An idiosyncratic venue near Goldsmiths is the perfect venue for the punk of Skinny Girl Diet, supported by psychobilly from Night Shades. The Montague Arms is a low-ceilinged, black-beamed Tudor cave, decorated with taxidermy and an odd assortment of antiquities. To the right of the bar, there’s a small performance area, with a black scooter, bird cage, oversized skull, neon Las Vegas sign and a high stage.
Night Shades manage to perform without their bass player (just two guitarist-singers and a drummer), running though a selection of songs that reveal their love of The Cramps and similar garage, surf and gothabilly bands (like The Meteors etc). Some songs have hints of new wave space rock like The Rezillos; and Tarantino soundtracks come to mind. They end with The Cramps’ ‘Human Fly’ — honest enough to play a classic by their main influence.
Under 40 minutes is all it takes for Skinny Girl Diet to go through 17 blistering tracks. They play just about everything on debut album ‘Heavy Flow’ — starting and ending with ‘Comedown Intro’ and ‘Comedown Outro’, just as on the recording. The cumulative effect of their fast, angry, feminist punk on the crowd’s collective psyche is that the ‘Outro’ is played in front of people thrashing around, won over by the band’s commitment to no-nonsense, fast, loud music.
Some of their quickest, shortest songs are the newest. ‘Outsider’, half way through the set, starts with a buzzsaw guitar and races through hardcore bass, drums and screaming to an abrupt end. The pacy metal bass and Lurkers speed-punk of another new one, ‘Party’, the last track before ‘Outro’, whips the crowd up. Older songs, like ‘I Hate You’, share the newer numbers’ death metal-pace and brevity.
Following ‘Intro’, they go straight into DMT, moving from fast to faster after the first chorus (“you’re my only friend, but I’ll kill you in the end”) and there’s no pause as the guitar riff of ‘Silver Spoons’ starts up. The song’s political vocal carries the melody through ridiculously rapid guitar, bass and drums — “Who’s staring at me through that lens/I don’t know/They run the country/But I still don’t know… I let it go, I let it go”.
“Hi, thanks for coming out tonight,” singer and guitarist Delilah Holliday says in the night’s first (and almost only) pause. Next up is one of the newish tracks, ‘Witch Of The Waste’, which starts slower, led by a pulsating bass riff from Amelia Cutler, building through an American-sounding vocal and punk riff into yelling. It takes in a vibe from ’60s Rolling Stones and even Hendrix, especially when Delilah plays out with a solo.
She does another guitar solo to finish ‘Yeti’, ending a crazed flourish on her knees. The two-minute song has already managed to deconstruct itself before Delilah blasts, “Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be good enough”, reprising with a sort of refrain as she drawls, “All night, all night.”
Cutler’s bass starts the grungy ‘Okay’, with the slowish guitar and vocals from Delilah a bit like Nirvana, but the whiplash drumming from Ursula Holliday takes the track on a speed rampage. “Well I don’t feel OK,” Delilah slurs. Drummer Ursula takes a well-earned break at the start of the twisted, trippy ‘Wasted Smile’, coming in only when Cutler screams and the track fires up into top velocity. Delilah’s guitar becomes epic, like a distorted Will Sergeant.
Delilah’s controlled yelling on ‘Pretty Song’ (“I don’t know what to say”) is repeated again and again over her deviant guitar riff. It’s Cutler’s turn to scream again once ‘Wolf Pack’ accelerates, and Delilah tops the screeching by going up-up-up her guitar scale. The thrash metal riffing ‘Eyes That Paralyse’ is most memorable for Delilah’s shrieked “2-3-4-5-6-7-8”, a trigger for the quickest verses.
The slower, churning ‘Forget’, has been dosed with The Stooges. ‘Bored’ starts slowish, with writhing bass, picks up for seconds, retreats again (but stays loud), gets fast for a minute, and gets faster still to end with shrieking and a psych wipeout. Ursula has time to smile serenely before stepping up the drums again. The music’s angry but they’re having fun.
‘Fix me’ is as close to a pop-punk ballad as Skinny Girls Diet get. The crowd wriggles and twists happily to the tune — “I need you to fix me/It’s all I ever wanted/Well you’ve got my secret/You’ve got my heart you can keep it/Not gonna let me lose control/Not gonna let me lose my soul”. The last two numbers send the moshers into reckless abandon, freed by the unflinching integrity of Skinny Girl Diet’s punk vision.
Picture credits: Ian Bourne