In 2008 Mindless Self Indulgence Released ‘If’ and hit the charts in both the UK and the USA thanks to praise-filled reviews in a wide variety of the music press and a vocal fan-base that seemed to be expanding well beyond all expectation. The band’s genre-mashing, furiously entertaining, crazily unique music makes for remarkable entertainment, particularly in the live environment and thus it seems particularly perverse that having made such headway the band would more-or-less go on hiatus for four years. Not that MSI totally disappeared. 2010 saw the release of an autobiographical comic book detailing the band’s outrageous tour stories, whilst in 2011 the band’s near mythical debut ‘Tight’ was re-released with a slew of extras and suitably fluorescent packaging. The announcement that the band were active once more was greeted with near-hysterical behaviour by MSI’s fans and while four years is more than enough time to kill some bands it seems that the fans in this case had been quietly nurturing their love of the band, simply waiting for the next opportunity to spike their hair, apply some make up and go wild, no matter to what age group they belongs. And so, on a cold October evening, a casual glance at the outside of the O2 Academy reveals an impatient, excited crowd waiting to witness the return to the stage of Jimmy Urine, Steve Righ?, Lyn-Z and Kitty.
There are actually three bands playing tonight (although for many in the audience there is only one) with the first being UK-based synth-punks The Dead betas. An inspired choice for a support act the Dead Betas operate in a grittier, more straight-forward punk-infused atmosphere than MSI, but the synth elements keep them in a similar field and their lyrical wit is refreshingly incisive. The crowd are clearly spoiling for action, and over a short set the Dead Betas make a lot of new friends in the audience, both young and old… and if you haven’t checked out ‘chav chant’ yet on youtube, well, you’re missing out.
The same cannot be said for Taking Hayley whose inexplicable appearance on the bill can only be the work of a person who hates music, MSI fans or both. Despite an incongruous synth-laden intro which saw the sub-bass overpower every other instrument on stage,Taking Hayley play the sort of airy pop-punk that provided the soundtrack to American Pie, with an arrogance that is entirely at odds with their lack of musical invention. It has to be noted that there were a fair few fans of the band in the crowd and they were far from unpopular, but with clichéd melodies and lyrics aimed squarely at the teen-rebellion market, Taking Hayley offer nothing for SonicAbuse apart from a headache and a desire to set fire to the stage.
That leaves it to MSI to set the crowd alight, and this they do with a devilish glee that sees the crowd go wild from the moment the band take the stage. It is clear from the very first moment that MSI are delighted to be on stage and performing for such a hungry crowd and the effervescent Jimmy Urine, sporting a black Mohican these days, doesn’t so much take the stage as barge onto it, his skinny frame barely able to contain the scattershot lyrics and gloriously offensive jokes that make up the set. Very intense musically, very funny generally and very American, MSI are a day-glo clash of vibrant colours, foul-mouthed humour and guitar driven rock that neatly combines the Beastie Boys, Marilyn Manson, Pitchshifter and the Bloodhound gang into one comic-book worshipping unit of fearsome power. There is quite literally never a dull moment while MSI are on the stage, whether it is Lyn-Z bending over backwards whilst playing the bass; Steve Righ? Sending mic stands flying every few seconds or taking a stroll around the crowd; or Jimmy, the mad master of ceremonies, demanding love (“not too much – no commitment”), ties and make-up (“you people are too ugly not to have make up!”), or simply playing the plastic surgery game (it transpires only a few of the audience in Birmingham are in need of said surgical procedure). It is funny, often hysterically so, and this cartoon clownishness is all stitched together with the band’s ADHD anthems of chaos, the most remarkable thing being the audience’s encyclopaedic knowledge of nearly every lyric Jimmy unleashes.
Musically the band are tight as hell, their unconcerned demeanour hiding the fact that, for all their goofiness, they are capable of stop-on-a-dime dynamics and genre-bending sound-pile-ups that may sound deceptively simple, but which require a good deal of ability to pull off well. Steve Righ?’s guitars grind and snarl, Kitty’s drums are on the money every time even with Jimmy’s skinny ass hovering above her face as he stands atop her bass drum, and Lyn-Z’s bass lines rumble through the venue threatening to produce a brown note even whilst she tears across the stage a mass of hair, make-up and a huge smile that speaks volumes about the band’s oft-stated love of touring.
You will see more proficient bands than MSI, more serious bands than MSI but it is highly unlikely you’ll see a band more stupidly, more endearingly entertaining than MSI. Intelligent for all their brash humour, musically proficient despite a studied insouciance that suggests they’re entirely unconcerned with such things and clearly in love with each other, the audience and being on stage, MSI are just fun and in these oh-so-very-serious days of recession and day-to-day drama it is refreshing to witness a band who make every show a spectacle and every gig an event. Roll on the next MSI album, the world may not be ready for it, but the band’s fans certainly are.