Piratical Steampunk Adventures

Note: This was originally written for summat else in October 2014. They didn’t want it in the end, so here it is instead:

flight-of-the-conchords

New Zealand’s 4th most popular novelty folk duo.

For the last few years, I’ve listened pretty much exclusively to what might be termed ‘novelty music’. Not Bob the Builder and Teletubbies, give me some kind of credit! Think the likes of Flight of the Conchords, Garfunkel and Oates, Gwar and Lordi. It was this love of smart, comedic lyrics, costume and showmanship that lead me to the Doghouse in Carlton on All Hallow’s Eve. (That and avoiding all the Trick or Treating whelps round our way who wrap themselves in bin bags and demand sweets as if they’ve stopped you at knifepoint on the Forest.)

Support act Red Rum drove home to me just why I love this diverse, genre-bending subculture. These local lads are a pirate-themed metal band, singing rollicking sea shanties over jangling guitars and impressive keyboard riffs. And if you’re going to do that, you have to be good. You can’t perform a live rendition of “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard” if you’re going to be apologetic or half-arsed about it. There’s nowhere to hide. And Red Rum didn’t hide, throwing themselves into a hugely entertaining and pleasurable performance in spite of a rather quiet audience who were a little bit scared of them.

MenThatpromoshot

How to spot a steampunk: Pith Helmet, Facial Hair, Pinstripes.

Main act The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are one of those rare ‘novelty’ gems that could and should break into the mainstream. Fusing chirpy Cockney singalongs with screaming metal and pogoing punk (often in the same song) The Men are ostensibly a steampunk band (Victoriana, songs about goggles, remarkable facial hair), but transcend this narrow categorisation on the strength of their music and live performance. The eclectic mix of punks, goths, students and middle-aged people in sensible shoes who turned up to see them attests to their varied appeal. Somehow they manage to sing about dead children, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the folly of theism while remaining incredibly charismatic and danceable.

Playing a varied range of songs spanning their five year history, plus several brand new numbers, The Men seemed to be having as much fun as their audience. Old favourites “Margate Fhtagn”, “Doing it for the Whigs” and “Goggles” sat well alongside new release “The Gin Song”, a raucous celebration of the curative powers of that most addling of spirits. It was wonderful to see singer Andy ‘Cancer-killer’ Heintz return to the band for the first time since January and the rest of The Men clearly relished being a four-piece once more. It should perhaps come as no surprise that bass player Marc Burrows and guitarist Andrew O’Neill both have alternate lives as stand-up comedians. They have the happy knack of appearing to be performing purely for their own enjoyment, while encouraging the audience to be part of that experience. (I feel I should also mention drummer Jez Miller at this point, because I’d hate for him to be left out solely because he has not overcome a life-threatening disease or performed a comedy routine.)

You’d never get Justin Bieber (that’s what the kids are listening to these days, right?) playing a saw or releasing a single on a wax cylinder, and even if he did, it’d be cack. Here’s hoping The Men return to Notts quick sharp.

Red Rum and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing played at The Doghouse on Friday 31st October 2014.

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