My Passion, The Crypt, London
They've toured and toured, and they're on bedroom walls everywhere, but this year one five-piece will really take off
Sunday 02 January 2011
Even if you haven't heard of My Passion, there's a more-than-fighting chance that your daughter has.
Five almost sickeningly pretty boys from the sleepy dormitory town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, My Passion are quite conceivably the most rabidly loved underground band in Britain. And the most impressive thing about them is the manner in which they've achieved it.
With no major backing and no funding from a rich daddy, the ultra-energetic electro-metallers, led by badger-quiffed pin-up Laurence René, have done things the hard way: touring, and touring, and more touring.
Meanwhile, the band have sustained themselves by selling merchandise (invariably dayglo variations on their heart-in-a-circle logo), while holding down day jobs at Tesco and Aldi, until the supermarkets had to put them on night shifts because kids kept coming in and screaming at them while they were trying to stack shelves. (Laurence's buff biceps aren't merely the product of an expensive gym. These guys have served time on building sites, too).
This old-fashioned approach (combined, admittedly, with high-level internet savvy, and assisted by a sponsorship deal with Red Bull) has paid off. My Passion have earned a young, ever growing and overwhelmingly female following who travel the length of the country to see them, sleeping four-to-a-room in Travelodges, a dedication the band always repay by giving them face-time after every gig, and generally looking after them (not in the grubby sense that most bands would "look after" such an audience, either: the majority of the band have long-term girlfriends).
The music industry may have been slow to spot the rise of a band that could easily be My Chemical Romance-sized if they didn't hail from the (in rock/metal terms) unfashionable UK, but My Passion's platoon of kohl minors eventually reached such a critical mass that Kerrang! couldn't ignore it, and whacked MP on the cover – still rare for an unsigned act – as well as nominating them for Best Newcomer at the magazine's annual awards. Nor did the publication fail to notice that the photogenic fivesome were ideal poster-fodder, which is why they're currently Blu-Tacked to the bedroom walls of teenage gothettes and emo kids across the nation.
My Passion's organically grown, hype-free pulling power is now such that they're able to lure their barmy army out to play – many of them in punked-up variations on that seasonal classic, the little red Santa dress – during the dead interregnum between Christmas and New Year, to a dark, dank, subterranean arch underneath the main London Bridge railway line with the impossibly perfect address of Crucifix Lane.
Introduced by a mysterious duo of top-hatted henchmen in beak-shaped masks and an old-time music hall barker, the quintet surge on stage looking like five mummified Kings of Orient in white balaclavas, fur-collared snow fatigues and crowns. An angular explosion of elbows and knees, riffs and screams is immediately mirrored by outbreaks of circular moshing, slam-dancing and shrieking down below. David Ryder-Prangley of Rachel Stamp, mutual friend and sometime My Passion producer, turns to me and says – approvingly and accurately – "They're exactly halfway between Slipknot and Bros."
On the cusp of 2011, My Passion are almost unrecognisable from the band I saw rise from the ashes of their earlier incarnation, Shard, to make their debut at my club night Stay Beautiful five years ago. In those days, their most obvious appeal was to the glam and glitter crowd, the Suede/Placebo demographic, and they were a far more fey, effeminate proposition, with frilly shirts the norm and bunches of gladioli wrapped around the microphone. Since then they've beefed up musically as well as physically, and it's more Manson-meets-Prodigy.
What remains is the star quality of Laurence René, the boy with the dragon tattoo, known for yelping such greetings as "Welcome to the corporate flesh party!" or "This is the fabulous blood disco!" among bouts of heavy breathing of the kind that could get you barred by BT (or at least fast-tracked for an asthma inhaler). There's none of that tonight, but he does brandish a Gandalf shillelagh and Yorick skull with a theatrical panache that the Bard, whose re-created Globe is but a couple of hundred yards north-by-northwest, would appreciate.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about My Passion live is their attention to detail. Every last moment is milked for maximum excitement: a calculated, vorsprung-durch-technik combination of chaos and choreography. At least, it is now. Before they nailed the split-second accuracy of their stage moves, broken teeth and noses were an occupational hazard from Simon Rowland's flying bass head or Laurence's mic stand.
Apart from a spooked-out, Hammer Horror rendition of "Plastic Flesh Garden", a song introduced with self-deprecating irony as "our hit", many – even most – My Passion tracks may appear indistinguishable to the uninitiated: almost prog-like structures, almost funk-like rhythmic undercurrents, obliterating metallic guitars, and a lot of screaming. It's a template which, on the single "Day of the Bees", culminates in a stage invasion from the frenzied faithful.
If you don't "get" it, it might be because you're too old. I know that's a cheap shot, and I can't prove it, but I'm just putting it out there. And if My Passion still isn't on your radar by the end of 2011, one thing is certain: it won't be for want of trying.
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