Thomas Truax, Boycott Coca Cola Experience, Thee Intolerable Kidd @ Tamesis Dock
Thomas Truax, Boycott Coca Cola Experience, Thee Intolerable Kidd.
Tamesis Dock. 01jul09.
Outside, the nation’s most famous river is reduced to the status of a lurking bystander. The Thames, a body of water for which they had to build a barrier to forestall its latent temper, is tonight but a murky, brownish window licker. Tonight, by hook or by crook, we will rock. Thankfully, due to a secure mooring, there will be no roll.
Indeed, during the Boycott Coca Cola Experience’s dry, DaDaist set, the wonky guitar repetitions become all the more disorientating playing against the ebb and flow of the waters beneath. Tim Siddall’s deadpan vocal is a little more re-assuring, even if the tie around his neck, seemingly made from cheap plastic bunting, really isn’t.
His is essentially, guitar (and brief kazoo) aside, a speaking part, very reminiscent of One More Grain’s Daniel Patrick Quinn, with punning, surrealism and wry satire it’s focus. “Camper van/sales pitch/hesitation” goes one chorus, whilst he makes use of the fact that the world beneath the waterline is sometimes visible through the windows by dedicating a song to the watching fish. Sadly for them, the ducks who wobble past seconds later are not as generously bestowed.
What links the bands tonight is the blues, but with all three acts coming at it from vastly different angles. BC-CE go sardonically psychedelic, whilst Nathaniel Kidd (a.k.a. Thee Intolerable Kidd) adopts a more traditional approach. Got up like a prospective councilman in 1930’s Oklahoma about to sag armchair-wards after a hard day on the stump, his music sounds jarringly pained, adopting a similar vocal tone to Conor Oberst. Early in his set he harmonises with Victoria Yeulet, similarly period dressed and seemingly having come straight from behind a village fete cake stall. It feels pretty noirish all told, perhaps because Kidd, throughout, emotes vocally yet is oddly expressionless beneath his severe side parting and loose braces, staring blankly into the crowd from time to time. Arresting stuff, regardless.
Comedian Rich Hall used to say that there is a thin line between madness and genius; Bob Dylan played a guitar and a harmonica at the same time and people said “wow, he’s a genius!” Yet if he’d gone to the effort of strapping a set of cymbals to his knees…
Thomas Truax deals with this balancing act by taking his one man band shtick off the scale completely. Aside from his guitar, Truax is physically uncluttered, yet the stage around him looks like a more-hope-than-expectation, things-we-found-spinning-out-of-a-crashed-Luton-van yard sale. Thomas Truax, essentially, is the Wilf Lunn of garage blues, abrasive mechanical folk and flight-of-fancy alt.pop, building his own instruments to meet the needs of the modern rail-riding rock n’roll troubadour.
‘Mother Superior’ supplies any required beats, being a collection of pram wheels, levers and long needles working to the same principle as a musical box as it whirrs around. You half expect a cage to gently lower itself on someone at some point as the rest of us all shout “Mousetrap!” Elsewhere there is the ‘Stringaling’ (a drum attached to a length of drier tubing and a number of small instruments and levers), and the Backbeater, which swirls whilst srapped to his shoulders like a percussive roulette wheel. That he plays the Stringaling’s tube as though it were an inhaler is perhaps appropriate given that he is currently touting an album of covers of songs from David Lynch films as the look of it is visually reminiscent of the perversions of Dennis Hopper’s character in Blue Velvet.
Most famously amongst the custom instrumentation though is the Hornicator, an adapted Gramophone horn that performs a number of functions, being tapped at for percussion, as well as being sung into. Truax builds these sounds up into loops which he then accompanies himself.
“We may not have had a machine, but we had a contraption” said Martin Bell after winning the Tatton seat from Neil Hamilton in 1997. Thomas Truax has a number of them and, after a while, it kind of distracts from the quality of the songs, as you stare fascinated at the clockworkings of the instruments, and not giving the actual compositions their due.
Truax copes with this by leaving the stage at one point and performing amongst the dangling feet up on the mezzanine of the narrow room, off mic and sans ‘bits’, thereby stealing back the focus from his creations. Why Dogs Howl At The Moon part 1 as a response to a request is also memorable, and not just for the fact we all add our own yowls into the general direction of the brandished Horn.
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