We have a lot of gigs going on in Norwich, especially on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and even Sundays. On this particular soggy Saturday evening there were no less than forty gigs taking place that I knew of. I picked two of them and attempted my own gighopping though my main mistake was badly misjudging how wet it was and therefore was utterly drenched by the time I arrived at my first port of call, The Waterfront where The Wolf Number were to support Bridges for Tilting Sky in the Studio with their final gig. Typically, the rain stopped as I was locking up my bike but my spirits were soon lifted by a friendly neighbourhood cat, as soaked as I was but completely unbothered by it as it wandered into the venue and said its hellos to the Waterfront staff.
Unsurprisingly there were a lot of familiar faces in the modest crowd upstairs, The Wolf Pack out in force to send off The Wolf Number in fine style. They all still love each other but the logistics of finding the amount of time needed for the band was too much and sadly The Wolf Number announced on Facebook recently that they were calling time on it for the forseeable future in the announcement below:
They played a set at Wild Paths last weekend but I had the inevitable gig-clash and so this was my first opportunity to say farewell to them since the news. It was good to see so many friends from the Wolf Pack there and the atmosphere was excellent. No visual projections or light show today so it was all about the music and they certainly rocked out, playing with smiles and passion, it was a great send off for a much-loved band who’ve played memorable gigs, made superb recordings and created quite a buzz in their short few years playing. They also created a lovely sense of community and friendship among their fans and that, as well as the fine music, is something quite special. With The Magic E’s having to pull out of the gig due to illness The Wolf Number had an extended hour-long slot which seemed fitting but it still seemed to pass all too quickly. Thanks for all the memories and music, guys, and big thanks to Tilting Craig as well.
As soon as they finished I put my still sodden jacket back on and made a cycle dash across the city to Norwich Arts Centre for my 150th gig this year, arriving there now not only soaked but very cold too. Unfortunately Other Half had already finished their set but I am sure I will have other opportunities to see them again soon, I really enjoyed their set at the Studio supporting Part Chimp a while back so I do look out for them. I was however in good time to catch the second support act of the night, Skint and Demoralised, a band I had not encountered before. Hailing from West Yorkshire they have recently got back together after a six-year hiatus. As much as I enjoyed the wailing post-punk guitars accompanying Matt Abbott’s lyrics it was undoubtedly his unaccompanied “Red, White and Blue” that made the biggest impression on me. Draped in a Union Jack his clearly delivered and articulate poem on our uneasy relationship with the flag and British identity obviously hit the spot with everyone in the room judging by the prolonged applause it received. “This flag is my privilege. This flag is my oppressor. This flag is law and order. This flag is an aggressor. This flag is kicking off, and this flag is clinging on” – brilliant! Then the rest of the band came back in and it was back to the guitars and drum track but the spoken word interlude had done something, shifted the gears taking the rest of the set onto a higher level and taking us with them. They had totally won us.
Rather incredibly this was my first time seeing The Membranes and although the audience turnout had taken a bit of a hit due to the sheer volume of gigs in the city, not to mention the miserable weather, there were still plenty enough to create a good atmosphere and no shortage of familiar faces. In the bar beforehand there had obviously been a sighting of a seminal post-punk guitarist and a rumour circulated that he might be making an appearance. This was too exciting a prospect and I was trying to not get carried away about the possibility. Led by vocalist and bassist John Robb, a regular visitor to Norwich not only with The Membranes but also to speak at events such as NS&V, and Wild Paths, he’s an engaging and animated frontman. A lively powerhouse on bass during the songs and friendly between them, chatting to the audience, shaking hands, asking questions about ornithology ahead of Murder of Crows, and memorably, introducing Keith Levene who joined them for Black is the Colour, and a very dubby In the Graveyard sounding like it was straight from Metal Box. The rumour was true! It was quite a thrill to see Keith Levene onstage in the NAC and a memorable highlight of a most enjoyable and energising gig. The band, it was clear, enjoyed it too. As he left the stage John Robb thanked us and joked “You’ve made a happy man feel very old!” but he didn’t look old, prowling that stage with great energy for the entire set.
They also played Myths and Legends which I remember seeing on The Tube in the mid-80s, I’m pretty sure I still have it on an old VHS tape somewhere in my loft too. Pleasingly, I even managed to get my jacket just about dry thanks to the new NAC radiators and it was all worth it after another great night of musical shenanigans in Norwich.
The Membranes finally follow up their critically acclaimed universe-explaining 2015 album ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy,’ which received rave reviews and radio play on BBC 6 Music and became the bestselling album in the band’s history.
The new album, ‘What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away’ is a double album, using the band’s own 20-piece choir to juxtapose their dark drones and melancholic epic power across sixteen songs about the beauty and violence of nature. The album features guest appearances from the likes of Chris Packham, Shirley Collins, Jordan and Kirk Brandon, all dealing with various themes of nature.
A diverse work with songs that vary from dark, brooding and cinematic choir-driven post-punk that seethe with nature, sex and death, the album has been described as sounding like Hieronymus Bosch paintings; discordant wild songs about crows, demon flowers, strange perfumes, voluptuous petals, voluminous oceans and treacherous seasons – the poetry of life and death. Musically it shifts from seething musical pulses to epic choir driven post-punk, from dark dub workouts and throbbing dirty disco dark wave, grinding bass driven apocalyptic visions to choir driven dark opera and brooding classical.
Inspired by the DIY aesthetic of punk rock and Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP, Membranes formed in Blackpool in 1977. They created their own distinctive bass driven post punk that was big influence on the underground scene and were John Peel and music press favourites before splitting in 1990. When one of their former support bands, My Bloody Valentine, asked them to reform for a festival in 2010 the band returned and recorded their most acclaimed and bestselling album – 2015’s ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ and played at festivals across the world.
The band will be touring the UK and have many festivals lined up in the UK, Europe and Mexico.
‘It’s a ridiculous overload of the senses, both male and female in aspect; a rapacious attempt to be everything all at once. The title is perfect: What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away is a release that is totally merciless in intent and yet reminds me of a million things I’d never associated with them before. From junkyard psychedelia, wobbly synth splurts, rusty guitars, huge choirs that are Ragnarok epic, samples that get all ravey on us and a fully formed post punk rock band who’ve discovered true beauty of the Periodic Table. And want to sing about it.’ Richard Foster
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