East London is known most, in musical terms at least, for its role in evolving UK dance music in particular its history of british Hip hop, Grime and Ragga. However a new sound is also evolving in Hackney estates below the radar that maybe has as much to do with Grunge guitars as it does the bleeps and glitsches of Beau Grime or Shoreditch Electro.
Gold Future Joy Machine are a sonic wrecking ball five piece that electrified The Star of Bethnal Green last night, and are the undisputed kings and queens of this new sound. Taking to the stage in rugged monochrome their opening song was called “Sons and daughters”. It sounded like J-Dilla being torn apart by the entire past and present roster of the sub-pop label. A brilliant opener. Frontman Johnny Kenton’s primal voice cuts through the squelchy synths and dirt guitars with euphoric emotion. After being blitzed for so long by eighties revivalists, mockney troubadours and ironic poptarts, it is easy to forget how powerful it is when someone just sings something they really mean.
GFJM, from cracking vocals to pounding dance beats seemed like they mean every bit of it. (Maybe this is the link that these rock and rollers have with their grime neighbours? Both are trying to just tell us their story – how it is, and unadulterated.)
Two songs in and the GFJM party had started. A song called “Space Race” was barbed with strong lyrics such as: “You’re so do or die you’re going to download my soul/ we’re no oil paintings but now our backs are up against the wall” – A generational hit against the plastic state of things? A look into a troubled relationship? I couldn’t tell you. At the time though these words made perfect sense.
The virtuoso drummer kicked out break beats while the sonic-youth/anything goes style guitarists lurched between sweet dream pop and scrapheap explosion. I found out after the show that the band had managed to completely break up three guitars during this show with these antics… Not bad in a half hour set!
Despite the 1000 watt energy and the trashed guitars GFJM and their scene are not all angst like their Seattle forebears. Gold Future Joy Machine – as their name suggests- have beats that are there to make you dance and a playful light touch with melody. There sweeter side was personified at one side of the stage by their sleek mixed-race angel, who looked like a honey-coloured Francois Hardy in torn rock-chick chic .She added Beach Boys style harmonies to johnny’s soaring vocal and did not stop dancing for one second. It seems like GFJM even have their own Nico – except their one can really sing.
The midpointsong was called “Holy Roller”, and was in my mind the most underdeveloped song in an other wise top class display of songwriting. It felt like an MGMT remix of My Bloody Valentine and too much like “the now” rather than the wonderful future promise that is in the rest of the songs. But the drummer and Johnny the singer still managed to give it enough verve and soul to roll us into a final lightening storm of the last tunes. These were littered with punked up synth loops and knife sharp lyrics- my favourite lines coming in the encore – “the agony and the ecstasy. became the agony aunt and the ecstacy dealer.” A fitting send off for a totally refreshing show.
Agony and Ecstacy? Yes. Joy Machine? Definitely. Grunge and East London Dance Music? All there…as well as a load of psyched up Punk-Funk and Motown Soul thrown in for good measure. How do you explain this sound? Gold Future Joy Machine seem by design or accident to be on the brink of something. They’ve got their finger firmly on the raw nerve of the outsiders and the lost ones of a new generation and a new sound to give them hope. They really are that on it. they really are that important. But will they have a Gold Future? This band are special: and in a way that’s my worry. The case seems to be with fresh things (as what happened to the East London Grime and with Grunge too) this scene will be become labelled, copied and exploited. With the industry the way it is you can almost see the train crash coming between the irresistable force of GFJM and the immovable force of an industry that seems to have lost its head to an extent it will jump at anything to make some cash. It will be fascinating to see what happens, whether GFJM will be at the forefront of a backlash against the x factor winners, cold play impersonators and gaga popettes or whether this band and its scene will be forced by an army of pet shop boys to spread its roots subterraneanly. Whatever happens, like the band it will make good watching.
Gold Future Joy Machine, don’t play perfect sets yet: they are too newly formed and too punk in attitude. If you want that effortless slickness and melodic skill a ticket to see Cold play is still your best bet. But GFJM have something that I haven’t seen in years. They’ll remind you of what we seem to have forgotten about rock ‘n’ roll: that in the right hands it has the power to inspire and express things that other ways feel unsaid. I don’t think you can ask anything more of a live band than that.