Huge expectations around The Moonlandingz after ecstatic reviews of their album ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ mean Village Underground is sold out. Barriers at the front, usually used to create a camera pit and a gap between audience and performers, are pushed right up to the stage to bring crowd and bands together. The Moonlandingz don’t disappoint, putting together a performance from ‘The Outer Limits’ — “do not attempt to adjust the picture… You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind.”
First up, though, are Goat Girl and their 11-song set — they are just as transgressive as The Moonlandingz, in their own way. Drums from Rosy ‘Bones’ Jones snap straight into ‘Circus’, their usual opener, which singer-guitarist Lottie ‘Clottie Cream’ Pendlebury stamps her feet to gently as she picks out the twisted notes. She hits the chords for ‘Creep’ and you don’t doubt her when she sings the seesaw hook: “I really want to smash your head in… smash your head right in.”
[contentblock id=141 img=adsense.png]
Goat Girl’s warped country twang paradoxically benefits from the ultra-clean sound balance inside Village Underground. But daft crimson cowboy hats are removed early on. Single ‘Scum’ is a short, irresistible punch of swampy guitar interplay between Clottie Cream and Ellie ‘LED’ Davies. The intermittent psych rock of ‘Burn The Stake’ gains backing vocals from LED and bassist Naima ‘Jelly’ Zeit. ‘No Heart’ is captivatingly slow, sounding like the late ’60s work of Freddie Phillips and Brian Cant, either side of Bones’ super-faster drum break. The pace drops for new track ‘Mighty Despair’ before picking up for the wild, deviant country & western of ‘Crow Cries’, which invites comparisons with The Fall at their most ‘psykick dance hall’ as Clottie Cream’s vocals move up a notch.
‘Slowly Reclines’ is a slurry, shaking, writhing beast, LED picking out psych-rock notes. By the time they play ‘The Man’, the mosh pit has developed some energy to match the waves of peaking sound produced by the band. But a new, slower country-tinged track (‘Tomorrow’?) kills the mosh dead (“I was born to be a dancer, I wouldn’t take no for an answer”) until Jelly’s heavy bass and the feedback of single ‘Country Sleaze’ stirs the pit into a final supporting pogo.
A long intro tape of Mongolian throat singing heightens the crowd’s sense of anticipation before The Moonlandingz swing into view. They are quite a sight. A post-historic supergroup formed of a bunch of disparate eccentrics, each playing a role. Are they even real?
Lias Saoudi of Fat White Family has houmous caked all over his hair, dripping onto his chiselled features. He plays Johnny Rocket, waving a bottle of red wine around as if possessed. Strapped to his chest by a corset of clingfilm are a pair of shoes, with the socks stuck to his back. Naturally, he is barefoot.
Two old beardy northerners, one in a black cloth rain hat and the other with a shaven head, sit at antique synthesizers — Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer from Eccentronic Research Council. A black-booted, black-clothed Rebecca Taylor from Slow Club becomes a screaming space-rock goddess, soon to be drenched in sweat, taunting the front rows. Mairead O’Connor on guitar looks too cool to be human. She is the stillness around which the craziness swirls. The bass and drums are the tightest badass rhythm section in outer space and a squawking saxophonist wanders in and out like an extra from a ’70s glam rock Roxy Music recording.
Opener ‘Vessels’ establishes a key element of The Moonlandingz experience: it is loud, louder than even Village Underground can comfortably accommodate, and Saoudi wants it louder still. Taylor’s soaring, pitch perfect, huge voice screeches over the top of the massive noise. Saoudi sings rocket man vocals as he pours wine into the crowd and the deranged sax and keys of ‘Black Hanz’ prompt ever more histrionic and charismatic vocals from Taylor. ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ turns an alien experience into a religious riot of noise. The art school and artist actors on stage all put on impassive faces as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. Yet it’s extraordinary.
The extra-terrestrial, post-Specials ‘Ghost Town’ ska of ‘Neuf du Pape’ attracts a couple of stage invaders (or is that space invaders?). Saoudi picks up the first by his shirt and flings him off stage. He invites the second to dive onto the moshpit, which he does, for a quick surf. The science-fiction rock continues with the wanging guitar riff and booming feedback of I.D.S. (“40,000 years of job club”) attacking Tory political vandalism in a trajectory of Krautrock repetition.
Respite in the form of a slurpy futurist anti-love song comes from the lovely duet between Saoudi and Taylor, ‘The Strangle of Anna’. It’s a stand-out, iconic moment. Saoudi adopts a screechy spacewalk voice and tries some artistic, posed hand-clapping for ‘The Rabies Are Back’, enticing Taylor to soar implausibly higher and louder on joint vocals while the synths are madder than ever.
The double bluffing continues as the set climaxes — there will be no encore. The sax comes back to squawk some more as the space-glam turns graveyard rock, Taylor poses like a mock supermodel, and the mosh seethes into a pogo for ‘Glory Hole’. It’s celebratory and utterly brilliant then, as on the album, the group go into the almost conventional bop of ‘Lufthansa Man’, ending with a neat wild west guitar riff that gets eaten by synths on a space trip.
Saoudi throws the rest of his red wine into the crowd as O’Connor’s mandolin guitar riffs through to the end of ‘Lay Yer Head Down In The Road’ from The Moonlandingz’ eponymous 2015 EP, as they finally depart from the new album. Another track from that EP, ‘Man In Me Lyfe’, ends the set emphatically and manically. Punk guitar meets space synths in a sound approximating Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft. D.A.F. it may be, Daft Punk it ain’t.
The Moonlandingz take their audience to ‘The Twilight Zone’ — “There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.”
Picture credits: Ian Bourne