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The Crispy Ambulance / Triclops, Sub-Space, Manchester, 8th December 2007

 

ImageIf The Crispy Ambulance are famous for one thing, it's probably not that their debut album The Plateau Phase was one of the finest albums of the early 80's or even their Factory Records connection, but that they are called The Crispy Ambulance, a name that is considered by some to be one of the best band names ever, whilst others think it simply ridiculous. I'm in the former camp.

 

I'd not seen The Crispy Ambulance before, however, and not having heard of any of their albums since they re-formed a few years ago, I was unfamiliar with most of this matinee set in a small basement club in Manchester. None of this mattered an iota though because this was some of the most intense stuff I've heard in a while. And whilst it was great to hear that early 80's intensity with dark, miserablist basslines, slashing chords and that thump thump drum sound live and loud, this was no nostalgia fest. The Crispy Ambulance may look like four middle-aged men about to play some 70's covers set in a working men's club - singer Alan Hempsall looked particularly incongruous, dressed as he was in slacks and fitted stripy shirt and looking more like the manager of a Next menswear shop than some minor cult figure - but he was fascinating to watch as he flitted from smiling genially to the crowd to some mad- eyed frontman bellowing out the lyrics with real intensity. I couldn't help thinking that this is what Ian Curtis might look like now if he hadn't ended his life all those years ago?

 

Although Green Eyes White Shirt was an obvious highlight, the band saved the best for the encore – a superb rendition of one of my favourite Crispy Ambulance tracks, We Move Through the Plateau Phase. Bassist Keith Derbyshire may have made great play of looking bored on the keyboard as he played the same few notes over and over as the band powered on with Hempsall repeatedly hitting the cymbals, but this did little to detract from the intense tribal warfare sound that was probably as good as anything I've heard all year. “Play that again”, I heard myself shout as the band left the stage!

 

Unfortunately, there was a rumour circulating after this performance that the forthcoming Factory Night gig with Section 25 in Belgium is to be their final appearance. If this is the case, then I would seriously suggest that the band think again, because on this evidence The Crispy Ambulance sounded nothing less than vital. I'll definitely be investigating their recent releases.

 

A quick word, too, for Triclops - three blokes and lots of electronic gear, all set up on ironing boards, improvising to pre-set beats. There was a definite Throbbing Gristle influence especially when the beat dropped away and things got more atmospheric for a while as - to paraphrase Clock DVA on their classic Four Hours 45 all those years ago - a clarinet played in the distance. This was all fine and dandy, but it was when the more tribal beat started up midway through their set that things really stepped up a gear. The trumpet blared away again and various eastern looking pieces of percussion came out to play as that beat rolled on and on and on. Somewhere in a faraway place Miles Davis opened his eyes, cleared his throat and poked his fingers through the soil in search of his long lost piece of brass in a forlorn attempt to join in the fun, whilst the rest of us tapped our feet and nodded our approval. What more can I say except I'd buy it.

 

http://www.crispyambulance.com/
http://www.myspace.com/triclopsuk

 

Author: Keith Astbury

 
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