Green Door Store, Tues May 31st
”No footsteps to follow...”
I’m not as familiar as I would like with Charles Hayward’s original band, the widely venerated post-punk outfit This Heat. In the oft-quoted ‘Rip It Up And Start Again’, Simon Reynolds described their sound via comparisons to their anti-punk look – “dressed in ties and jackets, with short, neat haircuts and stern faces.”
From that description and from their classic track ‘Not Waving’ (referencing the Stevie Smith poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’) I have always imagined them in terms of a man in a pinstripe suit, purposefully pushing past the colourful bathing costumes and marching straight out to sea. Not out of any sense of adventure or excitement but sheer necessity – the drive to go where others aren’t. Musical exploration as career suicide. (“Yes I will go out there/ Out there where I know you cannot find me.” Check it out here.)
He comes across as a fittingly taciturn figure, speaking to us not once. When ready to start the set, instead of announcing it he marched into and around the bar room, insistently shaking maracas at us. The nearest we got to direct communication was a quick thumbs up at the end.
Hayward has gone solo in quite a literal sense of the word. He plays drums, there’s some tapes - that’s it. In a way this is the height of post-punk, stripping everything back as far as it will go, jettisoning anything that even suggests at being extraneous. And of course This Heat used tape loops from the early days. However, insofar as I can tell, he’s not really manipulating any switches, they are just backing tapes. He reaches out to switch one them between tracks, but that’s all.
At times this works, it really works. It’s nothing like Seventies-style drum solos, you may be glad to hear. Everything happens in the service of the song. But the normal musical hierarchy is turned upside-down, with the rest of the music filling in the body while the drums roll, pound and do all the work. Perhaps significantly, the words often just reiterate simple phrases (“ear... drum, ear drum ear drum ear drum” etc) until the words are washed of all meaning.
But I also got the impression that most tracks were written prior to this new arrangement, and at other times the extemporisation starts to show through. These tend to be when the tapes take on too much; when you get the sense that they’re the track and he’s simply playing along with it, you don’t really maintain interest. This may be down to some songs being more rhythm and others more melody based, and so some better suited to this treatment.
This is the fellow live in London, from about a year ago...
Coming Soon! Still older stuff...