Damnably Records have, over the past 13 years, forged a reputation for discovering talent from far flung corners of the world and tonight’s show, the second date of a tour named Golden Week, is made up of three acts from the label’s East Asian contingent.
Drinking Boys and Girls Choir are the latest addition to the Damnably roster and while you couldn’t possibly fault the Korean trio for energy and enthusiasm, their So-Cal inspired skate punk sound just isn’t my cup of tea.
Their compatriots Say Sue Me will be familiar to anyone who’s attended Damnably’s UK tours over the past few years. They’ve made huge strides in that time, filling out their melodic indie pop jangle with catchy, danceable tunes and adding further strings to their bow with the occasional grungey guitar crunch and a healthy dollop of surf-rock twang. One thing that has remained constant is the quiet, slightly nervous charm with which they hold the crowd between songs, which sustains them through a lengthy pedal board malfunction. It even allows them to get away with playing festive rock & roll ditty ‘Christmas, It’s No Biggie’ in early May. Once they launch into another dreamy slice of misty-eyed nostalgic indie pop though the nerves are washed away, replaced with a blissful glow that radiates out into the crowd.
When I first saw Otoboke Beaver at a Damnably show at Brixton Windmill in 2016 it was one of the most astonishing live performances I’ve seen from a new (to me at least) band in many a long year. Three years on the environs are decidedly more grand and spacious but the show is no less electrifying.
How to describe the Otoboke Beaver sound? It’s no easy task, what with its multitudinous twists and turns – hurtling down one avenue at a million miles per second before screeching to a halt and heading off in a completely different direction. At times it sounds like all guitar music recorded since Sister Rosetta first strapped on a Gibson and let rip played at the same time at different speeds – by rights it should be an unfathomable mess but somehow it holds together, just barely, teetering on the brink of self-annihilation, as breath-taking as a daredevil jumping an infinite number of buses on a jet-powered motorcycle.
Accorinrin stalks the stage, picking off members of the audience with a finger pistol held at arms length before unleashing another eviscerating howl into the mic, while to her left Yoyoyoshie transmits sounds from a parallel universe in which the greatest musical rivalry in pop history was not between The Beatles and Stones, but Cardiacs and Melt Banana, before screaming her band’s name with larynx-shredding ferocity to raucous cheers from the crowd. Bassist Hiro-Chan is the ice to her bandmate’s fire; bare-footed, swaying gently as if coaxing melted butter smooth soul licks from her instrument rather than the frantic art-punk that is whipping the front & centre moshpit into a frenzy. The unenviable job of keeping everything on track falls to new recruit Kahokiss on drums, who must surely be part-octopus as I can’t conceive of any way that any simple bi-pedal mammal could beat out such complex rhythms at such mind-boggling speed.
Much of tonight’s set is taken from new album Itekoma Hits, and the new tracks are greeted with just as much gusto from the packed-out Scala crowd as familiar favourites from previous tours. We’re left sweat-drenched and smiling ear to ear before multiple encores and the now traditional closing on-stage photo shoot tap our final reserves of self-control and we stumble, utterly discombobulated and in a state of near-rapture down the Scala’s titular marble staircase and out into the bleary lights of King’s Cross. We’ll be back next year.
Review by Paul Maps