The Cesarians – Flesh Is Grass/Woman
Hailing from Hackney, The Cesarians have been packing out gigs for a while now, their frenetic live performances assuring them of a huge cult following (I thought I had a huge cult following once; unfortunately it turned out to be a typo. When he caught up with me he kicked my head in). So it’s interesting to see how their filthy, booze-drenched mayhem translates to record. Interesting, and pretty damn cool, because their Weimar punk sleazefest seems to have worked just as well in the studio, as witness the two tracks on this, their debut single.
The first track, “Flesh Is Grass”, starts off timidly enough, then builds and builds into what sounds like Kurt Weill beating the shit out of Jacques Brel with a bottle of whiskey. Or possibly it’s Brel who’s doing the shit-beating, with Weill his hapless victim – it’s hard to tell, especially when you keep getting distracted by the instrumentation, which contrives to sound like there are a lot more of them in the band than there actually are in real life. Which isn’t studio trickery – live, the combination of trombone, clarinet, piano, drums and vocals somehow sounds a lot, well, bigger and more epic than you’d imagine. If the Tindersticks were to do a bunch of PCP and somehow manage to get their hands on a time machine and go back to 30s Germany, and sneak into a club and get into a fight, the band on stage would probably sound, to their angel-dusted ears, something a little bit like this. Think of the World/Inferno Friendship Society if they lost their Dead Kennedys obsession. Or something like that.
The other track, what us old bastards might quaintly refer to as “the B-side”, is a much brasher affair, all sleazy brass and stomping swagger, bringing to mind some of Foetus‘s more Steroid Maximus-y moments, only more organic. I could almost imagine Firewater doing something like this, round about the time of The Ponzi Scheme, though it doesn’t quite sound like them either.
I don’t know what you’d imagine a band featuring ex-members of, among others, Penthouse, Christian Death and Monkey Island to sound like, but I’d be willing to bet a large sum of money that you wouldn’t imagine they’d sound like this. Which is why it’s GOOD that your imagination is wrong, both because I win the large sum of money and because The Cesarians are pretty unique in music today. All these comparisons I keep making are only very vague and tangential, like I can’t quite find a box to put them in, just a couple of shelves on which they might fit more or less comfortably. Which is the way a band should be.
Considering I only had two words in mind when I started this review, and they were “grimy” and “troubadour”, and I haven’t actually used either of them, it’s pretty good going. Buy this single, and bask in the tarnished glamour and decadence of The Cesarians. If there’s any justice, they’ll be huge.
-Deuteronemu 90210 just before the Nazis arrive and close down the club-