‘We never said we’re a Drum and Bass band. If three guys from Western Australia can crack their scene, surely the scenesters can do the same? Whatever, I don’t really care’
The words of Pendulum DJ Paul -El Hornet’ Harding – speaking when State last caught the genre-fusing band at South Korea’s Seoul World DJ Festival in 2008 – have only become more relevant with time. Paul may not feature in the live band, but he was one of the assortment of metalheads who forged Pendulum’s early hits – largely for the fun of it – using their spare studio time in Perth all those years ago. Pendulum may still feature in the record books as -the biggest selling drum and bass act of all time’, but in the new album Immersion (out Friday) Pendulum are as close to those metal-loving roots as they’ve ever been. Latest single ‘Watercolour’ (tonight’s pre-encore closer) is the perfect example: still underlined by a hefty bass beat live, the track has distinctly dark undertones, seething with controlled anger, bursting into extended choruses and making full use of the throbbing guitars. In their new material, Pendulum set aside even the vaguest pretence at being a straight up dance floor filling act, and edge into angst-coated alternative rock and even (dare I say it) emo territory, albeit with substantial dance influences still shoving their head’s above the parapet along the way.
Tonight’s gig is nothing if not a sign of Pendulum’s transformation. The young band that burst onto the scene with ‘Hold Your Colour’ in 2005 take a back seat today, dominated by the work of energetic Cockney MC Ben Mount, who’s a cross between a live rapper (adding power to the lyrics of tracks like the hyperactive smash -Slam’) and a highly cheesy promo man. While the band rock out behind him, Mount is prone to coming out with comments like -we’ve got drum and bass, we’ve got dubstep, we’ve got many styles’ and seems to introduce every song with an overenthusiastic -we’ve got new songs, we’ve got old songs, check this out’¦’. He’s a commodity that adds a dimension to the band, but – for State at least – arguably takes more, especially in his lyrical blurring of tracks like -Fasten Your Seatbelts’. Between songs, he’s often just outright cringe-worthy.
As much as Mount is an irritant, though, we can’t ignore the power of Pendulum on the whole. This is a band that genuinely does fuse styles with willful abandon, and yet the early tracks remain the stand outs. An encore featuring career definers -Tarantula’ and -Hold Your Colour’ is nothing if not boisterously enticing. The crowd certainly picks up on it: tonight’s is comfortably the most aggressive audience we’ve ever come across in The Olympia, with full on shoving matches and occasional fist fights breaking out throughout the show. Security’s efforts to contain the mayhem are admirable, but with out of control bodies flowing across the front of the stage and half the crowd stripped of their shirts and melded into a testosterone-fuelled throng, their work’s cut out for them.
We can’t condone the agro, but we’re not surprised either. Pendulum was never meant to be a chilled experience; their fans live for the music. Underneath a nu-metal faÃ§ade that has the Drum and Bass community crying foul and distancing themselves from the Perth natives (Pendulum are happy to return the favor), this group of musicians does have an incredible talent for merging seemingly incompatible genres into an pulsating aural barrage that it’s next to impossible not to dance to. Tuesday night at the Olympia resembles a hard night on the tiles, and leaves the mirrors over the balcony running with the sweat of a thousand unruly bass-heads when things close down a little short of 90 minutes in. Given the direction of their new material, though, next time Pendulum come to Ireland, they might perform to a very different kind of crowd.
Photos: Kieran Frost