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Rag n’ Bone

Rag n Bone-5Foam/Catbrush/Aborted Tortoise

The Rosemount Hotel
Friday, June 6, 2014

In dismissing ‘alternative music’ in an interview in the mid-1990s, Iggy Pop laid out his ideal evening: “Let’s go have a big steak and screw without a rubber and do some heroin afterward.” There’s nothing further from the Smashing Pumpkins than Aborted Tortoise, and it’s not hard to imagine Iggy approving. They’re sort of like watching an arrow in motion, all speed and force and verve, hammering out incomprehensible and lockstep mutations of surf and garage in a fashion that’s reminiscent of Melbournian ‘80s tyros GOD.

Ultimately, the most impressive thing (once your ears have stopped ringing) is how efficient they are— they don’t waste a second. Things cut out exactly when they should, and then shudder to life again with a vengeance. Call ‘em the garage rock Kraftwerk. Aside from my regret over how much money I handed over the bar at Amps in 2010, they’re just about the only thing that’s ever made me wish I was 18 again.

After that was Catbrush, the howling offspring of cultural theory and Courtney Love. Armed with a set full of Rid Of Me-inspired but self-possessed songs that have gone from strength to strength, Ellen Oosterbaan bossed the stage with a sense of control that was downright invigorating. Ben Rose plays bass like he’s trying to break into someone’s French windows, arching his gangly body around his instrument in a way that looks a million times more charismatic than it sounds. The increased interplay between Oosterbaan and Nevin’s vocals (the former like a fur coat with a lining full of teeth, the latter banging a spoon on the table a la early Kathleen Hanna) is sublimely confident. Truth mightn’t make a noise, but it sure can swagger.

Foam play stand-and-deliver grunge that proves Pearl Jam’s influence wasn’t dead. Just sleeping. Some white-boy rapping started going down at one point so I just left and came back when that bit was over.

Rag n’ Bone live suspended between a few different tensions, defiantly straddling the high – and lowbrow. Like, not many bands around will play a moving torch song about the Stolen Generations while stamping your hand with the word ‘BONED’ as you walk in. It’s the same kind of gap that hovers between Axel Carrington’s acutely Howardesque guitar work and Kiera Owen’s deftly controlled voice. When it all melts together though, it’s incandescent.

The crowd lifted their game too, with at least one bloody nose emerging from the ruckus. Witnessing people dance as hard as they possibly can into each other while avoiding the person with the expensive camera standing in the middle of the pit raises all kinds of questions about performativity and artifice. It’s the kind of thing that can make the ordinary gig experience awkward, but to everyone’s credit, it never came close into feeling like an ego exercise. Moreover, the ambition involved in such a project is pretty worth lauding by itself; stay tuned for reliving this one on the screen.

ALEX GRIFFFIN