Hunger

22 March 2019, Common Room, Hastings
Review by Michael Hawksworth

Hunger are Christoph Rothmeier and Jörg Hochapfel, a drums and keyboards duo based in Berlin that by some kink of McFate are playing in a Hastings bar. Not that they’re some German pop phenomenon – far from it. Oh so far from it. And yet, and yet. Maybe they just conceivably could be if they got their shit together. But they won’t. As Christoph points out, a core strategy in the band’s song-writing process is to play against each other. Mutually assured sabotage that somehow coheres into an inversion of any given rock cliché (that Booker T-ish riff still just recognisable despite sustaining significant injuries); anti-muso musicianship.

It’s art rock. That term usually evokes visions of some freeform improvisational combo testing audience endurance by hammering a one-note riff for 15 minutes. Hunger did that, but only for 2 minutes before breaking abruptly into the trashiest mis-performance of MOR white funk. Hunger are collagists, probably more likely to be attracted to music they don’t like in order to cobble together their dysfunctional patchworks. The clunky 3-legged grooves are constantly breaking down or being interrupted by bizarrely sentimental interludes.

I’m reminded at times of The Residents’ queerly mutated pop – as if the Monkees had been secretly replaced by undead Dadaists. But at the same time, there’s a knowing irony, an expert splicing of pop tropes that you’d hear in Ariel Pink or Frank Zappa. Not that the irony is simply cruel – in one song, the lyrical refrain runs “It hurts, like brand new shoes” to a 70’s FM rock pastiche that has developed an impressively pronounced rhythmic limp. The refrain, explains Christoph, was lifted from Sade’s “Pearls”, and resets the pathos of the original within a new, tellingly lo-fi context.

But next thing you know, the song’s been flattened by a blundering New York house rhythm. It’d be dance music if it found its groove. But it won’t.

There’s not a big audience for Hunger at the Common Room tonight. But those, like myself that were intrigued enough to check them out by the “Faulty Disco Punk!” tagline, are completely entertained and in awe of their absurdist nerve. And good old Common Room, still blithely booking weirdcore acts like this. Best pop gig of the year so far.

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