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Review: Monster Truck, Marble Factory

By robin askew, Thursday Mar 16, 2017

There’s a hairy fella on stage playing dirty blues on an over-cranked guitar. Next to him is a drummer who sounds like he’s beating an upturned tea chest with a pair of giant mallets. On closer inspection, it appears that he actually is using a pair of giant mallets. Rarely has the phrase ‘tub-thumping’ seemed more appropriate. These are the inaptly named Picturebooks – a moniker more redolent of those ghastly fey indie acts like The Lachrymose Twerps or The Fotherington-Thomases. The increasingly modish duo format offers musicians the advantage of more loot when the spoils are carved up, but tends to limit the sonic palette. Frankly, many of these bands get very boring, very quickly. The Germans’ unique solution is in the percussion department. Despite having no cymbals, Philipp Mirtschink manages to coax a rich variety of sounds from his unusual kit by using his hands, home-made mallets and, just occasionally, conventional drumsticks, additionally deploying a large shaker of his own devising, while Fynn Claus Grabke rocks up a storm on guitar and vocals. The twosome generate a huge sound between them, sweat-drenched Mirtschink bashing away with such force that one half-expects him to pass out, or expire altogether, before the end of their alotted 40 minute support slot. They promise to be back later in the year and are well worth looking out for.

Ontario’s Monster Truck have made an awful lot of new friends since they last played Bristol on the Lords of the Riff tour at the Exchange three years ago, almost to the day. They’ve also grown in confidence thanks to all that road work with the likes of Nickelback and the knowledge that second album Sittin’ Heavy has fully delivered on the promise of their Furiosity debut. And as the intro tape of Rainbow’s Long Live Rock’n’Roll heralding opener Why Are You Not Rocking? both attest unequivocally, they’re in the mood to, erm, rock. So much so, in fact, that, at least initially, some of their subtlety goes astray in the mix, notably Brandon Bliss’s keyboards.

Hyperactive, bare-chested guitarist Jeremy Widerman is the main focal point here, with giant, comparatively impassive Jon Harvey content to deliver ribcage-rattling bass while belting out those powerful vocals. There’s a distinct and defiant whiff of 1972 about all this, from the patched denim jacket logo on the Sittin’ Heavy sleeve to classic rock echoes ranging from Bad Company to blissfully uncool vintage blue-collar boogie merchants such as Foghat. That’s not meant in any pejorative sense; merely a reminder that before the genre shutters came down bands were free to play whatever they damn well pleased and weren’t always afraid to nail their political colours to the mast. That’s reflected in Sea Shepherd-supporting Monster Truck’s music with the likes of insurrectionary, positively funky summer-anthem-in-the-making For the People, borne aloft by a delicious three-part harmony. Similarly, could there be a better song for our times than the absurdly catchy Things Get Better with its “I got a feelin’ things’ll get worse before they get better” chorus?

Bluesy Furiosity epic For the Sun remains an absolute stand-out and gets a deservedly rapturous reception from the packed Marble Factory crowd. But there’s more unpretentious, unapologetic rockin’ to be done before the night is through, and audience favourite The Lion wraps up the well-deserved three song encore just perfectly. “Just keep truckin’ on” exhorted the Grateful Dead nearly half a century ago, and it seems the Canuck quartet propose to do just that – to well-deserved, increasingly rich rewards.

Read more: Metal and Prog picks: March 2017

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