Kathryn Joseph - Kings Place 19th September 2018
The way that you suck all the darkness out
The way that my mouth covers your mouth
The way that I swallow the darkness down”
The other night I went to watch the incendiary punk madness of Otoboke Beaver for the second time, the first time was at the legendary 100 Club last year, this time, at another iconic London venue, the Scala … and wow, what a show.
In a gig showcasing their record label’s (Damnably) wealth of talent, we saw three great bands. Leggy, a three piece from the states warmed things up with their fun garage rock, veering into dream pop and at times, towards a Joy Division industrial darkness.
Above: Leggy’s Véronique (all photos by the author)
Next up, the warm waves of Say Sue Me, Korea’s best kept secret. Their shoegazey surf pop was like being gunned down in a fuzzy hail of heart warming Brian Jonestown Massacre soft play bullets. (lots of adjectives there, sorry). Their Blondie cover of Dreaming was lush, a slowed down layered beautiful chunk of psychedelia. Their new album is out soon and I’m sure to buy it.
Sumi from Say Sue Me
Then the main event!
Kyoto’s Otoboke Beaver make their own musical rules.
Time signature changes, jagged riffs, screams and gargles with added theatre. Rage and fierce comedy in equal measure. They are brilliant. Yes, they’re punks, but there’s something unique about their sound which elevates them above their peers. The only album I can think of which sounds vaguely similar to their thunderous debut Okoshiyasu!!, is Daisy Chainsaw’s “Eleventeen”, which shares the principle of ripping up the rock rule book and then patching it back together with rainbows and amphetamines to create a Frankenstein’s monster of terrifying beauty.
You can tell the band enjoy playing, intense Pop on drums, a nugget of dynamite pummeling the kit. Hirochan on bass, unflappable, barefooted and serene, not a hair out of place, with chaos all around her. The kabuki like elegance of guitarist / main vocalist Accorinrin, sometimes gyrating in controlled bursts of rage, sometimes subtly face acting, her giant eyes fixing any mortal brave enough to meet her gaze and instantly turn them into ash (she describes herself with “I am cute violence” on her insta, which seems apt).
Hirochan and Accorinrin
Finally there’s the force of nature Yoyoyoshie on lead guitar. Like a flaming sprite, she can run small towns via the power generated through her shredding and energy on stage (and in audience, and fire surfing on top of the audience). She holds her guitar like a flame thrower and I can still hear her war cries of “WE ARE OTOBOKE BEAVAAAAAAAAAAA!” echoing in my mind 48 hours after the gig. I imagine she is always like that. A visit to the supermarket for instance, screaming out her shopping list contents as she ticks them off. “BROCOLLI! FABRIC CONDITIONER! CHEESE!” *checks to see if it’s mature cheddar*, pause, shouts “CHEESE!” again. *Screams and runs over other customers with her trolley whilst lolling her tongue out*
Yoyoyoshie about to breathe fire over the crowd
She is an amazingly versatile guitarist, and her teasing of the massive overly officious security guard was hilarious (they made up afterwards and had a photo together)
I think the future is bright for Otoboke Beaver, go see them, get incinerated by them, before they start playing stadiums!
When Yoshie and Hiro play fast enough they turn into laser beams.
All photos © Mel Melis
I visited the British Museum with my brother this week, taking the day off on my birthday. A combination of it being the beginning of the Easter school holidays and a rainy day driving tourists and locals alike to pursue indoor leisure activities meant the museum was heaving. The dank smell of wet clothes hung in the air, even in the bright, high ceilinged central space of the Great Court.
A little Oasis of calm however, and the reason for my visit, were the galleries dedicated to a touching friendship of three men which lasted decades. Charmed Lives in Greece centers on the artists Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and John Craxton and the writer and adventurer Patrick Leigh-Fermor.
They were very different in many ways, but what they shared was a lust for life, for joy and for keeping an open mind, never ceasing to learn about the world and to learn from the people they came across, be they princes or peasants. There seemed to be no arrogance about them, and both Craxton and Leigh-Fermor added themselves to that long line of those peculiarly revered eccentric English people in Greece, going back to Byron, drawn by the classics but on arrival opening their eyes to so much more. They threw themselves wholeheartedly into the society, assimilating and ingratiating themselves with the locals, learning the language, the songs and customs and becoming universally loved in their adopted country of Greece.
As well as a narrative of their individual journeys in life, it captures their times together in various parts of Greece, be it Hydra, Kardamyli, Chania or Corfu.
This is achieved through paintings, illustrations, photographs, letters, books with hand written dedications and personal items, such as Leigh-Fermor’s typewriter and his photographer wife Joan’s camera whose work is also well represented in this exhibition.
Ghikas’ art looks to come from within, even when painting a landscape, there is something of the inner dream about it. It feels personal, and as this short film states, he was more of an introvert compared to his English friends.
(Ghika, Trees on Poros, 1950)
And although quite similar in terms of their use of geometric forms and nods to cubism, there is an exuberance in Craxton’s work, an energy, sometimes a sexual energy, celebrating the working people of Greece, be they shepherds straining to quell sinewy goats in the mountains, or doleful sailors enjoying a meal and a cigarette in a rowdy taverna. Young men. And cats. Lots of cats, a passion he shared with Joan Leigh-Fermor (Patrick was less enthusiastic about felines). My brother was convinced he’d seen Craxton’s work before, in his Greek school study book from when he was a child. It seemed very apt and also a little subversive that these snapshots of working class life were celebrated in an otherwise cheerless textbook. I hope this is true as it’s a wonderful anecdote that the most memorable aspect of learning Greek was Craxton’s evocative art! (Neither me or my siblings are particularly proficient at Greek, we get by…)
(John Craxton, Fish Market, Poros, 1952)
Finally there’s Patrick Leigh-Fermor, the rebellious, heroic charmer who captured a German General along with his Greek resistance friends in Crete in World War 2. I’ve read “A Time of Gifts”, the first of three volumes, charting his walk from Rotterdam to Constantinople aged 18 in the early 1930s. He’s a very engaging writer, very funny and you bound along with him on his journey. Craxton illustrated / designed the covers of all his books. It’s fascinating listening to Leigh-Fermor’s voice, speaking Greek, he speaks it like a local, with poetic narrative, not a bookish classicist, it made me smile.
It’s a wonderfully diverse, touching and balanced exhibition. And it’s free. At the British Museum until the 15th July.