The Sound And The Fury might be arguably one of William Faulkner’s most thought-provoking novels, but its title and themes of morality, sin and redemption certainly can be applied to Rasp Thorne & The Briars.

Montana-born performance artist, poet and musician Rasp Thorne invited to an array of songs as twisted as the bowels of hell, as decadent as Anita Berber’s dance routines and yet as bittersweet as a ‘Three Toed Sloth’ bourbon.
While on this occasion Rasp and his band The Briars did not perform a full set, they certainly delivered their goods to the full. Playing tracks from their newly released EP ‘Debutante Warnings’ (see separate review) as well as selected other material, the small but atmospheric basement venue of Ryans Bar added to the intimate ambience.

It is difficult to pinpoint the music of Rasp. Perhaps it is best described as a mixture of Southern Gothic country punk with added elements of experimental cabaret – an intriguing and rhythmic concoction influenced by the likes of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Screamin’ Jay, Blixa Bargeld… you get the idea. At the same time, it doesn’t sound like it’s a copy of the aforementioned artists. It sounds like Rasp Thorne & The Briars. Period.
Lyrically, well, here is an artist who has walked the sewers accompanied by lowlife and emerged to tell the tales. Someone who lives by his own unholy gospel, though often with an underlying current of morality.

The title of the songs performed say it all: ‘The Lechers Waltz’, ‘Pornstar Shotgun’, ‘Gun Barrel Pupils’ and ‘Delilah 666’ to name but a few.
The evening started with a poem called ‘I Was In The Desert’. Next came the ‘Lechers Waltz’ and here’s an example of Rasp’s wonderfully warped lyrics:

“A stranger promised me ecstasy
For cab fare and a pint,
But my pockets had holes and my coins had flown
So I said “Another time.”
Ever notice how werewolves and wolverines
Both sneer before the bite?
But the way they consume the throat and the womb
Are as separate as day and night.”

While bassist Duncan DeMorgan, guitarist Pete Moriarty and Hugh Zog –on lapsteel guitar – displayed a rather content stage presence, it was the charismatic Rasp (stripped bare of any make-up) who contorted his body around the tiny stage whenever he wasn’t playing the keyboards. In contrast, petite drummer Joni Deehan made up for physical restriction by applying mock-demented facial expressions.

‘Wicked Weather’ and ‘Gun Barrel Pupils’ received especially loud applause from an audience that predictably enough seemed to consist mainly of psychobillies, punks and other truly god-fearing types. During the last number ‘Debutante Warnings’, Rasp moved towards the audience in peculiar motion, twisting his face, rolling his eyes and – in between singing - knocking back his drink, albeit without swallowing. Seconds later it was spat out again, though thankfully not into my direction.

Yes, Rasp Thorne & The Briars are such a cheerful bunch really. Come join the circus when they play the TBC in Brighton with Kid Congo on April 22nd.

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