Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Spinnerette / Future of the Left / The Chapman Family at Islington Academy 23 February 2009

Spinnerette pic courtesy karaokequeen3 @ www.spinnerette.com/community

Kingsley Chapman is hitting himself over the head with his guitar. The Chapman Family are playing to a young and mostly female crowd and are tearing the stage up.

It’s been far too long since I last saw this band and it is clear that their almost non-stop touring has paid dividends in the tightness of their delivery and their developed showmanship. They need these skills this evening, because (at least at the beginning of their set) only half of the amplifiers in the venue seem to be working, and instruments and vocals are arbitrarily dropping in and out of the mix.

Another way to attract attention is to attack the audience. After the first song a drumstick is hurled straight at us. It whistles past my ear and hits a girl standing behind me. Fortunately she saw it coming.

The Chapman’s songs favour a strong martial beat and this relentless percussion gets the crowd going. Kingsley is also a fashionably tortured front man- now bent double and screaming; now threatening to strangle himself with his microphone cable. The set progresses to ever escalating guitar abuse, and ends in squalls of feedback and instrument hurling. They went down well, I think. The plan for world domination is stil on.

Future of the Left are always the same and yet always different. Tonight’s set borrows liberally from their forthcoming new album and all the usual FOTL elements are present and correct. There is sparse and brutal chopping guitar; massively angry and yet nonsensical shouted vocals and a running spat with the crowd.

For this band, altercations with members of the audience are as predictable and cosy as an episode of Last of the Summer Wine. Despite the mock-ferocity of the vocal exchanges, there is never any real threat or danger.

The new songs blend seamlessly with the older tracks like Small Bones, Small Bodies – they certainly haven’t messed with a winning formula. Great noisy fun for everyone.

Brody Dalle has been off the scene embracing Josh Homme and motherhood since previous band The Distillers ended, and tonight is one of the first chances to catch her new project Spinnerette.

It is clearly early days for this set of musicians and the band take quite a while to get into their stride. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the new material being played tonight – things may change in the coming months, but at present these songs tend towards formulaic and solid rather than dynamic and striking. It’s American alt-rock by numbers.

However, Brody herself has really developed as a performer and is clearly trying to add to her previously rather limited repertoire as a screaming punk chick. Tonight for much of the set, she dispenses with the guitar altogether, concentrating on her singing. She has a tremendously powerful voice and as the set progresses, you can see her start to enkoy herself, the band loosening up and confidence levels soaring.

The performance ends abruptly and violently. Brody leaps into the audience beneath her and disappears. It is not clear whether she has hurt herself or whether she has injured one or more of the girls who had been flocking adoringly down the front. The lights come on and confusion reigns. The rest of the band troop off and that’s it for the night. It eventually appears that no permanent damage has been done to anyone.

A noisy and enjoyable night’s entertainment. The Chapman Family are becoming a formidable live band and Future of the Left are pretty much one of the most reliably enjoyable acts around. Spinnerette are still very much a work in progress, but any band with the arresting Brody Dalle at its hub are worth catching.

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