Saturday 23:30, The Cave Club @ The Moth Club, Hackney 3/9/16
I would like to say that since I last saw them in the Copeland Gallery Happy Meal Ltd have come on leaps and bounds. Well, they haven’t. To be honest, just like one imagines consuming an addictive drug is like, nothing beats the first time. Back in June, the only things missing from the Happy Meal Ltd experience were a sizeable audience and suitable venue. The music itself was faultless. This time around, by the time the band strutted through the doors a full hour late, the audience had trebled in size and were hovering over the stage like hungry flies buzzing around wet cat food on a hot summer’s day. The demographic was still largely the same; art school kids with a few more industry heads and general punters. A tall man in a floral wife- beater standing front centre stands out in particular- his energy and presence making him appear to be an extension of the band. Whether this is strategic or not, the shapes he cuts certainly help to get the crowd riled up for the first number: Choo Choo.
It’s pretty miraculous, them being a large band, and serving as a melting pot of so many genres, that Happy Meal actually sound good. True, the atmosphere on stage seems a little tense, with each member surpassing the next in outlandish fashion statements and novel ways to play their instruments (the pianist’s tropical yellow number is particularly eye-catching), yet this only further propels the almost feral essence of the performance. Because they really shouldn’t, this really shouldn’t work. The drummer has added an electric pad to his kit for Christ’s sake. Choo Choo serves as an example of their brilliance. The song begins with singer Henry teasing ‘ch ch ch ch..’ before proceeding to narrate the story of a train that goes off the rails. The track is full of ups and downs, relying heavily on the synchronicity of the drums and bass to keep momentum up, and allowing the shambolic polyphony the band creates in the climaxes to take over while Henry births “Choo Choo!!”. And then of course, there’s the tunes that have actual dnb surprises lurking in them (admittedly, these moments sometimes linger a little longer than they should), not forgetting the ska and glam rock infusions, all causing Henry to hurl his body into a series of dramatic poses and driving the unsuspecting crowd ape.
By the end of the set, Happy Meal Ltd. had everyone in the audience wailing where’s Joanna with such a passion that for all I know I could have been the only one there that was not acquainted with the woman herself. It would be lazy to say that Happy Meal Ltd. are like a glam rock spin on the Birthday Party, like Marc Bolan meets Nick Cave meets Adam Ant meets Genesis P Orridge meets Jehnny Beth. So I’m not going to. See what I did there. Happy Meal Ltd. Are breaking all the rules in this game, and it’s about bloody time too.
[[8/10 for being late and not playing a longer set. + 17.5% for being musically sublime. ]]