I swear I’m not making this up, but I had a feeling this gig was going to be something weird. It wasn’t the fact that I made a rather good pollo con mole for tea (see above picture) but the fact that a few minutes before I left the house, a horse-drawn carriage just passed by my house. Standard.
It then went weirder when the supposed reviewer for that night ended up getting smashed with cheap lager and decided to hide in the back of the Harley, playing MAME roms on his tablet, leaving me to do both photo and reviewing duties.
So, as some sort of spiteful vengeance, I will steal his reviewing style (they are interchangeable, innit?) and do a “comparison review” of each band that graced The Harley during XRay Live Presents. Let’s compare each band to a classy videogame!
First quarter spent goes to a frantic videogame that might confuse some but will please most. I’m talking, of course, about Tempest, represented tonight by the always raucous Great Deeds, a band taking the screaming parts of punk and adding a lot of jazz to it. ‘Brick’ is always a clear winner on their live sets and ‘Chainsaw’, with its ever evolving form, should become their theme tune; the Peter Gunn theme to these Sheffield ne’er-do-wells. Hey, if you manage to squeeze the theme tune to Inspector Gadget in your song, you’re not only a discerning fan of cartoons, but also a good musician. Trousers were ripped, a bassplayer was emulating Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and the audience was discombobulated but happily enthralled. ‘Bulb’ is a keeper.
Second quarter goes in and it’s a band called Cut your wings, whom my rather inebriated colleague had suggested catching live. It reminded me of a couple of bands from back home, with classic hard rock sound. Sludgy but never overtly grunge, it could provide ambience to a couple of rowdy nights in soot-stained alleys. Therefore, they were like Double Dragon (Level 2, factory level!), where stakes are slowly raised and a descent into the wilderness is nearby.
Last quarter and it’s The Scaramanga Six. A friend in the audience mentions that both brothers fronting the band look like Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn. I want to make a connection to True Romance but this is a videogame related review. So let’s go for, I dunno, Bubble Bobble.
Anyways… The Scaramanga Six are the epitome of underrated. They have the riffs, the chops, the bravado and the cinematic sound that should establish them as legends, but Jebus knows what happened here. By the size of the audience gathered, though, you know there’s a strong following in Sheffield.
You’d argue that it’s excessive to bring two drummers but it gives an extra punch to the songs. Add to that sometimes they seemed to play each other’s cymbals, like lonely, unsanctioned military incursions into no man’s land.
Phantom Head is a great album (fuck you if you disagree, I said so) and the live renditions of the track just galvanises this thought. ‘Blunt force trauma’ drives the band forward, speeding downhill on 5th gear, while ‘Twist the knife’ allows them to expand their darker side. ‘The Stepford Bands’ is a great track, even if the lyrical themes are a bit downbeat, a perfect song to define the band, really. ‘It’s just a matter of time’ is the song played for the encore, with that strange little electronic sound that feels as creepy as Sinistar finally being assembled and chasing you down until your fiery death.
Trust me, it’s a good thing.
That’s it. Three bands. Three lives. No continues, no high scores. Just old school and hard core. The way Midway used to make them.
Words & Photos: Sam J. Valdés López.