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Flamingo Drive

Flamingo Drive

by 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.

Wild Eyes

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.

Mr Nikhil Singh

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

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RESPONSES (17)
  1. Story says:

    Amazing article.
    Everything about it.

    Very well played.

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  2. Stonk says:

    bloody amazing band. wish I was there…
    hope they are playing again!

    I heard Nik was going back to the UK for the launch of his book?

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  3. norbert says:

    Our Love Has A Special Violence
    http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?1yzjdlnmnyn

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  4. Andy says:

    Nik is going back to the UK – but he’ll be back… Watch out for the Salem Brownstone review on Mahala – coming soon!

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  5. jezebel says:

    why ‘much better than we deserve’? what do we deserve. or rather more, what don’t we deserve?

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  6. dylan says:

    I’m very sad that I missed this gig. Thanks Righard, your review was a decent consolation. If you’re still unemployed why not consider writing full time?

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  7. Felix L\'Ensemble says:

    Seeing as it’s question time. Do dull suburban zombies in search of hollow entertainment deserve a band that is sonically challenging? Do pretentious art-snobs with austere notions of validity deserve a band hell-bent on revelry and self-abandonment?

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  8. djf says:

    Maybe all of the above deserve tinnitus?

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  9. JESUS says:

    I’m glad these animals can come together and praise me in a the way they should I have a place in heaven and my heart for nikhil my little christain boy.

    Jesus loves you!

    xxxx

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  10. Chris Roper803493 says:

    “he inverts, syncopates and messes with the rhythm like an imp with a Rubik’s cube”

    Now that is a fucking good line. And a gorgeous review, it would almost be a shame to have been there.

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  11. John says:

    I dont think even billy cobham gets a line like that? eish

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  12. jezebel says:

    i believe we at least deserve new clichés…

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  13. Andy says:

    I’m with Felix…

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  14. Felix Le Quartet says:

    But do we deserve any old irony?

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  15. Felix von Trio says:

    Dada…da

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  16. Atiyyah says:

    I was at this gig and i couldnt have said it better. Great review Righ.

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  17. Baron Von Bullshit says:

    The first time that I saw the wild Eyes they were opening for some butch dyke afrikaans girl band at the old Nile Crocodile in Pretoria. they got chased off he stage by the sound engineer after their second song. That was the only time that I was able to see them play live before they broke up.I went to the reunion show as well and I couldn’t help feeling like 99.9% of the people that showed up at weren’t even there to see The Wild Eyes. Most of them were there to see the generic band that played first and to show off their new pair of Vellies and appropriate Hipster attire. The kids aren’t all right.

    Thank you Len, Gareth and Nikhil for an amazing show that I would always cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you Richard for the beautiful write up. No one could have explained it better.

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