ROBOTS & ELECTRONIC BRAINS

Planquez/50 Tons of Black Terror/The Last Night @ The Monarch, Camden (17/8/99)

Planquez look like three nice young men you'd take home to meet your mum but sound more like they'd throw an orgy in her living room when they got there. Can you imagine a cross between Slint and Monkey Island? No, neither could I. Until yesterday, that is. They start off in that bluesey punk (or is that punky blues?) vein that will bring them inevitable comparisons to JSBE but, half-way through (songs, that is, not a set), they change to something more akin to a post-rock experiment with guitars. Whereas bands like Monkey Island could have fitted some 57 songs in the time they were given, Planquez manage about four. Or maybe five, if we take that the end of a song is when the audience starts clapping. They come across as both promising and endearing, not least because the singer rambles on between songs, more to himself than anyone else. It's a light relief before another 7 minutes of noise. Maybe they need to be a bit more polished but my advice is go and watch. Despite the stupid name.

Penthouse (or 50 Tons of Black Terror as they were billed tonight), on the other hand, look exactly how they sound: greasy, sleazy and sexy (but maybe that's just me). Despite being accused of excessive devotion to Jon Spencer, they remind me of nothing more than the Birthday Party or the early Bad Seeds. They share with them not only a similar ear-splitting dissonance but the fact that they are compelling to watch, if only for Charlie Finke going mental. That suit. That hair. That scrawny body bent double over the microphone. Climbing over the amps. Hanging off the ceiling. It's all been done before, of course, but most people would look like twats suspended from the lighting rig in the Monarch. He just looks evil. And the band carry on playing without him, not even turning around to see him cavorting with the audience. His voice is from the Nick Cave school of sounding like a demented preacher with a drink problem---he doesn't scream but he doesn't sing either. Behind him, it's a wall of sound and relentless guitar. The songs blend into one another, you forget whether you've heard them before. The barely recognisable flicker of a melody and the obvious blues framework are almost obliterated by the noise, much more so than on the records. They can be painful to listen to but when they are finished, it feels like they weren't on for long enough. When they walk off the stage and are followed by the too smooth sounds of The Last Night (ex-Paradise Motel and Gallon Drunk---and you can tell), we leave. 50 Tons of Black Terror could only have been followed by more dirty noise, not girls in pretty blue dresses. (Radiant Kovacs)


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