Insecure Men: Live Report

Eoin Murray reports on the first home town show by Insecure Men - the new band to feature Saul Adamczewksi of Fat White Family and Sean Lennon. All live photographs by Lou Smith

All photographs courtesy of gentleman, scholar and jewellery maker Lou Smith

Insecurity manifests itself in all kinds of ways. Be that through compensatory pomp, skittish energy or from-the-gutter resolution, it bears its forms always with its own face snarling through, like the actor you can never separate from the character. That’s what we are given tonight at the sold-out show at Windmill Brixton as part of Independent Venue Week: different portrayals of personal anxiety, culminating in a headline slot from Fat White Family and Warmduscher’s Saul Adamczewski and his band of Insecure Men. This being the band’s first UK performance and their debut showcase of material that will make up their album of original tracks, it is a tantalising introduction to a project from which we had only heard a collection of covers from beforehand.

There’s already a reasonable crowd in the venue when openers Sleaze drag themselves onto the stage. Starting proceedings with a set reminiscent of Lullabies To Paralyze era Queens Of The Stone Age, that same awkward swagger that makes Josh Homme a bit uncomfortable to think about lately falls out of this lot. It’s the sort of set that is the musical equivalent of getting your arse out at a house party and asking your mates to smack it; a bit awkward, a bit forced… hairy. When they let the boisterous veil drop a bit though they do deliver, with ‘Push Tuck’ and its rumbling bass and pulse giving the gradually filling room a definite bit of lift.

Horsey’s manifestation of insecurity is a touch more frenzied, more akin to the feverish thoughts that come at 4am when you can’t sleep for the fear of tomorrow. Jazzy, frenetic movements that hark to a socially anxious Mars Volta or Cardiacs carry the dual vocal stylings that ring through like that point in the argument where you stopped making sense. ‘Arms And Legs’ flings itself all over the dynamic spectrum with the same mania that defined Mr. Bungle’s back catalogue or which presented itself on Robocobra Quartet’s Music For All Occasions.

If Moonlandingz take the psych-leaning, new wave ingredients of Fat White Family and unleash its oddness, then Insecure Men embrace the crooning self-deprecation that has always lurked below that. Where Fat White’s imagery on Songs For Our Mothers was rife with dark, historic character references and viscous impurity, Insecure Men channel the subdued and the lost, the character references straying now from Goebbels and Hitler, instead relying on the likes of Whitney Houston and individuals altogether more present (‘The Saddest Man In Penge’). There is bedraggled poppiness throughout the set of original material, a deranged hotel lobby lounge sound reminiscent at points of a poundland version of John Lurie’s NYC no wave/ spiritual jazz band The Lounge Lizards. It’s an altogether more accessible set than much of Fat White’s catalogue, a welcoming sense of honesty from an otherwise baffling artist.

Adamczewski is donned in a bright orange Cossack hat and a grimy white suit, his harrowed stare half-engaging with the crowd that are now squished mere feet from his face, half burrowing into an unperceivable darkness that only he seems able to see.

The assorted band of seven “vague acquaintances” includes Ben Robans Hopcraft (Childhood, Warmduscher) on bass and backing vocals, Sean Lennon, Jack Everett (former Fat White Family and current Warmduscher), Jon Catfish de Lorene and Alex White on saxophone, all skulking behind their instruments languidly transmitting the lonely sounds that purvey the set. On early tracks like ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance With My Baby’ there is a melancholy shrouded in boozy hopefulness, an immediate presentation of the band’s tone. It is evident from the off that many of the members have previously collaborated in various incarnations. Their communication is based almost entirely on subtle nods, apart from the occasional yell, but the tightness of the performance gives the material an immediate familiarity.

It being the band’s first hometown performance of original material, it is a testament to Adamczewski’s status in this area that every track is met with uproarious applause and energy, as if those resigned and down-trodden melodies have been living in the pit of our stomachs for years waiting to be embodied. Even when the penultimate number of the set is cut short in a flurry of waved arms and swearing the crowd doesn’t seem to mind, as if the collapse of coherence somehow added to its appeal.

‘All Women Love Me, All Men Are Afraid Of Me’ resonates like a tongue-in-cheek ode to The Kinks, a sullied Roy Orbison. There’s a rawness to the performance in this low-ceilinged space that those who missed seeing Fat White Family in their earlier days would embrace, only in exchange for the raucous unleashing of menace, this is a dirge for contentment, a sigh in stark contrast to a howl.

It is a shame that at points the crowd seem more focussed on capturing that feeling on their phone cameras than engaging with it fully, but such is the current nature of going to gigs. But maybe that’s worth remarking on. So raw is the despondence that permeates these songs, microphone half wedged down Adamczewski’s throat, that maybe hiding behind the phone is the way to avoid getting hit by your own fear.

Shuffling off the stage, Adamczewski mutters into the mic: “This was our first gig. We’re insecure still.” No doubt. And as the crowd edges toward the door it feels like that insecurity lurking within everyone was tapped tonight. Not necessarily tampered with or awakened, but nudged. Tonight’s performance was one of greyscale sincerity, of a haunted melancholy and sardonic humour. Saul Adamczewski and the rest of the Insecure Men gave a debut performance that portrayed more realness than some bands have managed to do in a lifetime. With their album of original tracks expected to land in the not too distant future, there’s a lot to look forward to from Insecure Men. Even if it makes us all feel strange.

Insecure Men’s debut release is due later this year

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