“In case of sonic attack,” warned Hawkwind, “follow these rules,” before advocating such crazy measures as “try to get as far from the sonic source as possible.” One assumes, therefore, that the combined onslaught of Loop and Godflesh doesn’t technically count as an “attack,” what with being consensual. More like sonic S/M play, maybe. Because the urge here definitely seems to tend towards getting as close to the sonic source as possible.
And the first sonic source tonight is Godflesh, the UK’s pioneers of industrial rock and things that go “RRRRRRRRR AAAAAAGHHH!!!” in the night. And they haven’t lost any of their ferocity or raw anger in the time they’ve been away. Justin Broadrick finally appears to be ageing slightly, and now appears to be in his twenties after a career spanning three decades; but he bellows like a man who’s seen it all and hated every minute of it. Rocking back and forth like Arthur Fowler in his potting shed, he unleashes ultimate devastation with every stroke of his guitar, chucking out the chunkiest of riffs in front of a backdrop of fire, crucifixions, industrial decay and the odd bit of Bosch just in case we weren’t sure that the world is indeed Hell. Mick Harvey used to do this with the Bad Seeds, but in his case they were hanging chains grinding against one another in a slaughterhouse, while Green’s are snapping elevator cables, crackling with electricity and condemning us to a one-way trip to the infernal basement level. somewhere between a moshpit and a sea of metal woodpeckers. And when the music hits its rare calmer passages, it feels like nothing so much as that feeling you get when the serial killer who’s got you tied up in his car boot stops driving for a bit to get a coffee and have a piss. YOU know that feeling, right? The brief respite between horrors.
And yet it’s all gloriously triumphant — in part because we’re all so pleased to have them back, but largely because it’s such wonderfully cathartic music. It’s the sonic equivalent of punching a wall, only with the added bonus that you might actually smash a hole in it. And smash a hole in it they do, eschewing the busy claustrophobia of Godflesh for the expansive cosmic space of Loop.Stooges-style riffs over and over again for ages at bonecrushing volume. Now there are two problems with this school of thought — one is that it’s not anywhere near the whole picture; and the other is that it kind of assumes that playing Stooges-style riffs over and over again for ages at bonecrushing volume is in some way a bad thing, which it manifestly isn’t. Playing Stooges-stlye riffs over and over again for ages at bonecrushing volume is an utterly magnificent thing, as is repetition; which is all just as well, because that’s how they get you.
Seeing Loop live again after all these years is the missing piece in the puzzle that explains why Godflesh’s Broadrick managed to go from grindcore to shoegaze — because, like My Bloody Valentine, there was always a brutal element to Loop, who got dragged into that whole thing largely due to being loud and psychedelic at the same time, avoiding all the fey indie-pop shenanigans that accompanied the scene. They’re the missing piece of the puzzle, the thing that makes the noise make sense.freeing your mind by crushing your skull in a warm but insistent cushion of noise. I have a theory that the reason all the great bands that are resurfacing now — Swans, My Bloody Valentine, Loop, Godflesh — are the really loud ones is that they’re the only ones those of us who’ve punished our ears so comprehensively over time can still hear properly, but it’s too depressing to go into now. Let’s just bathe in the majesty that’s Loop live again, more affable these days but making a sound every bit as transcendent as it was back when Star Wars was still a trilogy, and a fairly recent one at that. Those awesome riffs keep your body moving, while sustained notes get mangled beyond comprehension by effects and solos spiral off into the burning sky. But Loop’s music, unlike, say, Swans or Godflesh, is firmly rooted in rock and roll, giving it that indefinable good-time feel you get from someone like Boris, even at their sludgiest.
By the time it all draws to a close, it’s almost a relief that I can’t go tomorrow to see the same bands in reverse order. Not because I wouldn’t love it, but because my ears won’t have recovered yet.
So we use our wheels. It is, after all, what they are for.
-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-