Our Deputy Editor, Hugh Platt, makes no secret of his love for The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Will their original line-up reunion Halloween show leave him full of fanboy glee, or leave him wishing he’d stuck with his memories? Rhetorical question, ahoy!
Six things we learned when we saw The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster in Camden:
1) The angry, pointless sense if punk outrage that I carry with me ought to be outraged at the very concept of tonight’s show – after all, it is the end result of a Nike advertising campaign that provided the initial drive for The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster to get back together. But as the band emerges from the smoke to tonight’s gig, I find myself disregarding that snobbish mindset – there’s a reason why people love (loved?) this band, and a reason why so many, many people regretted not keeping up with them after hearing of their decision to split back in March 2011.
The Nike Advert that kickstarted it all:
2) As well as the fevered anticipation from the fanboys amongst the crowd, there’s an ugly, expectant edge in the Electric Ballroom tonight. It seems bizarrely confrontational and alien to anyone who has even the slightest piece of previous experience of Eighties Matchbox live. It all looks like things might come to a head pretty early when what appears to be a (thankfully, mostly empty) beer can gets chucked at the stage and collides with frontman Guy McKnight’s face – that McKnight quite literally carries on as if nothing happened (as in: doesn’t hesitate or break from a line for even a second).
3) When tonight is good, it’s as good as our very finest memories of Eighties Matchbox. McKnight scrambles into, over, and under the audience, looking more like a zombified evil twin of Nick Cave than the shaggy-haired goth-shaman that led this band out in front of packed audiences of confused NME readers a decade ago. Back then the band were too wild for the regimented tidiness of the the world of indie, and too iconoclastic for the trend-focussed world of mainstream metal. They’re still out of sync with both, but the off-hand menace of ‘Celebrate Your Mother’ and the discordant chants of ‘Puppy Dog Snails’ never needed the acceptance of either fanbase to successfully channel that Cramps-doing-voodoo vibe that gave them such awesome power when let loose in front of a live audience.
4) From a purely technical standpoint, Rich Fownes was probably a stronger live guitarist than Andy Huxley ever was – that’s why he was Unkle’s live guitarist of choice, it’s why he was (albeit almost infinitesimally briefly) recruited by Trent Reznor as a live bassist for Nine Inch Nails, and why Bad For Lazarus are such a great band. But you only have to look at the songwriting credits Huxley has on those first two Eighties Matchbox records to see how integral he was to the early direction of the band – and given that tonight’s setlist is purposefully skewed in favour of Hörse of the Dög, his presence back in the band’s line-up is fitting, if nothing else.
A selection of our favourite Eighties Matchbox videos (i.e. pretty much all of them):
5) And yet….this wasn’t up there with Eighties Matchbox at their peak. Maybe there were still a few cobwebs they hadn’t quite managed to blow away with the handful of dates they’d played before tonight. Maybe it was the slightly contrived and artificial circumstances that brought this gig about playing on their minds – as however you want to slice it, this was very much an “unnatural” existence for a band to working in. We felt a lot of bang, a lot of crash, but an odd absence of wallop when the house lights came up at the end.
6) The success of this run of shows has prompted Eighties Matchbox to announce another show – way off in April at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I don’t know what to feel about this. Sure, they sold out the Electric Ballroom, but how many of those sales were made on people thinking this might be the last time they were going to be able to see the band play live? For that matter, how many tickets were sold because it was Halloween, and people wanted to throw down to some Cramps-ish psyche-rock? Will enough people care as much come the spring? I don’t know. I hope so, but I definitely don’t know so.
There’s still no indication as to whether or not The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster have any plans to record any new material now this brief run of shows is over. **UPDATE** It seems The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster were sufficiently pleased with how this run of shows has gone that they’re going to record some new material before their next set of shows in the spring (cheers for the heads up, Lewis!). Tickets for their headline show at the London Shepherds Bush Empire on Friday 12 April 2013 are currently available for pre-sale – click here and hand over £15 plus at least £3.50 in fees if you want to ensure you’ll get to see them then.