Gindrinker are a noble outfit of straight-faced humor for which we can dig a new pigeonhole between The Fall and Half Man Half Biscuit.
brakesbrakesbrakes + GindrinkerCity: Cardiff, Wales
Venue: Tommy's Bar
The snow has fallen heavily in Cardiff, Wales and filled the deepest underground holes, yet local subterranean dwellers Gindrinker have still managed to find their way out into Tommy's Bar. And they mean business, in a strictly old-fashioned manner. Gindrinker have been knocking around Cardiff’s musical fringes for quite a while, perfecting their song-penning technique in the gritty bars, and singer D.C. Gates takes to the stage tonight with the unceremonious familiarity of a pub landlord opening his doors for the 1000th time, getting quickly into his stride, serenading the snow-bitten crowd with the demeanor of a curmudgeonly pub dweller from the Dickensian age. Gates looks like the literary outsider figure you don't come across too often in the 21st century, a Schultz comic character dressed by P.J. Wodehouse's butler. He looks like he hasn't walked the high street since being chased from the opening of the first Topman store in 1978, and he plays the part well, barking surreal vitriol and enunciating post-serious poems in a Mark E. Smith-like trance, variously waving his right hand about and running his fingers through his hair. Looks aside, it's his lyrics that warrant attention. There's a part in "Work it Out" that goes "so you wake up… headache -- sober headache… straight into the slippers, go to the wardrobe … full of turtlenecks! Not your day, but why!?” … and another in "Ayn Rand Says" that runs "And what kind of man puts his head in an oven? And what kind of man puts his children in jail? And what kind of man has a pipe and a moustache? / Well that's uncle Joe -- he gives me headaches". And top marks for the part in "God of Darts" when Gates takes the persona of cult British game show host Jim Bowen to gleefully and nastily announce "the speedboat's going nowhere!" (The speedboat was always the "mystery prize" on Bowen's Bullseye for contestants who got to the final round -- Gindrinker are the kind of band for which the regular parenthetical explanation in necessary.) It's thoroughly amusing stuff, Gates' lone guitarist Graff hammering away besides him as the singer delves into his own world, throwing the most anti-rock 'n' roll shapes you'll see, hanging off the ceiling bars with one hand, rubbing his guitar against the roof with the other like Woody Allen doing Hendrix, then striding out from the stage to serenade the bar-staff with his choicest post-mock-rock lines. Gindrinker are a noble outfit of straight-faced humor for which we can dig a new pigeonhole between The Fall and Half Man Half Biscuit. Known simply in the UK as Brakes, brakesbrakesbrakes have managed to get here tonight through the snow from a show in Manchester, and introduce themselves to us with tales of their adventures from the long journey down south. Singer Eamon Hamilton (formerly of British Sea Power) wears a one-piece silver space suit that looks like it's been ripped off a downtrodden alien hitchhiking along the motorway. They mess about a bit, Hamilton exchanging quips with guitarist Tom White (formerly of The Electric Sea Parade), before the songs start and he finds his home between their feisty hooks. Hamilton adds a wonderful lyrical fascination to brakesbrakesbrakes’ frenzied guitar sound, an uplifting soul that gives it a certain poetry, and when he sings in his impish, mischievous-poet manner between the star-bothering guitars he creates a winning intricacy. Hamilton is a unique frontman, driving his merry men beyond conventional lands. "Spring Chicken" is like an inspired tramp pick-pocketing a city fashionista; "Beatific Visions" a note of poetry he slips in his girlfriend's pocket before slinking off into the night. Songs from the new album (titled Touchdown and due to drop in April) have the same brakesbrakesbrakes combination of adrenalin-fueled frenzy and Hamilton's starry-eyed soul, which comes through in a more conventional fashion when things take a country leaning. The band's trademark live version of Johnny and June Carter Cash's "Jackson" is earnest and brilliant. They leave us with one of their short-bursts of literate death metal, "Comma Comma Comma Full Stop", playing it twice to accentuate its grammatical importance, it's a fitting way to cap an edifying night.