¡Forward, Russia! @ Mercury Lounge, NYC 6/14/06

They all turned out for ¡Forward, Russia!’s sold-out NYC debut last night: critics, bloggers, sing-along super fans (chanting to an album slated for a September States side release). You can call us all three. We’ve been waiting for ‘em since last September, and just hearing Katie Nicholls sound check behind the kit — yelling “1, 2, 3, 4″ into her vocal mic — was enough to get us frothy. The band (and their song titles) may be all about the numbers, but they sure as shit ain?t by them. ¡Forward, Russia! was fierce. The crowd was slayed. Another U.K. import done good.

“Thirteen” kicked it off, and it took about as many seconds for Tom Woodhead to begin a total assault on himself and the stage. Using histrionic yelps, spastic convulsions and a mic cord that doubled as tourniquet and noose, Woodhead wore every bit of the frenetic neurotica fueling each four-minute sound explosion. And it got him sweaty. Asking for a towel, he got the shirt off a guy’s back. “Really? I sweat a lot.” He smiled and wiped down his head. “That was a bad decision.?

The only derailing moment came during a tuning lag after “Sixteen” (see, that’s how you know you’re at a NYC buzz show). But a brief bit of foot-shifting later, “Fifteen (Pt I)” was on. Thunderous rhythm section crashes. Stabbing guitars. Forgiven and forgotten. Except for maybe that whiplash we’re dealing with. ¡Bastards!

“Pretentious post-punk” is an easy write off for a band that references Einstein and Hemingway, plays with punctuation and has numerically named songs with no apparent sequence (the numbers indicate the order recorded, not their track listing; relax!). But a kick-ass album and must-see live show later, you’ll let it out for Leeds. Gang of Four’s seminal sound must still be in that water, ’cause the city ? and its New Yorkshire scene ? has given us another serious player in the permutation of punk.

The setlist:

Put these on your iPod, funny guy.

¡Forward, Russia! – “Fifteen Pt. I” (MP3 Link Expired)
¡Forward, Russia! – “Nine” (MP3 Link Expired)