Live Review: Bad Breeding [The Polar Bear, Hull] July 22, 2019

It’s about an hour since The Polar Bear opened its doors for what’s sure to be one of the noisiest shows the venue has seen in recent years… if not […]

It’s about an hour since The Polar Bear opened its doors for what’s sure to be one of the noisiest shows the venue has seen in recent years… if not ever! There were grumblings from local gig attendees about the choice of venue beforehand, though tonight’s event promoters Bleakhaus will be thrilled to see that the room is filling up to a cosy atmosphere already.

Opening band No Nothings have surely played a part in this, being firm favourites at The Polar Bear and across the city’s most notable venues. The trio are also popular with the Hull Noise Collective; many of whom are dotted throughout tonight’s audience in support of No Nothings, and no doubt eagerly awaiting the other acts in store throughout the night.

No Nothings are a sonic powerhouse of booming drums accompanying two guitars. No bassist here, as an underpinning bass sound is provided via one of the guitarists adding a bass amp into his rig, further solidifying the band’s sound as an absolute driving force to be reckoned with. Garage rock suddenly meets dynamic tempo-shifting more akin to modern psych, or post-rock, pulling familiar garage vibes into the 21st century, with a quick stop-off for a healthy dose of psychobilly along the way.

Amongst the twists and turns of an absolute barrage of riffs, is a reverb-drenched vocal delivered with powerful conviction. It all comes together into a set laden with feedback, speed, and intensity, establishing a firm tone for what’s to come once these most worthy openers have left the stage.

Having seen Bad Breeding (pictured) back in 2016 at Hull’s popular ‘FRüIT’ venue, I was both excited and a little nervous for their set tonight. Excited, as the band are genuinely some of the most interesting purveyors of modern punk I have seen in recent years. Nervous, as attendance at the FrüIT show was in all honesty… somewhat poor. Tonight however, the hardcore punks, the slam-metallers, and noise fans alike have come out en masse, meaning the band will have even more reason to thrive, if ever they needed it.

Delivering a visceral, searing onslaught right from the get-go, Bad Breeding mean business. It’s not long before the floor opens up into some intense mosh-pits, with the band’s frontman joining the crowd and adding to the energy.

The ambitious riffs just keep coming, and the band manages to lock-in seamlessly in a display of real musicianship as tight as you’ll see anywhere. This is made only more impressive, considering even the bassist is using an array of effects pedals that many guitar players would find more than suitable, building up layers of noise in a truly clinical fashion. The dynamic shifts keep me guessing the entire time, but guesswork doesn’t enter the equation for the perfectly rehearsed Bad Breeding; just as tight live as they are on their highly acclaimed records. Even the gruelling vocals match these unorthodox patterns in a display that seems almost mechanical. Beyond human! It’s massively impressive how the lone frontman can dart across the stage and out into the crowd whilst constantly maintaining the vocal… ‘melody’? I admit, it seems unusual using that word, when there are few moments throughout the set that can be called traditionally ‘melodic’.

But that’s exactly the point. The nature of this music is extreme. Extreme volume. Extreme intensity. And an extreme performance that equates to more than ‘just a punk gig’. Bad Breeding is an experience on a whole other level. And tonight, they proved just that.

Whenever a US band makes it all the way to our fair city, I usually find it’s something to take some notice of. And in the case of Uniform, I sure wasn’t wrong. Having checked out the unnerving music video for ‘The Walk’ and the absolutely harrowing one for ‘The Killing of America’, I knew these guys were a seemingly perfect match for their UK counterparts Bad Breeding on the co-headline tour.

Devastating industrial noise is flooding the room before a single guitar note is even played. But the stack-amps worthy of festival stages are soon joined by a guitarist equally worthy of them. Not for long, however. Given the transitional nature of their whole set, it’s hard to tell whether its been one or two numbers before the guitarist pulls off his instrument and strides through the crowd, right to the back of the venue and out of sight. A confused audience looks around at each other, unsure if this is part of the performance or if some kind of issue needs taking care of. We’ll never know. Regardless, the remaining two members continue unscathed for a brief while before being re-joined by the guitarist once again, who drops into a massive, sludgy riff as if nothing had even happened! And with that, it becomes apparent – tonight’s mantra: “expect the unexpected”.

The set is an amalgam of blistering speed, droney doom, and everything in between. The drummer displays an impressive array of diverse beats, with blast-beats akin to grindcore or powerviolence alongside meticulous low-tempo sections that underly the sprawling, droning feedback and noise segments. In stark contrast to the guitarist, Uniform’s frontman is fixed in one spot throughout the set, aside for the occasional tweaking of some kind of effects unit. This fixed, static position, when taken into consideration with his unwavering screamed vocals, lends another layer to the band’s name, which may well be a carefully considered and effective part of the performance overall. The introverted aesthetic is a true spectacle, living up to the far-out and somewhat esoteric vibe of the whole show.

Uniform is one of the most successful channellings of sheer angst, fury, and confusion I have ever witnessed. As if all the frustrations of the world had formed three spirits, and possessed the bodies of an NYC trio just to let it all out. For sure, this music upon the surface may seem nihilistic. But what it truly reflects is a world in absolute chaos. And in these times, the fact that something as brutally honesty as Uniform can come along and embody that, I for one suppose there’s some underlying hope. Politically, the world seems ‘uniform’ in a totalitarian sense. But with a more ‘uniform’ mindset of unity amongst all… perhaps there’s still some time to save it.

Those, however, were just some thoughts I was left with after the sheer spectacle of Uniform’s set, and I can’t recommend enough that you see it for yourself.

Words: Casey Stead

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