Thursday, 1 May 2008

teenagersintokyo / Stricken City / O Children

teenagersintokyo photo by Daniel Boud


Getting in to the venue slightly late, first band O Children are already onstage. You can’t really miss them, because they have just about the most distinctive looking singer currently on the circuit.

Tobias is not far shy of seven feet tall and is as thin as a snake. His eyes are hidden behind dark glasses and he seems very self conscious – occasionally dancing, but often with his back to the audience. In many respects he reminds me of Mark Stewart, another giant who was uncomfortable in the limelight (although Stewart would go to even greater extremes to hide, usually turning all the lights on stage off and cowering behind the speakers).

I really like their sound. It is an extremely pared down rumbling take on the darker moments of Eighties bands such as Bauhaus or the Sisters of Mercy. A more modern analogy would be with the US act She Wants Revenge, but O Children are much lighter of touch, more danceable, more playful. They have a song called 'Ace Breasts', for a start.

Tobias loosens up as the gig progresses, finally cracking a smile as they play 'Dead Disco Dancer' with the wrong backing track behind it. They finish the song and then repeat it sans accompaniment, twitching and snarling (jokingly) as they do so. I like these boys and will see them again.

The next act is called Stricken City and they too have a very tall singer in the pleasingly goofy form of Rebekah Raa. The rest of the band play second fiddle to Raa’s flapping, jumping and whooping – she’s exhausting to watch.

She doesn’t sing so much as yelp in a series of staccato barks, rather like Bjork but without any of the latter’s range or power. Raa is very likeable, but only rarely hints at any real emotional depth, for all the sincerity with which she performs. And I hate to say this, but the band’s cover of Talking Head’s “The Book I Read” is truly excruciating, despite obviously being a labour of love. Stricken City are not really bad, just a bit silly.

teenagersintokyo (spelling and lower case important) hail from Sydney and burst onto the stage in a whirl of percussion. At one point during a tumultuous opening number every single member of the band is hitting a drum, bottle or other percussive instrument. The venue goes from standing to full-on party in about ten seconds.

There are four girls in the band and one guy, who wisely keeps his head down and lays down a series of whomping beats on the drum kit. Although they have a nominal lead singer called Samantha, who weaves around the front of the stage in a diaphanous robe, the apparent leader of the band is keyboard player Miska, who also sings. She is wearing one of those trilby hats that were really cool about two years ago, and complains bitterly how hot she is under it, but cannot remove the offending item for style reasons.

As the set continues it becomes clear that this band are almost schizophrenic, veering from thumping funk numbers such as the opener, some soulful ballads (which Samantha struggles to get her voice around) to long free-form almost psychedelic rock tracks, complete with Great Gig In The Sky operatic wailing. It’s all good, but musically teenagersintokyo are all over the place. I don’t know if there is more than one songwriter in the band, but it certainly feels like it.

However, the girls are great fun, and the growing sense that things are slightly out of control and could collapse at any minute just adds to the slightly unreal atmosphere.

teenagersintokyo in many ways resemble that other chaotic band of goodtime girls, CSS. As yet, they are not as confident or advanced as the Brazilians, but on tonight’s showing, they are going to get noticed sooner rather than later.