What can be said about The Amazing Snakeheads that doesn’t make them sound like a pastiche? That they are aggressive? Nah, that’s too gimmicky, too much like The Fall. Confrontational? Nope, that makes them sound like the New York Dolls with all their shock-generating garb. Threatening? That’s a bit Birthday Party-era Nick Cave. What the Amazing Snakeheads are is the exact right thing at the exact right time. A truly unique live experience and the band you should try to see as soon as you possibly can.
The past year has seen band-members leave, re-join, fall out and fall apart but with the critical levels of raw, undiluted and ostensibly real shit, spit and blood-curdling aggression from this Glasgow three-piece it is no surprise whatsoever. How Dale Barclay can walk off-stage after these performances and not get into rows is probably something he very recently learned how to do. How he doesn’t walk off-stage and start throwing pint glasses around Frank Begbie style is another thing altogether.
Tonight, in Grand Social, is only the second time the band have played here and the first time since replacing their original drummer who’s departure was announced by Barclay in a Facebook post. Not that this matters, because when these lads take to the stage, stripped to the waste, black wife-beaters, sovvies and tattoos gleaming in the bleak light, all else is forgotten. They look the part and that’s because they are the part. Most importantly, though, is that they have the songs to back all of this up.
In no time at all Barclay is in the crowd – staring people down and simultaneously looking right through them. His face is contorted into undisguised rage and when he’s singing “where is my knife?” there are more than a few eyes to the floor amongst the crowd. Their playing is loose, that much is true, but like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Dolls before them, it’s part and parcel of the complete package. The playing is good, just not locked in. This is countenanced by some genuinely thrilling songs, ‘Where Is My Knife?’, ‘Here It Comes Again’, ‘Every Guy Wants To Be Her Baby’ and ‘Flatlining’ are absolute killers, combining the quiet-loud-quiet sound of Pixies with the deranged theatrics of…actually, nobody has ever done this as authentically and originally as Dale Barclay. There are very few audible effects going on, the guitars are rarely distorted above a cursory level – instead they use clean and un-augmented sound to offset the rumbling bass and frenetic drum fills.
So, avoiding pastiche, it’s hard to do. But that’s only because pretty much everybody who has done this before The Amazing Snakeheads has looked as though they’re doing it for effect. These boys looks like their playing and singing just to keep themselves from ripping somebody’s head off. As the Buckfast is passed between them, and Barclay points, sneers and one-eyed growls his way through their 40 min set, this is the kind of gig you’ll talk about for a long, long time.