A stuffed deer wearing a Jack Daniels t-shirt looks impassively down at us from above the bar. At our backs are the portrait of countless former kings and queens of England, each one felled by time, and before us is a stage with drawn curtains behind and a row of lights above.
Affected yet charming, Panic Island take the stage with a mix of guitar driven melodic rock and indie. Their lead singer is manic, leaping about and throwing poses, a scarf trailing from his back pocket as he launches into the audience and pirouettes back to the stage.
Behind him, the band’s drummer grimaces with intent hammering his drum kit and at one point shattering his sticks, a splinter falling at the feet of a photographer from a Russian music magazine. Either side, the guitarist and bassist flanking their flailing singer, the sound of the band fills the Monarch pub, bringing in the audience from the furthest corners of the venue.
There is a definite trace of classic rock mixed in with the singer’s indie posturing, the guitar prominent and driving, unusual in the degrees by which these two genres are intertwined.
If I had to pick out a comparison for the bawdy sound of the group, the closest I could offer up would be the forceful Detroit garage rock of MC5 born again on Chalk Farm Road and tempered by the knowledge of what we gained – and what we lost – with the popularity of Britpop.
Stand out tracks include We Start Fires and Temples.
When LTNT follow after, there is a continuation of this notion of what we have learnt from the 1990s.
Sounding somewhat like Soundgarden with a dash of Mudhoney mixed with the popular Southern bent of more classic sounding rock, LTNT have a broad sound that also at times even verges on New Wave of New Wave, and at others sounding most like The Wildhearts.
A three-piece outfit, the leader singer adorned with a Green Man tattoo and notable prowess in handling his guitar, his voice reminiscent almost of Kurt Cobain‘s ragged vocals on Incesticide, they powerful and courteous on stage if not self-absorbed when their art seemingly distracts them from the audience around them.
If you were to imagine the sound of Rage Against the Machine shorn of the influence of hip-hop and their political manifesto, then this is close to the framework in which LTNT work within, if not perfect.
Like Panic Island however, it is not solely the ’90s that LTNT draw influence from, that same notable guitar prowess that informs us of Soundgardenalso gives testament to hard rock riffs and metal dynamics.
By the time the fourth song rolls around, a self proclaimed “adventure” prefaced by the warning that “things get weird”, it is obvious that there is so much more to LTNT than this brief set and these tawdry comparisons of which I can but offer.
Taking in the tropes of psychedelia in a building, spiralling experimental wave of noise that rises up to the rafters of the pub’s upper floor, LTNT are engrossing in the performance of their art. There is no artifice in what they do, no distraction or interference, there is only the skill of these three men on stage involved in the music they are making.
The crowd present are raucous but good humoured, those familiar with the band drawing in those who are only now hearing the band for the last time.
They leave the stage briefly after their sixth song and return once again for an encore with all the groove of Red Hot Chilli Peppers yet none of the pretension.
Mixing genres and building on what has gone before, there is much to recommend both LTNT and Panic Island together as exponents of the art of approaching genres from different angles.
Well practised and highly skilled, both bands should definitely be headlining events at larger venues. This is not to say that the atmosphere of the Monarch was not suited to them but rather that they are capable of so much more given the intensity with which they play.
I look forward to seeing this happen.