Sound City 2008: Hadouken! Crystal Castles, Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Liverpool Carling Academy

Tuesday 27th May 2008.

By Kenn Taylor

As they have a tendency to do, sections of the nation’s youth, influenced by the media and the never-ending angst of adolescence, have formed a new tribe with strange customs based on ancient alternative ways of life. The organisers of Liverpool’s Sound City event ‘SXSW without the sunshine’ have handily assembled some of the deities of the movement together in one place for our thorough examination. Tonight DiS descends into the Heart of Darkness, otherwise known as the Carling Academy, an errand boy send by a grocery clerk to collect the bill.

Your correspondent has heard rumours that these nu-ravers ritually commit suicide at the age of 18 by ingesting a glow stick, in order to avoid the corrupt and grey adult world. This we can’t confirm, though there are many strange activities in evidence, such as them grinding their teeth incessantly and sucking at the ‘NOT DRINKING WATER’ tap in the toilets like it is dispensing ambrosia. Welcome to the new society, it’s like Lord of the Flies but with a box of Shamen records instead of a pig’s head.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? are the first act we witness. The yeah says it all. Yeah, Yeah? YEAH! We don’t care what you think! We have come to pollute your sickening, simpering world with our big beat electro Chemical Brothers lite. There are no subtle nuances here. This is in your face party music for a new generation. If rave was society’s response to Thatcherism and de-industrialisation, then maybe this new version is its response to global warming, terrorism, American Imperialism and all that jarg. Big overwhelming things require big overwhelming responses, and Does It Offend You, Yeah? are not short of power and force. Unfortunately, they’re also all shoutyness and no actual heart, head or balls. They do show some skill and promise when they push things away from the band set up and into the realms of screaming disjointed electronica. If they’d only stop ramming the keyboards hard up your arse for five fucking minutes. Is not that offensive really guys; it’s bland and lacking in ideas.

We hang fire for Hadouken! another band for whom an in your face name, fuck you attitude and loud, simple sounds just isn’t brash enough. They’re also heavily into the use of the kind of colours that you normally only find in the ink reservoirs of highlighters. Musically we’d hazard a guess that they ‘listen to the same records’ as Does It Offend You, Yeah? It all feels glaringly similar live, big squeaky keyboard, rapid light beats and a few ‘Demo button’ sound effects. Hadouken! seem to have more to say though, possessing some easy-on-the-ear hip-hop phrasing that means they’re still just listenable when you’ve not drank more your own bodyweight in pissy Carling. The love from Hadouken’s fans seems more intense than for the other bands, and the dancing more frenzied, though they could all just be coming up at the same time. On pissy Carling of course.

“We are the wasted youth/We are the future” Hadouken! sing and it’s true. There is few from the industry at this event, few people over twenty in fact. The audience consists mostly of nice boys and girls from the suburbs. The ‘music biz’ are no doubt drinking to their health and watching some avant-garde nonsense elsewhere, dismissing this line up though they’d all be out of a job without it. And as they lig, the youth as ever give you hope. For there is much spirit and spunk in this music, and we’re going to need it in the future. But with our old heads we’re prompted to think, do they know their history? Do they care? Will they save us? Or will David Cameron ride into office with a thin strip of pink day-glo paint just underneath his left eye?

We descend the ‘suicide staircase’ into the depths of the Academy 2 to see Crystal Castles. A nu-rave band? We doubt it. There’s no ramming a keyboard up your arse here. More like force feeding you crunched up game-cartridge PCBs and pushing your face through the monitor-screen glass.  If Hadouken! are Super Mario, then this is some twisted little game put together in darkness by a disaffected GTA4 programmer in the early hours of the morning as a distraction from his incurable insomnia, a game that, once begun, has no end.  DiS no longer stands by maintaining a slight ironic distance. We jump headlong into the black. There’s no day-glo paint here, just intense white lights and that pocket rocket Alice Glass, who adds a violent humanity to Ethan Kath’s machine utterings. There’s a different atmosphere here than with the other bands, people are dancing on a more intense individual level. The other nu-rave acts seem to be about mindless but fun collective celebration, whereas Crystal Castles prompt more extreme, indefinable self-expression. This is not the finest performance of there’s we’ve seen, but after a slightly underwhelming debut album, Crystal Castles remind us of the possibilities of live electro music. Liverpool rave on.

By Kenn Taylor