LondonNet Gig Review
Swearing at Motorists
The Windmill Brixton
22 Blenheim Gardens,
London SW2 5DZ
T: 0208 671 0700
Old Records, Revisited
Swearing at Motorists remember the better years of alternative rock.
Within the hidden away Windmill Brixton’s interior decorated by peeled paint, vinyl and poster covered walls, a band from Ohio reminded South London what rock n’ roll is really all about.
In the mid-90’s, alternative rock radio was dominated by mainstream rock bands that actually wrote stunningly good songs. Far preceding the dark ages when Limp Bizkit, Three Doors Down, and Creed became the norm, bands like Nirvana, the Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis and Local H managed to write sometimes simplistic, but memorable and wonderfully crafted straightforward rock songs. Swearing at Motorists, the pride of Dayton, Ohio, manage to recall that era and add indie and underground sensibilities to the mix, which made for a delicious and nostalgic rock n’ roll cocktail.
The Red Stripes were a completely different animal. Billed as a “Jamaican” reggae cover band of the White Stripes, “Black White” and “Reggae Zellweger” are from Detroit Town, Jamaica which translates loosely to London Town. At first the joke seemed overly caricatured and disappointing, and appeared to wear thin early on in the set. “Hotel Yorba” was admittedly quite danceable, but the over-the-top vocals still were more grating than anything else. Mid-way through the set, things seemed to change, however.
The overwhelming “Fell in love with a girl” was enough to make anyone chuckle, perhaps because it has become so ingrained in popular culture that any alternative version is refreshing. They even got away from the White Stripes joke, by throwing a few surprises into the mix. What’s not to like about a “gay reggae version” of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to respond to charges of reggae’s homophobia? Likewise, with the announcement with it that “We haven’t played this together before, but that’s never stopped us from debuting new material.” Their impressive punk version of “Redemption Song” was both energetic and sincere, and “One Nation Army”, their version of “Seven Nation Army”, was show-stopping. The second half of their set proved that the joke isn’t bad; it just takes some time to set in.
London’s own Jack Adaptor hit the stage next and probably could’ve actually benefited from having a simple formula. At their best, they mixed minimalist guitar rock with funky bass, unexpected soaring male and female vocal harmonies to create energetic, feverish pop sounded something like Oasis meets the Anniversary. Later songs belied influences of everyone from the Doors to the Everly Brothers. Nonetheless, despite being undeniably very talented, their lack of focus often turned their sound into an incomprehensible stew with too much jamming and too few memorable tunes.
Swearing at Motorists on the other hand, began with a clichéd, but sincere “believe in the power of rock n’ roll” shtick, backed it up musically and never let up. Singer/guitarist Dave Doughman delivered mildly trippy, sincere ballads combined with tight guitar outbursts while Joseph Siwinski brought simple beats all to create simple, yet irresistible songs. Doughman has earned fair and favourable comparisons to Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott both vocally and in stage presence. Musically, it’s stunning that Swearing at Motorists have not achieved some sort of crossover success. They combine more refined technical indie rock with everything great about mid-90s alt-rock: good songwriting, melodic, hard rock vocals and big guitar riffs. The result is a sort of unholy, but very effective mix of Thin Lizzy and Queens of the Stone Age playing Nirvana songs after thumbing through a collection of old garage rock records.
Throughout the show, Doughman kept a good rapport of the crowd keeping an air of garage rock bravado, but downplaying it with a pinch of self-deprecation. The duo ended their set with the jangly, catchy and indeed bouncy “Waterloo Crescent” and stuck around for an unrelenting version of “Flying Pizza”. Swearing at Motorists left the crowd wanting more and wondering why there aren’t more great, unpretentious rock bands with an indie attitude like them.