Terminal Cheesecake

Cheese Brain Fondue: Live In Marseille

2013 saw the triumphant return of London’s Terminal Cheesecake. It came after what the band described as "a not-so-short break deeply contemplating space and time in the further reaches of the eastern outposts of the capital and beyond". It’s of little consequence to the likes of me however – I was in primary school when they called it a day back in the 90s. Seeing the almighty reformed Terminal Cheesecake play at Raw Power Festival in North London last year, it’s clear they’re no longer going it so alone against the grain as they must have been in those humourless grungy days in the late 80s and early 90s. The contemporary new wave of international psychedelia, and the ensuing wave of Cheesecake peers and contemporaries in the same mind set, was all practically purpose built for the band’s reappearance. We’re all hungrier now for those long jams and lengthy repetitions, lines back up around the block to see the likes of Kawabata Makoto and Evil Blizzard make funny faces and act like silly acid soaked idiots between face melting guitar riffs and colossal wig outs.

Terminal Cheesecake’s history was brilliantly pieced together by Jimmy Martin in a Quietus interview with the reformed lineup back in 2013, tracing the group’s final chapter twenty years prior, squeezing out the dub, reggae, and industrial infused pair of albums Gateau D’Espace and King Of All Spaceheads in 93 and 94 before their initial demise, and documenting the birth of the 21st century’s Terminal Cheesecake, as heard on Cheese Brain Fondue.

Terminal Cheesecake have been revived without their original acid clown frontman, Gary Boniface. However, Gnod associate and half of 2 Koi Karp, Neil The Fish, ably fills those oversized shoes with his shamanic, delay-ridden chants, while second new member, Dave Cochrane – bassist for the likes of God, Ice and other Kevin Martin/JK Broadrick projects – slots in just as seamlessly into this wacky world. As suggested by its title, Cheese Brain Fondue: Live In Marseille was recorded live – in Marseille – at L’Embobineuse in October last year. The whole thing is a massive, multi-coloured, fuzzy triumph. For one thing, it captures the band as a truly immense sonic force to be reckoned with. The whole thing sounds dynamic and vast (I have no idea how large or small L’Embobineuse actually is, but the crowd are only semi-audible), with the murmured rumblings at the start of opening improv ‘Fake Loop’ working their way effortlessly to a giant screaming climax and the opening drum smashes and six-string abuse of ‘Bladdersack’. The latter sounds in every way superior to the punkier, lo-fi original version on 1988’s Johnny Town Mouse, reworked into an all conquering freak out that takes off like a rocket ship and never lets up. The amped up run through Johnny Town Mouse‘s title track that immediately follows is similarly superior, dripping with freakily atonal psych guitar workouts and Neil The Fish’s yells, screams, and sound effects. A song seemingly named after a Beatrix Potter character wouldn’t normally be on the list of the year’s heaviest tracks.

The twin guitars of Gordon Watson and Russell Smith bring to mind the dirty mania of Acid Mothers Temple as much as they do the dreamier speaker-busting walls of sound from My Bloody Valentine. Original drummer John Jobaggy pounds out the same pneumatic drill industrial beats he played on Johnny Town Mouse back in 1988 – this time without that heavily gated, very Phil Collins 80s snare sound. As has always been the case, it’s all done with good humour to boot, with plenty of joking in knowingly poor French between tunes, and Neil The Fish taking on Terminal Cheesecake classics like the title track from Valium Chicken Leg – a long since mutated cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’, where the axe has been replaced with a chicken – like a cosmic comedy routine. "Hey Eugene, where you going with that bowl of chicken?" cries Neil The Fish, holding aloft toy ray guns and wacky sunglasses no doubt.

The band’s older tunes – like the outright epic ‘Blow Hound’ from Angels In Pigtails – sound like fresh slabs of heavyweight psych straight from the 21st century, and the new material lives up to the legacy. ‘Poultice’ perfectly assumes the stoned pace and heavy riffage approach of the older tunes, light on composition and content, and heavy on volume and loosely knit jamming. As a grand finale, they don’t come much grander than the 18-minute slow burning trip of ‘Valium Chicken Leg’. Slowly rising from cosmic noodling and Neil repeating the word ‘chicken’, it builds to a massive wig out on a Sabbathian riff straight from Master Of Reality, then dives into the nearest wormhole, hits light speed and all seemingly spaghettifies every guitar string, drum skin, bass fret, and effects pedal on stage.

This really deserves to rank alongside the lofty likes of Hawkwind’s Space Ritual as one of the all time great live psychedelic rock recordings. It overflows with heavy energy and cosmic laughter. Throughout hard rocking wig outs, wave after wave of fuzz seeps from amps, and laps the stage like the Mediterranean on France’s southern shores. Terminal Cheesecake are back, and quite possibly better than ever before.

<div class="fb-comments" data-href="http://thequietus.com/articles/18562-terminal-cheesecake-cheese-brain-fondue-live-in-marseille-review” data-width="550">

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today