Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Grunts: a live show review

I went to see The Grunts play at The Good Ship (Kilburn, 3/10/08). A friend of mine said that they sounded too much like their influences. When chatting with Paul, bassist with The Grunts for six months or so and counting, he said he felt The Grunts sounded like a lot of bands you know, but not exactly like any of them. I'm going to agree with Paul here. The Grunts are something like Echo and the Bunnymen on Route 66. High churches of guitars steeped in Americana: Jim Jones, highways, koolaid, purple hearts, Jerry Springer and endless summers all get a reference in The Grunts, and in a live show, the swagger and rootsy origins of the songs are even more evident.

Bearing in mind that this is an Irish band, homed in Cork, and it's even more admirable that they pull it off. They can be funny too, though it's humour of the dry kind: "I'm a hetero-on-Death-Row-sexual" hollars Max Vanilla on their jeans-busting declaration "Hetero". It's satirical, surely, right? Their live shows are less glacial than the recordings (where Max's favourites, The Bunnymen, are definite inspirations in sound, though dirtier), but they are no less huge and sweeping, just a little more unashamed rock. They start with "Party Weirdo", their dancefloor anthem. They play songs about Jerry Springer being god. "If It Feels Good Do It" is one of my favourites, soaring and celebratory as Max croons "She won't enjoy the summer, 'coz she doesn't turn anybody on." The rhythm section bangs and buzzes along, holding down the tune as Max lets loose a dazzlement of guitar frenzy. Max's right hand works itself into a dervish of upward string-thrashing, culling a variety of sounds before even touching an effects pedal. Meanwhile, his left hand often works the frets like a pump-action shotgun. It really has to be seen, and it's mesmerising. His stage talk is mild mannered, and his voice carries a natural Irish melody, but he shouts and sours during the songs, thoroughly unleashed. In closing, Zack of The Refusniks joins The Grunts onstage to sing the closing numbers, and it all ends with "If The Leader of a Doomsday Cult Said", Max's perversion of the kind of dancefloor anthem they started with.

Sure, they sound a lot like what you know, but in the way that they take their influences and run with them, creating a thoroughly dark, satirical, jubilant and rocking-out that is truly disarming and thoroughly engaging on a number of levels. I have liked The Grunts for a long time, and it's a joy to see them prove they are much more in a live show.

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