LIVE REPORT: The Moonlandingz
, September 3rd, 2015 12:20
Is it just some friends having a good time? Is it a sociopolitical statement on how fans of a band will blindly follow wherever their masters take them? Is he over thinking it entirely? Angus Knight reports from The Lexington
Despite critical success and amassing rabid fan bases, neither the Fat White Family nor the Eccentronic Research Council have come anywhere near to reaching commercial popularity (yet). Their teaming up for the Moonlandingz project, then, makes sense. However, the stylistic success of the music they've so far produced stems totally from their songwriting and composing chops. Despite being a fan of both projects, I wasn't prepared for just how excellent all four tracks on the EP they released earlier this year would be. All the influences of each collaborative side meshed excellently and there was none of the usual clunky features present on most collaboration projects' first efforts.
It's a little difficult to see how their music would translate in a live setting, however. Even after the recent Radio 6 sessions they did for Marc Riley, there was every chance that it could fall flat. The warped Northern Soul Post-Punk of 'Sweet Saturn Mine' begs to be the mainstay of many a hip DJ set for years to come, but does not immediately demand feverish moshing and crowd surfing. However neither did most of Champagne Holocaust on first impression, but anyone who has been to a Fat Whites gig will tell you that the insanity begins as soon as the drums come in on 'Auto Neutron'.
With eagerness to let loose, I enter the Lexington with trepidation and excitement. I'm not the only one. For a supposedly fictional band, they know how to sell out a UK tour. It is this element of fiction that gives the Moonlandingz a niche to occupy, and some ideas to play around with. Character pieces are already the mainstay for the ERC and the Fat Whites, so why not push on further? Perhaps the Moonlandingz could be seen as a re-imagining of the Spiders From Mars for a new generation of kids who are completely disenfranchised with the current vogue of boring, supposedly psychedelic, indie pop. Although, admittedly, looking around tonight there's a large chunk of the audience that will most likely remember at least the first wave of Bowie copycats. There is something fairly refreshing about the age range at this gig. Granted, there is something about Moonlandingz and indeed the ERC and Fat Whites that harks back to many different traits of many different genres of the last 60 years of music, but this liberal attitude to influences has given rise to a very refreshing and forward thinking sound.
With crowd warmed up by opening act Abjects, and synths in place, the Moonlandingz trickle onto the stage one by one, until all but Johnny Rocket are present. There are cheers and applause from all corners until brooding ERC main man and keyboardist Adrian, adorned in hat, shades and grey coat grabs the mic and begins telling the crowd to be quiet until you can hear a pin drop. Then, with a devilish smile, cackles "that's crowd control for ya" as the opening sample to 'Psyche Ersatz' lurches out of the PA. Then, as if descending from heaven (or ascending from the dressing room), Johnny Rocket appears complete with hair slicked back, leather waistcoat and some strange shapes and letters scrawled across entire face. It's a simple, but effective transformation.
I'm sure I wouldn't be alone in saying that the Moonlandingz are somehow a more visually fascinating live act than the Fat Whites. That's rather saying something when the live antics seem to be all that many critics and fans seem interested in talking about. It's almost as if this is the hexed nightmare vision of a Fat White Family performance. The usual ragged guitars and sing-along choruses are replaced with a throbbing intensity and a dreariness that perhaps is resigned to its own fate of obscurity and eclectic mysticism. If the Fat Whites declare a desire to Bomb Disneyland, then the Moonlandingz stand in the aftermath of such an event and revel in the wreckage. The primal energy of the music causes involuntarily movement from the crowd and the opening keyboards to 'Sweet Saturn Mine' are a soothing respite before the combination of live drums and the drum machine of the studio recording hit you with restrained fury, as if Klaus Dinger is playing with OMD in some occultist recreation of Wigan Casino. And as Rocket begins screaming the final chorus it turns into a dance floor exorcism. It is utterly mesmerising.
