Friday, March 8, 2024

The Bonnevilles, with Mudlow - Legends, Edinburgh, 7 March 2024

Lately I’ve been exploring some raunchy sounds and bands. Unadorned stuff. Retro stuff, some of it. The punk road less travelled, a bit. Honest kinda stuff. And when The Bonnevilles get on stage and crack into the plunging rhythm and ringing guitar of ‘Machine Born To Think’, those lines converge to a fiery point.
They fairly thrash away at ‘Good Suits’, smashing Chris McMullan’s clattering drums into scything slide playing and distorted vocals from Andy McGibbon, who channels the tumult in kinetic style. Oh yeah, and I like his emphatic grunt of  - “Wheugh!” - punctuation too.
The Bonnevilles - getting down to business and channelling the tumult

With their white shirts and black ties, top buttons undone and shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbow, they look like a couple of fellas ready to get down to business at a post-funeral booze-up, and there is indeed some very Irish to-ing and fro-ing banter between them now and then. But with a hard curfew of 10pm they’re not inclined to waste time.
There’s more to them than just feral punkishness though, as ‘Long Runs The Fox’ demonstrates, with a strong, ear-catching tune driving through the maelstrom of stop-time riffing, swoops of slide guitar, and McGibbon’s hoarse, rat-a-tat vocals.  They throw some different ingredients into the mix with the staccato riff and falsetto vocal of ‘Reflex Liar’, then ‘Dirty Photographs’ manages to bring some soul inflections to their garage rock sensibilities. On songs like these I hear a lot of early Black Keys in their sandpaper-rough blues grooves, which is right up my street whatever their own direct influences may be.
‘My Dark Heart’ is an upbeat, shake, rattle’n’shuffling animal, albeit with a downbeat bridge to add some dynamics.  Then they unveil new song ‘Awaken From Slumber’ – “ripped off Scott H. Biram", McGibbon says.  Biram’s name is only vaguely familiar to me, but given he’s known as an exponent of both punk and outlaw country, it’s maybe not surprising that ‘. . . Slumber’ sounds like nothing so much as a slice of galloping, hurtling Western swing in ragged, punkish garb.  Their take on ‘Parchment Farm’, though, is a pummelling, driven thing that has more in common with the Blue Cheer version than Mose Allison, crashing its way down a rock’n’roll strewn canyon on the way to a coordinated assault of an ending.
McGibbon introduces ‘Panakromatic’ as “Junior Kimbrough meets Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman” – a novel which is indeed, as he says, a bit like purgatory on acid.  Well, the Junior Kimbrough vibe is certainly there in the repetitive, juddering riff – “Wheugh!” – which here gets
Mudlow - groove-digging darkness
extended into a scuzzily insistent groove, en route to the Diddley-esque rhythm of the set closer ‘10’000’, which is infectious enough to have a group of women start dancing.   And who can blame ‘em?  This lean, fighting fit set by The Bonnevilles is just what the doctor ordered.
Brighton trio Mudlow are a very good fit to partner The Bonnevilles on this tour, taking some similar influences and heading off at their own tangent with them.  I arrive just as they're getting going with ‘Flesh And Blood’, which sounds like the moody overture to some Tom Waits jukebox musical, all brushed drums, rumbling bass and pinpricked guitar.  But they pick up the pace a bit on ‘So Long Lee’, whipping it good while guitarist Tobias Tester, seated on his stool, blends picking and strumming in singular, plectrum-free style.
They continue to mix up light and shade throughout their set, from the grinding, gutbucket boogie of ‘Codename Toad’, through ‘Drunken Turkey’ with maraca-infused drumming from Matt Latcham, spiky guitar, and comical turkey gobbling noises, to ‘Lower Than Mud’ with Tester’s growling, cackling vocal over a dirty, lipsmacking groove.
‘Crackling’ is atmospheric and crepuscular over restrained snare drum tapping from Latcham, and ‘Red Ribbon’ is a very Waits-ian sleazy noir tale about getting shot in the stomach.
They finish up with a medley of ‘Further Down The Road’ and ‘Red Rock’, centering on a blisteringly grimy solo from Tester over increasingly animated drums, while poker faced bassist Paul Pascoe gets down and gets with it like an agitated stick insect.  Mudlow are never going to be big stars, but catch ‘em live if you can for a groove-digging, unsettling spin through the darkness on the edge of town.
The Bonnevilles and Mudlow continue their Age Of Monsters tour until 17 March, details here.

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