Originally published in Plan B magazine, March 2008 – www.planbmag.com/shop
Rolo Tomassi, Camden Underworld, 03/02/08
“Faggots,” opines a moron.
It’s possible that he intended to say “your precocious Henry Cowisms are giving me the fear,” but he’s drunk, so “faggots” it is. Later, there will also be “bitch, you suck” and “get your tits out”. It’s a Sunday afternoon, kid. You eat your roast beef with that mouth? A good portion of this young crowd shares his disdain; emo jailbait coats the rear wall. It’s the pauses most seem to object to – the moments of gathered breath, the lengthy keyboard breaks between, oh yeah, movements, in this murderously-delivered set. But all along and beside the stage, thrilled and beaming and stamping and screaming, are other kids; bitches and faggots, perhaps, with their cameras set to FOREVER.
Though Rolo Tomassi have so far delivered precisely one bruising and beautiful mini-album for Holy Roar, this ambitious performance (punctuated only twice, by polite thanks and shy offers of merch) gathers those songs, and several newer, into a thunderous and complex tale. This one hour, this grimy afternoon, makes meat of their many swift and brutal changes of pace, mood and mode; of punk chromatics so brisk and heady it’s hard to notice how deeply-felt they are, until they veer one last time and suddenly, all compasses point to a previously-imperceptible magnetic north; of ensemble riffs and roaring, and of their separation, their subsiding into delicacy and tenderness. It’s all the same, utterly absorbing story.
It’s hard to imagine where these 5 teenagers can have acquired either their conspicuous virtuosity or their impressive range. Their references, sonic, literary and filmic, tear eclecticism a new rear window. In ‘C Is For Calculus’ alone, they manage to conjure the prog/spacerock theatrics of Yes and Hawkwind, the romp and rigour of Dillinger or Converge, and the spiralling fusion of Return to Forever, in a manner it took Mike Patton 15 years to attempt. Though the sound this afternoon is doing them few favours, Edward’s drums manage nevertheless to preside triumphantly over a stage split dialectically between Joe and Joseph’s guitar/bass unison and the call and response vocals of Eva and James. As the set progresses, though, as ‘Seagull’ offers its bleak, sinister vision and ‘Digital History’ presents its bouquet of knives, I begin to notice how carefully the various voices intertwine, how the psychedelia of James’ keyboards signals increasingly complex sets of possibilities. Instruments are disguising themselves before my eyes: guitars cozen as keyboards, voices as drums, songs sew themselves to one another, riffs shred away, trade parts, and reform voluptuously. On the heels of new single ‘Beat Rotter’, ‘Film Noir”s triple-tapped, sniper-fire introduction is a shock to the chest. ‘Cirque Du Funk’ shakes a single, circling riff down to its basest properties, surrounding it with shifting drums that attack and defend its sinous curves by turns, as Eva abandons her mic to career across the stage, ecstatically stamping out every change in pattern. Imagine bumper cars, choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Imagine bitches and faggots, tits out and roaring, ruling heaven, always.