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Psycho Comedy

Welcome To Smashville @ The Royal Standard 7/7/18

It was somewhere on the rails between Oriel Road and New Strand that the concept of Smashville begins to make sense beyond the entry point of music, poetry and art. Somewhere within this seeming normality we half exist in a concept of our own design. For Shaun Powell, PSYCHO COMEDY frontman, his concept may seem far out. Smashville is an unapologetic nod to Ray-Ban-tinted views of apartment blocks, yellow cabs flickering by like film reel and an urban rhythm, continuously rumbling below the manhole covers. We all escape. It’s that some of us bear an introspective perception worth projecting onto the walls we face on a daily basis. The inward musings of a well-recited train ride aren’t one; the elaborate curation of Smashville is.

Tonight, The Royal Standard is a whiteboard, and Psycho Comedy are there to point us through their collective art as though algebraic equations chalked up for the attendees to decipher. This is quite literal in certain parts, with Powell feverishly waving his hands in acknowledgement of the cold, calm image of Patti Smith beamed behind the band as they take the stage in performance space one.

First, however, the performance is eased in with the help of a well-devised installation by Sophia Duff. Dotted around the room are collections of the band’s photographs and a Warhol-esque silent projection centred around the societal constant of Coca-Cola. One collection that stands out shows a trip up the coast to be amongst the insincere lights of Southport’s Funland. There resides an unhinged madness, as the band put it, akin to Coney Island’s Luna Park. It’s through this collection of images that the notion of artificial perception begins to mushroom. Smashville isn’t so far out and lost. These trips to the seaside are the necessary escapes for minds bombarded and desensitised by 70 years of pop-culture consumerism. Smashville is simply a playground self-devised and half-lived beyond the artificial hours spent in towns such as Southport. Alongside, the responsorial prayer styled chorus of First Cousin, Once Removed, sprawled on pinned up paper, rings through the head as the first lines of poetry read by Matthew Thomas Smith and Powell rise from the main performance space.

To follow, a film shot by Caitlin Mongan delves into hazy depictions of Chinatown and serves as a prelude to the band’s musical fibres. As Psycho Comedy assemble, the film is replaced with punchy aphorisms beamed onto the rear of the level grounded stage. “This Country’s On Its Arse” interjects between images of the Ramones, The Velvet Underground and Patti Smith, which sit behind as though formative shadows of the band’s musical lineage.

The set chugs along with the band’s resident poet, Matthew Thomas Smith, wavering in and out of the performance. He serves as a rhetorical question in his brief appearances, offering a sharp injection of composure – similar to Ian Curtis’ House Of Dolls monologue on No Love Lost. There’s no real peak or dip in the performance; just a continuous rumble that counts out the hurried minutes spent in Smashville. Breathless, almost.

It’s intriguing to watch a band that constantly balances on a knife-edge. At any moment, it seems, Psycho Comedy could begin a meteoric rise, or renounce its art and plaster over all that was Smashville in order start anew. The uncertainty of untimely destruction brings a compelling urgency to their music. Who can say when the Psycho Comedy bus could roll along the dusty tracks away from Smashville and towards the next town. It’s best you catch the band’s live exploits soon or risk being left behind.

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