Just about a year ago we were all set to play a gig with lupine troubadour Thomas Truax at Liverpool's louche boho loitering-hole MelloMello. We were understandably very excited about this. A day or two before the gig we discovered that the place had shut down. We were as equally un-excited about that.
We'd been rehearsing in the venue's basement on and off for a few weeks, partly because the place wasn't populated by the usual twitchy amateur DJs, poodle-haired rock kids and beige pantalooned hipster toffs. They had also stopped caring about whether they charged us or not - which should have been a sign that things weren't quite so mellomello behind the scenes.
We turned down the offer of playing a Jazz Night at Kazimier (which is now in the process of being shut-down too) instead, and thankfully a slot was found at the newly established home of the anti-hipster underground arts venue Drop The Dumbulls.
Truax is an anomoly. He's honouring a kind of tradition that barely exists in contemporary culture, with the exception of moments of Tom Waits, The Dresden Dolls, Nick Cave, P.J. Harvey.
He makes me think of antiquated carnival acts: those fairground games where someone in a striped suit and bowler hat guesses what you had for dinner once when you were nine; eerie Eastern-European stop-animation, fairy tales that end in death and destruction.
It's all oddly familiar, even comforting - but the instrumentation (a unique collection of automaton drums and found objects retro-fitted with echo-boxes and digital tape-loopers) gives him an edge of originality. And no, Truax is not Steam-Punk.
He isn't Steam-Punk in exactly the same way Michael Moorcock isn't Steam-Punk: some people just do their thing: some people try too hard to imitate that thing.
Where Amanda Palmer is readily and easily imitated (because nothing that she does is particularly original): the rag doll attire, the Brechtian theatrics, an upright piano sound and an effected 'politely appalled at the world' attitude; anyone trying to copy Truax is doomed to a life of singing into washer-dryer parts, endlessly pursuing the perfect pinstripe suit. Nobody needs to see that.
Truax is crumpled and quirky without coming across as annoying or too geeky. There is a definite nod to Tom Waits in the music - particularly on record.
And you can't fault his dedication to doing things his own way: with an array of unique, fragile home-made instruments that must be a pain in the ass to transport and set-up, he certainly isn't making life easy for himself.
We play Drop The Dumbulls Saturday 12th December, with Liverpool Electro Post-Punk Double Echo.
Image c/o http://thehearingaid.blogspot.co.uk/2010_11_01_archive.html
The Mekano Set