When Fight Like Apes launched their debut album at Whelan’s, it felt like a real event – the natural conclusion to a momentum that had been gathering for a number of months, helped along the way by an experienced music industry support team and more than a few media friends. Five years later, they return to the venue under slightly different circumstances. While many of their contemporaries have taken advantage of the open doors that FLA kicked in, they themselves are now largely standing on their own eight feet and fully in control of their own destiny. As well as bringing them complete freedom, it also means that there’s no-one else to blame if anything goes wrong.
So far, though, so good. They pulled off an ambitious Fund It campaign earlier in the year, followed by a succession of riotous club shows here and in the UK. Yet this is perhaps the first acid test of what this brave new dawn has in store for them. You sense they know it too, coming out swinging with a number of big hitters from their two albums to date. While this guarantees the show gets off to a suitably high energy start, it also means that we have to wait four songs until we get to the crux of the evening – what Fight Like Apes did next.
Happily, it’s these songs that provide the highlights and suggest that the band have moved into the more poppy area that many expected last time around. Yet the dark turn they took on The Body Of Christ (still a far better record than their debut, no matter what perceived wisdom may tell you) and their subsequent experiences hasn’t killed them, making for a stronger set of songs. The musicians too seem happy to be playing them, squeezing new energy from limbs (and hair in Mary’s case) sapped by the Whelan’s on stage sauna effect. The effect isn’t quite the same on the audience, however, and the top heavy nature of the set list leads to something of a lull half way through. Give them six months though and we’re sure that the likes of ‘Crouching Bees’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Have To Mate With You’ will have the same effect as ‘Jake Summers’ – which, as normal, sends the place nuts.
Sandwiching Christmas single ‘Carousel’ between ‘Digifucker’ and ‘Battle Stations’ for an encore, Fight Like Apes leave with the next stage of their task very much completed. It’s been a night both of celebration (including a sweet dedication to ex-bassist Tom Ryan) and defiance, a message to those who thought or hoped this sometimes divisive band would fail to make it on their own and just disappear. I’m sorry for you, but these monkeys aren’t going anywhere.