IMPERIAL WAX/MUGSTAR – 09/03/19

This is the fourth gig/review in one week. That is both determination and masochism rolled into one wannabe journalist. I believe that hangovers are psychologically damaging. Today I have that feeling of a deep internal sense of coldness, and an eerie paranoia, making this bus ride horrendously daunting. A hangover also forces you to look at the world with an outright existential vision. As this bus passes the Apollo I can’t help but feel concerned for the punters who think the Apollo is a good venue…

Tonight I am back in Salford at the Eagle Inn. Tonight I witness psych-kraut, noise-makers Mugstar alongside the final survivors of the Fall, Dave Spurr, Keiron Melling and Pete Greenway with Sam Curran to become Imperial Wax. I have been desperate to see Imperial Wax in full force after seeing them back Damo Suzuki at an all dayer at The White Hotel.

Even though Mugstar followed Imperial Wax, I will be talking about their performance first. This is nothing against the band themselves, but I feel I need to give Imperial Wax and more specifically the influence of MES much more thought as I this is now the closest I will get to reviewing the Fall. I also specifically came tonight for Imperial Wax, therefore I already have much more to say about them.

Mugstar begin with an all out assault on your eardrums. An immediate pounding shakes the tiny Salfordian pub. I was particularly fond of the bass player of Mugstar, however I this is a band that play so tightly, if anyone was off their game it would be horribly noticed. The band however don’t let anything slip for a second, forever trudging away to a zombie like crowd. A quick note on the crowd, I found it particularly unsettling that the crowd thinned out after Imperial Wax. Granted I paid to specifically see them, however, I still have the decency to see the headline act. I’m glad I stuck around, Mugstar sounded like a lyric-less Amon Düül II, with all the grandiose noise of Electric Wizard. There was a charming repetition in the music and they did not lose it. MES would’ve dug it.

On the mention of MES, lets now discuss his former band mates. As I enter the main room I notice I must be the youngest face in the building, it looked like I had stumbled into The League of Bald Headed Men. Even still, the aged crowd gave Imperial Wax a fair reception. Firstly, we have Sam Curran, who has the hardest job of all tonight; his job is to separate himself from the lingering ghoul of Mark E Smith. He does this in spectacular fashion. I was worried that whoever joined the group would become a cheap imitation; I’ve never felt so happy to be so wrong. The small stage forces Dave Spurr to squeeze behind Curran’s guitar and not smack Greenway with the bass. Even though he looked physically impaired, the bass sound of ‘The Eagle’ was immense. The sound cut through with that classic Fall circa-2008 grittiness. Sticking with rhythm, we have Keiron Melling hidden behind a wall in the corner. Melling is in fine form tonight, proving why he might just be one of the best drummers of this decade, and presumably will be for many decades to come. He also had an array of (what I thought was) too many cymbals, yet after watching him manipulate every single one throughout the set, I was once again proven wrong. I now demand more cymbals from other drummers. Finally we have the spectacular Pete Greenway, providing us with show-off sounding guitar licks, the type of thing MES would’ve hated, which again simply reminds us, this is a new band. Specifically, they sound like a band that should not be pigeonholed into sounding like an imitation of their former selves. The general vibe I got was a maniacal psychobilly sounding freak-show, with excruciatingly methodical mid-song jam sessions. Imperial Wax have tonight proven that they are something new, and they are something worth keeping up with.

Now, I’m going to make an unnecessary detour into the importance of Mark E Smith (Please stick around). MES was an outright genius. The Fall were and always will be the perfect band. However, there are many fans of specific Fall eras, whether it’s the early 80s garage sounding Marc Riley era, the chart flirting Brix era, late 90s meltdown, or the post-millennium Fall Sound perfection. I can personally take the Fall how they are, whenever they are. After the passing of MES there had to come an acceptance that this would now stop. However, that implies the fine quality of the Fall relies entirely on Smith’s caustic character. But I believe the greatest quality Mark E Smith had, was his innate ability to take regular people and bring them into their own talents. Every Fall member is distinct, Steve Hanley’s bass technique is worlds apart from Spurr’s. Similarly, Elena Poulou never mirrored Julia Nagle/Adamson’s synth sound. MES always found unique people that could hold their own. Therefore if anyone claims the band are gone now MES has passed, they are truly blind. Granted the name has gone on to become the legend it deserves, but the talent remains. If you miss the early days, then listen to Martin Brahma’s Blue Orchids or Una Baines Poppycock. Or if you want something more akin to the later years then listen to Ding’s Bobbie Peru, or now Imperial Wax. Hell you can even get a fix of the American Fall Sound from Tim Presely’s White Fence. Thank you MES for providing your unique lyrics and style to create the Fall, but ultimately, thank you MES for bringing light to these regular people that are consistently worthy of being listened to.

Imperial Wax play Night People on the 31st of May, and if you’re not going, you need to ask yourself, why not?

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