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The Warlocks / Dead Combo – The Garage, November 11th 2005

Hmm, it's been a while since The Warlocks graced us with their presence. Remember, they were all trippy with a heavy, woozy ear-bending beat and whirly, eye-bending lights? It was nothing new, but The Warlocks did it with a certain dedication to that bliss-drone, space-Manson shtick that's always frightfully good fun. Anyway, since then, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the band that sired a zillion more successful but infinitely inferior freaky beat combos (including The Warlocks), have staggered round the country a bit just to show us where its really at. So what I'm saying is, Warlocks, show us what you got.

So, here we are at the Garage on a chilly Wednesday evening in November. The problem with this place (well one of them, how long has that toilet seat been broken in the ladies? Three years? Four?) is that there are lots of dark corners for people to hide in. And the bar is a loong way from the stage when the place is empty. That's a lot of vacant, beer-sticky floor-space for a support band to mournfully gaze out over. So Dead Combo decide to make a feature of the fact that the audience isn't flocking at their feet by chastising folks for not getting hip to the Dead Combo beat and when that doesn't work by offering free beer. Figures dart from the shadows, snatch the bottles from singer Nuutti Kataja and dart back again.

Dead Combo and their selection of 'cool shit'

"Look we've got cool smoke and free beer and…all kinds of cool shit". The other kinds of cool shit remain unidentified, but maybe he's referring to the DC beat which seems to consist of a backing track playing Suicide's 'Rocket USA' welded to most everything they play. Whilst Nuutti’s growling out vocals and tinkering with his manky old moogy keyboard thing, fellow Combo chappie, Harri Kupiainen, is abusing a guitar. This shit would probably sound mighty if howling out to a bonkers crowd across a packed, sweaty club - one track in particular, something about 'your leader has a moustache' is well kickin' - but shivering slightly here in the dankness, it's not working so well. Still, full marks for enthusiasm and for Nuutti's wrapping up in a skull and crossbones towel at the end of the performance. Hey, even Finnish rock meisters can catch a chill if they're not careful.

Betwixt bands, the Sonic Cathedral johnnies get to play a few records - hurrah! It's The Jesus and Mary Chain. Yay! Spacemen 3's 'Revolution'. Goddamn it sounds good. Maybe best not to play it before The Warlocks come on though eh? You wouldn't want to start contrasting then and now and end up finding now wanting, would you?

The kids want a little action... So to The Warlocks. Their latest album, 'Surgery' has taken them away from all that psychedelic thousand yard stare spacing and towards pastures of poppiness. This isn't necessarily bad, one of my fave tracks from their previous ‘Phoenix’ album was the tinkling, spangly 'Baby Blue', but things just ain't the same without a good long stretch of extended mesmeric droning. Tonight's set breaks into two distinct halves: new stuff / olden stuff, and there's an obvious divide between the two. The older songs are bound to sound looser and more relaxed, but there just seems more firepower to them, more rock 'n' roll soul.
Looming out of the gloom and overdosing on dry ice, The Warlocks set to work on the atmosphere with 'Above Earth', the sound pulsing and warping nicely enough. ‘We Need Starpower’ circles dreamily, like a comfortable version of Loop’s ‘Burning World’, Thursdays Radiation drifts through the ether cutely eventually building up a head of steam that allows drummers Jason and Bob to simultaneously whack seven shades out of their kits. There are also three (count 'em) guitarists on stage, but they're not kicking up the blitzkrieg you might expect. Not yet anyhow. There are also girls in the band. Oh look they're on keyboard and bass. Quel surprise.
It's true The Warlocks now have pop tunes to tease you with, and whats more you can have fun fitting other peoples' songs to them, why not try singing the MC5's 'High School' along to recent single 'Come Save Us'? And doesn't 'Just Like Surgery' remind you of 'Christine' by The House Of Love, eh? So this is all very nice, but not the splendid wig out you might be hoping for, despite the stirling efforts of the lighting geezer with his old-style projection set whirling out flickering images. It's okay though, 'cos it's time for a gear change with a chunk of old stuff. This gets excitable boys dancing down the front (including the tallest man in the building who is standing in the middle, hugging the crash barrier, right at the front, thank you very much). The kids want a little fun
Hey! Now we're bustin' loose! Bobby even goes for a bit of a stage dive, which translates into him sort of languorously lying on the upstretched hands ready to receive him, before giving up and handing over his guitar for the excitable boys to have a plink on. There's a crackle in the air for the sleazy 'Can't Take It Anymore' buzz of 'Shake The Dope Out' and a sneery, rinky-dink 'The Dope Feels Good'. We get some super Sonic spacing with 'Stickman Blues’ and get primitive with the well-what do-YOU-think-it -sounds-like 'Caveman Rock'. Finally, we get a mesmeric (hoo! Yes, finally!) 'Suicide Note' during which Bobby livens up proceedings by whipping out a tiny theremin to share with the crowd, coaxing out staticky squoobles. You could almost say folks are having fun, but it's been heavy going getting here.
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