- Electric Ballroom, London 20.10.14

There is one thing that can be guaranteed tonight and that is that it will be loud. Support act, Greys, confirm that. The quartet, from Toronto, launch into a set that shows off their tight musicianship, if not their songwriting skills. That’s not to say that they’re not any good but screaming lo-fi vocals make them sound a bit samey after a while, though I can’t help but be drawn in by heavy bass, crunching guitar and the crazy drumming skills. The plus one complained about the wall of sound. I quite liked it. They certainly seem to get the crowd warmed up anyway.

And then for the headline act, a band that I first heard about after being sent their CD to review by The Ely Standard (yes, really!). I last saw DFA1979 in a much tinier venue about ten years ago and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life for the sheer impression left by two blokes creating enough noise to make your entire innards reverberate. In fact, I’m moderately deaf now and I blame them. Their new album, ‘The Physical World’, is an outstanding follow-up to debut ‘You’re a woman, I’m a machine’; more commercial in places and definitely less wailing- such as recent singles ‘Train Wreck’ and ‘Cheap Talk’- but just as hypnotic for its strong use of melodies backed with controlled accompaniment, courtesy of Jesse F. Keeler’s trademark squealing bass feedback and Sebastien Grainger’s super-quick drumming. So I’m excited.

So is everyone else apparently. The audience are like a bunch of feral children when the duo takes to the stage, lights shining behind their familiar silhouettes. An interesting combination of trailer trash and camp dropout, Granger cuts a calmer figure these days, dressed completely in white like a cast member of a 70s stage musical, his reputation for angry confrontation seemingly softened, as is the sound. Yes, there’s one thing that can be guaranteed that tonight is going to be loud, but it’s odd that it could definitely be louder. Still, the fact that their usual sensual chaos seems to be limited doesn’t effect their ability to get a reaction, of course. Suddenly, we are pushed backwards towards the wall, as the ferals take charge by forming a massive pit, throwing themselves enthusiastically against each other in a shirtless display of primal appreciation (or homo-eroticism, depending on how you look at it), to the point that security cut short ‘Right on, Frankenstein!’ because it’s clear that people are losing their shoes, and probably their limbs.

That said, at times it does feel that the band are going through the motions rather than totally enjoying what is happening, perhaps still feuding enough offstage to ban any onstage connection between them- there isn’t much banter between songs, apart from a controversial quip about Robin Williams, just to prove that Grainger hasn’t completely stopped being a bastard. Nevertheless, highlights include ‘Virgins’ (an apparent ode to a teenage suicide, hence the Robin Williams comment); Keeler shaking his head throughout and spraying sweat from his locks like a wet dog/ rock God; the song that everyone seems to be waiting for in the eruptive ‘Romantic Rights’; and defiantly closing with a cutthroat bass solo stripped straight from old school metal during ‘The Physical World’s’ title track. When we are waiting to get out of the club, it smells like someone has shat themselves, perhaps testament to the fact that, despite being a more muted version of themselves this evening, DFA1979 are still loud and exciting enough to inspire that, at the very least.

Words and pix : Anna C