On occasion a reviewer will chance upon an act so familiar that any florid turns of phrase seem surplus to requirements. Blues-rock is the only appropriate descriptor of The Jack J Hutchinson Band, a trio with a decadent Seventies bent but very much of a genre that has been with us since white boys first turned their hands to Elmore James licks. No bad thing, of course, as when well-executed it is a sound to offer timeless pleasures. This outfit were reliant on theirs from main-man Hutchinson, a good ol’ guitar hero giving up all the hammer-ons and hirsute gurning you could desire. His adroit fretwork was at its most expressive in shorter bursts, however. Come the set’s end, and despite ably brandishing a bottleneck, his soloing had become so pervasive it was like listening to a medley of everything ever recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hutchinson’s extended lead play may have been cover for an enforced line-up reshuffle necessitated by the disappearance of his regular bass player. The replacement did a steady job, if tentatively, his look of studied concentration a little at odds with a music so evocative of carefree rock’n’roll excess.
No such incongruity from Tied To The Mast, a rum-looking bunch who were as effective a band-as-gang as you’re likely to witness. Blasting out overdriven slacker punk, their three guitarists interwove thrillingly, also trading lead-vocal duties to subtly alter the feel of each song. Employing a powerhouse drummer and a muscular bassist, the band’s default setting was ferociously full-on, but they had a fine ear for dynamics, breaking down and dropping out in all the optimum places, constructing tunes from layers of contrasting volume. There was something of Dinosaur Jr to their distorted vibe; dirty and joyous, rather than dirgy, mainly thanks to those ever-fresh vocal interjections. ‘Bubblegum’ ended proceedings with a flourish, proving TTTM could pull out a blinding pop tune too, albeit with a white-noise sheen.
If anything, the volume pots were pushed further clockwise when Zoo Zero took to the stage, the four-piece announcing their arrival with a swirl of feedback, setting the tone for a set that enveloped The Finsbury in a six-string sonic shroud, darker than Tied To The Mast’s, more shoegazey and stoutly psychedelic. The clarity of the lead vocal, appearing occasionally amid the guitar maelstrom, offered footholds in the wall of noise, further enhanced by harmonies from the drummer. Peaking during songs built on near-Hawkwindish driving krautrock, Zoo Zero’s set may have struggled to sustain its high for the full 45 minutes, but affirmatively found fifth-gear again for the finale, a slab of pounding, glistening electric thrash that... well, that rocked really fucking hard, as even the most erudite reviewer would be content to admit. Zoo Zero’s debut album is out 30 September.
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