In Birmingham there is an air of excitement, nigh-on expectation, when there’s a gig afoot with American exports, Parts & Labor, purveyors of a sound that mixes drums with revving vans and old dial-up internet modems, welded and crushed together into an earhole sized wedge to give the band’s brand of noise rock maximum effect.
What makes the prospect of a down-to-earth noise rock gig all the more promising is the grubby white Transit van parked outside one of Birmingham’s best small venues, the Hare And Hounds; where the largest arena is no more than a room above a slightly avant garde pub.
The supports aren’t ones to miss either. Free Schools‘ Holy Fuck-esque electronic vibe levels the ground for Teeth Of The Sea, a bizarre foursome whose look is in complete contrast with the progressive, experimental rock that exudes from the stage. The drumming is evocative of Keith Moon, while a pleasing cacophony bows to a trumpet that even Kasabian‘s Doberman would whimper at.
Anticipation aside, the first half of the gig is somewhat bereft of atmosphere. Sound troubles and surprisingly small attendance make for a lacklustre initial few tracks from the Brooklynites, who can’t seem to find their usual voice – nor make the crowd hear it for that matter. Nevertheless Dan Friel maintains his wry smile with an air of ‘shit happens’.
Familiarity, along with Joe Wong’s fierce military drumming sped up to double pace, make response to Mapmaker’s Fractured Skies impossible to resist. But even BJ Warshaw’s wrapped shirt around his mic can’t disguise the false start, which leaves Outnumbered and Echo Chamber suffering from the hippocampus’ tardiness in committing the Constant Futures tracks to long-term memory. A Thousand Roads’ Crash Test Dummies vocal fares little better.
It is Skin And Bones’ see-sawing bagpipe guitars and lawnmower bass line that flip the switch on the gig, bringing the quartet to life. Their twisted metal and ’80s Amiga electronics also jump start the crowd.
The band thoroughly hit their right frequency with The Gold We’re Digging, with twiddling knobs that pick up crackles, whirring and squeals from another dimension. Drums clatter over railway sleepers, carrying through to the Sonic Youth riffs of Nowhere’s Nigh that Parts & Labor might call a tempo change.
The glitchy anthems continue with Never Changer and Rest, showcasing the newer material’s more measured electronic distortions and scratchy guitars, backdropped by drumming that has moved from the military practice ground to all out war.
From beneath the swathes of hair, Parts & Labor’s rallying cry refuses to fall on deaf ears and succeeds. A gig of two halves isn’t ideal, but when the pounding noise rock is this rousing, the memory is fickle and is more than happy to retain the best.