[19.9.05] [Andrew Gallix]
TRYING TO ESCAPE ONE'S OWN SKIN
Tony O'Neill, whose first novel Digging the Vein will soon be published, reviews The Rakes' gig at North Six, Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Friday September 16th:
"The schism between what is going on in the moribund US and thriving UK's respective rock scenes is illustrated perfectly in the line-up in North Six's CMJ night at the heart of Brooklyn's ultra trendy Williamsburg. The Rakes are playing their first New York shows to coincide with the CMJ marathon, the biggest music showcase in New York City. Their nervy, clever and frantic singles -- along with plenty of NME hype -- has created a buzz about the band and so the venue starts to fill up during opening act Neon Blonde's set. Neon Blonde are from Atlanta, and their music is an unholy mish mash of influences that never hang together in any meaningful way -- one second they are screaming, frantic punk, the next they attempt Queen style harmonies and operatic breaks, but mostly they are just annoying proggy crap. Each song is stretched out to infinity, and the applause that follows the conclusion of each tortured outro seems to be prompted from sheer relief, more than any actual appreciation of the band's efforts by the audience.
Thankfully The Rakes take the stage, and from the moment they step out into the spotlight, they own the crowd. The songs, which already have the feel of classics on record, are propelled in outrageous new directions by the band's spastic energy and aggressive, confident sound. Their look is neat, clean and uniform -- they look like they have been thrown out of of a Wetherspoons after getting too rowdy during a Chelsea game -- Lactose tops, button-down shirts, hair cropped with nothing below the ears. The first thing you notice about The Rakes is singer Alan Donohoe -- his stage persona comes off like some unholy splicing of DNA from Joy Division's Ian Curtis and Some Mothers Do Have 'Em's Frank Spencer. His arms whip out at awkward angles from his stick thin torso, he twists and twitches as if trying to escape his own skin, and dances in a completely unselfconscious and spastic way which somehow becomes the greatest thing you have ever seen within this context. His onstage banter is at once campy and bewildered. He has a crazed stare that never leaves him, even when exchanging pleasantries with the crowd. You get the feeling that if you answered his "Are you having a good time?" in the negative, he might just smash you over the head with this mike stand. Drummer Lasse Petersen is a ball of energy throughout -- his crazed yet metronomic drumming is the glue that holds this set together. "The Guilt" is a standout; even more crazed and anguished live than on record -- the perfect musical testament to the confusion and horror of the morning after the night before. They close -- as you would expect -- with "22 Grand Job", whose Wire-esque guitar lines propel both the crowd and band into one final paroxysm of dancing. The Rakes leave the stage triumphant. England: 1 USA: 0.
Das Oath, unfortunately, follow but 10 minutes into their meandering sound check/first song most of the crowd has dispersed for the bar. By the stage, obsessive 16-year-old Rakes fans prepare to claw each other's eyes out for the right to take home the band's set list. It seems assured that the next time The Rakes come to New York it will be as headliners and with official Next-Big-Thing status." (Pix by Tony O'Neill.)