Saturday 21 February 2009

Star Scream / Narration / Substatic at Water Rats, 19 February 2009

The first band onstage tonight features an electric violin. A fine instrument, but rather like Tabasco sauce in that there is a delicate equilibrium between too much and just right. Fortunately, Substatic have the balance spot on.

Substatic are impressive on this tiny stage, although their brand of dance friendly music should be rightly aimed at hordes of revellers in gigantic Balearic super-clubs. The beat is fierce and pulsating, but never to the detriment of a succession of catchy upbeat songs, well sung by the red haired Colleen Quinn. She stamps her feet, waves her arm and shuffles about. The audience does the same and we are off to a good start.

Next up come Narration and the room washes with their emotion. Every song is an epic, drenched with yearning and angst. Cobalt-eyed singer Dan Holt clutches his guitar to him like a drowning man to a proffered tree branch. Occasionally he seems about to clamber into the audience, but each time he appears overcome with torment and stays put.

This emo-onslaught is rather an acquired taste and I suspect that you have to suspend credulity and just allow it to gush over you. Tonight Narration have me teetering on the edge between wanting to see them headline the Glastonbury Festival or simply rolling around laughing at them. I can’t make my mind up about them, but they are very, very good at what they do. Set-closer ‘New York City’ is a fair indication of what they are about, a long, slow building tune that ends with the band a spent and teary wreck.

The Mars Patrol are altogether simpler, and a great deal less appealing. This is no frills pub metal. They have a lively fan following who adore them, but their plodding does nothing for me.

It is somewhat of a surprise that tonight’s’ headliners Star Scream have by far the fewest fans and are much less polished than any of the other acts. However, it is in this very looseness that their appeal lies.

They are a bizarre looking bunch. Drummer Dom sports the classic Phil Oakey Human League haircut, bassist Aiofe is attired as though she has just fallen out of one of those Substatic niteclubs and singer guitarist Adam Lightspeed is as tall and thin as a rake. He comes with the added bonus of a guitar that flashes blue lights.

They have great energy and play a rhythm heavy glam rock. They flirt with Golden Age of Burlesque era Marilyn Manson and are none the worse for it. Instruments are flailed, microphones are knocked about and much fun is had. ‘Scenester’ features a throbbing electro bass line that Georgio Moroder would have been proud of.

A generally good, if varied evening. I would not bet big money that any of the acts playing tonight will ever transcend small venues such as this, but there is at lot of pleasure to be had watching them try.

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