Flamingo Driveby Righard Kapp / 23.08.2009
It gets said more than a few times during the course of the evening that The Wild Eyes gig at Discoteque feels like some sort of reunion, not of the band, but of it’s fans. Several people whom you haven’t seen for years, who used to regularly convene at EVOL before it turned oh-so-ironic and crap, have popped out of the woodwork, and then you realise just what a community had sprung up around this remarkable band, and then splintered when the band did.
The venue is tiny, the crowd packed like sardines and it’s impossible to see the bands playing on the ground-level stage, yet this feels somewhat appropriate. The Revelators are up first, fronted by Johnny, whose former band The Epsilons raised eyebrows about 4 years ago with their keening intensity and the insight to cover The Gun Club’s ‘Sex Beat’in a time when a decline into style-over-substance genre-indie was already underway. The Revelators pick up where The Epsilons left off, which roughly translates as furiously raw garage rock, sheets of fuzz barely disguising the manic songcraft underneath.
The Wild Eyes don’t even play most of their old songs, which is unusual for a band reunion. But then there’s never been anything ordinary about them. Their set is intense and short, consisting mostly of new songs. But there’s no need to complain that they didn’t play ‘Breakdown’ or ‘Disko Inferno’, as it soon becomes apparent that The Wild Eyes are simply brilliant without even trying; they are what they are. They represent perhaps the most uncanny more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts-ness I’ve witnessed in a band; Nikhil is ageless and androgynous, beautiful and frightening at the same time, imbuing forgotten bubblegum pop aesthetics with a ‘devil-at the-crossroads’ blues primitivism. Gareth is the good-natured hellraiser, equally fluent in the languages of noise and funk, who’ll smile at you politely while giving you tinnitus. Len is a powerhouse on the drums who has the science of grooves down to an art (no four to the floor boredom here, he inverts, syncopates and messes with the rhythm like an imp with a Rubik’s cube).
What’s new is the squelchier synth sounds that leap from the live mix to become another alien voice arguing with Nikhil’s unholy incantations. Nikhil’s guitar playing has evolved from off-kilter to astonishing, thanks no doubt to the time spent in guitar/drums duo Hi Spider; he launches into ‘solos’, or should I say ‘freakouts’, with reckless abandon and total disregard for musical correctness – the second song they played (I don’t know the title, and it wasn’t announced either, as The Wild Eyes do not talk between songs) ended too soon, it could have gone on for 10 more minutes and that would have been OK by me.
They do eventually play ‘Kali Kola’ and ‘Flamingo Drive’, familiar numbers that inadvertently fuel the crowd’s nostalgia, and then it’s over, you’re left with the feeling of having experienced something you didn’t realise you were missing all this time. Perhaps it’s the celebration of not fitting into any easily definable box, of ambiguity as a constant, and of artifice as authenticity.
But the words that flash on the TV screens in the venue during the gig,“When I hear the word ‘Culture’ I reach for my pistol”, intimate that The Wild Eyes are simply too immersed in their outlandishness to be drawn into any chin-stroking dissertation on identity politics. They are a universe unto themselves and are, quite simply, much better than we deserve.
All images courtesy and © Jenna Bass