WPGM Reviews: Depeche Choad Live At Krakatoa

Depeche Choad 27.02.2016ANDREW
Krakatoa is the premier venue for where all the headbangers and punks hang out in Aberdeen. The two intervals between the three bands were taken up by the annual Fudge Awards, whereby local acts are voted for in various categories. Balloons were all over the stage to herald the festivities of the awards, and not just your every weekend gig. A cock-shaped assortment of them straddled the bass drum onstage.

Wendell Borton kicked off proceedings. This consisted of vocalist/guitarist plus guitarist, bassist, and a drummer. Initial impressions were that of a band with a dirty punk feel. There were some tasty guitar licks giving the song some melody beyond power chords. There was trudging bass and drums which joined just the vocals for breathing space. Groovy and powerful.

Then came a driving rocker, which grinded briefly for tempo dynamics. Again, some tasteful lead playing. Then came a distorted bass break accompanied with vocals that let the song breathe. Next was fast but melodious. Vocals were in tandem with the frenetic pace. It speeded right up to a chorus that hooked well. Drums then continued, but only with the vocals. The drums were like the chugging of a steam train.

Following that was a song melodic and meaningful on the guitar. On a completely different tack. It did, however, have a certain rock grit to it, too. Then came an epic introduction that started with crashing drums and a descending guitar harmony. This reappeared and gave the song real shape, a really tight performance. This one was a bit of an anthem.

Spank Me, Rude Boy” began suitably dirty, but ever so slightly melodic. This was all underpinned by a funky but ever so slightly introspective bassline. It had heavy moments which jutted out, but worked quite well. The next song bounced but was quite downbeat, like tongue in cheek. These guys really know when to play quiet, and when to play loud. It rocked out with wailing, yet controlled solo. Good mix of clean and dirt.

Their swansong had a touch of Placebo. It had good syncopated aspects. This made it unconventionally funky. Maybe a dash of Blink 182, aswell. The subsequent middle section was melodic, yet intense. After this was violent bursting of aforementioned balloons, once the band were off the stage. The first half of the Fudge Awards was about to begin.

“Shuffle forward, ladies and gentlemen”. After this came Lenin Death Mask. They consisted of vocalist/bassist plus guitarist, and drummer. Things began with very intense dissonance. The drums were tom heavy, with guitar work veering from sparse to then full on.

Their follow up was quiet and introspective. A wandering bass combined with the guitar to create something that seemed like a way in which to convey meaning in life. It then got very progressive, which in turn veered into a shouty breakdown. A descending bassline punctuated gutsy vocals, and the guitar went hammer-on wild. So much crammed into one song.

They then explained a story behind behind the upcoming track, basically an ex-member took a hissy fit.  Then followed an upbeat walking bassline, accompanied by some funky licks on the guitar. Some of it seemed, vocals-wise, a bit Gil Scott-Heron; a spoken word half-sung thing going on.

Drums kicked in next, before melodic guitar work accompanied shouted vocals, which worked well with the instrumental. Contrast of those vocals and instrumentation was a curious one. A tapping laden guitar lick set against plodding rhythms created something straight forward yet intense. Vocals were generally following melody of guitars, which created a pondering effect.

Then came punky energy with the next number. Its power was in its simplicity. The guitar solo was one you could sing along to, but also got dissonant and very rock and roll. A good and curious middle section followed. The second guitar solo was a bit wilder than the previous.

The second half of the Fudge Awards got underway. Best Band 2016 was awarded to Dear John. Headlining were Depeche Choad, and with that the Fudge Awards podium was ripped to shreds by a hungry crowd. They consisted of vocalist/keyboardist/cowbell plus guitarist, bassist, and drummer.

They opened with “Tiki Bar” a tribute to the signature drinks on offer at Krakatoa. These were drums you could dance to, with groovy bass. This was mischievous descending melody punk, night crawling music. Their Hawaiian shirts and straw hats were complete with shades. “Sun Is Bigger Than The Moon” followed, opening with a snare roll, regimented as the band saluted their audience. Reverb vocals aplenty.

