There are some bands who can’t help but sound like the city that produced them; Joy Division drone like industrial Macclesfield, The Libertines shamble like noughties London and the Ramones, The Velvet Underground and countless others scream New York.
Axis Of meanwhile take the big, rocky, grey, physical landscapes of Northern Ireland’s coast and channel them into a fist through a heavy, stomping three-piece assault that straddles the line between punk and alt-rock.
Opening the night in Camden’s Underworld, to a less than full room, the band bring enough energy to keep everyone else pumped all night. There are screaming accents carved out by rough tides, as guitars are thrown around and stages stamped under big throbbing guitar lines.
However, where Axis Of really come into their own is their ability to combine their stomp and swagger with huge heartfelt courses. First single of new album Finding St. Kilda, Lifehammer, epitomises this; there are shout-along sections, which might be difficult for those unfamiliar with the region’s accent to make out, juxtaposed with mosh-yourself-senseless outbursts. The band have worked for a long time on their sound, taking lots of cold boat rides to tour relentlessly, and now it is flourishing.
This combined with their absolute commitment to live shows makes it seem like no word of an exaggeration when Rocksound called them “the most exciting band to come out of Northern Ireland, possibly ever”. And tonight they sound too big for this stage.
Second on the bill is Canadian quartet Single Mothers. Minus any children, who take to the stage are four incredibly normal-looking guys. The music is simple, fast, shouty and fun. One could say that Single Mothers convey what modern punk is really about. They’re not head to toe in leather and hair gel trying to unnerve old ladies. They’re regular guys, who are fucking angry. Their lead singer Andrew Thomson, Stella in hand and missing a front tooth, barks out the story of his mental break down, backed up with a no bullshit straight up soundtrack.
With the young upstart punks finished it’s time for the old pros. Underworld packs in tight as The Bronx come out raise hell.
Fronted by Matt Caughthran, a shaved-head LA guy who you know not to fuck with, The Bronx pack a heavy dual guitar punch that sends the sweaty audience flying. Proceedings take a civilised turn early on when Caughthran introduces to the evening’s two security guards at either side of the stage (also gentlemen with whom you do not fuck) and outlines the designated stage dive area. From this point the audience divides itself between the boney, shirtless kids who’ll spend the whole night in the air and those who’ll spend the gig holding them up.
Anarchic live shows aside, what’s kept The Bronx going for more than 10 years now is an abilty to write proper decent songs. Unafraid of writing melodies and hooks or even the odd mariachi album, pinning them down as a punk or hardcore is shortsighted and there is an LA hardrock feel to some of the riffs, as well as the guitarist’s moustache.
As the set winds down a cake appears from somewhere, along with a round of Happy Birthday for Caughthran who’s turning 34. But it could never stop him finishing the set in the midst of the sweaty crowd.
Tonight’s message was simple: punk was never dead – it was just evolving.
By Ben Graham