Monday 18 April 2011

Homesick Hustlers, Hella Better Dancer at Bull & Gate - 15 April 2011

Homesick Hustlers

The pub is busy tonight. Not, it turns out, with folk who are here for bands that are playing in this venue, but who are off to the Forum next door for DJ Shadow. I’m sure that they will have a good time, but frankly they are missing the boat – the real excitement in Kentish Town tonight is right here.

First up and playing their first ever gig (at least under this name) are A Sinking Ship. For fans of largely instrumental quiet, quiet, LOUD THRASHING guitar post-rock, these guys are pretty good. I have difficulty giving them my full attention because unfortunately they have their mates along to support them and they do this by shouting to each other loudly through all the quiet, quiet bits.

Next on we have The Complete Short Stories. This six piece band are a vehicle for singer Kerry Adamson who does indeed have a terrific voice.

While I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find them perfectly watchable and entertaining, I do find it rather hard to fathom their intended audience. It’s very mainstream sort of Stage Schooly stuff which is well performed but not for one minute likely to really quicken the pulse.

Hella Better Dancer are much more interesting. They may be very stiff and awkward, chatter nervously between songs and occasionally seem to be on the verge of breaking down completely, but they do have the ‘stuff’.

There is definitely something happening here. Singer Tilly sings/speaks through a succession of tunes (and it good to hear a regional accent) and has that rare knack of being sympathetic and likeable without doing the ‘poor little me’ routine of certain other similarly apparently gauche acts. For some reason I keep thinking of The Cure circa ‘Three Imaginary Boys’. A good thing.

The key point here is that the band is very focussed and sure of what they are doing, and just because they are a little rigid does not detract from this. I like them a lot and will keep tabs on their progress.

I have seen the Homesick Hustlers before and since then they have moved on – they are no longer just a highly promising band of young musicians who are feeling their way, but now a fully fledged act that doesn’t need any allowances to be made for them. They are far better than I suspect they are aware.

Not that they aren’t cocky.

Whip thin singer Ben Walker sports a Bieber-esque fringe and the kind of Napoleonic dress coat that has been associated in the past with such rock luminaries as Jimi Hendrix and Adam Ant. And, er… Kasabian. So, this is a statement of intent.

The ‘Hustlers are so youthful that if you stacked them on top of each other they still wouldn’t be old enough to buy a drink. And yet they are the best and possibly only proponents of bouncy castle fizzy pop Mississipi swamp blues around today. When the cast of Glee get around to covering the Birthday Party, they’ll find that a better bunch has got there before them.

And that’s the wonderful thing about this bunch – they growl like tiger cubs who haven’t yet opened their eyes but who know that they will be rulers of the jungle. Particularly if you substitute the words ‘tiger cubs’ with ‘Tom Waits’. Possibly.

What I love about this lot is that they have one foot in the past and two feet in the future. It’s not natural, it shouldn’t work, but it does. Gloriously.

The rapport between Ben and Ewa is the real key here – he’s rasping and gabbling, twirling and whirling, she’s laughing like a drain at his antics and matching him with a throaty vocal of her own. Their enjoyment is infectious.

The Homesick Hustlers have made a very decent album available for free download on their Facebook page and its completion marks the end of their beginning. Now they need to decide on what to do next.

I think that they could do very well indeed.

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