Once More Unto the Breach Sisters: ILL live in Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Once More Unto the Breach Sisters: ILL live in Leeds

by Tim Dawtry Rating: Release Date:
Once More Unto the Breach Sisters: ILL live in Leeds
Once More Unto the Breach Sisters: ILL live in Leeds

"If you are looking for a reason to believe in rock'n'roll - then this band is it!" - thus spoke Creation records boss Alan McGee in 1994 whilst introducing his latest proteges . He was talking about Oasis - and they came to define the stand out features of most contemporary guitar music - musically conservative, regressively macho and (like a TV drama that has been around for six seasons too many) unable to escape the legacy of its own bloated backstory. Ironically, you could argue that Oasis achieved the exact opposite of what McGee promised - helping to extinguish any lingering reason to believe in the power of the 20th century's greatest art form.

And now? - what was once the pop-culture weapon of choice for alienated, disempowered young men to take up against societal and class oppression, an axe with which to cleave out a space for expression and self affirmation, has been blunted to near uselessness. The rock band genre has become an over-familiar, self referential, comfy sofa full of man-spreading middle aged blokes. Shock value - zero.

Today, angry, alienated, desperate, working class lads are not forming guitar bands for their cultural "fuck you"s - if they find that anywhere it is in the world of grime and hip hop (which still has credible "outsider" status - it being too black and urban for decent white folks).

So - that about wraps it up for rock'n'roll then. You were magnificent, vital and life changing in your day. But - alas - the world turns and teenage wasteland becomes middle aged waist band. Cultural revolt is inevitably appropriated by the parasitic processes of consumer capitalism....

.. but wait! What's this? Why - it appears to be a day-glo-green flying saucer piloted by The Slits and your favourite Spice Girl. In its hold are plutonium rods and a bunch of those weird-arse 70s German bands like Neu! and Can. Boom! It crashes into the Queer Theory and Contemporary Feminism A-Level class at St Trinians. Out of the resulting fireball stride four women - and they are ILL.

ILL are what happens when angry, smart, feisty women descend on the festering corpse of rock'n'roll. They fuck it, carve it up, rip out its entrails with their teeth and remake it into something terrifying and beautiful.

They describe themselves as "genre evading" - which could indicate some po-faced, music-college wank. But - whilst they certainly have the musical chops - ILL are anything but. They are a pop group - in the best sense of the word - immediate, flashy, spectacular and irresistible. They are punk as fuck too - but they use punk's fire and energy as a starting point, rather than as an end in itself.

The sound is built upon full-fat bass riffs married to tom-heavy drum work. In and around this, woozy/weird keyboards and exquisitely tortured guitar sounds explode and stab and slash and smear. Twin vocals holler and harmonise and yelp to each other with wonderfully barbed, angry and hilarious lyrics. All of it performed with total commitment and a joyous, anarchic energy.

The combined elements work together to form a dynamic sonic poetry - the result of an exhilarating, intuitive, chemistry between four exceptional musical imaginations.

Despite the wild musical frontiers they traverse, this is not some attempt to befuddle the audience with wilful avante-garde artfulness; the songs are full of beguiling hooks and wonky ear worms. And they take on all the classic pop themes - mental illness, toxic relationships, sexual harassment and raging against patriarchy and the government.

The combined effect is mesmerising, ecstatic, cathartic, riotous, electric. Easily the most exciting gig I've been to in many, many years. They evoke the spirit of a gleeful, girl-gang kicking down walls and smashing statues - and in a way that only a female led band can.

Because male-led bands can no longer easily provide this transgressive frisson - aggro men with guitars now risk merely projecting macho self assertion - a reinforcement of an oppressive status quo and/or a hackneyed self parody of the rock'n'roll outlaw myth (See also - middle-managers on Harley Davidsons).

But women in music - as in other male dominated areas - are still outsiders. And female bands like ILL are not chained to rock's history - (rock's Herstory is still much minimised and excluded from 'the canon'). So, they are free to reinvent, free of the compulsion to venerate the legends of the golden age. And the spectacle of women being wilful, riotous and fighty is subversive and viscerally thrilling in a way that echoes the outrage, shock and delight once provoked by Little Richard's manic glossolalia, Jagger's sneer and the Pistols' snarl.

So thank fuck for women grabbing the toys from the boys and making them their own. Venues, Radio stations, record companies, fanzines, festival promoters and producers - get behind ILL and get behind their sisters. Men in music should - in the words of the Joan Baez's boyfriend - "Get out of the way if you cant lend a hand".

ILL - if there is any place in the world for love, truth and "disobedient noise" - must surely go on to great things. Great songs? Check. Live? - fuck me, wow! And they also have a riotously inventive visual aesthetic - (seriously - check out their hilariously disturbing DIY videos). If rebel rock'n'roll is to have one last hurrah - then ILL are ideally place to lead the charge.

Because - if you are looking for a reason to believe in the joyous, transformative, electrifying power of rock'n'roll......

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