Public Service Broadcasting pic by Michael Gallacher
This is my first time back at XOYO since their refurbishment. They’ve done some extensive work.
The venue itself has now been subsumed into a larger bar called The Shoreditch Butchery. There are enough skulls and memento mori about the place to make Marilyn Manson feel right at home.
Heading downstairs, we are just in time to see Professor Penguin beginning their set.
There are seven musicians rather bunched up on the small stage. It’s a veritable pile-up of guitars and keyboards and drums and xylophones and other musical nick nacks. But however cramped they appear, their music is expansive, ranging from pure voice-led folky singing to shoegazey guitar thrash outs. It all works very well and they appear an affable bunch.
Wild Palms follow and they very quickly divide opinion within my group.
It’s all about singer Lou Hill. His voice is the most piercingly loud vocal since the days of Kirk Brandon and Spear of Destiny. Hill lollops along on the spot, stoop shouldered or else dramatically waves his arms around to declaim his point. One minute he’s Bez from the Happy Mondays and the next he’s Benito Mussolini.
Wild Palms’ sound is absolutely drowned in reverb and distortion. The songs themselves seem pretty good, but the sheer volume and shrillness makes for a physically painful experience. Definitely an acquired taste.
I had previously caught Public Service Broadcasting in a tent at 1234 Shoreditch. Judging by the numbers here to see them tonight, their star is in the ascendancy.
PSB have a great deal of equipment, ranging from the usual keyboards and drum kit to various walls of television sets and a giant mocked up TV screen that acts as a backdrop. As inevitably happens in such circumstances, there is a great deal of finnicking about before the set actually starts. It is sadly never as simple as just plugging in and pressing ‘Play’.
Although he is accompanied by a live drummer (Wrigglesworth), Public Service Broadcasting is the vehicle for one man, J Willgoose. He remains mute throughout, what rapport there is with the audience provided by a Speak and Spell machine.
Willgoose expertly marshals the video input, the vocal samples and wigs out on electric guitar and an adapted banjo.
PSB’s schtick is impressively performed but it is ultimately rather self limiting. Samples from old movies and TV programmes are synched with modern dance beats. When everything coalesces, it is a fine old racket and the world is a wonderful place. However, if it doesn’t quite gel, the effect can be rather forced and flat. It’s a very narrow line to navigate.
The band have expanded their repertoire since I last saw them. Tonight’s new material is generally much more dynamic than most of the earlier ‘War Room’ stuff. That said, the best song tonight is a version of ‘Spitfire’ which (after a number of false starts) is a guitar-drenched juggernaut of a tune.
By now the venue is so heaving with people that I’m no longer sure that I’m the only person within this pair of trousers. XOYO is sold out tonight, highlighting an unwelcome quirk in the new design of the place. The stage can only be seen from roughly half the room, with the result that a whole venue’s worth of people are trying to occupy about half the available space. It’s pretty uncomfortable.
On leaving, the upstairs bar is discovered to be full of dry ice, but almost utterly devoid of people. Spooky.
An interesting rather than wholly successful evening. Professor Penguin were pleasant company, Wild Palms were entertaining if deafening and Public Service Broadcasting were brilliant on the rather too few occasions when they really took off.
Not too shabby all in all.