Melt Yourself Down
(Lexington, 17 July 2019. Review by AJ Dehany)
Melt Yourself Down’s eponymous 2014 debut album of abrasive party psych-punk launched them as the pioneers of a compelling new sound. The six-piece fused catchy hooks with banging clanging Mauritian-Nubian-Banghra-jazz riffs, punk energy and the intense club feel of grime and North African dance music. 2016’s second album Last Evenings On Earth went deeper into apocalpytic psychedelia with more electronic elements but fewer pop hooks. Then they just seemed to disappear.
The synergy between the band and the recent resurgence of jazz makes it feel like they’ve been away longer than they have. They prefigured the stylistic melting pot of the Britjazz explosion which has seen many of our dearest younger artists blow up, foremost former Melt Yourself Down bandmember Shabaka Hutchings. Now they’re back with a third album on the way, on Decca, and it kind of feels like unrecognised pioneers prodigally descending from Parnassus to claim their due. People had come to London from Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham to see them.
“Brothers and sisters,” said singer Kushla Guya, embracing the diverse audience, “It’s been a long time. So many things happened in the world since 2016—people are not feeling secure, people are not feeling so good any more, so we gotta write some fucking music.”
Opening at Islington rock venue the Lexington they kicked into the new single Boot and Spleen’s catchy brood of overlapping riffs and hooks; “I need a mirror!” It recalls the appeal and intensity of their earliest singles Fix My Life and We Are Enough, with the generosity of catchy hooks, the raucousness and bosh punch.
They also send out serious messages. The single is named after the recurring ‘boot and spleen cases’ during British colonialism in India where a British man kicked (or pushed or struck) an Indian, fatally rupturing the Indian’s spleen. Spurious medical research into the Indian spleen would be employed to overturn a murder charge. British-Indian judicial history might not be foremost on your mind while you’re jumping up and down, but the historical and cultural layers of meaning are mirrored in the music’s own forthright message of unifying multiculturalism.
The band is as physical as ever. Ruth Goller’s heavyweight picked electric basslines drive the band’s dense rhythmic impetus. Adam Betts has replaced Tom Skinner (whom I spotted in the audience) on drums with a rockier oomph. Percussionist Satin Singh’s polyrhythms can be overcrowded live but are foregrounded in the production on record, adding detail to the onslaught. George Crowley replaces Shabaka Hutchings and matches him for power. He and Pete Wareham take creative solos occasionally, but this band is really focused on riffing ensemble attack, though tunes like We Are Enough allow plenty of space for them to make cosmic noises using their ample banks of electronic effects.
Melt Yourself Down musically, personally, thematically, ideologically, and performatively break down barriers between races and cultures, and between band and audience. Singer Kushal Gaya goes full hardcore, disappearing into and whipping up the crowd. Later Wareham and Crowley duel in the moshpit too. They killed it, man; horns pogoing, Kush writhing in front of the kit at the 70-minute set’s rinsing finale Camel. “Thank you brothers and sisters,” he said ecstatically. “This fucking energy! That’s why we keep making music!!! That’s why we love making music—thank you for giving us so much love!”
AJ Dehany is based in London and writes about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk
Boot and Spleen
Kingdom Of Kush (MYD)
Dot To Dot (LEoE)
From The Mouth
Every Single Day
Bharat Mata (LEoE)
Jump The Fire (LEoE)
It Is What It Is
Born In The Manor
Fix My Life (MYD)
We Are Enough (MYD)
LINKS: New single Boot & Spleen
Categories: Live review