Giant Drag – review

Borderline, London
Annie Hardy's wry fatalism lifts her set – along with her knack of giggling dizzily through inevitable despair

"There isn't time to tell you everything that's happened in the past seven years," says Giant Drag's Annie Hardy, puffing an electronic cigarette and speaking in a grizzled baby-doll croak that suggests she hammers through 30 a day. It seems there have been further hardships in the gap since she emerged as the "white trash" poster girl of new grunge catharsis in 2003, toting harrowing slabs of spite-pop revenge called You Fuck Like My Dad. Like a withered Courtney Love, she slotted instantly into that cult-like category of artists – Kristin Hersh, PJ Harvey, Conor Oberst – using filthy, febrile indie rock as exorcism, therapy and confessional. She was a JT LeRoy heroine, wielding a barbed guitar to fend off the fist-kisses, the damaged inner child we're all expected to keep hidden. We adored her almost as self-protection.

In the near silence since her 2005 debut album Hearts and Unicorns, there has been pain – Hardy suffers from the agonising muscle disorder fibromyalgia – and she returns for this fan-funded Giant Drag farewell tour fronting a local band she only met a week ago and bearing a wry fatalism: the tour is "going just good enough for an ironic death". But her knack of giggling dizzily through inevitable despair lifts a set that could otherwise drown in dourness. Between desperate oil-smoke rock songs, ragged howls for help such as Stuff To Live For and My Dick Sux, she babbles about her guitarist's flatulence, states "I think I have a gay man inside me," bitches about ex-boyfriends and proves it's possible to simultaneously play drums and guitar during an acoustic request segment resembling a wobbly Laura Marling.

Disco-flecked tracks from new album Waking Up Is Hard To Do seem better adjusted; the playful Do It is possessed by the spirit of Joan Jett, while We Like the Weather displays a (gasp!) sunny disposition. Plugging next week's "Giant Drag funeral show", she also claims she'll soon be back. Perhaps it's just the moniker she's burying, and all the anguish it represents.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #Iwasthere


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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