Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kaiser Chiefs

I think I have now seen Kaiser Chiefs more often than I have seen any other band. I'm not sure why this should be. It surely can't be explained by the fact that Whitey is one of the few people on this planet who makes me look smart. Today he's kept to the spirit of the day and dressed as a gardener, complete with tatty overcoat - although, in a concession to summer, the beenie hat is absent. So, why, then?

First and foremost, it's because they are fun to watch. They know that they are a caricature of whatever a rock band is supposed to be. Why else would you fill your songs with 'lalala', 'woah' and other things that (to paraphrase Half Man Half Biscuit) show that you can't think of any more words? Why else have a giant neon 'KC' over the stage? Or have so much dry ice that it took ages to get even a half decent photo? Every time Ricky Wilson climbs the lighting rig or sprints from beneath one video screen to another, it is with a knowing grin that says "Who cares about credibility when you can have fun?". Which is great. Credibility is vastly overrated and always has been. Give me fun and talented bands over worthy dullards like U2 any day.

Also, this band don't seem to care that they are no longer music press darlings. They know that "...Angry Mob" works live, to the point where both "Ruby" and "Everything Is Average Nowadays" appear in the opening half of the set, whilst a B-side like "Take My Temperature" is the penultimate number, greeted every bit as rapturously as more familiar numbers. In all, it is a massive two fingers to everyone who said they were finished.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


When the hell did Editors turn into such a good live band? Not content with sneaking off and making a second album before XFM has finished playing "Blood" and "Munich" from the first one to death, at some point they seem to have lost the awkwardness of their early live shows and become one of the 'must see' acts of this summer.

Initially, the presence of a piano centre stage sends a Coldkeane-inspired shiver down the spine. Fortunately, Tom Smith is no Poverty Chris and mostly contents himself with playing a bit of rhythm guitar - leaving all the tricky bits to the supremely talented Chris Urbanowicz. The set alternates between tracks from new album "An End Has A Start" and old favourites like "All Sparks" and "Bullets", whilst "Fingers In The Factories" is still an amazing way to end a set.

Being picky, you would have to say that Smith's habit of gurning like Michael Palin in "A Fish Called Wanda" is really offputting. And new songs like "The Racing Rats" and "Escape The Nest" sound disconcertingly like they belong in a West End musical, even if the latter does feature a guitar sound not heard since the heyday of Big Country. But it really is just me being picky, you have to see this band.

The Cribs

It's difficult to write an objective review of The Cribs. It's like trying to write an objective view of, say, a green salad. You always get exactly what you expect - which in the case of The Cribs is boundless enthusiasm and energy allied to little discernable musical talent. So the three Jarman brothers thrash along quite merrily, with little or no consideration for boring musical conventions such as 'staying in time' or 'all being in the same key'. In fact, Gary's vocals frequently aren't in any key at all. But opener "Hey Scenesters!" roars out from the stage, new single "Men's Needs..." sounds like any other Cribs song and after that point it all becomes a bit samey. Then Ryan leaps into the crowd, returns minus his t-shirt and it's all over. Just like you expected.

The Duke Spirit

They're back! Back! BACK! (As Smash Hits would've said.) Liela Moss and her band of oestrogen fuelled House of Love copyists have been away far too long and it's great to have them around again. Their new sound is harder, rawer, even, but a hugely partisan audience lap up every new number like a fat kid in a new McDonald's. The old standards, such as "Lion Rip", "Dark Is Light Enough" and raucous closer "Love Is An Unfamiliar Name" still get the loudest cheers, but there are new favourites in the making here and if one band deserve to make it big in 2008, it's The Duke Spirit.


Kids grow up fast nowadays. A few short months ago, Mumm-Ra were a small band swimming in the same pool as the Maccabees, the Dykeenies and other such tuneful but interchangeable bands. Then they released two brilliant singles, "What Would Steve Do?" and "Out Of The Question" and suddenly they find themselves standing on the main stage in Hyde Park. And they are bricking it. I have rarely seen a band look as scared as Noo, Tate & Co. Which, in turn, means that they totally blow the chance to make any impression on their biggest crowd ever. Possibly the world's first agrophobic band, they are so much better indoors. Go see them there.


Remember the Japanese gameshow 'Endurance'? This is what you would get if the winners formed a band - four lunatics shouting, jumping, screaming, making up words and playing the recorder. Imagine Sigur Ros ripped to the tits on tartrazine. And wearing orange jumpsuits. Playing an eight minute version of The Knack's "My Sharona". That's Polysics.

I think I saw something good here, but I was too busy enjoying the spectacle to listen to the music.

Los Campesinos

The great thing about being a kid is that you get to play with kids' stuff all the time. Which, if you are Los Campesinos and have barely finished university, means you get to bring your child's glockenspiel and your melodica onstage. This is a good thing, because it's the childlike enthusiasm and melodies which set LC apart from any other band.

