Any set by The Moonlandingz in surroundings as cramped as London’s legendary 100 Club is bound to be explosive. Many of the crowd at tonight’s show are on one or other guest list, as it’s a ‘Fred Perry Subculture’ event, but that doesn’t prevent monstrous mayhem and madness all through the group’s frenetic set.

Not one to hide from controversy, Lias Saoudi is playing lead singer Johnny Rocket  with anti-Nick Cave graffiti scrawled on his chest. It’s because Cave has played Israel, endorsing its policies in the opinion of Saoudi, whose body slogans point out that he’d rather endorse Frank Perry (the late film director uncle of Katy Perry?). Saoudi as Johnny Rocket has appeared with shoes and socks cling-filmed to himself before, so the artistic statement this time is maybe less surreal than usual. 

The Moonlandingz take the 100 Club on a trip through their ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ — a frenzied voyage of discovery into a future that sounds like the late ’70s all over again. After south London poet Patrick Lyons announces their arrival on stage, they launch the post-glam spaceship ‘Vessels’ into the tiny jazz and punk venue. An insane ‘Black Hanz’ sparks crowd surges and manic moshing in the narrow floor area between the stage and the back wall. The song’s chaotic breakdown transitions to a huge wall of sound, just as the breakdown in the fairground mayhem of ‘Neuf du Pape’ flows into a great organ riff. 

Media transmissions about The Moonlandingz focus on the otherworldliness, the eccentricity, the craziness. But let it not be forgotten that the songwriting and arrangements are intelligent and clever. The musicians take on the vocal melody in ‘I.D.S.’, making a song about the Tories’ “40,000 years of job club” into an industrial-pop anthem, with brilliant guitar from Mairead O’Connor and bass from Manfredo.

The motorik ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ foments a frenzy to the repeated chorus “I (don’t) feel alright”. The crowd is by now surging up onto the stage, so it’s time for Saoudi to make sure everyone knows their place — his Johnny Rocket is the star of this show, not a bunch of sweaty spectators, so he pushes them firmly back onto the beer-soaked floor. 

Audience participation of a sort continues as the set reaches half way with ‘The Strangle of Anna’ — the huge chart hit that never was. Adrian Flanagan — who with Dean Honer is part of Eccentronic Research Council, the mad synth professors who invented Johnny Rocket — invites any female audience member who knows the words to “come on up” and join Saoudi. The last volunteer to sing the duet in London was Roisin Murphy at the Brixton Electric on 22 November, who went for it but said “he smells” when she got up close to her co-vocalist. That night, he brought a bottle of 38-proof tequila on stage, as well as the wine.

Tonight, Flanagan has to sing most of the Lou Reed ‘Strangle’ verses famously interpreted by Sheffield’s own Rebecca Taylor (also of Slow Club and Self Esteem) on the album and at earlier live shows. Someone from the crowd jumps up next to Flanagan and attempts a few lines, but she’s unconvincing. A couple of other people, emboldened by her efforts, dance on the only empty part of the stage, just behind Flanagan, from ‘The Rabies Are Back’ onwards.

It’s all a bit confused, and ice queen O’Connor compounds the chaos when she has to change guitars, but she’s quickly back to her scowling cool self and The Moonlandingz are once again on track. Saoudi strips off one layer of garish vintage clothing at a time, swigging wine and pouring it over the crowd. He’s possessed by Johnny Rocket; larger than semi-fictional life.

‘The Rabies Are Back’ is a lunatic graveyard-stomp groove, slowing to enter the world of ’50s B-movies — it’s a monochrome TV space-rock rocket trip with mad keyboards. ‘Glory Hole’ churns and pulsates, stomach-wrenchingly, Saoudi’s voice heading higher into unearthly country realms as the punkabilly beat reverberates and the crowd chants and claps. The pit sings along to the deathly grim-hilarious ‘Lufthansa Man’ — like ‘Airport’ by The Motors traveling through a black hole at warp factor one. People screech the guitar riff as it mutates into an analogue synthesised soundalike.

The set ends with two older EP tracks. Bassist Manfredo lies on his back throughout ‘Lay Yer Head…’ to Rich Westley’s huge drumming and O’Connor’s lovely mandolin-style solos — played with a look of utter disdain on her face. And the monstrous mayhem of ‘Man In Me Lyfe’ provides a happy ending to a hot night of transgressive pandemonium. The Moonlandingz have briefly teleported a psykick dancehall pleasuredome into an Oxford Street dive.

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The Moonlandingz setlist at the 100 Club
Vessels
Black Hanz
Neuf du Pape
I.D.S.
Sweet Saturn Mine
The Strangle of Anna
The Rabies are Back
Glory Hole
Lufthansa Man
Lay Yer Head Down In The Road
Man In Me Lyfe

The Moonlandingz setlist at the Brixton Electric
Psych Ersatz
Vessels
Black Hanz
Neuf du Pape
I.D.S.
Sweet Saturn Mine
The Strangle of Anna (with Roisin Murphy)
The Rabies are Back
Glory Hole
Lufthansa Man
Lay Yer Head Down In The Road
Man In Me Lyfe

Picture gallery of The Moonlandingz at the Brixton Electric (22nd November 2017)

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