Temple of the Dead Moth, Bluebird Café, Edinburgh, 20th June 15.
Sun shining and plates cleared the only thing now is for the aural dessert. And what’s the last thing on the nights menu? Well it ain’t no crepe based frippery that’s for sure. In fact all food based analogies are redundant. If this moth, dead or not, eats anything it’s the wardrobe not the contents. Your best suit or Sunday frock hanging inside wouldn’t touch it’s appetite for the perverted version of humanity and its habits and weaknesses that make up it’s musical world. The way he chews up and spits out the darkness that lives within the human condition contrasts with the person behind the mask that contorts itself for our entertainment tonight. With lyrics dark and brooding like the performance, for someone I’ve found so far to be quietly amenable in the best sense, the transformation when he starts to perform is dramatic.
The metaphorical curtain goes up with the door of the Bluebird left open to offer it’s own contribution to the night with it’s impression of ventilation. But as a venue its bijou dimensions and the atmosphere that that creates on nights like this creates an intimacy and closeness you can’t buy at bigger venues. And you wouldn’t swap it either when you get taken for this kind of ride. “The moth” starts with one of his songs I like the most. I had the album downloaded some time ago when he made it available for a short while, and I like his wryly amusing grim way with words. When he commences to sing his way into this first number, “Till we die”, I get the channelled image of an undead Marty Robbins possessed by the hellhound he’s riding. And he rides it straight through the back of our genial friend and out through his mouth in a stream of whisky and splinters from undigested wardrobes.
Second song of the evening sees him debut new material and what could be seen as the arrival of the catch phrase of the evening. A song that sees him singing of bottles of whisky and knives begins with a false start and him uttering the words “I can’t remember the first line, it happens….”, a short pause and a stoic lighthearted “fuck it!” and he’s away. And the Devils game show host will no doubt steal it for himself. “Fuck it!” But then he’s off dragged by the tail of that passing hound with the red eyes again. The race is on and he’s found his feet for the evening. Head down and guitar attacked with gusto the pedal on his drum gets the size twelve treatment. It’s a basic percussive accompaniment but it’s all that’s needed. It feels like the dark charm and intensity of his world, for all it’s glorious dysfunctional power, hangs upon a delicate frame and would be drowned with the unnecessary decoration of more.
This first of two 40 odd minute long half hour sets gallops onwards as he draws our attention to the “background soundtrack” of the passing traffic just on the other side of the open door. Then continues with more new material and begins a song about “crashing cars”. He set that one up nicely. Several songs later the set ends with a song about David Cronenbergs “Shivers” and we’re into the late evening sunshine for fresh air in the intermission.
His second set opens with another favourite that hurls the delicious line “This morning will eat us alive and spit out the bones” at us as the intensity is cranked up a few notches. The first set breathed it’s whisky breathe and bade us welcome. The second set, with door closed, is a close knit claustrophobic communal affair. There’s the conspiratorial atmosphere that all the best gigs create within the audience permeating the place. That sense of being a part of an exclusive club the outside world has no understanding of. Who’d want to be “them” out there, when we can be “us” in here? He carries us on to the end of a fine night with his guitar sweating and drums sounding at times like epileptic saucepan lids crashing together.
To give an idea of his sound, to offer reference points “The moth” bears comparison to several performers I’m familiar with both well known and obscure. The two most obvious are “Tom Waits” and “Seasick Steve”, “Waits” for his cacophonous demented little parade band persona and Seasick for the stripped bareness of the presentation and the performance. As to the obscure references I’d recommend looking them all up to get an idea of the flavour or atmosphere of what “The Moth” has to offer. Firstly, and this is all about the atmosphere, the arid desert quality of “Tim Gibbons’” song and album “Shylingo” is a scene setter. “Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club” would be another vocal reference on his quieter moments. If you stuck them all in a soup and got the ‘Birds owner Kylie to blitz ‘em all together seasoned with hints of “Helldorado”, “The Legendary Shack Shakers” and “The Surgens” for angry intensity with an aftertaste of vitriolic humour and plain old fashioned lyrical “bad-assery” you’d be somewhere close.
If you get the chance to sample “Temple of the Dead Moth” live do so. It’s a visceral and cerebral merry-go-round of surreal imagery few performers possess the imagination to conjure up in the first place. Never mind being able to present it with the original Gothic flair that makes up this musical landscape. Now the laptop moans about how its battery is low I guess I’d best get up before my feet crumble and my hands rot.
PS. Message to The Moth, the running order on my CD seems to be correct. You’re not getting it back though 🙂
© Jim Laing 2015.