Wednesday, 24 August 2011

CSS and Alpines at XOYO - 23 August 2011


It’s been a month since my last gig and I’ve been suffering from withdrawal. I couldn’t find a venue in Stockholm and I had an evening rioted off in Shoreditch. It’s been very frustrating.

But tonight, I’m back, baby.

It’s a rather inauspicious return. I desperately want to like gloom pop trio Alpines but I find them very hard work.

Singer Catherine Pockson is a sight to behold. Strong of voice but teetering very much on the cusp between thin and emaciated, her fingers genuinely give me the creeps – the last time I saw bones like that they were being carbon dated in a lab.

Alpines are not bad, just rather over familiar. There’s nothing here that really stands out, except for the occasions towards the back end of their set when the keening, emotive delivery suggests that the first Portishead album may not have been too far from their thoughts. You feel that Alpines will be more interesting on record, and there is certainly material here that might come alive in the remix.

It’s been a while since Cansei De Ser Sexy were last on these shores. In fact I haven’t seen them since they played to a cold and indifferent Wembley Arena as support act to Gwen Stefani.

In many ways, Lovefoxxx and co have followed the classic trajectory of fashionable pop bands. A first album that everyone loved, sell out tours, media chasing them all over the place and then a second album that failed to excite much interest at all. Now, some four or five years later, they are back with a new collection of songs under the heading of ‘La Liberación’.

CSS are a brilliant party band, so they ought to be great in a small underground venue like this. However, it doesn’t quite work out that way…

As the band appears onstage the venue is suddenly filled with soap bubbles. It is magical and unexpected, as though we are suddenly little plastic divers affixed to the bottom of a fish tank.

Singer Lovefoxxx starts the evening in a heavily studded leather jacket and neon finger rings. She’s up for a good time and so are we. By the second song she’s crowd surfing around the venue and all seems well.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that the sound tonight is just awful. It’s both quiet and muddy and despite the frenzied efforts of the band it’s very difficult to get more than a rough outline of the songs they are playing. Admittedly I’m not helped in this regard by a disinterested, loud mouthed wanker yapping in my ear throughout.

It also doesn’t help that the band are beset throughout with technical problems that bring them to a halt between songs and break ups any momentum that the set might have been gathering.

The performance is split fairly evenly between their first two albums and the new one. Naturally enough, it is the material from their debut that gets the best response. ‘Alala’ and ‘Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above) are still stone classics. New songs ‘Hits Me like a Rock’ and ‘Fuck Everything’ suggest all is well in the song writing department.

For me, a rather mixed return to live action. I enjoy the bubbles and can’t fault the effort of the bands. I just wish I’d been able to hear them clearly enough to get more into them.

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