Working Mens Club were on when I entered the building. At least that’s what I think they were called; the lead vocalist is a bit of a mumbler.
Watneys Red Barrel was on sale at the bar for 2/6d a pint, along with Woodbines in packets of 10. Darts, dominoes and cribbage were available and you could sign up for the pigeon fanciers’ annual trip to Southport. Chance would be a fine thing.
They’re a local band which formed out of student classes at Manchester’s BIMM College, and their female guitarist/backing vocalist (who may be Italian) made me think of 1960s and Woodstock star Melanie, partly for her looks and partly for her laid back delivery. I can best describe them by asking you to imagine a Limiñanas 45 rpm vinyl single played at 33 rpm. Then right at the end they changed gear and for five minutes they were The Limiñanas. Et voilà!
By necessity this must be a short appraisal because The Limiñanas were reviewed in these pages at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester only eight months ago; and also because my pen ran out of ink so no notes were taken. So I’ll focus on what makes them such a great live band. The 80-minute 21-song set, played virtually without a break or any bons mots from the band members, seemed to be over in a flash and I’m certain they’d have gone on longer still if it wasn’t for the 11pm curfew. They’d played four more in Amsterdam the previous evening.
The Limiñanas are of course the Perpignan-based duo Lionel and Marie Limiñana. Lionel holds it all together as team captain while Marie, who takes centre stage, thrashes her three-drum, no cymbals or hi-hat kit for all it’s worth, occasionally contributing to vocals. That thrashing is in a constant – no, permanent – 4/4 time signature, there’s no fancy Dan 9/8 or whatever from The Limiñanas, and with an energy level that suggests the very latest lithium battery has been inserted into her derriere. Either that or she’s consumed a Jéroboam of Red Bull. But then that goes for all of them. What do they put in the water in Perpignan? I’d like to see a few buckets in my local reservoir.
The duo would be a fascinating live act in their own right but it’s the motley crew of five who join them for tours who catch your attention. Somehow all seven were again crammed onto the stage where they become a guitar orchestra, with often five of them being played quite violently at once. Nobody knows who these five are. Perhaps they are extended family and they are all Limiñanas, or like The Ramones they’ve adopted the name.
They include a guy I dubbed Hannibal Lecter in the previous review, I’ll call him the Mad Scientist this time. He stands at the back, twisting himself into impossible shapes while eliciting unearthly sounds from guitar, keyboards and something he was blowing on that I can’t even describe.
Another is the most beautiful tambourine player in the world, Brigitte Gall as I called her last time (or was it France Bardot?), who also sang much more than she did at the Soup Kitchen, grâce à Dieu. She stands stage left while her opposite, (male) number is on the far right, looking like a bearded fugitive from the 1968 Paris Riots. The two have been compared to Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg and who am I to argue?
Then there’s a guy who plays guitar and keys sideways-on as if there’s another audience out on Oxford Road watching through a window. It’s a visual feast.
Song #17 of the evening – ‘Mother Sky (CAN)’:
Musically they’re garage, psych, shoegaze and a bit of 1960s yé-yé, rolled up in their unique Gitane and inhaled deeply. There’s a lot of distortion and reverb. They’re loud. Early influences on Lio and Marie were film score composers like John Barry and Ennio Morricone along with French noir films and you can sense those stimuli, too. It’s what only the French can do. Montmatre meets la Rive Gauche meets Nanterre and St Denis. The musical incarnation of the gilets jaunes.
They threw a couple of covers in, as they usually do. Ironically, a favourite, Them’s ‘Gloria’, the final number, was the most melodic song of the evening. The Limiñanas don’t really do tunes; you certainly won’t be humming them on the way home. There’s little in the way of syncopation and everyone seems to be playing the same thing. It’s simply hard, driving French rock, non-stop and in perpetual motion. Forget Gloria, it’s glorious.
Vive l’Entente Cordiale!