Chrome Hoof @ The Lexington
Chrome Hoof’s latest LP Chrome Black Gold has been over two years in the making, during which time they have been largely off radar. Now though, the spacecraft has docked and they are returned to us, albeit slightly tinkered with, with Alex Thomas replacing Milo Smee on drums, James Sedwards arriving on guitar in place of Guapo bandmate Kavus Torabi and vocalist Lola Olafisoye’s big shoes being filled by two pairs of feet.
This might throw some bands off kilter, but there is no sign of that on the new etched-in-stone pronouncements they bring forth from the cosmos which capture them in fine, dare I say accessible, form.
Now to call Chrome Black Gold accessible when it features the bassist from Cathedral, Carcass’ vocalist and a bloke who’s thumped tubs with both Squarepusher and Bolt Thrower might be stretching it a bit. However, while previous records Pre-Emptive False Rapture and Crush Depth had ‘gig hits’, big tunes for cutting loose to in front a home crowd or festival audience, this new record has a couple of tunes I could well imagine over Radio 6, or with Jools Holland introducing with the words. “Thank you, the marvellous SeaSICK STEVE…and now let’s enjoy Chrome Hoof”.
Now, of course, this may not be an ideal development for many sympathisers, who may want their business as usual. They’ll be happy to know though that there remain many layers to the Hoof’s operation, with death metal grunt, predatory P-funk, kosmische swirl and heavy duty prog tangents still underpinning the silver-glitter, disco-ball strut.
Even if there were to be misgivings on the direction of the record, the live environment is where Chrome Hoof really excel, being both a sonic and visual treat. It’s a the unleashing of a monster, all tentacles and teeth, and the Lexington’s long but narrow stage is filled by an 11-strong headcount; bassoonists, violinists and dancers amongst the collective.
Now, the absence of Lola from the gang-show could have represented a major blow to stage presence as she used to dominate proceedings, prowling the playhouse like a murderous mantis; a semi-robotic simulant velociraptor you did NOT want to annoy. Here ‘backing vocalist’ Chan Brown takes lead for the opening two tunes (the swooping, stabbing Crystalline and marauding funkzilla Pronoid) and shares it for regular encore closer Tonyte and through her experience fronting Invasion, it’s water off a ducks back, offering a more Vegas soul-diva dynamic.
Then as the largely instrumental Sea Hornet, an absolute beast of a piece, draws to a close Shingai Shoniwa, best known for her work fronting The Noisettes sidles coquettishly onto the stage, hiding initially behind the tassles of her costume. You certainly can’t accuse the Hoof of not being sartorially in keeping with their sound, all chrome, black and gold, the players of instruments partially hidden under habit-like hoods. It would look incongruous if they were to turn out in decorating t-shirts and Crocs, certainly.
Shingai may be a touch more orthodox in terms of ‘threat’ than Lola but nonetheless fits in perfectly with the showmanship required of this band, as well as with the new material which, as stated, is almost confrontationally ‘pop’ although always with a twist in the tail, of course. Knopheria could be a big, brash modern r n’ b number, before it breaks down into a dark electro coda.
Tortured Craft has a ska-like chop at its heart and is the daintiest tune of the set, but the Pat Metheny rock opera, sonic hunter-gatherer Ultimate Sealed Unit and the monsta-stompa Drobe Out turn up late in the set to bench press a two-ton van for our pleasure.
This Friday night out in Islington is a timely reminder of the power that Chrome Hoof have within their multi-headed hydra. It’s a real treat to have them back within the Earth’s atmosphere.
John Robb’s Louder Than War review features two of my photos (different from above) and can be found here.