The Art of Self-Improvement

Ragweed, a ‘scuzzy rock trio’ from Brighton, appreciate the importance of being immersed in live music. Their show is based upon this very concept: they have an audience don blindfolds and spend its duration sightless. We are unable to be distracted by external factors, instead forced only to listen to the piece and to unpick the layers that construct it. I think they’re onto something, and I’ve a lot of admiration for what they were trying to do. Unfortunately, neither the narrative nor the music was strong enough for the show to sustain itself.

The less said about the narrative the better. The vocalist is no actor and the writer no Shakespeare, the former’s voice sounded uninterested and the script felt contrived. It surrounds a man who is just out of prison, finds a woman, takes her back to his and, in a fit of rage, beats her to near-death. There was some moral in there as well – that self-improvement is an art – but they must battle against their limited ability to execute this after an inconsistent narrative arc.

I know enough of the heavy rock of bands such as Fucked Up and The Bronx to grasp the intention behind this genre of music. These bands celebrate submersion, the excitement of being borne along as the one becomes subsumed within the track. But Ragweed, even live, lack the same power as their forebears. This, I gradually came to realise, is because the construction of such music cannot be down to simply its volume. Intensity depends upon a nuance that Ragweed lack.

The problem wasn’t that I disliked their music, it was that there were no chills, there was no bearing away. That, ultimately, conflicts with the very point of this genre and even more-so their blindfolded show. However loud they were, I nonetheless felt detached, keen to be swept away but ultimately feeling pretty underwhelmed by what is a flat sound. Fucked Up can get my heart-racing on my iPod, so there is little forgiveness that Ragweed were unable to do the same live. I commend them for a great idea and great intentions, but they could do with indulging in the very art they tell us about.


The Blurb

The performance by Ragweed, a Brighton-based scuzzy rock trio, comprises of original spoken word and live music from the band, creating a macabre narrative for a series of chapters, enhanced through projected images.