Thursday 12 November 2015

Live Review: Mutoid Man + Special Guests @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK. 21/10/2015

By: Phil Weller  
Photos by: Jack Kirwin

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

The place is empty, Mutoid Man suck more arse than imaginable and Ben Koller politely tells me, as I sheepishly approach the stage, that I don’t have to get too close to the stage if I don’t want to. The atmosphere cut be cut with, not so much a knife as it could with a tea spoon or feather and is dead as the Dodo. They end with ‘Bridgeburner’ and I lose my proverbial shit, as I’ve been promising my close friends for weeks. I do a double 360 backflip, nearly knocking over Matt Bellamy and Sting in the process. It was an atrocious show but at least I could take away an impressive gymnastic fete from the evening.

Then I wake up and review the messed up dream I just had. Today is Mutoid Day and I’ve not been this excited about a gig for a long while – and considering just how many gigs I go to, says a damn lot. ‘Bleeder’ is, in a year choc a bloc with outstanding releases, arguably the finest release of the year. To see it live is a tantalising prospect. So I pray that what just played out in my head is just some augmented bullshit and not the foreshadowing of the greatest embarrassment since Chris Cornell tried to make a hip hop album.

Backstage the band are in a jovial mood, chatting to yours truly about everything from jamming stoned to drunken, grunting Irishmen pissing and getting naked in alleyways and putting a copy of The Holy Bible in the microwave. As our conversation winds down a member of their crew comes over to the band, a hybrid blend of utter confusion and bemused joy spread across his face. Breathlessly he turns to Steven Brodsky and says “you have to come see this band, they’re fucking weird!” So off we trot to the main room of The Deaf Institute through a flat now converted to a green room, up a winding steel staircase and out into the crowd. It takes seconds for me to appreciate just how perfect a description of the band weird was.

Salford’s Trojan Horse are hard to describe. Influenced as much by The Flaming Lips as they are Monty Python, the first thing that grabs me is how much their keyboardist looks uncannily like Spark’s Ron Mael, both facially and in terms of his bolt uprightness. They’re in the final throes of their closing track and yet still throw more ‘what the fuck?’ moments of musicality at you than many bands will in decades– think sweeping keyboards a la The Doors and a gnarly scrape of a guitar tone which sounds like it’s trying to break free from the amplifier. 
Spasmodic, King Crimson styled twists and turns shape their sound which are draped in a psychedelic cloak and made to sound as unpredictable as possible. Not particularly for the feint hearted.

Things get a little more digestible for Woking’s Palm Reader. If I’m honest, their take on hardcore, as brazen as it may be, isn’t my usual cup of tea. Yet they play with so much passion, grit and gall that I can’t help get on board with their fist-shaking revelry. Often times when you’re hearing a band for the first time in the flesh, it’s not so much about what they play as opposed to how they play it and they are a perfect example of that. Frontman Josh Mckeown is powerfully engaging, towering over the crowd as he empties his lungs down the microphone with a furious panache.

Revisiting their stuff on record after the show, intrigued enough to hear more – and I know I’m not alone with this, such is the impression their presence made upon the room tonight – it gives off a different atmosphere. Softer and more airy, they are a completely different beast live and I like that. There’s a ying yang thing going on and the yang we got tonight was belting.

Fast forward 90 minutes and Mutoid Man walk off stage as Brodsky’s Blackstar stack bleeds a flurry of feedback, their smiles mirroring the Cheshire Cat grins spread handsomely across the crowd. Those celebrity-pocked, kooky and outlandish visions my imagination had conjured for me in my sleep, like a Punch & Judy show to keep me amused as I rested, are left looking resolutely daft. Reality couldn’t be further away from what I dreamt – there’s no sign of Sting, for a start. The place is rammed and the band stop at nothing to entertain the living shit out of you.

The band share a great level of comradery on stage – this is more like watching three best friends take the piss out of each other than anything else. They jokingly toss their middle fingers up at each other like targets at a shooting gallery, all done while spinning through guitars that share a sonic kindredicity of a wasp stuck in a glass a la ‘1000 Mile Stare’. Koller does it between fills, catching the other two with a cheeky gaze as he does and it all combines to fizzle in the atmosphere. Good time vibes simply drip off the ceiling and the walls while they rollick through an adrenalised ‘Sweet Ivy’- and hell, I know that sounds as corny as maize but it's true. Not only can this band write a song that's both ram packed with a jaw dropping, three-headed technicality and oodles of bold and fiery vocal hooks, ‘Scrape The Walls’ and ‘Reptilian Soul’ exhibits A and B, but they do it while having the time of their lives. This doesn't look like a road-worn or depleted band, these are three dudes doing what they do best and doing it while laughing like pissed hyenas.

Their heavier yet respectful take of The Animals' Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,’ renamed as 'The Manimals' is well anticipated and goes down a bona fide storm as a result. It turns out more people are in love with this bonus track than I thought. Steven Brodsky introduces it by joking that The Animals song they’re going to be playing 'is not House of the Rising fucking Sun'. The original's bounce and definitive character still remains, but it sounds revitalised by its reimagining into an altogether more incendiary approach.
t all boils down to ‘Gnarcissist’ with its straight forward yet steam rolling pentatonic riff that shakes the room before avalanching into a simplistic yet colossus chorus that unites the crowd. It’s ridiculously good and it’s ridiculously impressive too how something so uncluttered, something so short and sweet can be so anarchically brilliant.

Sting missed the fuck out.