Band names, eh? There is a school of music journalism that believes that the first and by far the most important question you should ask a band is “how did you get your name?” or “where does your name come from?” I only did this to one band I think – Trevor’s Head. It’s an unusual band name (aren’t they all?) that I first came across quite some time ago… but only half way through their set that it first occurred to me that it must be a reference to the mighty Trevor Brooking and his diving headed winner in the 1980 FA Cup Final. I was wrong. Coincidentally it only occurred to me during Slug 13’s set that Slug can mean something other than “slimy little creature”.
Now that the important stuff is out of the way I’d better quickly deal with the music.
Nanking first. I loved their second track, which sounded to me like what At the Drive-In would sound like if they were a surf band, and there were plenty of other good moments. It’s rare to see a drummer attack a drumkit with the sheer force and abandon that Nanking’s stickster did; it’s rare to see a band with such a good bass player. But they do also sound like a band who are happy to chuck any and all influences into the mix and have fun, whereas if they focused the talent into developing their own sound they’d sound a lot more like a band. But that ain’t happening – one gig to go, The Lounge in Alton at the end of the week – and Nanking are no more.
Slug13 are in many ways the complete opposite… less likely to pick up work as session musicians, but much more likely to come across as a ‘proper band’, a band who’ve found their sound. I really liked their set, which to me was proper grunge in a Mudhoney kinda way. Not that they sounded particularly like Mudhoney, just a proper, old-school stoner / grunge thing, and my personal taste and bias tends to lead me to seeing Mudhoney as the start, middle and end of grunge. Not heard so much wah from one guitar for quite a while (no bad thing). If I had one criticism it’d be that I’d prefer the guitars a bit more loose and wild and free… but perhaps that would take away as much as it’d give… and maybe it was just the volume in the venue was a touch lower than it could have been during their set.
Finally Trevor’s Head, who kinda make my last point (or rather second last point) for me. Another proper old-school stoner / grunge band, though perhaps with a few more modern influences than Slug13, and definitely more of an explicit punk influence, a bit less grunge and a fair bit more stoner. They were looser and wilder (and louder I think) than Slug 13 and fucking good for it, but you can’t have it both ways. If anything maybe I’d have preferred a bit more of the solid, chugging consistency of Slug13.
Jeez… solid, chugging consistency sounds a bit like a massive insult doesn’t it, but it really isn’t – its integral to the whole sound / band. And you know what, the easiest thing to do is chuck some other influence or instrument into the mix. The hardest thing to do is keep it (relatively) simple. As I get older I find myself more and more interested in technical, proggy, mathy, post-hardcore music of one type or another. I love the insane complexity thrown at you hard and fast and loud. But my real love, and certainly my original love, is music that is much more simple.
Sorry Nanking, stay together if you want more words outta me. Slug13 and Trevor’s Head are two fine grungey stonery bands well worthy of your attention… I think my vote would have to go to the former (1-0 Slug13), but I suspect that’s to do with my age and shared formative influences as much as anything; gut feel is the more orthodox stoner thing Trevor’s Head have got going on is likely to have the wider appeal (1-1). But I get the casting vote so 2-1 Slug13, Trevor’s Head lose, review over.