Somewhere, in the low lit depths of this dive bar, I’ve lost the keys to my car. I want to assure myself that somewhere in this labyrinth of pockets I call cargo pants there’s a spare copy, the one my father always makes me carry.
Alas, I’ll have to either find it or blag a ride home and pray my car doesn’t end up spare parts for Los Lobos. They are keen on dismantling VWs and my Golf might’ve seen better days, but it’s my Golf, fuckshitdammit.
The band on stage are called The Scaramanga Six and they do not sound like the usual band this place would put. Sure, there’s a pop undercurrent in their music; a necessity in this day and age, but whereas pop seems to clinch to loud, overcompressed jigsaw ditties, these ones are clear and incisive.
Their opening track, called ‘I will crush your heart’, was something resembling The Pixies. That’s all well and good, I’d rather have a band pay homage to a band with talent than do another re-assembling of The Smiths, easily the worst most popular band in history, just after Coldplay. Johnny Marr was good, mind, it’s that gel-encrusted racist prick which ruins it all. Selah.
Getting sidetracked. We are talking about this band, The Scaramanga Six, whom I’ve been informed by a fervent follower, are from England. From Leeds via Huddersfield, I think I misunderstood that, but too many vodka sevens, not enough beers.
Songs! ‘I will crush your heart’ is pop but with a mean streak; heavy rock undertones never going the whole hog. ‘I am the rain’ is almost a sing along, breezy and succinct. ‘The Bristol Butcher’ feels like a more serious Tenacious D, with the powerful rock chords minus the dick jokes. The instrumental passage in ‘The Bristol Butcher’ allows the singer, Mr. Morricone, to introduce the band. Two drummers? This should have an interesting payoff sooner than later.
‘Blunt force drama’ lets the pianist add some panache to the proceedings, as the song’s hysterical, topsy turvy atmosphere is a wild ride by itself. Ah, the double drummer attack is in full force in this track, ‘Phantom head’. It’s theatrical and wouldn’t be out of place in a Steinman musical, with its Grand Guignol intro and lyrical demeanour (“show your stigmatta to security on the way out”) that resembles both a breakdown and a stream of consciousness. This is my fave track of their set.
Some say the best way to diss someone is through diplomacy instead of a full on attack. ‘They put you on a pedestal’ probably is making a few people’s ears ringing, with its kebab knife-sharp lyrical jabs. I hope the band doesn’t get angry at me, as their blusterous ‘Twist the knife’ sounds like a proper torpedo. Slightly 90s dissonant rock, it’s just another colour in the band’s broadening palette. On that note, The Scaramanga Six seem to enjoy doing some cinematic anthems, as ‘Missing’ is perfect for a weird western-style showdow. I’m half expecting Antonio Banderas to come in with a guitar case. Heck, send ‘It’s just a matter of time’ to Robert Rodriguez, he needs a classy song for Sin City 2.
No show can end on sombre notes and ‘The Stepford Bands’ closes it in a classic rock way, with enough guitar licks to satisfy your “album cover in the back of the denim jacket” crowd (I miss mine). But there’s more to this track than classic rock bravado, there’s a bit of math rock for the discerning fan and even a bit of crooning for the ones with their feelings on their mucky sleeves.
The Scaramanga Six bow out and the crowd applauds. They confirm that this performance is called Phantom Head and it’s been recorded for posterity. A man with a ragged In Utero t-shirt gives the thumbs up as he presses a button and slavishly picks up several vintage microphones he’s laid cautiously around. I walk out of the place, let the sun burn my face a lil’ bit and accept that I’ll have to fly home this time around. Fuck being subtle.
Words: Juan de los Palotes, as told to Sam J. Valdes Lopez via telex.