Bloody students. With your cheap beer and your tax avoidance, and your predisposition towards fumbled promiscuity. And your music which sounds like someone throwing a Nintendo at a wall. Oh, you lucky, lucky bastards.
For this night of fun and frolics at a centre of learning, or at least somewhere where people can spend a fun-packed time before sliding into a position within the fast food industry, presented three reasons to be cheerful about the state of music.
The Teenagers came first, racked full of Gallic charm. Which is so close to French indifference to be almost indistinguishable. “Playing to ‘zis room full of ‘zez under-sexed, poorly dressed weirdos? ‘Zis is not why I am in a band! Bof! Pass me a Gauloise and find me either a woman to fuck or a conflict to retreat from.”
But after a while, they loosened up, and started to enjoy themselves. Leading to a version of Starlett Johansson, its pristine sleaze-pop edges smeared with grungy guitars, which was gleefully good – even if the audience member ‘pulled’ from the audience to help was suspiciously well rehearsed.
Speaking of people looking bored, the female synth player in These New Puritans looked like she could think of a few better things to be doing than to be up there. Self-immolation, clinical drug testing, vicious root canal surgery, the look on her face gave the impression anything would be preferable to performing.
Why is a mystery, because they were stupendously good. An elegant extrapolation of a line passing through Gang Of Four and Joy Division, skewing off through Macintosh assisted Pro Tools, and ending in a dystopian future where gangs of nihilists roam the streets in jet black pea-coats searching for something to pierce the icy veneer of their discontent.
What’s more, Elvis sounds like the kind of thing Trent Reznor would write if you trapped him in a meat-locker with a talking insect typewriter for company. It was the kind of volatile, yet tightly restrained set that looked difficult to top.
Difficult that is, if you aren’t clutching a portable strobe light that you keep assaulting into the crowd, or if your kohl lined eyes don’t sparkle with gleeful malevolence as you scream bloody-murder, or if bound in a leather jacket, hood pulled tightly over your head, you’re not manufacturing a mind shredding cacophony of electronica.
Huge sections of their performance allowed Crystal Castles to do a pretty fair impression of the most exciting band on the planet. Christ, for a good fifty percent of their time, this boy/girl two-some were actually outnumbered by members of security. But were they protecting us, or them?
Who can say? We can say. It’s us. It’s definitely us. With the girl (Alice) lurching wildly and raging in a disembodied, processed howl, and the boy (Ethan) creating a noise like The Knife exploding in a Gameboy factory, there was never any argument about that answer.
We’re only just reassembling the pieces of brain now. Higher education, you gotta love it.