There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Lately, wearied by work and by life in general, I’ve found my enthusiasm for live music unexpectedly waning. But something about the prospect of Pissed Jeans at the Brudenell – especially after finally getting properly acquainted with their latest long-player, which suddenly seems one of the most relevant releases of the year – gave be a buzz I’ve not experienced in a while.
The Brude’s always put on diverse lineups, and for the broad-minded, seeing bands of divergent styles is a plus: who needs to see five acts all doing the same thing? It diminishes the power of the headliner, for a start. I’m not entirely sure who’s behind tonight’s lineup but it’s a celebration of eclecticism, and the range is a substantial contributor to the enjoyment of the night.
All-fame four-piece Es are all about the spiky, post-punk antagonism. In the tradition of Skeletal Family, X-Mal Deutschland and early Christian Death, Es trade in spiky, gothic-tinged post-punk that emanate vibes of circa 1983. Never mind the fact this is totally my scene and that I’m stylistically biased: they do a great job of it, and balance just the right level of abrasion, antagonism and attack with affability between the songs.
None of this – not even my time spent trawling You Tube beforehand – prepared me from the fucked-up spectacle of Lone Taxidermist. Sonically, Natalie Sharp’s latest musical vehicle is ace, packing a set of neatly-packed electro tunes. Visually, they’re on another planet. Sharp may be as much a performance artist as a musician, but this is something else.
In fact, I’m barely listening to the music: on-stage, a trio in weird outfits perform, whole in front of the stage a bunch of people are running riot while dressed in sumo suits, spraying shaving foam over one another and simulating sex acts with rubber cocks, fake breasts, and grotesquely exaggerated buttocks floating here, there, and everywhere. In such a context, material itself is inevitably eclipsed by the performance, but in today’s visual culture, it’s all about presentation and making it memorable. And Lone Taxidermist don’t so much make it memorable as present a show that will likely scar half the audience for life.
The purpose of the roll of clear polythene is revealed at the end of the set, when Natalie Sharp – having shed both the rubber glove decorations and the PVC jumpsuit to reveal a red rubber bikini – stage-dives onto the crowd, who hold aloft the sheet like some kind of kinky canopy.
It takes immense balls, and a certain degree of insanity for a headline band to be ok with following such a support. Pissed Jeans are that headline band, and fit the criteria perfectly.
A large part of the band’s appeal lies in the extent to which they revel in the mundane – and the fact they elevate it to a low-level artform. Their latest offering, the Lydia Lunch-produced ‘Why Love Now’ is a seething mess of office-based sexual tensions, and in light of the headline of recent weeks, feels like one of the most relevant records released all year. It features prominently in the set, but in typical not-giving-a-fuck style, they throw away lead single ‘The Bar is Low’ just three songs into the set.
Another part of the appeal of Pissed Jeans as a live proposition is the performance element: they really go for it, the stage being a scene of perpetual motion as all but the drummer wheel about the stage, throwing every pose going and clearly relishing every moment. Because this is release. This is escape. This is the catharsis, the liberation from the everyday grind, the dayjob, the kids. There’s a sense that every posture is weighted with irony and a subliminal smirk at the fact these are regular guys playing at being rock stars, even now. They’re cool precisely because they’re not: Pissed Jeans are spectacularly ordinary as individuals, with beer guts and bald spots, but shine a spotlight on an ordinary guy and immediately he’s not the same ordinary guy.
There’s a spontaneity about a Pissed Jeans gig that makes every show special, and being at the Brudenell, only amplified this. And that energy is infectious.
They chuck in some classics from the back catalogue, including a raucous rendition of ‘Romanticize Me’ and ‘Bathroom Laughter’, and climax with an explosive ‘False Jesii Part 2’. They’ve got dirty riffs galore. Seriously. The grungy riffs just keep on coming, and the ironic sleaze is amped up to eleven for the duration.
And what else is there to say? To define, delineate, describe in detail precisely why Pissed Jeans are one of the most exhilarating live acts around would be to strip the soul out of the whole thing. It’s about the moment, about being there. And those who were won’t forget it for a while.