Latitude 2009

Latitude: The Breeders / Grinderman

Michael Bonner

“Given though this is a family affair, we all know someone who’s a meth head or a speed freak,” thus it is that Kim Deal endears herself to the good ladies and gentlemen of Latitude.

There’s something pleasingly haphazard about The Breeders, a certain held-together-with-gaffer-tape charm that Deal seems happy to coast along on tonight. Dressed in an orange San Diego t-shirt, she has the warmth and smiley charm of one of the slightly kookier mothers out in the audience. Her banter is frequently hilarious, which adds to the happy-go-lucky fun of the set. Here she is on sister Kelley’s violin skills: “When she practises it, the dog actually gets up and leaves the room.” She cracks jokes at the expense of her band mates geographical locations (much faux derision reserved for Florida) and, when she asks the sound mixer to turn up the on-stage guitar levels, she says: “More kick. But not like a credit card heavy metal kick.” Quite.

They race through 18 songs in a little under an hour; first song, “No Aloha”, drifting in out from the soundcheck and lasting approximately 1 minute 25 seconds. It’s all sort of a shambles, but beyond the banter and apparent sloppiness (the band constantly look like they’re about to fall about in fits of laughter), there’s a fierce seriousness to the songs themselves. “Here No More”, for instance, features some striking harmonies from the Deal sisters and a soft, melancholic beauty.

There is, you might correctly assume, little in the way of beauty from Grinderman. Instead, there's much febrile energy and bloody-minded raucousness on display, which is fine with me. They open with “Depth Charge Ethel”, Nick Cave leering and prowling and snarling his way round the stage. As Warren Ellis proceeds to smash everything in sight (he is, technically speaking, on effects and vibes tonight, with occasional forays on his trusty Mandocaster), I realise this is far and away the most energetic performance I’ve personally witnessed at Latitude this year. Here’s four men, none of whom presumably are going to see the right side of 40 again, dressed in suits that make them look like Latino hustlers, burning up the stage. They’re totally lost in the spirit of rock. It’s brilliant.

As for banter? Let’s say, Cave does not disappoint.
“You’re all beautiful people,” he addresses the crowd, before pointing somewhere in the throng. “Especially you. Are you a man, or a woman? It’s so fucking hard to tell these days. You, with the rabbit ears. You’ll make someone a lovely husband one day. Especially at Easter.” B-dum, tish.

There’s one new song, “Dream” (“like when you’re fucking… asleep,” explains Cave), which, as good as it is, seems to share a vocal melody with U2’s “One”. Still, as an indication of where Grinderman may go next, it signals a more conventional approach to songwriting. Led by a spiralling guitar riff from Ellis, and some delicate organ-playing from Cave, it’s surprisingly… poppy, I have to say.

As gun-metal grey skies seethe overhead and the weather threatens to misbehave, Grinderman launch into the squall of “When My Love Comes Down To Meet You”, and Cave lashes one of his most memorable lyrics out on the cheering audience: “Your skin is like the falling snow your hair is like the rising sun, Your tongue is like Kalashnikov or some other foreign gun”. Cheers, Nick.

Proof, I guess, that age doesn’t dim the lust for rock’n’roll. Chaps. Long may you snarl.


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