It was the Deliluh gig at Peckham Audio in December 2019 where I first saw Italia 90 and like a good support act should, they gave the headliners a run for their money and made a big impression on me. So I was definitely up for seeing their first major headliner at one of London’s best venues, The Lexington; a co-promotion between Club Fandango, Disorder and Fierce Panda.
The opening act were London-based Es (pronounced ‘S’ not E-S) who evoked the darker end of a 1980s/90s post-punk world. They were driven by the rhythm section of Katy Cotterell’s blistering, sandpaper bass and heavy-on-the-toms drums from Tamsin M Leach who created a booming backdrop over which the Flora Watters added sawtooth synth sounds that might haunt your nightmares. On top of this anxious soundscape Maria Tedemalm shout-sung with an urgency and ferocity that had her leaning into her singing as if trying to use the extra force to push the words into the ears of the audience. Check out their Object Relations EP and you’ll hear the excellent tension between instruments and voice. It was also good to see so many people leave the bar and turn out to support the first act on.
Scrounge are power-duo Lucy on guitar and vocals and Luke on drums and I had reviewed, and loved, their single Purpose for Joyzine in July 2019, so it was great to finally see them live. They play like it doesn’t matter whether they’re on first or last and whether there are 2 or 200 people in the audience and they obviously revel in the sheer joy of making a colossal rumble-sizzle of a noise. There are sparking walls of guitar that could shake an amplifier apart coupled with ferocious drums that could reanimate the dead and through this Lucy’s voice shone clear and powerful from fierce tunes to feral growls. The two songs that stood out for me were ‘Badoom’ and the closing song ‘Purpose’ both of which feature on their Ideal EP (also available as a limited edition cassette).
By the time Italia 90 come on the Lexington is packed and the venue is buzzing with anticipation that we are here to see something special. Italia 90 do not disappoint and they were a commanding presence from the off with the guitar (DJ Mumsnet), bass (Bobby Portrait) and drums (J Dangerous) forming a crucible that let singer Les Miserable fuse the volatile parts into a cohesive whole. Corset tight drums kept up a lashing pace while the bass lines popped and bubbled along; sometimes low (‘Road to Hell’) and sometimes paper cut sharp (‘An Episode’) and darting around like a 6-string Artful Dodger was the intense musical colour and noisescape of the guitar which poked its fingers into the bars of the bassline; stabs and screeches one minute, tender riffs the next and occasional dentist drill chords cascading and colliding. It’s also unusual, and refreshing, to see that it was often the bass that carried the tune while the guitar added mood. But music aside this is a band with a conscience and they don’t waste lyrics on meaningless couplets and faux optimism and instead relish in giving us lines like “Disrupt the Capital, agents of antagonism” from ‘Road to Hell’ and “You never thought that one day they would come for you, you’re not a criminal and politics ain’t what you do.” from ‘Stroke City’. They finish with their condemnation of the misguided pretentions of London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ tech boom and this culmination of a cracking set offers the audience a final chance to leap and howl along with the stop/start shout of “Once you’re in, you’ll never wanna move…NEW FACTORY”. No encore given, or needed and Italia 90 kicked off their tour in glorious form.
Italia 90 can be heard as the special guests on the Joyzine Radio Show Podcast #44 and you can catch them in the UK and Europe over the coming months:
Jan 30 Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
Jan 31 – Latest Music Bar, Brighton
Feb 1 – Chameleon Arts Cafe, Nottingham
Feb 7 – Broadcast, Glasgow
Feb 8 – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Feb 15 – Rockerill, Charleroi, Belgium
Feb 16 – Bidules, Brussels, Belgium
Feb 21 – Gulivers, Manchester
Feb 22 – Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, Leeds
Mar 13 – South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin, TX, US
Apr 4 – BlÅ, Oslo, Norway
Apr 24 – TBA, Bratislava, Slovakia
Review and Photography by Paul F Cook