San Diego’s Retox, an off-shoot of hardcore oddballers The Locus, are a slightly surreal presence in Copenhagen’s Jazzhouse. People swill cocktails and politely nod along as the band tears through their set with violent precision. The stage is dominated by Justin Pearson sweating and spitting in his little leather jacket, looking like Adam Levine’s slightly troubled younger brother. That is probably why Asia Argento, nodding along in the front row, chose him to play a part in her new film, Incompresa.
The band’s last album, Beneath California, combines the speed and violence of hardcore with meticulous precision and off-kilter riffs. Some of the subtleties of those tracks are lost when played live, or are at least undetectable under the force of sheer volume and speed. Song titles like “Die in Your Own Cathedral” and “Death Will Change Your Life” might lead you to conclude this is a rather angsty teen band, but there is an underlying humour behind them. Consider that Justin is almost 40 and has a song called “Disappointing Grade”.
The highlight of the evening is the encore. The guitarist comes back on stage and starts creating ominous textures with guitar feedback (a skill he has been exercising throughout the set), before being joined by the whole band for a single beat, a final guitar stab, cymbal crash and scream, ending the ‘song’. It’s both a parody of their brevity, but also the logical, satisfying conclusion to it. But I can’t help thinking it’s also a reference to the fictional band Crash and the Boyz from Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, and had to stop myself from yelling “It’s not a race, guys!”