When there’s so much new music out there, live recordings and compilations seem a little superfluous. Of course, there are always exceptions and this is where End Now enter the picture. For starters, as the title suggests, Half Live only consists of four live cuts, with the other five being recorded at various stages during the Geordie noise-rock outfit’s short existence from 2010 to 2012.
Classed as “actively inactive”, End Now were a band that never took themselves seriously. Airs and graces were never a part of their make-up as vocalist, Stu Ellen; guitarist Peter Burn (both of Marzuraan); bassist Jerome (whose surname continues to elude us); and drummer, Graham Thompson (Ballpeen; Jinn; Grace; Jimmy Floyd Hasselbind) – one of five drummers during the band’s two year existence – seemed to see music as a by-product of just being around with your mates and having a good time.
With the linage of Touch & Go prominent within the End Now remit, the band injected their own local flavour from the culturally fertile period of the ’90s underground.
And it’s all on show during Half Live, which kicks off with Agnes – a song that’s like scrapping your knuckle through the dirt. A squalling noise-rock hammer blow that sounds like Helmet throwing haymakers at Unwound, as Ellen unfurls the kind of grimy poeticism inspired by Pete Simonelli. Gazing into eyes and fucking against walls, Ellen unveils the sordid themes of both Enablers and Scratch Acid’s She Said.
Tearplugs follows, and like a 12.30 kick-off, here we find a band rolling into soundcheck far too early, as End Now combine a Carling-infused downer-rock sprawl with the rumbling assault of Mission Of Burma.
This continues alongside the Unwound-inspired anxious maelstrom that is Iris. Feeding into the sense of humour somewhat ignored these days in the noise-rock brethren, End Now tell a story of old bloke (Albert), shooting a councillor in the rear as the whole scene is broadcast to a nation. Kitchen sink drama or perhaps an episode of Monty Python on the psychedelics. Here End Now produced the kind of locality that separated them from being ‘just another post-hardcore or noise-rock band’.
As Lifter and the Failure cover Princess see End Now giving it the Shellac treatment, this feeds into the live recordings, and while renditions of Tearplugs and Agnes finish the record strong, it’s Iris II that is the Half Live’s shining beacon.
With Ellen projecting expletives to some punter who’s probably been a casualty of some mosh pit madness, Iris II is a revelation. Part anthemic, part chaos (“It’s hard to be loved when you’re out of love “) it’s the sound of shattered glass amid an all-in brawl inside some backwater boozer.
So live albums and compilations. They aren’t all that bad, really. Certainly not as tedious as that extra bonus disc of demos or ‘alternative takes’. However, with the strength of these recordings, End Now could have released a few and still come away with the win. Maybe next time, perhaps? For now, though, this is really something to sink your fangs into.
Half Live is out now via Cruel Nature. Purchase from Bandcamp.