Digital Leather, Pony Pack, Rats on Rafts: Exit, Rotterdam 30/01/09
Exit, scene of many famous gigs, the Pistols, Simple Minds when they were good… the place hasn’t changed much and has a cool clientele of non-fashion heads, and a great house deejay (Screaming Lord Sutch 45’s anyone?), which, of course is great; but has the most bewilderingly clean jakes I’ve ever seen in a club of hip repute. Incendiary were there to check out Pony Pack, of whom we’d heard many positive things.
First up were Rats on Rafts, who (according to sources) were something special. And indeed they were. The band comprises of four skinny youths who are all about 19 and looked on this evening like they’d just got out of bed. As for their set; well there are lots of skinny scruffy ungainly youths with guitars churning out post-punk, math-rock slabs of teenage diffidence coated in grey noise, but this lot have something really special. There is an urgency about what they are doing, and most importantly a burning intelligence in the presentation of the tracks and the lyrics. The drummer’s shit hot too. It turns out that the singer’s a Fall fan, and you can certainly hear the influence, though there’s no way you could ever say they were aping MES’s lot. Rather, Rats on Rafts seem inspired by the Fall to make music however they want regardless of whatever anyone thinks (which is the classic strength of Mr Smith in my eyes). The tracks have bite and presence and I reckon this lot could be in it for the long run, hope so anyway.
More cool noise from the deejay and it’s time for Pony Pack. Pony Pack are a three-piece, consisting of a energetic drummer who tries (and fails at times) to control his Bonham-isms, a Juno-esque bass player who stands and commands and a guitarist whose sylvan movements and effortless rug-cutting motions are drawn from the classic tradition of Rock and Roll. I’m betting he really likes James Williamson, which of course is fine by Incendiary. Pony Pack are entranced by the old Harlot/Mother Goddess idea that underpins the tradition of classic Rock Entertainment. Feedback, speed-drenched blarts of noise and throwing shapes of course abound. The lyrics; a bitch-fest of curt observations and undisguised rants, dovetail the visual elements very well indeed. At times it could be a Grande Masque by Inigo Jones, updated for the likes of Lemmy & co. Their performance on this particular evening is disjointed and a tad gauche, which is actually a very good matter, as if they get things too slick it’d be a waste of talent and they’d be on thin ice. However, there’s plenty of room in these hinterlands of their sound (especially in the slow numbers) where lots of interesting things could develop. What the heck, given a big P.A. they could be knock-out.
Headliners Digital Leather (another three-piece, am I missing something, or am I just getting old?) have facial hair and wear spangly golf/trucker hats at casually cute angles. The sound is very reminiscent of New Order when they were demo-ing Power Corruption & Lies (albeit imagine demos without Hooky). It’s good, it’s committed, but something’s missing for me. Or rather something should be missing; namely the hats. Now, far be it from me to dismiss a band for such frivolous additions as headgear, but come on lads. With such a stripped down, deliberately tinny sound (which should be and is made up for by attitude and drive), studied cool is well, unnecessary. And it gets in the way. Oh well, enough moaning, perhaps they hoyed them half way through the set, though I didn’t see it happening. I had to get a train anyway…
Still, a good night all round.
Words: Richard Foster
Pics: Courtesy of the bands