Wednesday 9 December 2009

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Ellie Goulding, Egyptian Hip Hop - Upstairs At The Garage, 07 December 2009

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

We are gathered in the relatively confined space that is Upstairs at The Garage to see three acts that have been flagged up as having the potential to break out of such small arenas and dominate much bigger venues.

First up we get Egyptian Hip-Hop, a very young bunch of Mancunian lads who touch on any number of musical trends, without really seeming particularly at home in any of them. Many of their songs display a love of the punk funk that Vampire Weekend employ, but also contain a series of protracted instrumental wig outs which must be fun to play, even if the trick is repeated too often.

The problem that I have with them is that it is in their moments when they are being most earnest and prog-rockish that they seem the most amateur and ham-fisted. Otherwise they lay down a series of good, danceable grooves and that singer Alexander’s voice is mostly inaudible doesn’t particularly matter.

This lot could go in either direction- they could become humourless musos or they could become a highly infectious dance/rock act. Fingers crossed.

Ellie Goulding is pretty much at the top of every list that predicts who is going to be huge in 2010. On tonight’s performance, such confidence is cynical in the extreme.

Accompanied only by a guy on acoustic guitar and occasional keyboards, Ellie starts off with her best known song to date, ‘Under The Sheets’. It is pretty good in an unremarkable way, i.e. nothing that would surprise you at a decent acoustic night.

Ellie is not an effortless singer. Her face contorts as she strains for the high notes, making a strange gnawing motion with her mouth which is rather unsettling and makes me feel like a tree must feel when a beaver comes towards it.

It is also the case that by three songs into her set, she has almost entirely lost the attention of this small audience, and the buzz of private conversations is so loud that she can barely be heard. As she finishes, her face is flushed with temper. Never mind, she won’t be exposed to an indifferent crowd again.

That Ellie Goulding will be a star has already been decreed by the music industry. However, on this evidence, she’s going to need a lot of polishing and carefully managed gigs to justify the money that is being put behind her.

In the six months or so since I last saw them, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have taken off big style. Tomorrow night they are headlining the Scala, so it is a bit of a coup to catch them in these small surroundings.

They have also evolved musically. In the early days they wore their influences as conspicuously as Ed Gein flapping around in the skins of his victims, but now they have a fierce confidence that makes this a real thrill ride of a performance.

They are led by the preppy charms of singer/guitarist Kip Berman, who is a young Paul McCartney, right down to the mop top hair and the cardigan. The band fairly fizzes along. If they used to be called twee, they now ally their simple catchy pop with a power that sees them take on Ash on their own territory and win.

The crowd go berserk. There are girls jumping up and down, crying and screaming and calling out. It’s genuine Bermania. I’ve not seen anything like it directed at a band like this for years. TPOBPAH are brilliant tonight, not just stars in the making but supernova right now. The future is theirs.

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