The Mission @ Bodega – 19 Nov 2016

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It was been, quite frankly, a sh*t of a week for Wellingtonians and North Cantabrians, given the 7.8 Richter scale earthquake in Kaikoura on Sunday; floods; slips and high winds; damaged buildings and aftershocks.  If I hear how ‘resilient’ we all are one more time, I’ll scream!  Primal!

So it was a really cathartic and somewhat cleansing experience to stand at the front of Bodega’s stage, with the bass woofer at my feet, so deep and loud it created its own air circulation, and enjoy some powerful amplified, electric man-made energy, instead the constant dark rumbling threats from the elements.

I think Brian Johnson sung it best:

“I’m a rolling thunder, a pouring rain
I’m comin’ on like a hurricane
My lightning’s flashing across the sky
You’re only young but you’re gonna die”

There was plenty of doomsday imagery in the lyrics and delivery of tonight’s first band. Disjecta Membra (, a semi- goth/industrial outfit from the Capital who make music that sounds like the essence of Bauhaus, Swans, Birthday Party, etc.  Their short set comprised material from their limited edition ep The Infancy Gospels (Lilitu,, Cemunnos, Madeline! Madeline!, The Infancy Gospels) and a couple of unpublished tracks.  Frontman Michael Rowland was keen to show off his stage presence having learned from the book of Cave.  And with menacing frowns and a deep timbre growl he was a dead ringer for younger Pete Murphy (Bauhaus).  I really enjoyed their intense, slow grinding, hypnotic sound, peppered with plenty of grunge drive from their engine room – Jaz Murphy (bass) and their own Dr Avalanche (drum machine).  Kane Davey, guitar, also needs a special mention for his side-bending fret work, especially his use of a vox-pipe (last time I saw anyone do that was Peter Frampton!).

During the interval, I scouted the room to check out who’d turned up.  The woman next to me was a diehard fan, mother, manager and Dunedin resident, who’d scheduled her work around the gig so she could be here.  She was also ‘working’ in Auckland tomorrow and will go to the show again.  She wasn’t the only one.  A couple behind me were doing the same.  In front of me were two dads, one with his boy, tucked neatly into a safe corner away from the mosh pit.  Not that there was any real danger of a Doc Martin stomping tonight!  To my left plenty of mid-aged women reliving their goth-girl phase in Narnia black lace dresses and back lipstick.  One or two ‘real goths’ with the ubiquitous spiked leather, scruffy black jeans and obscure band tees.  And, also, one or two ladies who’d gone the effort and applied white pancake, black makeup, fishnets – the whole bride of Frankenstein.  Good on them! Effort!  Best of all, this was a very polite group, about 300 – 350, I reckon, packed in but not suffocating.  We all had our personal spaces and moved around carefully, avoiding drink spills and sharing our spots at the front so others could take phone-cam snaps.

The Mission took the stage quickly and confidently ploughing into one of their big hits from the 80’s Beyond The Pale, an appropriate comment on the week – although, the joke was probably lost on lead singer Wayne Hussey.  The band had only rolled in on Thursday and had missed most of the action.  They did get a chance to hoover up some good Mexican at the Flying Burrito Brothers in Cuba street, Hussey remarked in a dry Bristol drawl, during one of his limited moments of banter.  And he should know, being a resident of South America, specifically Brazil, nowadays.

Hussey’s stage presence has changed little from the early days, he might have cut his hair, dropped the long coat and black hat but the shades were still a firm fixture.  In the stage smog and blue light he deftly shaped his rock poses and silhouettes.  There was also plenty of high fives for the front row, a bit of individual chatter with his peeps and many moments when the audience were conducted to sing along to choruses.  Those particularly came during the big bombastic faves: Butterfly on a Wheel, Garden of Delight, Severina, Tower of Strength and Wasteland.

