Fauntleroy, Throatpunch City, Aching Muscle, Slow Ruin at the Star Inn, Guildford – Buffalo Club Night – Sunday 19th March 2017

Slow Ruin are not your typical Buffalo Club band.  Well they are in one respect – they know what they’re doing.   Buffalo Club nights, to me, are about high quality, and alt, noise and maybe a dash of metal over the last 25 years, and all sorts, but generally pretty noisy.  Not normally particularly modern sounding, but aside from some hard rock riffs generally more late 80s onwards than anything before in terms of overt influences.  Some of it is pretty mathy and modern, but Buffalo Club nights don’t generally chase fashion.  Which is something else they have in common with Slow Ruin.

Slow Ruin have a late 60s early 70s jazz-infused folk thing going on (under the surface… reminded me of the Pentangle, but maybe that’s because they’re about the only late 60s early 70s jazz-infused folk thing I ever listen to), that they take in a bluesy, heavier, psychedelic direction.  When they started my immediate reaction was “this is all too blues / classic rock for me”, but I quickly came round to that being part of their sound, and in no way simply their sound.  It got noisier, almost a bit early 80s, neo-psychedelia.

3 piece.  Really liked the drums, really liked the guitars.  The singer has a great voice.  Kinda good start.  At one point I was wondering whether she was gonna go all talent-show waily-shit, but no, my fears were allayed and she carried comfortably on the right side of the “giving it some” / “caterwauling painfully” divide.  My fears were not down to anything she did, they were down to how high a proportion of people who have a confident and powerful voice seem to take it ten steps too far and start breaking glasses and stuff.  Not on Slow Ruin’s watch.  Really good voice, really enjoyed it.

Actually, you know what.  If I could chuck one criticism at the Buffalo Club booking policy is it could go in a bit more of a psychedelic direction.  Minor criticism.

I’ll come back to Aching Muscle.

Throatpunch City have their moments.  There’s a lot to like.  Kinda remind me of Mars Volta but I’m sure there are closer comparisons that I’ve not heard.  They are loud.  They have a scruff-pot guitarist who was happy as anyone I’ve ever seen on a stage.  Pretty good but what they seem to be trying to do – playing fucking loud and precise – is damn hard.  Two things, perhaps I am judging them harshly when lining them up against my experiences of listening to the likes of the Mars Volta on record.  Secondly, I reckon the two hardest things to do in music are these – play simple (I dunno, acoustic guitar, one voice, simple song) and make it magical; play hard and precise, trying to get perfection alongside power.  They’re trying one of those things. The latter. I hope is obvs.

Fauntleroy.  Richard Fennings on guitar.  Some geez on drums who deserves love attention and even respect for his efforts with the sticks, but if he’s stupid enough to get on stage with Richard he should know well enough he’s gonna get a bit overlooked.

I really struggle talking about most bands (why am I even writing this?) but more so those bands who come from any sort of proggy or mathy direction.  I don’t know Fauntleroy’s reference points one bit, but I do know they are playful, incredibly precise, beautiful, varied and that I like them a lot.  They even get damn noisy at times and come close to replicating and simultaneously bettering / battering the Throatpunch City sound with 60% fewer people on stage.  [I’m probably being harsh, and I’m grossly oversimplifying, but I have a feeling that for Throatpunch City to be the band they’d like to be they need to sack most of themselves and start breeding Fennings].

Downsides – I’m open to plenty of different things music wise, but their style is certainly not one of my favourites.  Its the sort of music I’ll happily listen to, not the sort of music I seek out.  They are almost too knowing to be a “proper band” [and I do mean almost, they are a proper band, with their own sound]; they risk being seen as not serious… which is fair, cos they’re not that serious, but unfair because it is possible to be very serious and the total opposite simultaneously.

I’m pretty sure I checked them out online 12 or 18 month’s back before I realised that I could trust the Buffalo Club to put on a decent show… and I’m pretty sure a very quick listen made me think “not my thing”. Which they’re not, but a thing can not be your thing, whilst still be a thing that you can shake your thang too, from time to time.  I will be checking them out more on record, and I will be seeing them live again.

If you like musicianship, variety or simply beautiful intricate and surpising math then THEY ARE FOR YOU.

Which brings me onto Aching Muscle.  Richard Fennings, solo.  Basically Fauntleroy but more so.  More varied, less serious.  Backing samples / loops, guitar, insanely impressive, but more Britain’s Got Talent than Brits.  Absolutely legitimate to have a solo thing going on, why not?  Entertaining enough, but more of a novelty than a band (not that one person ever really has much hope of being described as a band).

When something is as unserious as this the question has to be asked, why not go the whole hog and get in a comedian / comedy singer (rapper?  poet?) in to front it?

Reminded me of Mike and James’ “Expert Knob Twiddlers” album from the mid-90s. I was thinking “in spirit, not sound”, though maybe quite a lot of the backing loops shared something soundwise as well.

 

 

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