As I stand in line to gain entry to Hackney’s renowned musical Mecca – Moth Club, an energy is already forming within the night’s prospective audience. Anticipation blends with the frigid North London air like the smoke from countless cigarettes.
After the tragic passing of Phobophobes’ guitarist George Russel, the South London psych provocateurs have returned to the scene. Counting original Fat White Family drummer Dan Lyons, as well as Meatraffle’s organ player Chris OC amongst their ranks, Phobophobes are seemingly as alive as ever. The band has admirably chosen to continue sharing their anarchic blend of garage psych with the world in George Russel’s honour, and who better to support them in this than Dead Pretties, Horsey and the phenomenal Education. Moth Club knows it’s Monday night, but it doesn’t give a fuck.
First up are Education. As soon as they walk on stage I am immediately struck by their provocative style. Any band hosting a bassist who can get away with wearing bondage leather is good in my book. But Education aren’t just any band. The drums begin to rumble, the bass starts to growl, and already the crowd are locked into an inescapable groove. This is a feat not to be ignored considering they are the first act of the evening, but like I said Education aren’t just any band. The virtuosic, psych infused keys and crystalline guitar lines are only surpassed by the frontman’s explosive charisma and remarkable lyrical creativity. “Finger me in the Alton Towers bathroom” is now my favourite lyric of all time. With a voice reminiscent of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and the stage presence of Bowie, he is the perfect embodiment of Education’s vivacious, socially aware and effortlessly cool sound.
Thanks to Education, the crowd is loose and eager for more. South London’s Horsey exploit this and give it everything they’ve got. Opening with ‘Arms and Legs’, the boys unique blend of jazz infused jangle-rock feels inaccessible initially. Oftentimes it strikes me that they have forced too many differing influences into their sound. Whilst it’s fantastic to hear bands which deny categorisation, in this case it feels like a method which is masking a more sincere sound. Horsey’s set is somewhat hit and miss. However they eventually win the crowd over with ‘Crohn Elf’, a hypnotising slice of moody psych-rock which oozes out the PA like melted butter.
Next up are Dead Pretties. They step up onto stage and face a wavering audience, their energy is starting to wane. Seeking no validation or approval, frontman Jacob Slater plugs in his guitar, whacks up the volume and proceeds to shake the room with the fattest riffs imaginable. The crowd willingly submits to the raw energy that Dead Pretties exude from every fibre of their being. Their sound is one which simply cannot be recreated to the same quality in a studio environment. This band was made to play live. Slater’s gravelly, smoke stained vocals compliment the throbbing basslines and fuzz-laden guitar hooks perfectly. It allows Dead Pretties to traverse the line between the classic punk sound and accessible indie-rock with ease.
Finally, Phobophobes take to the stage. They are greeted by an ecstatic crowd who show no hesitation in applauding such a refreshing, unique and quite frankly mesmerising band. As they unleash their opening number on the audience, a sonic explosion sweeps through the room, bouncing off the glitter-ball gold ceiling above my head and soaking into every single body in the room. The organ and synth mastery of Chris OC is absolutely essential to Phobophobes’ swirling and chaotic brand of psychedelia. This is demonstrated as the band tear into their new single ‘The Never Never’. With recognisable influences from The Stranglers, the head-spinning new single drives the audience into a frenzy as they battle their way front and centre. I can’t blame them for wanting to either. Watching Phobophobes makes me want to press my ears against the PA system and let the music blast me back into the 70’s. If I was to let any band give me tinnitus it would have to be Phobophobes.
‘The Never Never’ by Phobophobes is released on 24th March 2017, and is available on 7″ vinyl via Ra-Ra Rok Records here.