The Angel in Purton is a proper boozer. Located in deepest darkest Wiltshire, it is a local pub for local people. The smell of stale smoke permeates, there is a dartboard, a pool table, golfing trophies arranged proudly on a shelf, a framed Renoiresque painting of a cherubic girl hanging on the wall and several tables scratched with keys and coins in decades-worth of conversational lulls. An old dog, disdainful of attention, mopes her way between feet, not having the energy or inclination to sniff. The Angel only closes when the last drop is drunk: in its confines, blokes are free to sink pints into the double-figures and beyond, with steely determination. It is a place where blue jokes are swapped, where football is analysed, where effing and jeffing, slurs and slaps, laughs and laments are shared. It is not, however, the kind of place where a band called Babies Vs Rabies should be performing a show of experimental rock music.
Babies Vs Rabies guitarist, Adam Crosland, formerly of Fierce Panda outfit Le Neon, seems nervous: “This is not supposed to happen. This is my local. It’s not a place we should be playing. It’s like an art experiment, waiting to see what will happen…”
What does happen when the three unassuming men wander to the back of the room where the drum kit and plethora of pedals await is loud, noisy guitar music. Not since I was fourteen years old have I known the genres that exist to describe the various interpretations of rock/metal/noise, but Babies Vs Rabies skirt many of them. There are elements of Kyuss’ stoner slop, meaty riffs emerging from expansive desert tones, Lightning Bolt’s primal thrash, the experimental distortion and deconstructed soundscapes of Sonic Youth among a host of classic rock tropes, all punctuated by spoken word vocals.
When I was a teenager engaged in a battle with testosterone and the ugliness of the adult world, I developed an affinity with fast, heavy riffing and screaming men. Although my tastes may have changed, still, somewhere inside, the riff, the extremities of sound, have the power to stir something in me. Beyond the enjoyment of the juxtaposition and the bemused look on the faces of some of the punters, Babies Vs Rabies have something to offer. It is a glorious racket they serve up, made all the more glorious and racket-like by it being played out in a quiet village pub. The Angel, for one night only, fell from grace. And Amen to that.
Words: Tom Spooner