Visually, it's like being at a school concert after the Ritalin has worn off. Vocal - and toy instrument - duties are shared between Gareth and Aleksandra. One is like Pennie from The Automatic would be if he was as young as he thinks he is; the other is Kate Jackson from The Long Blondes without the self concious flirting. And if any of this lot have passed their final exams I'll be amazed, because musically they are tighter than any other seven piece around and have clearly spent more time in the rehearsal studio than any university lab. "You Do The Math(s)" is tossed out early on, the title a knowing nod to a potential American audience. "You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives" is just plain silly, but in a good way. Recent single "You! Me! Dancing!" manages to be both brilliant and hilarious at the same time. Indeed, it is only when set closer "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" dissolves into a full on acapella freak out that you realise that the seven of them are as daft as each other. Definitely your new favourite headcases.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Charlotte Hatherley

We showed up. She didn't.

The Crimea turned up. It was kind of them, but they really needn't have bothered. Seriously. When we need another Coldplay we'll call you. Or kill ourselves.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Rumble Strips

It's almost exactly 12 months since I first saw the Rumble Strips and not a lot has changed during this time. The same songs, the same clothes (has Charlie ever taken that jacket off?) and pretty much the same personnel. Yes, they've got a bass player now, but somehow that seems like cheating - part of the allure of them was the way that, sometimes, a song would be just drums, sax and trumpet.

The really, really big and important difference is the way that, without anyone realising it, the Rumble Strips have grown from being an obscure Devon quartet to one of Britain's best kept secrets. Witness the crowded KOKO singing along to "Alarm Clock" (which, disappointingly, drummer Matty no longer plays standing up), sway along to "Oh Creole" and raise the fucking roof to "Motorcycle". Vincent Vincent must be kicking himself.

The only downer tonight is that, headlining a four band show, The Rumble Strips find themselves short of time and rush through songs to try and pack as much in before curfew. Whilst a chaotic encore of "The Boys Are Back In Town", aided - or should I say hindered? - by every other act on the bill, was fun, this was a case where less would have been more and fewer songs played at a less frantic tempo would've done just as well.

Pull Tiger Tail

Pull Tiger Tail are in dangerous territory. Playing second on the bill tonight, there is a real risk that overambition and overpromotion might just scupper what could be a pretty decent career. The simple fact is that, live, the Stratford trio are simply not good enough musicians to justify so high a billing. When they get it right - on "Animator", "Mr 100%" and "Hurricanes" - then they are very good indeed. But it is no coincidence that those are three of their four singles, so - presumably - they have played them more often than anything else.

The rest of the set, on the other hand, is a shambles. Cues get missed, everyone gets out of time with everyone else and even recent single "Let's Lightning" ends up in a wimpering heap on the floor when it should be soaring to the rafters. Although each of the three members of the band manage to cock up at some point in the evening, you do wonder if bass player Davo dropped the Nicky Wire copycat act and concentrated on being in the right place at the right time, everything would stay an awful lot tighter, because there is not much point having great songs if you murder them every time you play them.

The Little Ones

OK, I admit it. The Little Ones have me totally, utterly confused. What are they trying to do? Are they trying to be the new Thrills? Does Ian Moreno think that he is a long haired Johnny Greenwood? Does the world need another Thrills? Does it need another Johnny sodding Greenwood? DO I EVEN CARE??

Basically, if you like anodyne, West Coast harmonies played by people who grin too much, then you'll love the Little Ones. Except, possibly, for the last song they play tonight, which sounds like a Bloc Party single. Except that Bloc Party are pants live. In which case the best thing I can say about the Little Ones is that they make a damn good Bloc Party covers band. And I'm pretty sure the world didn't need one of those.

Blood Red Shoes

Teenagers, eh? When they are not sleeping or hanging around on street corners, they just love stomping around the place in a huge strop, banging and crashing and generally making a heck of a row. Notwithstanding the research that indicates that all teenagers develop a state akin to autism at some point during those six years, it's still a situation which is barely mitigated by the fact that, at 18, they can at last stand their own round and buy their own fags.

Hooray, then, for Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter, who have at last found a way to channel a single teenage tantrum into a 30 minute set. Think of the White Stripes, but with smaller egos and more talent for drumming. Or, if you prefer, Giant Drag, only slightly less filthy -but probably only because they are too young to have fucked Chris Isaak. You certainly can't be fooled by Carter's 'little girl lost, look at me in my shift dress and pumps' routine, not when she tells you you all look 'fucking awful' for no apparent reason.

If anything lets Blood Red Shoes down tonight it is teenage impetuosity. Introductions are garbled, timing goes awry and Carter muffs the bit where she switches from the guitar she has been playing to one she can smash. Despite that, "It's Getting Boring By The Sea" and the perfectly titled "ADHD" are on a par with anything Ash managed at the same age, whilst "Leaving You" allies a hitherto unhinted-at sense of humour with superb comic timing. The only thing that can stop them is growing older.