The first word I could think of to describe what I witnessed last night at London’s Hoxton Square was “ferocious.” Maybe it was how much sweat dripped from every pore of frontman Joseph D’Agostino’s body. Perhaps it was the immense distorted noise that filled the small standing area for the majority of every song. Then again, maybe it was the way D’Agostino strummed each chord with such fierce rage; the faces he made as he did it. If his guitar were a person, that person would not be a very happy person. That thing got ravaged. This in addition to the fender jazzmaster being covered in D’Agostino’s sweat by set’s end.
A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that the very man who fronts the band who’s live show I could only label as “ferocious” goes by the name Joseph Ferocious. Go figure. A stupid nickname that may be the truest descriptor of this band’s fury. Joseph is Ferocious. And so are the rest of Cymbals Eat Guitars.
Soaring through picks from their debut album and a few new tracks, Cymbals Eat Guitars brought both the noise and the funk. Well, maybe not so much funk, but it was damn noisy, that’s for sure. The interesting thing about Cymbals Eat Guitars is that this could be a soft, melodic band if it wanted to. Their quieter moments are some of their best. The band, however, chooses not to steer this course. In between fluttery fingerpicked melodies, the band goes truly apeshit. No matter how nice it can sound at the start, it always ends in a fight. And they don’t like to give your ears too many breaks. D’Agostino has a gentle voice when he wants to, but he’s more prone to screaming his dick off. The latter is where a lot of his ferocity comes from.
Each song last night had bits of both sides of the coin, but I wouldn’t describe any moment of the show as quiet. This was a show for earplugs or, if you didn’t have any, for bloody ears. “…And the Hazy Sea” was a harmony laden thrasher, alternating between soft melody and explosive noise rock. It was hard to tell where this massive noise all came from, but the fuzzy keyboards seem to be one of the culprits, since there was only one guitar accounting for the rest. But yes, loud definitely comes to mind. Even their cover of Elliott Smith’s “The Ballad of Big Nothing” was heavy. You cannot cage this animal.
But the noise was well received, because it was a thrill to watch it unravel. The songs that stand out on the record sounded even better live, with volatile moments really sounding, and for that matter looking, the way they should. Watching D’Agostino play his guitar with such great proficiency and viciousness is a treat enough. He flies through great Doug Martsch-esque solos before he tries to set the record for number of strums in a minute. The faces he makes are also priceless. He could give John Mayer a run for his money, without a doubt. But he’s allowed to look ridiculous, because he plays as good as the best.
By the end of the set, D’Agostino had removed a few layers to reveal a drenched t-shirt. He looked exhausted, as well he should have been. During the final song, his guitar stopped working. He dropped it, grabbed the mic stand, and started beating it against the ground. He finished the song in passionate screams, thanked the audience, and dropped the mic on the ground next to its disassembled friend. Like I said before, these guys are ferocious.