Queens Social Club is a bizarre venue, the gig space a time-warped function room with tinsel stuck to the wall on one side, and a beach hut-style bar on the other. This may very well be a time capsule as tonight's headliners Savages, and their support act Johnny Hostile, manage to successfully launch us back to the dark punk depths of the '80s.
Johnny Hostile emerges from a cloud of smoke like the phantom of the working men's club. His black leather jacket and stern facial expression (or rather, lack of) combined with a hefty dose of attitude conjures up an image of Gary Numan mixed with Sid Vicious.
Off-beat electronic drums and reverberating guitar burst from the speakers whilst Johnny's echoing vocals fill every corner of the room. This beat thumps constantly through every song, creating dance music so dark it becomes a bit of an endurance test.
However, songs with samples of speech are far more intriguing, one of which features a female voice depicting disco and the sexual revolution in the '70s above a fitting disco beat and rhythmic bass. The simpler structure makes for a far more soberly accessible sound. As the music and spotlight-laced smoke fade and Johnny Hostile disappears as quickly as he emerged, the atmosphere resembles the calm after the storm of ear-pounding electronic punk.
The smokey spotlight returns as Savages take to the stage. This all-female four-piece is relentlessly energetic, only stopping momentarily between songs. They are a machine made up of Siouxsie And The Banshees-style vocals, booming bass, racing guitar and clashing drums.
If Johnny Hostile was dark, Savages are pitch black. 'I Am Here' is an example of how, just when you think Savages have reached a peak of intensity, they somehow speed up and spiral into a flurry of drums and high-pitched squeals before reaching a climax.
'Shut Up' is an important song on the band's debut album, 'Silence Yourself' (Clash review). A profound statement not only introduces the song, but summarises the whole record. “The world used to be silent / Now it has too many voices and the noise is a constant distraction,” French vocalist Jehnny Beth says authoritatively.
“If you are distracted you are available,” she continues, explaining how availability equates to a feeling of being included in everything, before concluding: “Perhaps having deconstructed everything / We should be thinking about putting everything back together.”
This is philosophical to say the least, proving that Savages are heavy in more ways than one. Still musically weighty though much slower, 'Strife' breaks into a toe-tapping drum beat and hazy guitar, followed by the haunting 'Waiting For A Sign', before returning to the manic bashing of 'She Will'.
A heckler points out Fay Milton's impressive drumming, which has to be seen to be believed, before Savages end with the breathless panic attack that is 'Husbands'. With a show like this, who needs encores?
Words: Phoebe Seymour
Photos: Elinor Jones
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