HMLTD is an art movement as much as a band, as well as an exercise in ‘spot the influences’ – from the visuals to the music itself. For the six-piece, the two are inextricable and their frenetic live shows are a spectacle to behold. The shows are made all the more immersive thanks to the band’s DIY set designers Brockenhurst & Sons whose past creations for the band include: a B-movie horror and a paradise (the latter replete with cotton wool clouds and angels handing out lipsticks).
Perhaps monopolising somewhat on the night’s proximity to October 31st – though I’m fairly sure HMLTD’s dress code of clown makeup, bizarre hats and bondage paraphernalia is not exclusive to Halloween – Camden’s Electric Ballroom was characteristically decked out for the sold-out show.
This time, felt tentacles hung haphazardly from the ceiling and lining the walls were white masks with red paint splatters, which punters obligingly wore. Elsewhere, people had acquired temporary tattoos whilst others were musing over the band-branded ziplock baggies of rock candy.
Continuing to outdo themselves before their musical performance had even begun, a dozen or so naked people took to the stage. All facing away from the audience and wearing the same masks on the backs of their heads, they stood static whilst the lights strobed. After a few unsettling minutes, the group quietly filed off, and HMLTD came on.
What ensued was a blistering set fronted by Henry Spychalski, a gradually disrobing jester channelling music icons from Ziggy to Iggy as he cavorted around the stage in pleather pants, warbling to a genre-hopping back catalogue.
Whether their prowess as songwriters lives up to their theatricals is both unclear and irrelevant. Despite a fairly elusive Spotify presence, it’s clear that most are familiar with the band’s output, with HMLTD feeding off of reactions to the older but equally popular tracks that seem to be reserved for the live setting (or the occasional teasing 24-hour upload).
Saxophone-peppered ‘Satan, Luella & I’ marked one of the many highlights. Perhaps a more accessible offering, according to its radio edit sister, the sultry release was ripe for a crowd eager to sing along – especially to refrains such as “no orgasm is ever enough”.
Elsewhere in the set, ‘To The Door’ made for a convulsing number, propelled by Spaghetti Western style guitar riffs and whole segments laced with synths, whilst closing track ‘Stained’ dabbled with EDM and typically random lyrics.
At risk of spouting the same as every other music publication, the Sony-signed collective are probably the most exciting band to emerge this year. Seemingly taking cues from all over, yet retaining a surreal experimentalism that is sure to change pop – submerge yourself in their world and make sure you catch them live.