And so, the ten weary and worn souls that make up Kingston’s Tubelord, black-clad doom merchants Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man, and the seemingly perpetually on-the-road Johnny Foreigner move onto the final date of the 2008 Fly tour after presenting their musical wares in Edinburgh, Leicester, Royal Tunbridge Wells and now a ‘not-as-busy-as-one-might-hope’ Bedford.
Tubelord, long haired and fronted by a pipe-thin bespectacled bottle-blonde boy, offer up feverish, jagged and choppy guitar riffs that aren’t far from Biffy Clyro. By all accounts, the heavy-soft-heavy / fast-slow-fast shtick is done well; not so well to warrant a full-on sing-along (though the few who know the words do) but enough to whet the appetite and tempt those toes into a tap or two. It’d be a bit of a push to label them in the ‘emo’ category as there is more to them musically than just the wailing atlanticised pronunciations. The best is saved ‘til last with‘Feed Me A Box Of Words’ being the highlight, incorporating some group chanting, more of those heavy-soft-heavy dynamics, layered melodies as well as a particularly remorseful melodica solo along the way. As is uttered on ‘Half Man Half Amazing’, “everything’s alright”.
Ox. Eagle.Lion.Man are an entirely different proposition to the other acts on the bill, and play music that is barely suited to this balmy evening and more suited to the depressing depths of some decaying hovel. Though Esquires might not be decaying, this dingy, dark, converted 19th Century chapel supplies an apt backdrop for the melodramatic proclamations of lead man Fred MacPherson, supported by legs as slender as the mic-stands with which he plies his trade. Suitably suited, all in black, OELM make music for manic-depressives and during the theatrical‘Fatherhood’ MacPherson writhes to the beat of his own drums earnestly with slight hints of The Birthday Party in his accompaniment. ‘The Drowned And The Saved’ ranges from the funereal to the frantic, with as much of a guitar solo as there will be tonight, descends, laced with overdrive and reverb into the darkness. Some witty fellow insists on heckling with “Are you Morrissey!?”in between tracks, but no, not even close.
Seeing Johnny Foreigner (who, one way or another, have managed to find time to record their debut album) in the flesh is always an assault on the auditory canals, and each time, they become more chaotic, though perhaps it’s just a little too chaotic tonight. Certainly, no favours are done by the PA, which, at this ear-splitting volume, leaves Alexei’s trademark Tourette’s style delivery of unintelligible words a little lost in the mire. ‘The End And Everything After’ is very much each musical component fighting for the same sound waves, but the melodic American drawl-inflected ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’ proves Johnny Foreigner are no one-trick-ponies. The banter is humorous, though such a year Johnny Foreigner have had it’s not surprising they’re a little bewildered with Alexei stating “This is a new song…actually, it’s not new anymore…er…this is a song”. ‘Suicide Pact, Yeah?’ is a barrage of brutality with Kelly’s piercing shrieks; but it’s a beautiful brutality.
It finishes in a surreal manner with Alexei, Kelly and Junior being joined by members of Tubelord, morphing into a six-piece; suddenly the number of sticksmen doubles, and a triumvirate of guitars emerges whilst Junior ups-sticks to take up backing vocals, culminating in a sound that is potent; like a freight train de-railing through your ears, ending with just enough time for Alexei to catch his breath, and the crowd theirs.
Johnny Foreigner 7/10
[Taken from Drowned In Sound]