Lightning Bolt review – noise-punk duo remain one of the great live acts

Underworld, London
Still triumphantly unhinged after 25 years, the US duo break all the rules of what punk and, indeed, live music should be

Lightning Bolt invert the laws of gig physics. The bass-and-drums duo always play on the floor of the venue, an egalitarian gesture that nevertheless creates its own hierarchies: the tall or fearless get the best view. Drummer Brian Chippendale wears his trademark patchwork balaclava complete with mic inside, a phantasmagoric item in shades of red – in snatched sightings between the heaving crowd he looks like a burns victim glimpsed in an emergency unit.

The noise they whip up invites instant moshpit pandemonium, but with the US duo right next to the crowd and in danger of having a foot put through their gear, the slam-dancers have to almost imperceptibly hold themselves back. This is a beautiful sight, like birds beating their wings back to slow down as they land. One sweaty man keeps his fur-lined parka on for extra buffering. Chippendale gestures at the back of the venue: “That’s the promised land. If you’re coming forwards, go backwards. If you’re going backwards, also go backwards.”

The music also doesn’t follow the rules, beating various styles – hardcore punk, thrash metal, noise, glam rock, grunge, free improv, even a kind of ambient blues – into a rough, slippery emulsion. Chippendale sits in a lineage with the likes of Greg Fox and Zach Hill, hyper-skilled punk drummers informed by jazz; his flurries of sound are kept aloft by with insistent toms. The equally brilliant bassist Brian Gibson wrings an outrageously wide range of raunchy sound from his instrument, at one point simultaneously playing big down chords and Van Halen-style high-pitched widdling. After 25 years in the game, they remain one of the world’s greatest live bands.

• At the Underworld, London, on 13 November. Then touring the UK until 16 November.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Irish drill, jazz violin and supermarket musicals: 30 new artists for 2021
From the ferocious hardcore punk of Nicolas Cage Fighter to the ultra-meditative ambient of KMRU, discover new music from right across the pop spectrum

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

01, Jan, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Tunisian techno, Xitsongan rap and Satanic doo-wop: the best new music of 2019
From cheeky rappers to explosive hardcore punks, we introduce 50 artists sure to make an impact in the coming year

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, Laura Snapes and Ammar Kalia

28, Dec, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Special Interest: the DIY noise-poppers calling for reparations
The New Orleans band, ‘all actively practising homosexuals’, evoke the chaos of today in their whirl of punk, techno and melody – and resist the commodification of queerness

Luke Turner

31, Dec, 2021 @12:30 PM

Article image
Black Midi: Schlagenheim review | Alexis Petridis's album of the week
This hyped quartet of Brit School graduates deliver some powerful kicks between the clattering, self-satisfied rackets

Alexis Petridis

20, Jun, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Nova Twins: Supernova review | Alexis Petridis's album of the week
The genre-splicing pair’s sharp, concise songwriting makes for a mindblowing blast of distorted noise-pop – and destroys the narrative about who gets to make rock music

Alexis Petridis

16, Jun, 2022 @11:00 AM

Article image
Sheffield's post-punk explosion: synths, steel and skinheads
In the late 70s, the city’s bands set out to create the sound of the future – while trying to avoid getting beaten up. Jarvis Cocker and other leading lights recall a revolutionary scene

Daniel Dylan Wray

12, Dec, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
The 100 best albums of the 21st century
We polled 45 music writers to rank the definitive LPs of the 21st century so far. Read our countdown of passionate pop, electrifying rock and anthemic rap – and see if you agree

Ben Beaumont-Thomas (1-50); Laura Snapes and April Curtin (51-100)

13, Sep, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
'An Einstein among Neanderthals': the tragic prince of LA counterculture
David Lynch, Devo and others remember the murdered outsider Peter Ivers, who dressed in spandex, sang about frankfurters and pre-empted the pop energy of MTV

Gabriel Szatan

27, Dec, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Special Interest: Endure review – jackhammer beats and punk catharsis
The New Orleans band provide a release from tough times with a hardcore album inflected by funk, glam rock and disco

Emma Garland

04, Nov, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters review – a glorious eruption
The unhurried artist’s first studio album in eight years is astonishing, intimate and demonstrates a refusal to be silenced

Laura Barton

17, Apr, 2020 @8:00 AM