Sunday 4 November 2012

Taffy and Blindness at Wilmington Arms - 3 November 2012


It’s been a number of years since I was last at the Wilmington Arms. They’ve now completely separated the downstairs venue from the rest of the pub. It is small and dark and intimate.

It’s also not too busy initially. Haiku Salut play to the proverbial one man and a dog. And me and my friends constitute the dog.

The girls perform a set in which a wide variety of keyboards, accordions, trumpets, melodicas, kick drums and some iPad-weird-Bjorky thing come into play. The problem that arises is that once you’ve acknowledged the range and diversity of the instrumentation on offer, there’s not really much else here.

It’s all very pleasant, but each song is basically an interlude, rather than something to listen to in its own right. They might as well perform behind a poster of the test card.

The next band represent something that I didn’t think actually existed.

In my mind there have always been pub bands (who are perfectly respectable but relatively mundane and content to ply their trade at a lower level, usually for the love of playing rather than any expectation of greater things) and bands that have some spark of originality about them and who are giving the music business a real shake.
 It’s a reductive way of thinking, but it has generally steered me right.

My initial impression of Blindness turns out to be totally wrong. They’ve clearly been around the block a bit and they are dressed rather like a cheesy night club act. But I am wrong to dismiss them this easily.

After an uncertain start the band settle into a slow and heavy and all-conquering electronic groove which is shot through with lashings of distorted guitar feedback. Right up my alley, in other words.

Singer Beth Rettig arches her back and emotes in a low, urgent voice. I’m reminded of acts like Curve, or even the later iterations of the Jesus and Mary Chain. I like them a lot.

I’m attracted to Japanese bands on tour in the same way that a wasp is drawn to a plate of strawberry jam sandwiches. Tonight I’ve alighted on Taffy.

This band continue the retro theme of the previous act and actually hark even further back into music’s past.
In 1986 I used to go to the Bull and Gate about three times a week to see bands like The Wedding Present, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Soup Dragons. At this time My Bloody Valentine were a power pop combo.

Taffy would have fitted right in to this scene. We might now call this music star-gaze or the like, but back in the day it was disparagingly called ‘shambling’ and mostly sneered at. But really it was great pop music made with guitars.

Taffy play pure jangly C-86 power pop. It’s impossible not to tap your feet and jiggle about.

Singer Iris is dressed in pink. Guitarist Asano introduces the band by phonetically reading from a notepad and thanks us for coming. The pleasure is all ours. Drummer Ken is a joy- a happy bespectacled and slightly plump figure who beams from ear to ear. It’s impossible not to smile back at him.

The set rattles along at a great pace, with the more bubblegum numbers gradually replaced by longer pieces that fall more squarely in the shoegaze genre of extended guitar noodling. What’s not to like?

It’s been a fine evening’s fun. I’ll try to get back here more quickly next time.

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