Hussey’s voice was still as intense and strong, flanked by that trademark sitar-twang of his 12 string and guitarist Simon Hinkler’s tinny fuzz-undercurrents.  Hinkler was standing right in front of me and he took every opportunity to also pose up for the camera.  He was clearly enjoying his swagger time.  The other original member, bassist put in some solid, heavy grunge driving every song like a freight train.  Youngster (compared to the rest of the band, at least) Mike Kelly did a splendid job on the skins, cranking along with metronomic precision.  His delivery far outshone earlier drummers, I think, carrying off the drama needed in these songs as they are translated from studio to the stage.

The new material, songs off Another fall from Grace (Only You and You Alone, Tyranny Of Secrets), were easily shoe-horned in amongst the classics, having been written with an 80’s vibe in the first place.  Met-a-mor-phosis, in particular, was a real nail driver of the track and had everyone intensely, if politely moshing it up.

With two well-rehearsed encores the band played it up to their adoring fans, who, after all had waited 30 years for this night. No earthquake, flood or swarm of locusts was going to stop them being here.  Rounding off the night with a blistering cover of Neil Young’s Hurricane and their biggest and most emblematic of songs, Deliverance, there was a distinct feeling of euphoria in the room, if only for that moment.

In the harsh light of the house lights we all got to become reacquainted with friends and colleagues as we shuffled out into the unknown of Friday night.  This time thankful for the release of stress and confusion from the week before.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll bore you again.  Wellington’s Bodega has an indescribable rock vibe in every fibre of its carpet, every stone in the concrete walls, every splinter in bar top and even in the chipped porcelain of the bathroom sinks.  This place has layers upon layers of good groove voodoo.  The Mission’s deliverance tonight just added yet another layer to that rich tapestry.  Here’s hoping it won’t be another thirty years before they are back.


Review: Thom Sonny Green – High Anxiety

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If you’ve never heard of Alt-J, the Leeds-based indie rock outfit and one time darlings of the alternative UK rock press, then knowing that Thom Sonny Green’s day job as drummer for that band will be of little consequence.  The band are festival headliners after just two albums (2012’s An Awesome Wave or 2014’s This Is All Yours) and a series of hipster interviews on all the right channels.  Green’s debut solo album, High Anxiety, comes as a result of three years of stolen moments on tour with his band, recording in hotel rooms, parking sombre digital-ideas that were unsuitable for the main act.  The final product collects up 21 cinematic instrumentals, named after cities (perhaps in honour of the locations they were created in) or one-word associations, ranging from slightly alarmed to full-on paranoia.  This is entirely intentional given that Green himself suffers from anxiety and a hearing disorder.  The most obvious example of the latter is on the intentionally distorted and muddy Large, which sounds like a 80’s synth song, slowed down and played backwards through an 8-track.  Quite frankly, it’s bloody awful and the closest to Green’s conditions that I ever want to get.

The melodies that stand out most are Vienna, which very loosely references Ultravox’s big hit from the 80’s, and Oslo, which is a little lie a Boards of Canada out take.  Ping might be lush and orchestral but, like much of the content here, seems incomplete.  Several tunes here are no more that short repetitive samples without any reason to be here – not as an introduction to a longer piece or a bookend to a series of connecting dots. I want tunes like Preach, that rely of a loop of 4 keys to break into something, anything more than just an over later MPC sample.  But it never did. The dense murk and sinister beats behind Cologne might have been created to resemble the imposing stone walls of a medieval city but just seem to be a 2 ½ minute trip up a dead-end alley.  Green’s main condition it seems is not those above but that of self-editorial. And so, it goes, with none of these really don’t seeming to fit together beyond the artificial confines of their track listing.  Play these on ‘shuffle’ mode and you get the same effect.  Overlong, and meandering, these are soundtracks for an unfiltered movie, with no script or dialogue.  sounding a little like a lot of other things.  Many of our own beat ‘beat-meisters’ – Pacific Heights, for example – have a better grasp on how to deliver the perfect mix of digital composition with a story; a beginning; a build-up; some drama and above all an enjoyable journey.  High Anxiety is mostly just a collection of sketches and ideas, unfinished stories, that one day might become a novel.  Sadly, they were rushed to print without proper editorial controls in place.