The Black Tulips / Miss Pain
London Ryan's Bar, 01/12/05

Outside it's cold, gloomy and wet - November's winter frosts having given way to December's autumnal rains - and full of confused and grumpy people. Inside it's cramped, unexpectedly rectangular and full of what can best be described as military dominatrix electro intimidation. With a theramin. I'd never seen a theramin before, and now I want one. I also want to see Miss Pain again when late running doesn't limit them to a fifteen minute set, as they really were extremely good. Twinning the kind of humour which can write a song called "Electric Blue Fire Hazard" about a sexy nightie with an icy glare which freezes you in your stride and just dares you to laugh, they back up their attitude and stage-canniness with plenty of tunes. With four synths, one guitar, a megaphone and but three band members to split between this instrumental cornucopia, they create coolly danceable electro Tunes laced with strange noises and a (whip)lashing of humour, and they deliver all this while clad in what can best be described as military nurses uniforms. Musical Military Medics, perhaps? Only, y'know, surprisingly tasteful for all that.

The Black Tulips

Headliners The Black Tulips also have their set cut short, and the injustice of this still rankles. I'd gone down to the gig haunted by the kind of trepidation you get when you adore a band's demo and now you're going to see them live and you really, really want to fall head over heels in love but you're worried you'll be left cold and that would be beyond awful… But I'm now ashamed of my fretful doubtings, because the Tulips were frankly awesome: confrontational, terrifying and therefore absolutely beautiful. Because, you see, rock'n'roll should be uncompromising and unsettling. It should make you sit up and pay attention before allowing you to lose yourself completely in the beauty of it all - and The Black Tulips manage this by combining a feral disdain for crowd pleasing coupled with a theatricality which never forgets that this is, after all, a show. And so they treat us to a wild-eyed, blasted moor-coven meeting of a set, a dark mesmeric cabaret act set to tunes at once primal and counter-intuitive - and it's quite clear that this is something special. When something's new enough to jar against what you've been led to expect from gig-going, you know that someone's hit the jackpot.


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