Venue: University Of London Student Union
Supports: Tabitha Benjamin, Satanic Sluts and Enjoy Destroy
Reviewer: Phil W.
The street outside Leicester Square tube station was heaving with police, riot vans and hundreds of woman chanting and holding up big placards emblazoned with the words END VOLENCE AGAINST WOMAN! My bro Ian and myself had just stepped out of the pub and into a feminist march! It was one of those unfathomable moments when you're not really sure exactly what’s going on but you're faintly glad to be caught up in the situation if only to get the story!
On stage, two slender females in faintly gothic attire stripped down to their leather underwear and started rubbing each other all over. The audience watched in stunned silence as a girl gave a topless lap dance to someone in a pig costume, while the maid in the rabbit mask left us all very confused. This was the Satanic Sluts, the burlesque dance troupe of Georgina Baillie fame. It was one of those unfathomable moments when you're not really sure exactly what’s going on but you're faintly glad to be caught up in the situation if only to get the story!
In the sepia-toned memory there are four of us; Ian, Steve, Anthony and myself. The Roadmender is busy, the gig had sold out several days ago but we had all managed to secure tickets. My Vitriol were poised to make it very big and had an album due out later that year. Seafood provided admirable supports but the headliners performed a breathtaking set. My Vitriol’s music was an impossibly good blend of My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth textures, Foo Fighters hooks and meticulously composed instrumentals all held together by Som’s smooth, ethereal vocals. On stage they looked slick and cool in their sharp suits and eyeliner, flanked by banks of blinding strobe lights, lasers and thick smoke. That was 2001.
My Vitriol’s debut album, Finelines, turned out to be nothing short of stunning; their massive ambition realised across sixteen tracks of shoegazing aesthetics, pop rock tunes, startling instrumentals and hook-laden lyrics. I saw the band play several times over the next couple of years; at the Roadmender, at Reading, at Glastonbury. Then in 2002 the band disappeared into hiatus to record a second album and they never came back. They didn’t break up - over the years there were constant murmurs from the studio that the band were recording. Their record label released Between the Lines, sixteen b-side tracks that played like a second album, but in the studio the band were finding it very hard to follow up their huge debut. Finally in 2006 My Vitriol re-emerged to play the London Koko, Ian and I were there, but still there was no new album in sight.
So two years later, Tabitha Benjamin opened the evening with three songs of solid singer/songwriter fair, two of which were played on a ukulele. The Satanic Sluts were, well, confusing. And then Enjoy Destroy warmed up the crowd with some hard rock guitar tones but by now everyone was waiting for Som and company to take the stage.
“This is a new song!” Som cried out to the audience as the guitar inferno of My Vitriol broke into their second song. The band had opened with the hook laden crunch of Losing Touch. Behind the band and the blinding stage lights hung the My Vitriol logo; seven years on, they may be using the same backdrop! Over the next hour or so My Vitriol worked their way through all the classics; Pieces, Ode To The Red Queen, Under the Wheels, Cemented Shoes, Grounded, Infantile, Falling Off The Floor, Vapour Trails, Moodswings, plus a lot of new material. For much of the evening the band appeared to be playing alternatively old songs and new ones and the new material sounded very strong. The band can still draw awesome waves of sound from their instruments, turning distortion into art. Live, they still sounded shockingly unique, creative and impassioned. Indeed, but for the new songs this could have been the same gig Ian and I had seen at the Roadmender in 2001. The band played like visitors from another planet where time moves much slower; barely visible behind the clouds of dry ice and cornea-burning stage lights, sharply dressed and playing with achingly beautiful distortion played several decibels louder than your average jet engine. Finally, inside the hurricane distortion of Alpha Waves, Som announced the last song and the band burst into Always: Your Way. Seven years on, the crowd still went wild, fanatically singing along to every word. When the band returned for an encore they played the extended instrumental Tongue Tied before bursting into the short, sharp rage of COR.
After the rest of the band left the stage, Som stood in front of the audience; smiling, arms outstretched, looking close to tears. Same show, same songs, but absolutely priceless. They may never have followed up their stunning debut, but its shows like this that help explain the weight of expectation on Som’s shoulders. A band this good really does need to record something very special. But if the new songs played tonight are anything to go by, Som and company have nothing to worry about. Seven years on, the My Vitriol wave is still riding high.