“It was one of those nights when you turn off the lights and everything comes into view…”. We are a long way from AC/DC Lane in Mannequin Death Squad’s hometown of Naarm/Melbourne but this south London grassroots venue is heaving with like-minded and united music lovers, which is in no small part due to how gig promoters, Get In Her Ears, operate with their support of female and non-binary musicians and inclusive ethos.
Despite it being the opening band’s first ever gig, Dogviolet play their intro to a busy room and there are more gig-goers queueing to get in at the door. They have made informative little zines and each track is introduced by singer/guitarist, Naz, who sketches an outline of their weighty lyrical content: anti-capitalism, violence and possibly vampires too, amongst other subjects, are tackled.
‘Now’ sings of wanting to live in the, er, now and is bathed in Ella’s guitar licks, laced with delicate hopefulness, while Kaoru’s bass brings the menace to ‘In The Flesh’, a song about the creepy male fetishism of lesbianism. A slowed down rendition of Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’ is thrown in for good measure and it feels that the empowering, middle-finger-raised-to-the-world line “I’m all I wanna be” resonates heavily within this four-piece.
Far from being too heavy or serious, this is music with a message which stops short of being preachy or too intellectually daunting for a Saturday night. It’s an impressive and confident set of songs which are finely executed and well received by a very appreciative audience.
Dogviolet set list: Intro / Dandelion / Now / Start Again / In The Flesh / Celebrity Skin (Hole cover) / Daughter
Mannequin Death Squad thrust us headfirst into a Nutribullet blender of raw, energetic riffs, lush melodies and thundering drum beats. Some of their tracks carry serious messages but others are just love songs – the kind you can rage along to. The band have all the bases covered and comfortably straddle rock, punk and metal with a huge pot of anger bubbling away dangerously on the stovetop.
They kick off with ‘San Fran‘, a biting attack on consumerism with an accompanying promo video featuring the band crunching through enough lollipops to keep their dentists in business for the foreseeable future. I suspect it won’t be long before they have huge crowds screaming, “You buy until you die, until you die, until you die!”, right back at them.
Four tracks from their first EP, ‘Eat Hate Regurgitate’, are thrown into a set otherwise dominated by their soon to be released debut album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’. From behind the relative safety of the drumkit, Dan introduces the title track of said album as having been written about Elly having a bad day. Let’s just hope the tour T-shirt on sale, depicting a woman screaming with Medusa-like hair and a complexion that rips away revealing a sickly green skull, isn’t an admission of what happens when people keep Elly hanging on the telephone for too long.
This is the band’s third UK tour, which was hastily booked to coincide with their performance at the highly regarded four-day punk bender, Rebellion Festival. It was London-based Aussie – the louder than life itself, self-styled DIY Mutha and hairdresser on tour – Lyndell Mansfield, who first brought the band to my attention when she put them on at her legendary DIY Thursdays club night in 2017. I’m reminded of this as Elly thrashes around the stage with her guitar, proudly brandishing her pink heart-shaped tattoo emblazoned with its ‘DIY’ logo on her arm – identical to that of sweet Lyndell, who sadly passed away last year.
I adore observing the chemistry of two-piece bands on stage, but often it’s a little too obvious that there’s something missing and sonically there’s enough empty space in the sound to drive a tank right through it. Elly and Dan suffer no such fate: they bring fire, intensity and life-affirming fun, not to mention an impressive pedalboard, to the stage. If I closed my eyes, I wouldn’t even realise there were just two people bashing out these tunes. They even manage to swap instruments twice during the course of their set without allowing it to break their momentum. So the next time Mannequin Death Squad endure the hellish 30 hours in transit journey to the ‘motherland’, do yourself a favour and be sure to buy a ticket before this duo go stratospheric.
Mannequin Death Squad set list: San Fran / Blue / Sick / Seventeen / Nightmare / Van Gogh / Addicted To You / Honey Punch / Sky / Super Mental Psycho / Down
Mannequin Death Squad release their album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’, on 28 September and physical copies are up for pre-order on their Bandcamp page. They kick off their Australian tour at the end of the month and have shows booked throughout October and November – check out their tour dates on Facebook and Instagram.
Review by Mandy Bang (London After Midnite)
Photos by Mark Dans L’Espace