Tuesday 17 February 2015

Girlpool, Fake Laugh, FVC at The Lexington - 16 February 2015


Everybody has to start somewhere.

Tonight is the first solo show by Florence Van Camerjik akaFVC. To me she seems familiar, and I eventually realise that she had been the reluctant girl singer who helped out the band Oscar on a support slot the lasttime I saw tonight’s headliners.

She starts her set abruptly, rather at the mercy of her backing music, that provides beats, melody and a vocal track over which she can sing.

She wanders the stage, psyching herself up, her microphone clutched close to her face. The effect has echoes of a girl trapped in her bedroom, grabbing a hairbrush and singing along with hits on the radio.

Florence is a bit stiff and awkward at first, but gradually loosens up, rearranges her clothing and presses on. She has an air of knowing gaucheness that suits the material very well.

What really stands out even at this early stage is the quality of the songs. In a short set of barely half a dozen tunes FVC establishes herself as one to watch out for in the future.

Florence is followed on stage by Kamran Khan, who is doing a solo set as Fake Laugh.

Kamran is young, handsome and painfully earnest, possessed of a beautiful clear voice that gives every song he sings the eerie intensity of a religious work.

Unfortunately, the singer is attempting to make a silk purse from sow’s ears. The songs, though lovely to listen to, are very humdrum, with lyrics that are very much of the moon-June-spoon variety.

By coincidence, both Fake Laugh and FVC have songs called ‘Little Things’. FVC’s was a pop-savvy vignette of young woman anxiety, while this one goes ‘The little things you say / Make me want to run away’. It’s delivered delightfully, but terribly trite.

This is the second time in a couple of months that I have seen tonight’s headliners Girlpool.  The pairing of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad is evolving all the time.

It’s interesting watching the dynamic between the pair. Before Christmas, it seemed as though the flame-haired Cleo was the dominant partner. Not so now. The spotlight is very much shared, and Harmony is much more forceful.

It’s very much a joint enterprise, as all songs are sung in tandem, a folky keening that makes their work seem traditional in nature, even though the songs themselves are brand new.

Girlpool are only just coming to the world’s attention, and at present it is not entirely clear what they will eventually be. They are writing and discarding songs at a prodigious rate, with new material appearing on the internet almost weekly. Half of the songs tonight are introduced as ‘new’ and by that the pair seem to mean ‘written in the last couple of days’.

This is clearly evidence of a duo on a hot streak of creativity, but it does also mean that their set is so much in flux that at times it feels like a jam session between the two. They are still figuring out what works, what doesn’t, what they like, what they don’t. The audience gets a bit shut out during this process.

An interesting evening then, with a variety of acts finding their way and attempting to forge an identity. Good luck to them.

(Another song not played!)

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