From PLUNGER | July 2, 2017
Everyone knows two heads are better than one…
… and they don’t come better than this Half Moon double-header with Du Bellows and Second Sons: two young London bands, both very much on the rise, both already recognised as special by renowned producer/engineer Chris Kimsey. Given Chris’ history its maybe no surprise there’s a thread of retro vibe running through both acts.
Du Bellows perfectly capture that complex folk-stained strain of dark bucolic rock purveyed by The Strawbs, Zep and across the pond early Airplane and late-era Mac, as in the dreamy waltz reverie of Silurian Woman and the jangly, spacious guitar and intricate bass lines of Black Wolf.
There’s always been a sinister side to the genre’s rustic idylls – the shadow in the water, the spirit in the forest, the bleak majesty of the hill, and Du Bellows supply that in spades: in the portentous Three Steps, its stately progress like a funeral march for a forgotten emperor building through monster fuzz chords, surprise harmonies and rafter-shaking wails to a thunderous drum and bass storm breaking in a dead silent stop; the melodrama of Any Old Time where Jade Danielle Williams’s breathy childlike vocal gradually hardened becoming more threatening over Richard Lee’s liquid bass underpinning and finally climaxing in spine-tingling harmonic and register shifts as the eastern flavoured juggernaut of a riff propelled the song to a close; the swirling seductive Nicksesque vision that opened Spin gave way to a simultaneously chilling and elating descending phrase chorus; while Jade’s near-a cappella mountain top invocation intro to Luminaire heralded a punishing guitar-and-bass unison Crimson riff, David Watkinson’s brutal drum beat topped with her ecstatic dervish outpourings.
New guitarist Sebastian Willis seems to have bedded in nicely, adding a touch more of rocky edge, in the punchy Airplane/The Cult hybrid of The Waking, in the tight angular automaton riff and thrashy break of The Killing Game and even letting loose with a twangsome fluid break topped in Collinsesque flurries on Paper Soles. A new song got an outing, (possibly called One Moment but don’t quote Plunger on that) that showed a rare, bluesy, soulful vibe, like an Etta-James-on-ketamine last-waltz-smoocher, Jade’s vox alternately vulnerable and defiant, ending with the last line left hanging tantalisingly unresolved.
Second Sons are a much more straight forward quantity: if Du bellows bring spiritual chills, Second Sons deliver the physical thrills – the energy they imparted to the Half Moon crowd was like being wired directly to the national grid. That was instantly apparent from the moment they appropriately opened with Light It Up, a louche barrelling Brown Sugar-meets-Jumpin’ Jack Flash swagger slathered with sumptuous side orders of slide and sax courtesy of Marco Cinelli and Dominic Thatcher. Letter To Harvey kept up the high energy assault, with its Madchester tom-shuffle from Alessandro Cinelli and a nice bit of twin dual duelling soloing from Marco and Chris Harding and the Street-fighting 20th Century Boy strut of Best Of Me, the punchy sax and guitar perfectly matched by Nick Harding’s belligerent laddish vox and Jaggeresque stage prowling. Nick also displayed no mean harp skills on the southern-flavoured Tumbling Dice shamble of Sick Of It All.
Sons, but they make it wholly their own, exemplified in the perfect Exile-era distillation of Ain’t It A Shame: a slinky raw-edged lope, temple-block-and-cowbell and luscious slide backing hair-raising vocals from Nick and the guesting Jade, and featuring a sublime classic 70s moody mid-break. Brooding, trippy bass from George Price and cymbal-rich drumming affording space for some fantastic psychedelic discursive noodling from Dominic’s sax and both Chris and Marco, joined by Nick’s harp for a storming bluesy close complete with lung-busting contributions from Jade.
Two incredible singers, two killer bands, playing honest-to-deity-of-choice, real music is about as good as it can get for Plunger. Long may it last.