There are many words you could use to describe Zombina & The Skeletones’ bi-weekly Useless event, but perhaps the most apt would be ‘eclectic’. Tonight, however, the bill is a demonstration of eclecticism par excellence. It’s not so much ‘what the fuck are these bands doing on the same bill?’ as ‘why aren’t there more events run like this?’ First up are hard-as-big-fucking-nails-core thrash punkas The Unhealthy. Mashing together the basic constituents of a staple hardcore diet (ragga and thrash metal in particular), the stunningly loud trio don’t exactly make for innovative listening, but it’s exhilarating regardless. “RAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!!!!” go the vocals, in a song about pizza, of all things. “THUDATHUDATHUDATHUDA-THUDATHUD!!!!!!!!” goes the rhythm section. “SCREEEEEEEEE-EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” goes the guitar. Miraculously, it all remains inexplicably melodic, and along the way they even manage to throw in a bit of “ragga death house”, this hack’s personal new favourite genre. It’s non-straight edge hardcore as played by severely demented Bad Brains fans for shits and giggles, and as such it gets Gigwise’ ‘two thumbs fresh’ vote every time.
Up next are Mexico, who are described on the poster as “a bit odd” and have been known to profess things like “we’re really into jazz” and “we sound like the country Mexico”. Quite what to expect, then, we were decidedly unsure, but luckily they prove to be stunningly brilliant. Consisting of two truly messed-up synths, hugely powerful bass and skittering drumbeats, they occasionally throw a guitar into the mix, but nothing can detract from their heavy-but-beautiful sound. There are two clear influences on the band: John McEntire, of jazzy post-rockers Tortoise, and the legendary Mike Paton. As such, the resulting mish-mash defies pigeonholing or explanation, but we’re going to have a go anyway: this is post-avant-math-ambient-funk-death-synth-jazz-rock, and if you have a better way to describe it you’re a better person than we are. Towards the end of the set, they drag associate Esa up onstage to assist in a spectacular Can cover, before lurching into a version of Napalm Death’s ‘The Kill’. These covers are probably key to understanding where Mexico are coming from, and if you like your rock complex, thoughtful and ambitious, they’re definitely an act to check out.
Of course, if you thought THAT was odd, it’s nothing compared to the fucked-up genius of a.P.A.t.T.. Newly extended to include the Skeletones’ Johnny Tokyo and David Smyth, ex- of Kling Klang, this obsessive quintet have existed on the fringes of the Liverpool scene for the last seven years, often under their alternative guise of All Day Glow. It’s a wonder that they still manage to create music this gorgeously exciting, given the fact that they’re so far off the wall they’re clinging to the wall opposite. ‘Post-rock’ can’t even begin to describe it. Veering from metallic thrashes to sub-disco workouts, via ambient moods and percussive jams, they’re probably best described as a live sound collage – the musical equivalent of Peter Blake. a.P.A.t.T. chews up elements of every musical genre you’ve ever heard in your life – and a few you haven’t – and spits them back out in new, unrecognisable shapes. The only problem they face is that they practically define the expression ‘you either get it or you don’t’. A puzzled friend comments to Gigwise that it sounds like “a group of schoolkids given a load of instruments and told to make a noise for half an hour”, and then fails to grasp the idea that this is a good thing, and possibly their entire appeal. Useless’ advertising division, however, prefer the term “the secret music”, and that probably works just as well. They sound like the sole survivors of a nuclear fall-out having the time of their lives. Post-rock? This is post-apocalyptic, baby!