The Minutes in Whelan’s on December 7th 2012
Unlikely southern cowboy-rock five-piece The Hot Sprockets might be playing to a modest crowd, but they’re amply flamboyant in opening up the latest in a series of face-melting Whelan’s shows from The Minutes. The five-piece are a band of comic contrast, speaking as they do in hefty Dublin accents before kicking into lyrics tinged with an afflicted southern drawl that goes a long way to making their style. If debut album ‘Honeyskippin” was a mildly tongue in cheek piece of brilliance – and given the accompanying notes stated “to be listened to in the spirit in which it was written“, that seems a fair assumption – then the live show, complete with choreographed knee-jerks and heady, bonkers riffs is a nice supplement. It’s a little tame, but tonight isn’t about The Hot Sprockets, and as support slots go, this one’s tight and impressive.
The Minutes, though, have developed into a band of far superior live ability to that which even their impressive debut album suggests. The key is in the energy: front man Mark Austin is an abrasive, snarling character prone to moments of self-praising comedy – not least highlighting his own sex appeal – that adds some serious banter to the heady riffs. It takes only a handful of songs before Austin finds himself at the back of the room, head banging his way through a riff with a previously static member of the audience, and enticing a riotous bout of moshing.
Bassist Tom Cosgrave isn’t too far behind, and between the two of them they seem to hover over the front of the Whelan’s audience, often no more than an inch from slamming a guitar into the face of one of their adoring public. In amongst the brash front, there’s no arguing with the tunes either. There are a couple of newbies amongst tonight’s extended set, but the highlights come from the usual quarters: a closing rendition of Black Keys in particular is a perfect balance of string abuse and gorgeous melody (Black Keys, incidentally – through an apparently unintended bit of YouTube marketing – has attracted a few fans of a certain American band of a similar name; those stumbling upon the single seem impressed). Secret History is another stunner, minus the keyboard embellishments of the album version and a real noisy, feedback-edged barrage.
I.M.T.O.D’s odd religious references are backed by the most thumping of rhythm sections (how drummer Shane Kinsella gets through a set performed at this pace is beyond us), while Monsters short-lived yet huge riffs show the depth of album ‘Marcata’. It’s hard to criticize a band that write so well and give so much of themselves live. If we had to pick holes, some of the subtlety of the album is occasionally obliterated by the sheer power of The Minutes live barrage, but with a procession of bass and drum-driven guitar solos, an enviable intensity more than makes up for it. This is down-and-dirty, sweat-pit rock and roll, and while it might not have quite the euphoric feel of The Minutes last Whelan’s sell out, it does firmly establishes the three-piece at the head of the Irish rock queue. Expect the latest major tour – in support of The Hives over in the UK – to do nothing but add to that reputation.