Gig Review: Die! Die! Die! / Talons / Ripping Dylans

Die! Die! Die! played the Oxford Art Factory last Saturday with Talons and Ripping Dylans. Given many other bloggers have posted their articulate and detailed thoughts, I thought I would enter into the fray with my perspective. (quick shout-out to Sean, Jonny, Maria and Angus who are all lovely guys – great to catch up with you all)

I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to write here, but first let me write two disclaimers:

  • This was my first live exposure to these bands
  • Except for Die! Die! Die! (of which I’d heard a little), I’d heard none of their recorded output

So! Having heard good things about all three bands, I headed on down to the hip little centre of indie-ness that is the Oxford Art Factory with a few friends in tow. Essentially, I came as a curious punter.

If I were to attempt to describe the evening in a word, I might use a word like overstimulation. With the kind of decibels and frenetic energy that was being exuded, I felt affected by more than just pure music and emotion: even with a relatively minimalistic light show, there was no escaping this three-punch spectacle. Once in its grip I began to slip into an almost catatonic trance, my eyes fixed on the fury that was being unleashed before me, my brain’s capacity for rhyme and reason being disabled by severe blasts of guitar feedback and squalls of frantic vocals.

Yes, I’ve just attempted to describe all three sets in one paragraph. Let me continue with a more details overview.

Ripping Dylans

A slightly dishevelled band take the stage, with slightly more dishevelled instruments. They proceed to abuse their instruments. Between the pickup squeal (seriously, what was with that?) I think I caught a blues-rock lurch-and-heave, a pure rock behemoth with a front-vocal that makes Nick Cave looks like a pansy.

Frankly, their live sound sucked, and I found their playing to be sloppy and uncompelling, with little sense of control. Sure, the 100% energy got my attention, but it made me lose it just as quickly. With no sense of dynamics (LOUD was the order of the day), it was difficult to concentrate on what was going on.

That may sound harsh and having said this, I’ve been listening to their MySpace and I’m actually really digging what they’re putting down to tape. In fact, I see a lot of great ability being highlighted and a number of the tunes I enjoy a lot, to the point where I’m interested in looking into their stuff further. It seems that their live show is purely all about impact, but unfortunately it was lost on me.

The band walked off stage to applause-less silence, which I will not attribute to a lack of interest but more a state of stunned stupour on the part of the patrons.

Talons

Talons are regularly championed by Polaroids of Androids; as a result I was eager to see what they had in store.

In a nutshell: think more indie rock, less blues, still with liberal amounts of punk applied. The live musicianship is more developed, with an abrasive riff-centric sound, frequently interrupted by intense bass runs and splayed tom fills.

Two songs left me notably impressed, one being a mid-set tune, the other being the closer (pretty sure one of them was Untitled, as seen on their Myspace). My memory is fuzzing out a little, but I recall they explored a little more space, while retaining an uptight energy and some excursions into rocking out full tilt. The rest faded into the wall of sound that my brain appears to have grouped together in order to save space.

The vocals. Man. Look, I know it’s punk, I know it’s meant to be abrasive and reaching out beyond the rim of sensibility, and I know they’re meant to sound like they’re just a bit crayyzeee, but one thing I couldn’t reconcile about both Talons and Die! Die! Die! were the vocals which seemed to all too frequently let go of any sense of control and all ended up sounding like their were hitting the same registers. They sounded inane and, well, a bit juvenile. Urgh, I hate that word but at this hour it’s the only one I can find that seems to fit. Words were indistinguishable, but I guess that’s not an issue.

In a nutshell: I’m curious, but the show didn’t quite see me become a die-hard fan. The tracks from the EP sound really good, and I would definitely catch another show down the track as their profile builds. Like, for sure. Have no fear Jonny.

Die! Die! Die!

Given this band are a. releasing an album and b. touring from across the sea (even if it’s New Zealand, it still requires effort and a following) I expected a some tighter musicianship and better developed work than the supports. Die! Die! Die! (hereafter abbriated to DDD!) delivered, for the most part. The insanity, however, was entirely unprecedented.

Punk is not dead. It lives on in DDD! (and others I’m sure, but allow me the rhetoric)

The show begins with a frenetically-picked note on a Fender Mustang which gets transformed into a high-pitched loop, and no sooner has the three-piece wall of sound reached it’s climax (it barely dies down for the remainder of the set) frontman Andrew Watson is amongst the crowd causing carnage (aliteration not deliberate). The crowd responded by transforming into a sea of madness for the remainder of the set. I feared for my life and remained at the rear of the room.

(An observation on the side: anyone can hit an infinite delay or a loop pedal, and anyone can jog the delay speed dial to unleash a series of screams and howls. As much as it can be a bit of a buzz, and add some unpredictable excitement, it gets a bit old after a while.)

The three piece works well together. The rhythm section is tight and bass and drums provided a substantial amount of the continued momentum. The guitars primarily provide screams, howls, and anthemic delay laden tremelo picking. At times they sound like The Edge on every form of drug known to cause hyperactivity, with his amps turned up to 11.

Frankly, I can’t comment on the songs. I couldn’t hear much of them. The vocals I found irritating (see above), despite most of my favourite vocalists being ones that technically “can’t sing” (according to people who, apparently, can)

But the energy, on the other hand. Dear heavens, the energy was like a furious pack of ravenous lions embarking on a murderous rampage. How’s that for a primary school level of attempted descriptive writing?

Back to why I’d use a word like overstimulated to describe this show. Observing the crowd down below me, I quickly realised that they were responding to more than just the music itself – it seems like they were whipped up into some kind of frenzy via the inescapable sensory overload that permeated the entire set (please forgive the inane array of words – it’s late and I’m attempting to describe the enormity of what was going on). As a result, I found myself wondering whether perhaps a gig of this nature is less about music in and of itself than about experiencing mayhem. I can’t speak for the punters, but that’s mostly what I saw.

Back to the band: they certainly bring the party, that can’t be denied. The energetic punters appeared to be more than happy with the return on investment they received.

For me, the DDD! show didn’t leave me wanting them to come back for one more song, nor did it convince me that I should run out and buy the band’s new album. It sometimes confused, and frequently intrigued, me. I certainly was left impressed by their ability to throw themselves into their music beyond a human’s typical concept of personal safety.

Now that I know what I’m in for, I might even dip my toe in for a second time.

One response to “Gig Review: Die! Die! Die! / Talons / Ripping Dylans

  1. Pingback: A Reminder » Blog Archive » Die! Die! Die! fallout, Gotye, Conor Oberst and other bits and pieces

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