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Githead, 25 September 2005, The Sugar Club, Dublin

What surprised me most about Githead was how light hearted they were. Sure their name should hint at some sort of humour but their studio work has a seriousness about it that made me imagine four people on stage staring at their shoes. Thankfully what I found was a friendly, funny band that interacted warmly with the slightly anaemic looking audience.

The underground supergroup (consisting of Wire’s Colin Newman and Robin Rimbaud a.k.a. Scanner on guitars and Malka Spigel and Max Franken from Minimal Compact on bass and drums respectively) is on their longest tour yet with a stint around Europe.

Support for their Irish show was provided by the Dublin band Crumb. To me they sounded quite dated, they’re obviously influenced by the meeker British indie rock of the eighties. They had no real presence on stage. They would have passed for entertaining if not for the guitarist’s terrible tone, he had the treble turned up so high that everything he played was masked by a grating high pitched noise. This is a shame because from looking at his fingerwork he had a nice technique.

Githead launched into the instrumental track “Antiphon” from their Profile album. Spigel’s bass was the most prominent part of this song and indeed most of the set. Her tight, fluid playing drove the band all evening, except for “My LCA (Little Box of Magic)” where Newman played bass and Spigel took to the mic and guitar. Counter to this strong bass presence, both Newman and Rimbaud set up a rhythmical shimmer of guitar. At times their playing blended together as they weaved in and out of each others’ riffs. Rimbaud looked very comfortable with his instrument considering he’s best known for twiddling knobs. In fact, the highlight of my evening was his playing during the final song “Raining Down” (another Spigel vocal moment) where not only did it sound good but the poses he pulled were very entertaining. Another memorable moment was “To Have and To Hold,” which sounds tremendous live. Newman’s whispered vocals were just audible enough over the band. The addition of Franken’s live drumming to the pre-recorded drum machine beat fleshed the track out into a truly memorable performance.

With any luck Githead will make a return to Irish shores sometime soon.


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Clang Quartet, "The Separation of Church & Hate"
There's just something about a band that creates their own instruments to make the message they commit to tape. They thumb their nose at conventional instrumentation, striving for a higher statement of being, demanding more struggle for themselves before composing their work. Once they've made sounds with that new instrument, though, the result often doesn't produce anything resembling a great leap forward, and can get mired in its own imperfection. Unfortunately, that is the case with Clang Quartet, whose new album had so much promise. The title, a switch on a familiar phrase, becomes funny but incredibly appropriate considering that so much hate is generated by differing religions and those that follow them. Cover art drives the point home even more effectively, as what appears to be swastikas mixed with crucifixes jumble together until indistinguishable from each other. The key problem with The Separation is that the power of this concept is belittled by the sounds inside, and therefore the message, though admirable and necessary, is irrevocably lost. The sound of this record is not only generally unappealing, but in areas almost unlistenable. Scotty Irving, who is the Clang Quartet, believes the line between sound and music to be invalid, and it shows. He loves percussion, so most songs are structured as purely beat driven with an unaltering melody. The opening track, appropriately titled "Amazing Disgrace," is monotonous and ultimately just gains volume and distortion, plus a few keyboard-like sounds that may or may not be "The Crutch" (Irving's new and original but ugly instrument). Loud angry drums that appear towards the end add more flavor and still more volume, but the overall effect is still static and annoying. "Under God" feature squelches and buzzes instead, effects that burble and bleep, but grate above all else. "The Infidel Within" has wild tracks, commentary, and a bit of sermonizing from Irving, all dealing with the infamous Proctor & Gamble Church of Satan argument. The track is wholly uninteresting, although it is impartial, and this time it's Irving himself that is the annoying part. When it isn't percussive nonsense driving the tracks, it's his voice ("Hadephobia") or message, which apparently involves increased self-promotion ("Two or More Gathered in HIS Name Part 2"). His repeated assertion that he does not create "music" is supported quite well by these songs, but it's infortunate that he does have a message worth delivering. The fact that it's not comfortably delivered, or even coherently for that matter, does it a great disservice. Even where he drives the message home lightly, it's like nails on a chalkboard. Messages like his are never easy to listen to, but Clang Quartet go an awful distance to make it more uncomfortable than it needs to be, and thus the message goes unheard or gets misunderstood in the final analysis. 


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