We are then greeted with five new tunes, four of which were recorded in session for Marc Riley on Radio 6. There's '40,000 Years'. A ferocious romp about Iain Duncan-Smith that talks of gas chambers and night raiders. It's as baffling as it is pummeling. 'Dirty Red Rose' is the closest thing we'll get to the Krautabilly-country-fuzzy-Joe Meek pop that Maxine Peake christened the Moonlandingz as on the ERC's latest. A sordid murder ballad set in Phoenix, Arizona that is as macabre as Nick Cave, but is musically less grandiose than Cave and far more camped up. By this point, I've lost count of the amount of stage dives and chucked cups. So has Adrian, who slumps over his old keyboard looking bored and slightly disgusted with the crowd. Is he in character or are we genuinely pissing him off? It's hard to tell with those glasses he's got on. That's probably the idea.
It could be argued that the whole concept of the Moonlandingz is to lampoon the muso crowd that they've undoubtedly grabbed the attention of. There's definitely a strong case for this argument in the way that they perform tonight. I kept getting flashbacks to that first performance of Soronpfrbs in 2014's Frank. 'Glory Hole' is a tale of nose tapping innuendo in Hamburg, complete with knowing German puns that are reminiscent of tasteless TV comedy and bad pantomimes. As is 'The Rabies Are Back'. Adrian introduces the song by warning us to never go to France. The lyrics talk of crepes and that isolationist Dad's Army/Faulty Towers sensationalism about them strange places over on the continent. The music to these two is queasy and sleazy in equal measure. As much Soft Cell as it is the Cramps. As much Tubeway Army as it is Throbbing Gristle. It's all very fantastical. It's all so dour. It's all so bleeding northern.
As they begin 'Lay Yer Head Down On The Road', we are asked to all sit down. Those at the front gladly do so. Those further back are too preoccupied stroking their beards and updating their Instagram accounts to take part, but it's hilarious nonetheless when everyone jumps up and resumes moshing to the bands most subdued song. Like a bunch of overexcited kids at a school disco after too many Tangfastics. Then, the band announce the last song from the EP and last song of the set, 'Man In Me Lyfe'. The crowd don't have a chance to get upset at this announcement before the band descend down into the guttural hell that is this song. One lyric. One riff. One objective. To rock your tin foil socks. If 'Sweet Saturn Mine' is the finely crafted obscure pop gem of the set and 'Glory Hole' is the sleazy glam sex jam that would make Marc Almond blush, then 'Man In Me Lyfe' is the song that makes even the most frigid of crowds move with a sudden bolt of energy. Indeed, that is what happened tonight. Within seconds, there are stagedivers, pogoing and general frantic jiving from all corners of the room. I've tried to resist mentioning the Fall until now, but this is what the Fall would sound like if Mark was as good a singer as Mr. Rocket is and if they were still as hellish as they have proved to be in previous years. With one final scream, the music grounds to a sudden halt and it's all over. Despite cries for one more song lasting a good five minutes, the best we get is resident Fat Whites MC and beat poet extraordinaire Patrick Lyons give us a round up of events.
So, where does this leave the Moonlandingz now? They've proved themselves on wax, radio and stage and they've clearly got more mileage in the song department. There's a sense that we've all just watched a band one up themselves almost for the sake of it, just to see how far an experiment can go. The band make it down to the downstairs bar of the Lexington after the show as returning heroes. Johnny Rocket is Lias Saoudi once again and is grinning. He must know when he's put on a good show. And then they're off in the van back to Sheffield and eventually through the fog into Valhalla Dale (I assume). I chat to Roman, my frequent gigging partner in crime, on the train home just to try and piece it all together.
Moonlandingz surely mean something. If music is downloadable and disposable now, then are Moonlandingz a comment on how good music can come from anywhere and be totally inconsequential because of a lack of exposure or marketability? Is it just some friends having a good time? Is it a sociopolitical statement on how fans of a band will blindly follow wherever their masters take them? Am I over thinking it entirely? Perhaps then, it goes back to the element of fiction that they throw in. The way that they can simply do whatever because it's not really real. They've written a song about not going abroad because they don't want to catch rabies. This lends so much to their live performance that it elevated what was essentially a few low key shows into a game of dares with a willing audience. Because, the key to the Moonlandingz tour being a success, is that despite being made up characters from a made up place, they are as in your face as live music gets.