The Membranes vs Evil Blizzard - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Membranes vs Evil Blizzard - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2011-12-08

The night starts with my introduction to Leeds latest noise-rock types, Super Luxury. The perfect start to an evening of tinnitus-inducing noise, the band combines twisted, rumbling layers of sound with the explosive energy of hardcore. Singer Adam Nodwell shreds his larynx in a style even Ian MacKaye would be jealous of as he sweats and shakes his way through each adrenaline soaked moment.

It’s an impressively energetic set from start-to-finish, with Nodwell jogging on the spot at one point as the riffs-and-noise swell around him. Their sound certainly nods towards the likes of The Jesus Lizard, yet overall, Super Luxury make a jolting, murderous clamour all of their own.  

Next up, there’s a set from Barnsley’s System of Hate. Formed in 2011, the band members have been knocking around the punk scene since the 70s and are by far the most conventional act on tonight’s bill. Having said this, the band deliver the goods with solid three-chord wonders, an all-in-black crust-punk aesthetic and goth-punk vibes aplenty. It’s not particularly innovative or original but putting the post-gig analysis to the side for one minute, I can say that it was pretty enjoyable. 

What can you possibly say about Preston’s Evil Blizzard? And how the hell are you supposed to describe the band's live show? The core of the band consists of four bass players and singing drummer Mark Whiteside. Filthy Dirty wears a pair of bright pink shorts (possibly oversized boxer-shorts) and a grotesque, old man rubber mask as he bounds around the Brudenell’s stage to the crowd’s cheers and friendly jeers. A strange, hilarious and, some might say, unnerving sight.

The band open with the relentless brilliance of ‘Sacrifice’, a riff so addictive in all its pulverising, repetitive glory that I could quite happily listen to it rumble on for the rest of the night. There’s something immensely satisfying about hearing four bass players pile into a heaving beast of a riff with all the subtlety of sledgehammers. It’s a wall-of-riffs-and-noise from the start, but the overall effect is one of joyous release and collective euphoria (or collective insanity?).

A little way into the show Side, Prowler, Filthy Dirty, Kav, and Stomper are joined on stage by Blizzpig. Blizzpig wears a particularly horrible pig’s mask, a white boiler suit and seems to be brandishing a pair of butcher’s knives. A non-musical member, the ‘Pig's general mission seems to be to add to the wonderful chaos unfolding on and off the stage. The circus really has come to town.

At some point a guy looking remarkably like the Toxic Avenger walks into the crowd, seemingly blessing punters with the end of a genuinely rank mop head and flicking v’s at random patrons. All the while the band plough into riff-after-riff, with new song ‘Are You Evil?’ sounding like some delirious, noise-rock incarnation of PiL. By the end, there’s a guy in the audience playing bass and yet another bass player on stage, this one modelling a bright yellow duck's head. I’m not entirely sure what just happened but it’s the most fun I’ve had at a gig in ages.  

Originally forming in 1977, it’s hard to believe that The Membranes have been around so long. In a world full of reunions and comeback tours, John Robbs post-punk outfit stand out as a vital, renewed force and something of a revelation for this Membranes novice.

There’s a real sense of urgency and purpose to the band's set that gives every second of tonight’s performance a thrilling sense of urgency. Bass guitar strapped in place, a wide eyed Robb prowls the stage like a restless lion circling its cage. The band’s sound is both cerebral and brutal in its progressive yet primal assault - just take the throbbing, overdriven punk of ‘Do the Supernova’.

Tonight The Membranes manage to remind me of a glut of my favourite artists without ever sounding anything like them. There’s the outsider spirit of Julian Cope, the uncompromising artistic vision of Swans. Not many bands can come back to the stage after a couple of decades away and sound this crucial.  

The band play minor outsider hit ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’, but it’s clearly material from this year’s Dark Matter/Dark Energy that shines the brightest. Each new song bursts from the stage with a contagious, irrepressible energy, the lead guitarist adding manic flourishes of post-punk noise to the rhythm section's cosmic, ever-beating pulse. There’s the feeling that you’re along for a ride, that (to paraphrase Future of the Left) every second really does matter. I’m stood at the front for the whole set and am utterly hypnotised from the start.

Just as Evil Blizzard seemed intent on getting the crowd involved, The Membranes clearly don’t want their music to be passively consumed (admittedly, who does?). When he’s not prowling the stage, Robb shakes hands with audience members and even gets off the stage to lay down a few bass licks in the crowd. During the superb ‘The Hum of the Universe’, Robb floats the microphone stand over our heads so we can chant along to the song's cosmic mantra.

The set comes to an end with Evil Blizzard’s Stomper adding some extra bass guitar to the band's already substantial sonic charge. It’s a defiant, passionately delivered set of forward-thinking punk rock. I leave the sweaty Brudenell gig room inspired and beaming from ear-to-ear. 

Photos courtesy of Rachel Tighe, Brian Houghton and myself. 

Comments (1)

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A lot of freaky stuff going down in Leeds. The Membranes look positively conventional next to the cabaret punks !

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