Friday, May 01, 2009

Gallows' Grey Britain album launch

Believe it or not, it's not every day I get invited to a band's album launch party and debut screening of the accompanying short film. But this week I was invited to exactly that, on 29 April 2009. And it only happened to be the band whose music I have listened to more than any other (by a long way) over the past year. The band I have seen live more times in the past year than any almost any other pro band in my life. (Only Manic Street Preachers beats this, over a 10-year period, give or take.) So, well, I had to go, didn't I?

The first part of the evening is the screening of the eponymous short film that accompanies the album Grey Britain. It will be released as a DVD in a special double pack with the CD on 4 May in the UK. I don't know whether it will be available in other territories, but that's what the global Internet marketplace is for, isn't it?

The venue for this screening is the Curzon Soho cinema, where many years ago, before my time, my missus had worked. This was a trip down memory lane for her!

I knew the movie would run about 30 minutes, but that's all I knew. I didn't expect it to be almost end-to-end music; in a way, I suppose I'd hoped there would be dialogue, too, and initially, for a handful of seconds upon this realization, I was disappointed. It's not long ago that I'd said to my other half that I thought frontman Frank Carter would probably make a good actor. If I ever get my arse back into film-making, maybe I'll drop him a line!

What we have here is almost a mini punk-rock opera. And as fucking weird as that idea sounds, it actually all holds together really well. The plot seems to be that a boy is raped and killed by someone who appears to be a priest (though he could be Death incarnate) in a London that has been overrun by heavy-handed riot police while da kidz are running scared underground. Cue much dark brooding photography, fighting in the streets, bricks and bats and blood -- all with a snarling six-song punk-metal soundtrack and bursts of the band in action... It is not only the band who might be surprised that Warner Bros Music actually agreed to foot the bill.

It looks fucking gorgeous, fair play (as the clip below shows), and if one could complain about anything, it might be that it's a shame more people won't get to see it on the big screen. I really feel very privileged to have been a part of that and look forward to getting my DVD next week. It might be broadly derivative of any number of shorter scenes you've seen in bleak-future movies, but it's done with a huge amount of style. Oh, and yeah, it's more than a little bleak. I won't give it a numeric score because I am too biased to be fair, either way.

After the screening, the missus and I chatted to some of the folks we have met before through seeing the band over the past year, and then we headed off to another of our old haunts back when we were Londoners: Melati restaurant on Peter Street. Man, the times we've eaten wonderful Malaysian food there... And it's just as good now as it was when I first went there some 16 years ago. Same staff too. Never been? Go, for the love of God!

The final part of the evening was a Gallows gig proper -- a full-length set at legendary club Madame Jojo's in the heart of Soho. I've never been there before, but again this is somewhere that my wife used to go regularly before my time, dancing the night away while grown men were paid to cavort in thongs for the punters' entertainment!

On arrival, the tiny venue was already pretty packed, but we were still able to secure what might, traditionally, be considered a good spot from which to view the action: against a balcony just to the left of the mixing desk, with the dancefloor sunk 6-8ft below us and the raised stage diagonally opposite. I say "traditionally" because one never really knows where Frank will actually end up singing from. I also had it on fairly good authority that they would be playing within the dancefloor/pit, rather than on the stage. I had also heard that they would be playing straight through the new album...

First up, we get "London Is the Reason" -- not the first track on the album (but I guess you could consider it so if you disregard the CD's prologue song "The Riverbank"). And from there on, we do indeed run through the album in order, omitting "The Vulture (Act I)", the acoustic version, as either Lags or Steph (I didn't catch who) jokingly said "I've left my acoustic guitar at home."

It's not long before Frank is more or less out of sight, on the same bit of balcony as me, but hidden behind taller, bigger spectators. He tells the throng that he's not getting down into the pit because everyone down there is so much bigger than him, though it's not long before he is indeed in there. And the rest of the band, except drummer Lee, is soon down there with him, while the crowd is politely asked to make some effort not to knock over the musicians while going about their circle-pitting, moshing, windmilling, and whatever else they want to throw into the mix!

After anti-knife-crime track "Queensberry Rules", we are treated to a couple of old faves. "In the Belly of a Shark" is first, and bassist Stu asks if he can do the first line. Rather than the usual guttural screamed a cappella four-word intro, then, we get Stu putting on his best plummy voice, announcing, "So, hear I lie," before the song kicks off proper. To repeat the refrain halfway through the song, Frank picks on his mother, who looks mortally embarrassed to have to do it. She does it, though -- inaudibly as far as the band goes. I think I heard it only because (a) I was about 10ft away from her and (b) because I could see her lips moving. "She did it!" Frank exclaims to the band, who seem to be wondering when their cue will come. He then asks her to do it again. She obliges, of course, and the song goes on.

And the set continues too, with the classic "Abandon Ship" before we return to the new album's tracklisting, with "Misery", which ends with the eminently singalongable chant, "Misery fucking loves us / And we love her too", and then "Crucifucks". As a final treat we get the time-honoured set-closer "Orchestra of Wolves".

It's been quite the night -- and quite the set. Although those of us who have seen Gallows a few times over the past year will have heard several of the new songs before, it's the first time, of course, that so many have been played in one gig. It was incredible to see just how many people were singing along, too, given that the album is not even out yet and has only been streamed on MySpace for a few days. One reviewer elsewhere also reckons that this room is made up of 70 per cent music-industry folk. You wouldn't have known it. I also wouldn't have known I'd be joining in a round of applause for Warner Bros Records. Crazy thing, rock 'n' roll.

I could watch this band every night. Each gig is completely unique, just the way it should be. What is the point in watching a band that do the same thing every night? Gallows are now out on tour till about December, I believe, taking in the Warped Tour in the US once the UK tour is over. Go and see them. And buy the album Grey Britain while you're at it. It's anthemic as fuck and a damn good ride.

Click the setlist image below to see my pictures from the night.

Gallows setlist

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Blogger furiousBall said...

i need to get Grey Britain, i still haven't listened to this band, i know, i know. i'm on it.

03 May, 2009 19:24  
Anonymous * (asterisk) said...

Definitely get it, fB. There are some sweet download deals around if you don't care about a physical format, too. Check out the MySpace link in the post to have a listen at least!

04 May, 2009 08:07  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Do you have any idea how much I miss you? You are the blogging wind under our blogging wings babe!

I'm going to read this post about a hundred times!

05 May, 2009 22:26  
Anonymous cappy said...

have a listen to 'orchestra of wolves' on spotify f.b. then go out and buy it!
i bought it after * told me to, and i wasn't disappointed.
one question though*. the reviews i have read, although being positive, they seem to think that the album is veering towards suicide in a lot of the lyrics. how do you respond?
wish i'd seen em in sheffield now, it'd have been worth playing hooky for it!

07 May, 2009 14:41  
Blogger Milla said...

Gallows do to you what ISIS or NMA do to me: they bring HAPPINESS.
Ohhh music!

10 May, 2009 16:49  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy: You say the sweetest thing [blush]...

Cappy: There is talk of killing yourself, it's true. But I think one has to take such things with a pinch of salt, or we end up in American territory, banning all sorts of shit!

Milla: Happy is good! :)

10 May, 2009 18:04  
Blogger The Fraze said...

This is awesome - love the video. Sounds like the scene is much better across the pond ;)

What do you think of this alien remake/prequel in the works :(

31 May, 2009 06:40  
Blogger steve said...

check out these pics of the new "grey britain" vinyl:

22 June, 2009 23:09  
Anonymous * (asterisk) said...

Steve: That looks pretty sweet. Where did you get it...?

28 June, 2009 10:43  

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