review archive

The Mooney Suzuki / The Agenda! / Of Arrowe Hill – The Monarch 19 May 2003

I want to like Of Arrowe Hill, they seem to be amiable enough cheeky Scouse chappies, and they have an ace painting on their bass drum that gives out the odd mixed message of The Kinks crossed with The Grateful Dead. But when it gets to the actual songs and that, I’m one non-plussed Kitten. The groovily painted bass drum thunders chunkily, to the point of discomfort, whilst the songs trundle out and along and over, kind of disintegrating into tangles of tuning-up before the next one rumbles up. Nothing seems to catch my ear, chuck my chin or trip me up. Hmmm.

In complete contrast, The Agenda! pile on and slam into a short sharp set that wakes me up, shakes me by the ears and biffs me on the nose with glee. Yes, there do seem to be several squillion bands doing the shake ‘n’ vac garage ramalama rounds at the moment so The Agenda! have decided they’re gonna grab themselves a fistful of the action by inventing themselves as a high-octane gargle-fest of organ, geetars and shrieking. Luckily, we’ve still got the patience for another such gang of rapscallions, especially when they’re hurling themselves about The Monarch’s crappy little stage with such gusto. Like it says on the sleeve of their LP ‘It is style not substance you crave!’ So, no matter if this is just a bunch of blokes having a laugh at the expense of ‘the new rock revolution’ (arf!) it’s still the best fun you’re going to find in Camden on a rainy night. At lease until The Mooney Suzuki come on. high-octane gargle-fest
Short, short songs make a short, short set. Agenda! singer, J.R. Suicide (hem hem) silky blond bowl-cut a-fly, flings himself into the performance and off of the stage, managing to keep his tonsil-shredding holler going whilst executing a backbend at our feet. Rushing across the floor, mic in hand, he boots open the dressing room (if that’s not too grand a word for such a graffitied hellhole) door, before sprinting back onstage to roll around some more.
This is modcore Meanwhile, Ian the Face’s bass and Ryan Riot’s guitar go clanga-clanga as the songs hurtle by. Best of all is Digital Dan on organ beaming from ear to ear at the ludicrousness of it all as he shimmies about, abandoning the keys for bouts of hippy shaky tambourine bashing. Current single ‘Crash Crash’ achieves the nigh on impossible by dumbing down that dumbest of scuffle-beat tunes ‘Cool Jerk’. It’s stoopid and thumpy-jumpy and fully justifies the band’s claim that ‘No art was used in the making of this album’ This is modcore. ‘Dance to the sounds of right now!’
The sounds of right now just so happen to be the sounds of back then and The Mooney Suzuki have been slamming them out for a few years now, (well, since 1997) so it’s about time they got their fair slice of the nu-garagerawkstompybeat pie. Since the last Kitten sighting of the band at The Metro almost exactly a year ago, The Mooneys have scrabbled that little bit further along the food chain, with the re-released ‘Electric Sweat’ doing the critic-tickling rounds. Now they have a roadie whose setting up of the stage includes laying out an emergency spare pair of shades and carefully taping down leads to avoid any embarrassing tripping incidents. Not that it’s likely that The Mooney Suzuki would bother much with embarrassment, they are the pantomime dames of garage, thrusting their chests out, hands on hips, gurning like Les Dawson in hideous parody of Jaggeresque funk and pout. Even drummer Augie gets in on the act going for out and out camp as he balances, arse stuck out, on his bassdrum.
the pantomime dames of garage
watch where you're pointing that bass mate! They’ve got the explosive showmanship of rock ‘n’ roll down, there’s never a still moment what with all the guitar-necks being thrust hither and thither (at one point I get cracked on the head by the bass – ow!). The confines of The Monarch stage can’t hold all this stamping and strutting for long without a band member spilling out onto the audience. Foot-twitching, hand-clapping Brit-beat style R’n’B thumpers rattle by; the hip-swinging ‘Oh Sweet Susanna’, the genius mod stomp of ‘Half of My Heart’ and you can’t ignore those MC5isms; the riffage of ‘In A Young Man’s Mind’ combined with excellent big hair.
watch where you're pointing that finger!

When all parties present are finally whipped into a suitable frenzy the pantomime vibe cranks up a notch with a big bag of sponge fingers being distributed round the audience. No we’re not going to make a trifle; we’re all going to point with oversized gestures. Abandon yerself to the dumbness and get punching the air, baby. Spongy adoration fills the room as singer Sammy James Jr. clambers atop a speaker stack to crouch hunched against the ceiling still cracking out a six-stringed hullabaloo.

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