Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Live | 9 May 1987

The Wirrina, Peterborough

"Applaud. Appreciate me or I'm gonna to walk off the stage. I'm feeling very emotional."

This kind of show may seem to be about as emotional as a cold Soho striptease, but it's not only a question of naked chests. The weakness endured by every performer, a reliance on the fickle whims of an audience, is one that Zodiac Mindwarp is particularly susceptible to. He needs reassurance, a tangible response to his love, and he is unable to provoke anything more than a faint grumble of fascination from this two-thirds empty sports hall.

Tonight's set includes genuinely exciting slashes – the gruff and nonsense of "High Priest of Love", "Psychoactive" and "Prime Mover" – and the likes of "Bad City Girl" and "Break The Law", dull anthems as safe as a condom is, safer even than celibacy. Such an appraisal of songs is utterly inappropriate, though. Because every note, every word, the blinding flash of strobes and searchlights, the ham-fisted attempt at slap bass, the teeth against the strings, the flesh, the leather, the filth, the big, bad loudness – oh, so much to see and hear and taste and smell – are designed to physically disabled the senses.

Zodiac could be the bravest scout for the space marine elite. Or he could be a pillock. He could be an orgasmic headfuck. Or a fatal brain clot. Defying all norms, all logic, he is each of these at exactly the same time, and it is hard to reach any kind of half-sensible conclusion without being reduced or raised to his extraordinary levels.

The thing is, which way to turn?

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