Miss Halliwell are cool. Ice cool in fact. That’s partially due to the fact that tonight’s gig was pretty much held outside (okay, so there were patio heaters and what looked like some parachute fabric overhead but still, you could see sky and trees and ice and shit...). More importantly though Miss Halliwell are cool because they – helmed by the truly inspirational Miles Perhower – seem hellbent on doing their own thing irrespective of the consequences. How else would you explain the choice of tonight’s support acts? A series of laptop knob twiddlers kicking off with Adam Beckley whose ambient soundtrack for the nightbus to the end of the universe hypnotised the early birds, lulling them into a false sense of security before Cities Prepare For Attack! (I’m assuming this was his name...there were no intros...) unleashed the kind of sonic warfare that would have the UN issuing condemning press releases as fast as they could write ‘em. Imagine someone removing the top of your skull, inserting a fire alarm in full effect just behind your cerebral cortex then sealing the wound back up with molten razor wire...that’s pretty much the sound of Cities Prepare For Attack. The dude makes My Bloody Valentine sound like a folk act. Strangely the pain became soothing, numbing almost...a womb of noise that...some 12 hours or so later still refuses to let go.
I couldn't help overhear Miles chuckling mischievously to Mr Cities after the set “I think you scared them all...but I think they enjoyed it”. Strangely...I did. There was another sonic terrorist in between BiD! and Miss Hallewell who performed a similar attack, perhaps a little less severe and with more variation but still, noise as a vicious weapon.
Sandwiched in amongst all this mayhem were BiD! (formerly Betty and the Id), purveyors of post grunge new doom psych wave prog rock (yep, all them genres...occasionally in just one tune too) who, at various times throughout their set recalled The Knack jamming with Black Sabbath and (on one of the highlights, The Analyst) Wire sharing acid with Syd era Floyd. Away from the mass appeal of PEACE (arguably one of the best bands in the world right now...) Birmingham’s littered with other more oddball musical gems. BiD! are one of them. Miss Halliwell are certainly another. I see it as my personal mission in life to get people listening to them, writing about them, going to see them. If you’re looking for a lazy shorthand summary Miss Halliwell could well be as important as The Fall (a band they memorably supported way back at the start of their career). Like Mark E. Smith Miles has that rare ability to fuse his uncompromising vision and often challenging world view with some...well...surprisingly catchy tunes.
Tonight the band starts without him, easing themselves back in with an instrumental number propelled by Rose of Berarwood’s staccato ‘clip you round the ear’ style of drumming. Miles enters through the crowd and the dynamic changes straight away, there’s an edge to him that suggests that anything might happen in the next 30 minutes and...for a moment or two mid set...murder seemed like a distinct possibility. Before all that though the band ground out Banner, one of the picks of Miles’ criminally underappreciated 2012 During The Interrogation EP, a post punk rant that careers around wildly for just over a minute achieving more than many bands could hope to realise in a whole damn album. This is paired with Signature, another EP track, Perhower’s finest stream of unconsciousness to date “You declare your independence, I declare I need a drink” he intones mournfully before spitting “1,2,3,4,5” through gritted teeth like a man on the verge of insanity. This, my friends, is how you do it. Whatever ‘it’ might be. It’s frankly mesmerising. “My name’s Jesus and I want to have sex with your mind” he announces. Out of the mouths of most people that would sound pretty ridiculous, but in a dour Black Country accent it loses any hint of pomposity and comes across more like a fucked up chat up line delivered round the back of Wetherspoons. Go on then son, have sex with our minds. Would you like chips with that? Yeah. Fucking chips. Free Chips for everyone. Yeah. That’s the name of the next song. It’s ridiculous, yes? How come it sounds so bloody great then? Grungey, funky, punky...a fuzzy drug induced trip that should be force fed to our children to teach them the difference between music and MUSIC, emotion and EMOTION, balls and BALLS.
“Southgate, give us a wave” heckles someone from the back of the audience (Miles bears a vague resemblance to Gareth Southgate)
The heckler’s ignored so the heckler tries again. And again. And again...
I forget the exact words but the gist of Miles’ response was that, when pushed, he’s a genuinely crazy motherfucker and if the heckler utters another word he’ll wrap his guitar around his head.
Unsurprisingly the heckler shuts the fuck up.
Most of the time such threats feel a little empty, you genuinely got the impression that Miles’ wasn’t joking though. Now that’s the difference between an act and a performance.
There were a few new tracks tonight too, no idea of their names but I can happily report that standards aren’t slipping one bit. Slowly but surely he and they are amassing what I truly believe to a seriously important body of work, something that won’t probably be appreciated until it’s too late and they’ve split up, grown up or given up. It would frankly be a tragedy if that were the case though. Trust me, if you only see one band this year, make it this one.
(they didn't play this one last night but, hell, it's a great track...)
PS: Record labels out there...big ones...Sony, Universal...that kind of big...release this shit and make up for all the vacuous crap you keep pumping out.
PPS: I’m serious. Where are the risk takers in music these days? Why’s everything so freakin’ safe? This country...and world for that matter...is being systematically shafted by the rich and powerful like never before and the best response we have is Beyonce? Jeez...
PPPS: Have a nice Easter and all that...