Review of Mammal Club’s last ever show, at the band’s Stepney Bank rehearsal space on 14th September 2012
Back in June I reviewed Mammal Club’s first North East gig of 2012. It was the official launch of the band’s latest single Painting, which many recognised as their strongest to date and an indication that they hadn’t lost any momentum following 2011’s Au EP. It was a great show and chatting to the band afterwards it seemed plans were afoot to write more new material this year and potentially even an album in the not too distant future. All seemed well but it clearly wasn’t. Arriving home late on a Wednesday night in August, a mere two months later, I was gutted to read online that Wilson Astley’s had announced the end of Mammal Club; “The emotional effort I put in no longer produces a proportional amount of emotional reward.” That might well be true for the twenty-five year old who began playing in bands when he was just twelve but the most potent reason listed later – “Spite and jealousy of shit bands doing better than us” – really stood out among the rest. After three years together they deserved to be much further on than they were at the end.
Walking down Stepney Bank and under the arches on route to their last show the conversation turned to the fact that for many of us it was incidental that Mammal Club were a North East band. As one friend put it, “When I talk about Mammal Club being one of my favourite bands I’m not on about North East bands, I’m mean of all bands.” Looking at my own Spotify stats for 2012, this is very true for me too – they’ve been played more than anyone else this year. I was actually living overseas when Mammal Club formed in 2009 and remember Tweeting ‘Can’t wait to see @MammalClub when I move back home’ to which I received the response ‘If you book us we will come to New Zealand…’ (I never did book them!) but I think this message (regardless of how serious it was) certainly shows how once they were new and eager to impress…fast forward to July 2012 and their support slot at Cluny 2, Wilson addressed the crowd with ‘Thanks for coming, we really appreciate it, despite 1 in 5 of you being the press’. A joke of course, but tinged with the frustration that all came pouring out in that 1000 word death note a few weeks later.
So…there we all were crammed into Mammal Club’s tiny lock-up for the last time. Wilson, Adam and Colin were the last in up the stairs and launched straight into things with ‘Otter’. It already seemed to be happening too quickly – is this really the last time we’re gonna see this performed live!? It’s been said before what a great performer Wilson Astley is. Not only does he multi-task on various instruments while skipping and dancing his way through songs, but when he addresses the crowd you discover he’s hilarious too. At the end of ‘Otter’ he clarified: “I was planning to say nothing between songs and just get on with it but I remembered how an outpouring of emotion helped to turn Andy Murray from being an annoying c*nt and into the most adored person in the country.” And later after ‘Origami’ explaining that they will be auctioning off their posters and CDs with the money going to a charity for middle class kids who have never had a gap year.”
Humour aside though, this was a serious night for many people and in particular the WAGs and families of Mammal Club who received a special thankyou towards the end. This led into ‘Towards You With Lust’ a song which Wilson penned about a girl who “…by some miracle, or mistake, I am [now] lucky enough to call my girlfriend.” A brilliant piece of song writing particularly for the line “Every word I speak is just a mispronunciation of your name” which resonates with everyone who has ever fallen helplessly in love with someone else. It was at this point that the tears started – audience members, band members… the hairs were stood up on the back of my neck and I had glazed eyes throughout this song. I was near the front but I’m sure if I’d turned around at any moment I would have seen the same thing in the faces looking back at me…and that was it. Painting followed, hugs were exchanged and Mammal Club left the stage and down the stairs to roars and cheers, which guitarist Adam Hiles later described as”…better than being put on a boat, on fire, Viking style.”