The spookiness of Halloween seeped over into the following night, with TKK's presence in town as part of their 2002 Ugly Spirits tour. Something of a surprise to have stumbled across this gig - could have sworn they'd given up the ghost years ago, after having flirted briefly with being the Next Big Thing (I still remember almost falling off my seat with their unexpected appearance in The Crow).
The audience was a strange mix too, befitting one of the most chameleon-like of bands, who seem to have covered every musical style from industrial through lounge music to swing. A mohicaned punk nervously eyed the guy in the zebra suit and platform heels, while the entirely normal couple in front of us snuggled contentedly at the decadence of it all.
We missed opening act Voodoo, but they themselves apparently said that they sucked, so we swept past our disappointment with ease. Second support act were Cherrie Blue, formerly known as Lady Galore when incarnated with the Lords of Acid. Her solo CD was produced by co-TKK high priest Buzz McCoy, but really isn't the sort of thing that comes across well live. A good chunk of it - including a worrying percentage of the vocals - was on backing tape, and the result was mostly like watching your big sister sing in the bathroom. The songs weren't particularly strong either, started, continuing for four minutes without going anywhere interesting, then stopping. After one which featured the words 'Chemical Messiah' repeated what seemed like several hundred times, Chris turned to me and said, with dripping sarcasm, "What's this song called?" We headed for the bar.
TKK took to the stage, lead singer Groovie Mann wearing shades. While we'd normally regard this as self-conscious affectation, when he took them off for one song, we could see why. Never has Michael Caine's line from Get Carter been more appropriate: "I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow." We were quite grateful when he put the dark glasses back on. Remember kids, just say no... Musically, the show was a stark lesson in the fragility of talent, and a lesson as to why we hadn't bother with TKK's last couple of albums. Somewhere - round about 1995 - aliens abducted Mann and co-founder Buzz McCoy, replacing them with almost identical pod-people.
However, these replicants are largely unfamiliar with what Earth dwellers call 'music', and the resulting releases are but a pale shadow of their original selves. It also doesn't help that much of their horror-death-industrial-sleaze style has been appropriated by Marilyn Manson, to greater effect and success. However, there's enough intensity and drive in their back catalog to make for a pulsating show, even if you spent more time than you'd like diverted into trying to work out which movie that sample comes from. Mann's gravelly vocals still drip with the dark promise of unbounded hedonism, and when the whole crew (boosted by Cherrie Blue as a backing vocalist) hit their stride, the results were impeccable. Tracks like The Days of Swine & Roses, with its eminently chantable chorus, "Christian, zombie, vampire..." and A Martini Built for 2 retain their impact, despite being a decade or more old.
Thrill Kill Kult may be a band whose time has passed... but a fine time it was too, and as a memorial to bygone days, it was an evening pleasantly spent.