Kerbdog, live in London

Support: Amplifier, Jamie Lenman, Hawk Eyes

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For some bands it seems like it’s just not meant to be. No matter how good the records they put out are, no matter how good the live shows, sometimes it seems it just isn’t meant to be. So for Kilkenny post-hardcore/alt-rock underground heroes Kerbdog (8) to be here tonight at The Forum, a full 16 years after splitting up due to the exhaustion of being ignored and under-appreciated, means this is a win before a note has even been played.

Of course the fact that they’ve compiled a stellar supporting cast of British talent adds to the feel-good vibes, but unfortunately there is hardly anyone inside at the ungodly hour of 18:15 to watch Leeds alt-rockers Hawk Eyes (7) run through a set of bangers that resemble The Jesus Lizard meets Converge with hooks. You just wonder how much better they could be with a captive audience. They tour next year, go and see them and find out. The presence of Jamie Lenman (8) fills the place up a bit, in fact there seem to be some here who have come purely to see the enigmatic former Reuben frontman. His band are as tight as they as sharply dressed and Lenman is a genuinely funny and unique persona. Add this to the fact that, whether it’s the old Reuben tracks or songs from last year’s excellent and surprising Muscle Memory album, he can pen one hell of a catchy yet spiteful angular rock anthem. Although, as he admits himself, he stole it all from Kerbdog… although apparently they stole it from Helmet. Amplifier (6) are the odd ones out on tonights bill. Slightly slower and less immediate than everything else served up today, they struggle to replicate the buzz that Lenman had built. Still, they are an unusual and engaging set of musicians. Veering from Monster Magnet style psychedelic rock to drier indie guitar work sometimes in the space of one song.

As Kerbdog take to the stage it’s clear that it is not sold out at The Forum – far from it. But this is still the biggest headline show the band have ever done in this country, and it looks like they are beginning to take their reunion a little more seriously than before. Where previously they would just amble onstage and let frontman Cormac Battle’s sardonic wit mumble something before the set kicked off. Tonight they have an intro tape, some mood lighting and stride on silently before Pledge kicks off the evening. The fact that the band are now finally starting to accept that Kerbdog are a band held in high esteem is evident in the new-found confidence and tightness exhibited tonight.

The likes of On The Turn, Rewind and Severed are criminally underrated pieces of alt-rock mastery and sound undeniably huge. And when Jamie Lenman and his saxophone player join the band, for a genuinely brilliant run through of the smash hit single that never was Mexican Wave, you start to wonder just why Kerbdog haven’t ever been able to headline a venue of this size before. It’s a feeling that increases as the first proper mosh pit of the night erupts during Sally and the band leave, only to return for an encore of the little performed Dummy Crusher, which Cormac points out “crashed into the UK charts at number 37 motherfuckers!”, and new song Electricity. A rarity, not just in terms of being new, but also a rare occasion when the new stuff lives up to the quality of their previous material.

As the band wrap it up with JJ’s Song you can’t help but wonder the unanswerable question; Why aren’t this band bigger? Yes, there are cooler bands than Kerbdog. Yes, there are prettier bands. There are bands with bigger label support and infinite amounts of hype and hyperbole behind them. There are bands who put on more spectacular live shows. But how many of those bands have better songs than Kerbdog? The answer is few, very few. If you’re bored of the bullshit and just want great music, they are your safest bet. Go and buy On The Turn right now, and let’s have them at Brixton next time please.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.