Sunday, October 22, 2017

Live Review :: HMLTD + Hotel Lux :: Patterns, Brighton - Oct 20 2017


HMLTD + Hotel Lux

Patterns, Brighton

October 20 2017

Words/Pictures: Steve Willcox

On a damp and windy Friday night, prepared to spend it in front of the box with a few beers, I suddenly find myself instead heading for Patterns on the recommendation of friend Sam, who had found himself without a gig partner through his fiancé being ill. He had seen headliners HMLTD before and loved their energy - and thought I might do similarly. He wasn't wrong.

The room is already full to capacity with young revellers expecting a great show as we arrive, and opening act Hotel Lux don't disappoint. This London-based (via Portsmouth) five-piece has already started to make a big splash in a very muddy puddle with their intense live performances of raw punk energy.

Starting their set with ‘Wall Street’ you can tell these boys are hardened musicians: 70s psych-rock with gritty realistic spoken word vocals from Lewis Duffin. Dressed in an 80s Pringles jumper and looking like a Millwall football thug, he shouts intimidatingly to the crowd, "Come on Brighton, you paid eight quid!" as he works on getting the crowd where he wants them - dancing on their feet - which lucky for them the room responds agreeably. There's a touch of The Doors about Hotel Lux, but with Jim Morrison’s stoned words replaced with Lewis’s angrily barked rhetoric.

‘Daddy Issues’ - a set highlight - is full of wry wit and scathing lyrics, complemented with a great tune behind it. I’m very dismayed their Soundcloud account is emptier than my bank balance with only one song, ‘Envoi’, their debut single from the start of the year, displayed. This song, also came out live tonight, to a responsive and grateful crowd who were at one with its working class ethos: “Debt on his mind / his home’s up for sale and his job’s on the line… you’ve ruined his life” - though ruined was the last word to describe this thoroughly impressive set.

I’d heard stories about HMLTD (formerly known as Happy Meal Ltd until McDonald’s lawyers had a word) after their Great Escape performance here in May, and the buzz surrounding them - such as being tagged the most thrilling new band around - has been electric. The crowd here seem to be well aware of this as they press against the crush barriers in expectancy.

Frontman Henry Spychalski cuts a fine figure, dressed in an immaculate purple suit and sporting a magenta mullet underneath a military cap. This group is full of style ranging from glam punk to New Romantics, Sigue Sigue Sputnik to early Spandau Ballet. All the band in fact are dressed with enough campness and glitter to make Brighton weep in shame. James the guitarist looks particularly glam as though he’s raided Gary Kemp’s Eighties wardrobe. Okay, so this band has style with bells on but can they play? Er, as they say: is the Pope Catholic?

As they embark on ‘Is This What You Wanted?’ with the simple electronic drumbeat start snd sparse guitar strums, it instantly moves the crowd almost en masse: like going from zero to 100 in a small cul-de-sac; very hair-raisingly scary.

There’s an urgency about all the band's six members; lots of sampling going on in the background to add effect. The sound is glam punk at its best and nearly every song is so jaw-droppingly gorgeous, darling. Henry’s disaffected vocals reminds me of John Lydon's from PiL days, but can carry high notes with such songs as pop banger ‘Proxy Love’ and ‘Satan, Luella & I’, the throbbing disco number of bouncing rhythms and crashing synths. It’s a testament to this band’s performance that requires the assistance of staff members to hold up the metal barriers from collapsing on stage, unbelievably they manage it .

One high point of the set was ‘Choo Choo’, a fun song which sets the whole room moving in a mutual frenzy like an out of control express train. Ending the set with the wonderfully edgy ‘Stained’, their first single which veers from a kind of camp rock into an all-out post-punk anthem, I left HMLTD’s gig thinking 'What the fuck just happened!' and smiled. As Henry said in the last song, "what’s the point we’re all the same, I think everyone’s a little stained." I couldn’t agree more. A piece of HMLTD madness has pierced my soul.

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