National Prayer Breakfast, Dudley Corporation & El Diablo
Review of their gig in Whelan's, Dublin, Aug 16th 2001
Tonight, El Diablo is a band stripped to its bones. Gone are the drums, and gone is the bass. It's back to just three people and two guitars. The affect this has is to lend their set a sweet intimacy that few acts can duplicate. The facets of El Diablo that endeared them to pretty much everyone when they released their first single "Bellies With Gold" are returned to the fore now that they have only a soft acoustic and a shimmering slide guitar to hide behind. Patrick Freynes' bassy baritone wobbles the floor boards while Anna Carey's dulcet tones scrape the roof leaving us sandwiched between two voices that are worlds apart but perfectly in key. Lovely.
The Dudley Corporation, by contrast, couldn't sound less like their recorded selves if they tried. Really, playing live doesn't suit what they do, given that it's the little details of their material that set them apart and these are so easily lost in the cover-all fuzz of a distortion pedal. The drum fills fizz with an almost Green Day like intensity and Dudley suddenly and unexpectedly howls like a man possessed at regular intervals. Thankfully, there's enough ingenuity in the songs to ensure that the Dudley Corporation never quite sail in to punk territory, but they certainly showed a further side of themselves.
Lock up his daughters everyone, it's Paul Clancy and he's alluding to incest. Yes the NPB have taken the stage and they're promoting their recent 10" "This Is My Happening" Paul, his drums having survived the earlier onslaught, is currently singing "Black Chevy part 2." It is a sign that the NPB have been around for a while when you can compare their "Old Stuff" to their "New Stuff." Their pop instincts have been eschewed somewhat and their gigs now have more of a John Spencer feel to them.
Songs blend into each other and build up and up, rather than go from verse to chorus to verse. There's a country vibe to the new material. Long funky jams appear in the middle of songs, the kind of thing that you'd hear on songs like the Pixies "No. 13 Baby." On some songs, in particular the standout "You You You", Patrick Freyne (him again) elects to testify like a Pentecostal preacher rather than sing. And let me tell you, when that hairy man screams "I can't take it anymore" you half expect him to whip out a straight razor from behind his fretboard and end it there and then.
Add to the mix a bucket load of wit, a swagger to their stage presence and an Elvis cover and you end up with a unique schtick to go with the tunes. Not that they ever ripped anyone off, but NPB can now add a singular originality to their impressive CV.