This was initially going to be a straight up live review of a (not so) recent performance at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen by Puffer, Cold In Berlin and Manflu. But I didn’t have anything really positive to say about Puffer (certain parties within the HLS organisation would rather we didn’t slag them off in public) and by the time Manflu came on I’d stopped taking notes and started getting trashed.
It seemed a shame to delete 2000 words of musically snobbery and self important ranting, but even as I read it back it was clearly a sparsely informed and blatantly partisan bit of pseudo-journalism. I’ve therefore surgically removed the Puffer and the Manflu parts and made it into a little spiel on Cold In Berlin’s past and current musical directions.
You’ve also lost a whole paragraph where I was rude about Vice Magazine for basically doing what I ended up doing. Hot damn.
ON COLD IN BERLIN – UNDERRATED BY ALL BUT THE COOLEST PEOPLE
Because of certain superficial, aesthetic similarities, Goth and Metal tend to both get tarred with the same brush by the wider musical world. This is incredibly annoying and has bred a kind of mutual revulsion between the two tribes, both constantly attempting to distance themselves from each other. This is perpetually reinforced by the fact that every time any band tries to do anything that could conceivably be branded “Gothic Metal” the results are always embarrassing, if not down right awful. This also probably explains why everybody hates The Sisters Of Mercy’s third album, Vision Thing, despite it actually being a very good record. Not even Ulterior really got away with playing Suicide tracks while dressed up as Guns & Roses. None the less, with the release of the their second album Cold In Berlin (possibly) became the first band EVER to take classic heavy metal and post-punk influences and make a credible and exciting record (see: And Yet…, 2012, Candlelight Records).
In their early days, Cold In Berlin sort of mapped out the template for what later became one of the major archetypes in East London rock and roll. Despite ticking every box (triangle logo, well chosen “noire” musical references, living in in an EC post code etc), they managed to swerve themselves out of the path of any large scale success. Although they deny it, I swear to god this was (and is) deliberate musical misanthropy: Everything about their music, image and persona appears at first to be deadly serious, yet they interact with the world with a detached, almost contemptuous irony. As far as I’m concerned, this is great – the delicious addition of black comedy to the wanton nihilism of punk rock is exactly what made Goth great in the first place. Annoyingly, Cold In Berlin have been more or less picked apart like carrion by some of London’s more PR savvy acts, who have slickly recycled many of their musical and stylistic tropes to great effect (*cough* Savages *cough* Vuvuvultures).
Despite my obvious disgruntlement with the finer points of their career trajectory, Cold In Berlin don’t appear to give a flying fuck. Gloriously back on a major East London stage after several wilderness years playing almost exclusively in questionable dive bars, they crack out a set almost entirely comprised of unreleased material. This is pretty normal for an untested band on the run up to their first release, but for an act with a fan base built on the back of two full length albums this is pretty strange behaviour. Fair enough, they’ve moved a great distance from their original post-punk disco sound, developing on the riff heavy, doom laden themes introduced by the previously discussed second album, but for a band with such a quality back catalogue, it’d be nice to hear more of it! Regardless, tonight we see them on fine form; their own innate musicality and unique sound pallet backed up by Hoxton Square’s impressive sound and lighting rig, the latter cleverly engineered to suit the band’s stark and intimidating stage presence.
See what I mean? Monochrome as fuck.