Twas the night before Christmas…well not quite, but it was the final Friday of work for many, and Liverpool folk were spilling over the streets, braving the plummeting temperatures and escaping the chains they had forged in life to plunge headlong into the first mad session of the Chrimbo chaos.
Meanwhile at the top end of Bold Street, opposite the bombed out church, six Dickensian characters were readying to make a racket that would have brought the roof down on St Luke’s, had obscure prog rock band Adolf and the Luftwaffe Lizards not already performed the task in May 1941 (Scouser Bridget Dowling was reported to have been “fucking fuming” with her brother in law).
Tonight’s show was the first time I had been able to catch the art collective since the release party for the best album of 2020 (I’ll die on that hill) when, on the cusp of mass celebration, Covid cruelly robbed them of a Riefenstahl-like triumphant parade across the country. One casualty of that ill interruption was that Matthew Thomas Smith, the people’s poet of the City who lent blistering buzzwords to songs like Sleepwalking, has decided to focus on his first calling and has managed to release two further wonderful literary photographs of Liverpool in his own inimitable style. His next venture is with Edgar Jones here:
Tonight then felt like a re-set assault on grabbing what is rightfully Psycho Comedy’s.
The ominous strains of Iggy’s Nightclubbing seduced said urchins to the stage. Lead singer Powell (top half Mick Jagger/bottom half Max Wall) was suitably clad in furry earmuffs, lippy and atomic attitude and he immediately set about the packed venue haranguing them to “fucking party”, and how could we not with such a blistering soundtrack?
The thrillingly frenzied jangle of First Cousin was a suitable vehicle of introduction for Liverpool’s best frontman to expend a tsunami of nervous energy over and onto the crowd as he leapt up on speakers, writhed and wriggled, posed, postured and pouted like his life depended on it. As per usual, the rest of the band oozed an effortless and stately cool. Stage right, the throbbing beast of dextrous Jack Williams, pulsating bassist Connor Duff and the always glamorous rhythm of Lydia McGhee maintain order as Shaun Powell does all he can to create chaos and crazy. Stage left sees Jack Thompson stamping down thoughtful and cascading psychedelic flourishes and some alluring feedback reminiscent of some of Will Sergeant’s finest work, whilst new member Dylan Cassin adds keyboards and some extra guitar to the wall of sound, in-between fits of attempting to out-pogo the lead singer.
The last time I felt so sonically abused was seeing Oasis at the Royal Court in ’94 when their sound still had punk attitude and was full on and in your face. Psycho Comedy attempt to get in your face, up your batty and in any other willing and available orifices that their auditory and organised mess can find. Tonight saw lulls in the high order sturm und drang that otherwise battered the walls of Jimmy’s with some slightly lighter more melodic new songs that nevertheless still kick your head in. I’ll Make History is a You Love Us-like missive , whilst Failing for Fun, Uncle Sam (an illegitimate sister song to Michigan State) and Make Your Own Decision all wear their influences on their sleeves from Bowie to Da Capo Love to Iggy to Pink Floyd (if they had been pumped full of amphetamines), and yet still bear the unique Psycho Comedy stamp of excellence. The rumbling racket of We Adore You is delivered in drenched sarcasm whilst the outstanding…err… Standing sees Powell berating the sound engineer for more bass because Duff’s intro is a serial killer of menace and madness. Powell whoops and hollers his way through Michigan State and then something magical happens. In between the end of Michigan State and the start of Pick Me Up there is a majestically malevolent senses scrambling level of feedback that is awe-inspiring before the latter’s catchy chorus is surrounded by a satisfying slab of sound that inspires a singalong. The spaced out wonder of Performance Space has the band leaving room for Jack Thompson to sprinkle his dirty Eastern tinged stardust over the stately procession marching beneath. This allows Shaun time to clamber on top of a speaker re-apply his lipstick, and groan and gurn like Freddie Starr doing Mick. The claustrophobic The Hangman with it’s hollered Larry Grayson exhortation and the I’ll-take-the-rap glory of One build and build before collapsing into interjected thought pieces of guitar whilst the Duane Eddy/Lust for Life riffing chaos of I’m Numb is simply breath-taking this evening, and with that Psycho Comedy are not Numb – but done for the night.
Once they are finished the first inclination is to go and get a much needed breath of fresh air after the dramatic onslaught and beautiful noise of a full-on-no-pause-for-breath performance like that…and then reflect.
Psycho Comedy is a collective in which every member is uniquely talented in their own individual way. When they get together they create something so special, so LOUD, so all consuming that the only option for the listener is absolute, abject surrender…and then adoration. It can only be hoped that next year sees them gain the kind of acclaim they deserve, and in the new songs we gained a tantalising glimpse into how they intend to set about their mission.
2023 – you have been warned – Psycho Comedy in your back yard.
Review by Prince Far Out