The stop start of “Dead Mole Party” got busy with a punk hammer-on riff. “Piggy” had its own stage prop. This one was engaging, commanding your attention. The rolling drums of “Roderick And Wolfgang” became a keyboard propelled number, and then the guitars join in. There was some high register bass, nice and melodic. Vocals, again, awashed with reverb. There was something very Pulp and Jarvis Cocker about it all.

There was then a brief interlude of squelching keyboard, as if to magnify the comedy of the situation. The house photographer was singled out for some joshing. “I hate photographers… yeah, f**k that guy”. “I Hate Cats” came in, odd time signature and all. This was oddly infectious. It had punky energy about it. Good roaring scream, and oddly, and somehow, tuneful.

The immaturity and inanity of “Cum In It” was infectious and chuckle inducing. The track was very spacey and atmospheric, belying the light hearted lyrics. The ringing rhythm section was syncopated.  A more tasteful aspect of the song, other than the spacy atmospherics, was the simple and artful lead line from the guitarist. “Young Man With Grey Hair/Old Man With Smooth Skin” kicked off with cowbell, with the frontman parked in the middle of the dance floor. It consisted of a loping lead melody that trailed off, and ringing tree trunk bass.

Nigel Pepper” was dedicated to a player with a very brief, in more than one sense, history with Aberdeen Football Club. He got sent off on his debut six minutes after coming on as a substitute. After his return from suspension again having come on as a substitute it took just 17 seconds before he was sent off again. Those seconds roughly indicate the brevity of the song in question.

Then came “Middleclass Malcontent”. This was a choppy rocker but developed into a riding one. The distorted bass heralded a picking lead solo. The drums were slow for anthemic quality, then speeded right up before closing. “Cool” came in with a sort of rap rock vibe, its chugging riff incendiary. The frontman, mid-song, introduced all the members of the band. This was the bassist’s cue to play a fancy fill. Brattish vocals despairing of everything that’s unfair in life introduced the subsequent song, “Zupapalera”. It went on to become earnest in soundscape respects.

Life Is Hard” was heavy and immediate. Its power chords were choppy, vocals jarring, like a turntablist chopping up a voice sample. Heavy, but upbeat, was “No Vampires”. It was super busy on the bass, and so for the singer. The guy could really sing, going from gritty rock, and screaming well, too. “1st Bit/2nd Bit” came next, and was a trundling and punky affair, like The Ruts. It came to a complete stop then started again.

Pube Village” followed, and was grooving with moody bass. It was hip-hop orientated; with attitude and bombastic. What’s more it was atmospheric and brooding. The drums counted out the middle section, before it petered out. “Paul Miller Socks” came in with ringing tree trunk bass, and seemed like free verse pontifications about items of clothing particular to feet, but not shoes or boots. It really swings, and has what one can only describe as medieval keys thrown in for atmospheric measure. It had ducking and diving bass that swaggered over the drums and guitar.

Another footballing reference was “Wimbledon”. The Milton Keynes song came in the form of another bass heavy treat. What’s more MK Dons get the dissonant guitar treatment. Topical but comical. At this point an inflatable crocodile and dolphin were doing the rounds, round the crowd and amongst themselves.

Second from closing, “HITSWGF”, was a dragging rocker with ringing bass. Initially the cowbell and bass fall short of anticipated rhythm, but they came back to pull it off. Almost like letting the crowd down, only to come back proper and lift their spirits way beyond what they would’ve done achieving it in the first instance.

Finally, the finale. “Zupapalera Party” really swung. Music, again, you could dance to. A conga line formed, unprecedented scenes in Krakatoa! This band made a real determined effort to push boundaries and make gig going a pure joy. Depeche Choad’s current EP Pain After Sex is out now, and can be downloaded from here.

Words by Andrew Watson

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