening scene since their inception in 1975 without them ever being assimilated or neatly classified. They seem to exist in a musical twilight zone, their deconstructed metal kosmische mostly unacknowledged by the alternative orthodoxy yet somehow wildly influential on the collective unconsciousness of post-punk, industrial, neo-psych, out-rock, you name it.

That all might sound a bit wearing, but Chrome live are a blast. With his panama hat, beach shirt and tache, singer and guitarist Helios Creed might look like he's just walked out of The Big Lebowski, but he's still holding true to the vision that he forged with (the sadly departed) Damon Edge during their classic late 70s-early 80s period. It's the sound of information overload, both trashy and robotic at the same time – if you were to reduce it down, we're talking the Stooges jamming with Hawkwind and Malcolm Mooney's Can, but Chrome are absolutely their own thing. Creed's dense, compressed guitar sound mimics the squalling innards of the data networks crushing the breath out of the world, while the muffled clatter of Aleph Omega's drums is relentless, a dubby electronic snare occasionally cutting through the sonic haze. (Special mention too for second guitarist Lou Minatti, who manages to look both puppyish and cool in trapper hat, leather jacket and aviator shades)

Save for a few lights flashing on and off (and Creed throwing some guitar hero shapes), there's not much by way of visual accompaniment to Chrome's apocalyptic rock & roll, but a pleasing sense of chaos pervades the venue nonetheless. There's shouts from the crowd of "turn it up!", while keyboardist Tommy Grenas calls out in panic for a set list before the second song. 'TV As Eyes', 'Zombie Warfare', 'March Of The Chrome Police' and 'Chromosome Damage' all get an airing along with the heavy trance rock of new single 'Prophecy'. It's also great to hear 'Something Rhythmic (I Can't Wait)' – with its catchy chorus of, ahem, "I need you tied to my bedposts" – from the excellent "lost tracks" album Half Machine From The Sun released last year. As Creed explains from the stage, it was one of a number of songs that Chrome considered "too commercial" to release at the time.

For me, the biggest thrill is hearing tracks from the final album that Creed and Edge made together, the gothic space rock of 3rd From The Sun. The title track crackles with malevolent energy, while 'Armageddon' has a planet-quaking riff and a mid-section that suddenly opens up like a black hole in the noise. They close the main set with 'Firebomb', the threatening cyberfunk groove of its bassline heralding an extended excursion into the void.

Chrome have had a pretty chequered history since their original split in 1983, so it's great that we now have an operational version of the band that's building on the legacy of those early albums, a band that is capable of slipping it to the android once again.

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