Fucked Up, Titus Andronicus - SWG3, Glasgow
What’s this? No data signal? But how to find the venue, when all you have is a half-remembered image from Google Maps a couple of days previous? A moment of panic and then … “Taxi!”
Titus Andronicus are having one of those days too: two tyre blow-outs on the A1 up from Leeds means it’s not certain they’ll make the gig. METZ get an extended set to kill some time and Fucked Up graciously switch the running order in the hope that their touring partners catch up.
Toronto’s METZ are big Nirvana fans (you can tell by the guitars they play) but it’s the grunge icons if they’d signed with Touch & Go or Amphetamine Reptile - as Kurt Cobain had himself once wanted. Ironically, it's Sub Pop who again secured the ink on the contract. Melody is cast aside in favour of brute force, and while the jackhammer beats of 'Get Off' have a certain invigorating quality, it becomes wearing over a full 45 minutes.
By contrast, FU have a better sense of dynamics and pace, even with four guitars to fit into the mix. They are obviously coming to the end of the promotional cycle for 2011’s David Comes To Life but the material can still raise the hairs on the neck. Damian Abraham is into the crowd by the second song and elects to stay there for the rest of the set. It means everyone gets a hug (even middle-aged members of the 4th Estate) or a chance on the mic if they want it. It makes for an incredibly good-natured experience; everyone is smiling, people dance (yeah, dance) and someone sees fit to gift the band some fine Scottish cheddar in appreciation.
Abraham berates himself for forgetting to bringing some chocolate with him so he can get it deep fried at the legendary Blue Lagoon chip shop in town; his inner indie kid comes out as he salutes the back catalogue of Scottish label 53rd & 3rd and hails The Vaselines. His antics emphasise that basic punk rock tenet: shrink the distance between artist and audience, or as he notes in the preamble to ‘I Hate Summer’, “We are all beautiful. We are all ugly”. No-one currently does that better than FU. Two new songs (for an album they’re recording “now”) suggest no great drift from David ...’s more melodic path; if anything, the second seems more suited to stadia than converted back street warehouses, a challenge worthy of this truly killer sextet.
Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles has a bit of the ‘thousand yard stare’ about him, somewhere between Colonel Kurtz and Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. The band have obviously had better days, so Stickles lets off some steam about local record label issues, namechecks The Proclaimers and riffs on Stuart Adamson. And he's not being cute just for the sake of it; so many of the little hooks and licks in the TA arsenal have their roots in the hills and mountains of The Old Country, and they're welcomed like old friends.
Stickles apologises that much of their set might be unfamiliar (cf. label issues) but they succeed by dint of determination and adrenalin. The 15 minute closer that takes us to curfew time, 'The Battle of Hampton Roads', is as ragged as the banners flown during the eponymous subject at hand, yet they have a spirit that pulls them through. TA know their history; they know hard work brings its own rewards. Today may have stretched their faith to breaking point, but it takes more than the rock 'n roll cliche of 'van trouble' to keep 'em down.