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Culture Reviews
The Young Gods
By Matt Siegel
Why do 15-year-old kids ignore their mothers when offered all the wonderfully sane and heart-felt advice about the perils of loud music and hearing damage? Is there something punk rock about going deaf? Just how cool is tinnitus? Will the hearing-aid someday be the must-have accessory for a far-flung fashion season? I can’t offer a particularly reasonable explanation for the actions of those misguided youth who, in an act of baseless rebellion, toss their aural health to the wind, even though I myself was once a member of their pimpled, sweaty and sexually-unfulfilled ranks, turning my Marshall stack up to 7, fist pumped in the air, letting everybody know just what kind of badass I was. This, of course, has resulted in severe and irreparable hearing damage which, although I like other musicians sometimes enjoy bragging about it, is really not particularly cool at all. So, you can see why I was shocked and amazed when on Saturday night at club Ikra, the members of long-running Swiss Industrial legends The Young Gods actually managed to audibly (no pun intended) damage my hearing in a way I had long since believed to be simply impossible.

Beyond the fact that the concert was so ridiculously and unbelievably loud (at one point I closed my jaw just to see what would happen and my teeth chattered together worse than during last winter’s cold snap), it was also a refreshing and damn good time. In a genre stifled by the knowledge that its staple artists are growing older while their target audience forever remains alienated 12-16 year olds, the Young Gods proved on Saturday that chugging distorted guitars and breakneck drumbeats in the 160-180 BPM range are always capable of rocking, regardless of age. A friend who was with me at the show put it best when he compared the show, part of their 20th anniversary tour, with the Rolling Stone’s latest tour: “the difference is that the Gods haven’t given up on the idea that they’re still actually a band and not just a fucking decrepit jukebox.” This may go a long way towards explaining why the vast majority of the show’s material, surprisingly for an anniversary tour, was taken from their latest release, 2004’s “Music for Artificial Clouds.” Even more surprising was the fact that the audience ate it up with gusto.

That’s not to say that they band shied away from their earlier material altogether. When lead singer and only constant member Franz Treichler pulled out his electric guitar (a rare treat from a band that has always preferred it’s guitar looped from the inside of a sampler) and burst into “Jimmy” from their 1987 debut, the crowd went absolutely mad. “Skinflowers,” their first hit, (also from 1987’s “The Young Gods”) had the ebullient crowd bouncing ecstatically and singing along in dizzy euphoria. Overall, by sprinkling a few classics into the mix they were able to achieve a good blend that never teetered too far in either direction towards conservative juke-box-ism on one hand or inattentiveness to their fan’s desires on the other.

For a sub-culture that is typically so self-consciously “weird,” I have to say that the two strangest things I saw all night had nothing at all to do with either the band or their fans. Firstly, the existence of a 2100 Rbs “Super-VIP” ticket, at a staggering 1200 Rbs markup over the basic entry fee. I’m not really sure what exactly the “Super-VIP” level service entails, but if it’s not at least a bottle of champagne and a hand-job it’s not worth it. Secondly, the fact that I was knocked off the guest-list despite being credentialed because the outside promoter handling the show didn’t want, well, actually nobody really seemed to be able to tell me or anyone else why they didn’t want additional journalists covering the event, but they just didn’t. This should in no way reflect upon the management of Ikra, who seemed as embarrassed about the whole thing as anyone and who, in the end, snuck me in through the kitchen entrance, but it does make you wonder a bit what’s going on over there.

All in all the evening has to be considered a pretty smashing success, management’s intransigence and hand-job seating notwithstanding. When a band as cerebral and heavy as The Young Gods can transform even the most staid, button-collared Moscow clubgoer into a frenzied teen with minimal theatrics and maximal verve, it’s something pretty special. In today’s increasingly throwaway musical culture, their approach is something that any young band looking for a light in the darkness would be well served by letting light their way. That is, if you can get through the door, and don’t let your imagination speculate too wildly as to the murky and sticky contents of the VIP-section floor….

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