Though fast approaching predictable status as the support band for every psych/garage/freakbeat show betwixt Medway and the metropolis, the Fallen Leaves, as ever resplendent in their trademark mixture of military garb and chap chic, are never less then entertaining: ebullient, cool as cucumbers, and with a we-don’t-give-a-fuck-if-we-make-it-or-not-but-we’re-going-to-entertain-you-anyway attitude that one can’t help but find endearing, they’re the ideal opener for tonight’s ptolemaic ptriumvirate. By comparison, Forefathers/Prime Movers bassist Allan Crockford’s stylish beat combo Galileo 7 are far more subtle in their onstage approach: yet they’re every bit as watchable, and whilst it’s undeniably the same old fuzz’n’Farfisa Brit garage we’ve all seen a dozen times before, the numbers (both originals and covers) are easily memorable enough to make you go and see it all over again a month later. Which, no doubt, I’ll probably end up doing…
Proving that sometimes, there’s more to a name than just a name, the Indigo Children are, no word of a lie, actual children: well, teenagers anyway, and barely young enough to even stand near the Half Moon’s fully licensed premises, far less perform in them. Averaging around 14 or 15 years in age, this four-boy, one-girl group of multinational head-manglers not only look like, but are, living proof that the true unhinged spirit of rock n roll is still, even in dull-as-ditchwater 2016, alive and well: precisely how they found each other (through the international Aspergers society perhaps, as that’s the precise definition of an ‘indigo child’) is more unclear, but the moment they take to the venue’s infamous triangular stage to back their crazed Scando-psychedelic mentor, their first true vocation has already presented itself. Tight yet loose, focused yet unfocussed, their playing both underscores and decorates perfectly their frontman’s anguished, throaty croon: quite an achievement, really, when one considers that the bass player (allegedly) only joined last week.
It’s been a fair old while since Ebbot Lundberg last trod a London stage. After 17 years of never quite achieving the success they deserved outside their homeland, the barnstorming combo with which he cemented his reputation, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives (itself evolving from the primal screeching garage of Union Carbide Productions, possibly the closest, other than Buckinghamshire mindfuckers Thee Hypnotics, that anyone ever came to replicating the crazed rock’n’roll-meets-Sun Ra sound of the Stooges circa Funhouse) finally bade goodbye with an incendiary performance at Heaven in the summer of 2012: in the intervening years, both he and all other ex-members (barring bassist Matthias Bjared, who released one classic hard rock album under the name Free Fall then promptly ‘vanished like an old oak table’) have been disconcertingly quiet. And though new album For The Ages To Come is actually his sophomore solo release, you could almost have been forgiven for thinking he’d disappeared off the face of the earth completely.
Thankfully, old psych-heads don’t disappear, they just float into the ether for a while, then return- and that’s precisely what Ebbot has done. And by God has it invigorated and re-energised him. Though new songs like Backdrop People, I See Forever and Calling From Heaven (the latter an English-language reworking of a tres-obscure Latin freakbeat number) and For The Ages itself all appear quite mellow on the album, which fans will be pleased to hear hasn’t deviated too far from ‘Love-meets-the Moody-Blues-in-the-Stone- Roses- back-garden-whilst- Bacharach- conducts’ style perfected on latterday TSOOL releases, live, they’re a different beast entirely: heavier, scratchier, more chaotic, breaking into scurrying, chittering flurries of improvisation before rising into mass crescendos of feedback and sonic bliss. Not content with merely handling lead vocals, Ebbot regularly invades the keyboardist and the angel-faced drummer’s personal spaces, creating near-organised chaos in the process: on the other hand, he also allows them to periodically invade his microphone, which is evident proof that egalitarianism is also a still-flourishing entity on the Gothenburg music scene. We could do well to learn by example.
And though recent YouTube footage shows Lundberg standing quite stoically, acoustic around neck, tonight, he’s having none of that: within three numbers, he’s literally everywhere, left, right and centre stage and (perhaps inevitably) off it entirely, preaching and testifying like the same lunatic I first saw at Cargo in 2001. A considerable feat, especially for a man currently suffering a broken collarbone- but then again we are talking about possibly the greatest rock frontman Europe has produced in the last 25 years, a man who, though he may not be blessed with a technically perfect vocal range, can evoke more melancholy, anger, joy and sheer energy within two lines than a dozen pitch-perfect wailers can within an entire gig. To paraphrase another great bandleader of wilfully unconventional ability; he means it, man.
Sure, there’s always the worry that as with Buster Bloodvessel before him, our hero’s ample frame (which he’s not above showing off a few times either, unbuttoning his monk-like tunic for a brief voyeuristic gape during an astounding reworking of the Floyd’s Arnold Layne) may eventually lead to health difficulties, but not tonight: besides, these days, 50 is the new 40, and I still defy any younger performer to demonstrate what Putney is witnessing right now. Also, because the show is here rather than in some Godawful Hackney hipster hellhole, it undeniably feels more special: in its 60-plus years of existence, this legendary South-West London venue has played host to every nascent scene from trad to skiffle through the beat boom, the blues boom, psych, prog, pub, punk and indie rock, and so it only feels right that this grizzled madman of post-punk, post-psych, post-hippie, post-everything Scando rock’n’roll and his enfants terribles should follow in those footsteps.
If the scenesters miss out because the postcode doesn’t have E or SE in it, then fuck ‘em- after all, this bloke was sporting a Haight Ashbury hairdo and a ginormous beard long before they were even out of short trousers (which some of them still wear) and will probably still be doing so in another decade when they’re all married and living in some faux-urban mortgage trap off the back of Springfield Park marina. And he’s got better taste in music, as both his own compositions (the creepily minimalist Little Big Thing) his choice of old Union Carbide tunes (the aptly-titled Glad To Have You Back) and his continually unconventional taste in covers (the pummelling, dirge-like Don’t Blow Your Mind, sourced from the pre-Alice Cooper garage days of one Vincent Furnier of Phoenix, AZ) demonstrate.
He couldn’t possibly finish, though, without a few nods to that band- and so it’s with the ringing, banshee-like wails of Second Life Replay – surely the most life-affirming song ever written on the subject of suicide- that the main set reaches its jagged, thunderous conclusion, followed by two further, suitably elegiac Soundtracks encores in You Are The Beginning (dedicated to both the audience and his new band) and The Passover. By the end, he looks shattered- but only in the way we all are when we know we’ve achieved our intended aim beyond our wildest dreams. On this day, with the unexpectedly perplexing result of the referendum looming large in the minds of everyone- not least of all a band of travelling Europeans- something truly other-worldly was required to lift the Half Moon’s battered spirits: thank fuck, the spaceship landed, piloted by one of its few true remaining captains. Bomfuckingshankar.