One year ago, Do Me Bad Things - the extraordinary stoner-blues-rock-soul nonet from Croydon - seemed to be on the brink of a Big Bang. The word-of-mouth buzz, the gobsmacking festival appearances, the Darkness support slots, the Atlantic record deal were all in place, and the blue touchpaper was lit.
As January shakes off its post-festive torpor and 2006, only a couple of days old, emerges blinking into the light, Do Me Bad Things seem on the brink of a Big Bang of a different kind: a diaspora of November 5th firework cinders. At the Windmill, a low-ceilinged concrete-pillared pub venue tucked down a sidestreet off Brixton Hill, DMBT are, before my very eyes, subdividing into their constituent parts.
Do Me Bad Things were always a glorious affront to logic, defying the conventional wisdom that a nine-piece band with three lead singers could ever make sense, as both a practical and a musical proposition. On the musical front, they defied the odds and released a truly stunning debut album, Yes!. On the practical question, however, they have admitted partial defeat, and slimmed down to a more economically-viable septet, sadly losing backing vocalists Kimberley Whalley and Clare MacDonald-Haig (who are still friends with the remaining members, and attend tonight's show, along with the remarkable Chantal Delusional, who remains a member).
If DMBT always looked like several bands welded together, that might be because they were. Their origins in the South London gig scene (notably this very venue and the Cartoon in Croydon) involved a mess of member-sharing and muso-poaching which would cause Rock Family Trees compiler Pete Frame to down quills and surrender.
The man who, as much as anyone, convened and anchored the whole chaos is first up tonight. Alex Lewis, trading as Lewi Lewis, has dark, serious eyes and dark, serious hair, a Carpenters T-shirt (which instantly makes him uber-cool in my eyes), and a rainbow guitar strap (which makes his shoulder look like a gay pub).
As he stands there solo, strumming an electric guitar and singing a seven-song mix of original material and covers (McCartney's "Every Night", Bjork's "Hyperballad", Britney's "Toxic" a la Nirvana Unplugged), I can easily see why the band in which he is a (or even the?) main songwriter are a great one, but equally I can see why he'd feel the need to break away once in a while.
Watching him, it occurs to me that, if we must have male singer-songwriters, it would be preferable if they weren't James Blunt singing "My life is brilliant, I've just sold my Fulham terraced house for an 80 per cent killing and bought a semi in Chiswick, plus I've got a trial with the C-team of the rugger club on Sunday", and were more like Lewi Lewis singing "You've got to be shitting me/Say what you see... IN ME." In other words, speaking the language and expressing the real neuroses and insecurities that I, and the people I know, can actually understand.
I don't care too much for Lunar Jetman, who are up next. The Blues Brothers on bad drugs, with mariachi elements thrown in. But they're mates with the Things, they're sharing a stage and a backline, and that's what this scene is all about.
Last up are Junkyard Choir, the band from whom Lewis headhunted DMBT's third singer Mark Woods, after seeing them right here in the Windmill. (JC existed before DMBT, and continue to exist in tandem.) Woods is the hairy chap with the lupine growl, whose rasping vocals are invariably compared to Tom Waits. When he runs out of lyrics, he breaks into peculiar "duu-duu-duum" glossolalia. Junkyard Choir's weird ska-polka rhythms might be an acquired taste for some palates, but you can certainly see how Woods' arresting style caught the ear of the Croydon contingent.
What happens next will be interesting to watch. Given that Yes! wasn't an instant million-seller, a fairly predictable outcome - in the current short-termist climate of the record industry - would be for the big major label to drop DMBT before they can record a follow-up.
Fingers crossed that won't happen, but I also have a sneaking feeling that if it did, the seven (or nine, or 20) members of DMBT would simply laugh and carry on making music regardless. It's what they do.
A win-win scenario would be a Human League/Heaven 17 situation: two (or nine or 20) good bands for the price of one. Personally, I'm hoping they hold it together, come back stronger, and blow our minds again. It might be against the odds... but Do Me Bad Things have a history of that sort of thing.Reuse content