Playing the delectably snug Bongos Club, Frank Carter and his punk troupe, The Rattlesnakes, take on Edinburgh at the beginning of a November to December pre-album tour. Characterised by stomping power chords and Carter’s spitting and screaming vocal style, the group have revitalised a relatively stagnant punk genre.
Crescendoing a late January sophomore album release, the band blend new hits like ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Lullaby’ into their usual set, as well as debuting a few new songs such as ‘Modern Ruin’ and ‘Jackals.’ For older fans, it’s a nice mix of comfort and refreshment; for newer fans like myself, it’s encouraging to see a two-year-old band unafraid to experiment in this competitive environment.
I was fortunate enough to interview Frank Carter himself, an incredibly talented musician and performer of Gallows and Pure Love fame. After a painstakingly long wait through sound-checks (whilst I sat in fearful anticipation of what this encounter with this musical idol would be liked), he stepped through the door, hiding within the shadow of his own oversized Rattlesnakes hoodie. Shaking hands and thanking him for his time (a routine I’d rehearsed on the bus journey on the way over), I was astounded by his polite and chilled demeanour; as any Rattlesnakes fan will know, Carter’s stage presence is visceral and captivatingly intense, so having this sharp contrast to the man I’d watched mosh on Youtube was understandably confusing. “I’ve played Edinburgh in all of my bands that I’ve been in, but more importantly I love the city,” he shared. It’s uncommon for bands to play Edinburgh over Glasgow but the latter has been left out of this tour, the band instead only performing this sold-out gig and another night in Aberdeen on the 4th before heading down south. “We’re returning to Scotland in March, playing in Glasgow,” he states, the tour being announced in the coming weeks.
He begins to explain the reasoning behind the latest single ‘Lullaby,’ which had a video release last week. Dwelling upon the importance of sleep, he told me, “I had my infant daughter in my arms, I was rocking her to sleep singing a Nirvana song, and she fell asleep with a smile on her face, it made everything better. It had been a few months at this, she wasn’t really sleeping – you don’t realise how important sleep is until you haven’t had it, and it’s bad enough not sleeping one night in the week but not sleeping for months on end is crazy, so I have the hugest respect for all parents.” The video hence parallels this, showing a nightmarish inversion of Carter as a reflection of his sleep-deprived self. He describes filming the entire video upside-down, something which is, on an initial viewing, barely noticeable, but on reflection it certainly explains why the video is so unsettling: “Some people see it and they’re like ‘something doesn’t feel right about this video’ and when we explain how we shot it they’re like ‘that’s fucking mental.’”
The second album, Modern Ruin, is themed on human relationships: “It’s about the relationships between our loved ones, our family and our friends, our enemies, and also strangers, the relationships we have with people we don’t know, both in close relationships or as spectators. I think at the time, there was a lot of war in the news and in magazines, on the TV, in the papers, and this thing that I was seeing, countries bombing innocent civilians and these people they were turning around and going to those countries with their hands held up, looking for help, and these same countries were turning them away, and I kind of felt like I was doing a lot of that to my family.” In the debut album, Blossom, there are similar themes; in ‘Trouble,’ Carter laments the burning of a pilot, whereas in ‘I Hate You,’ arguably their most popular song, he dictates a very personal response to that ‘special someone.’
The theme of human relationships is illuminated at the concert itself, where Frank has fashioned this wonderfully intimate relationship with his fanbase. From the opening track, it’s clear to see what Carter expects from the audience; bodies are immediately thrown in the air, stage-diving alongside the frontman in this claustrophobic space. He spits the lyrics into the faces of his adoring fans, encouraging them to form a ring around the perimeter of the gig and create ahuge mosh pit, and in this frustratingly tiny space, it’s equally exciting and frustrating. It’s perhaps not very ‘punk’ of me but I was far more concerned with the stage-divers banging their heads on the low ceiling but they were definitely not as distressed as I was. Equally, the show is almost so focussed on jumping and rocking that sometimes the actual music is lost, Carter unable to sing the words as he is sails across this sea of bodies.
After an initial powerhouse of songs, Carter demands the entire audience to sit down. Obeying his command, they ponder on his profound silence, before passionately dedicates ‘Beautiful Death’ to a lost relative. It’s an incredibly contrasting moment and for that reason it’s wonderfully poignant. There is an ultimate silence at the end which Carter disrupts: “I have always claimed that we hace the best, the most intelligent fans. You guys are equally savage and respectful.” There is a mutual respect between audience and performer, and the room descends into the usual chaos.
In another fantastic moment, he encourages stage diving with one rule: woman only. He explains that woman have been excluded from this for fear of sexual harassment; it’s incredibly topical and beautifully reassuring. He threatens “any piece of shit that touches you inappropriately will have to deal with me,” and in fairness, this entirely works; watching the flying women, the supporting body below is respectful and encouraging. By the end of the song, there’s about a dozen or so figures on stage, not including the band, and as they try to take selfies, Carter not so politely tells them to get the expletive of his stage.
There are some great songs, notably the two new singles, plus debut ‘Modern Ruin’ and fan-favourites ‘Devil Inside Me,’ ‘Juggernaut,’ and ‘Trouble.’ He closes the set humbly, dedicating the closer ‘I Hate You’ to that “special someone in your life who just does your head in.” Before the lyrics start, the band hold a suspended chord, Carter reminding his audience, “and just remember that you are probably that special person to someone too.” Frank is then carried from the stage all the way to the merchandise stand where he is presumably still standing in an endless loop of taking selfies and signing autographs. I should reflect on the lyrics of this closing song; the audience chant, “I fucking hate you, and I wish you would die. It makes me violently angry just to see you alive. You’re a fucking mistake, you’re an embarrassment mate, you think you’re funny and you’re clever but you’re just a disgrace.” I can’t conjure up an easier way to summarise the performance.
Guest Reviewer: Luke Morley