Saturday 28 November 2009

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, Giana Factory at Bush Hall 26 November 2009

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

I love the Bush Hall. I love its faded glamour and dinky chandeliers. Its ridiculously cramped bar/merchandise/toilet area. That a grand piano is tucked absently in a far corner. That no matter how sold out it purportedly is, it always seems only around half full. That the room with the stage in it looks like a barn designed by Liberace.

I’m here for an evening of top Danish fun. I’m not to be disappointed.

We start off with the slightly sinister pop of Giana Factory, three girls who perch at the front of the stage, one with bass, one with guitar and singer Louise Foo triggering all manner of percussive samples from a podule that she beats with what might possibly be a pair of unicorn horns.

Their songs are interesting, often starting out in breezy fashion before being overtaken by an almost Kraftwerk-like machine rigour. Best of all is ‘Heart Thief’, which goes on for a good five minutes and has me twitching from foot to foot. It can be found on their ‘Bloody Game’ EP, which I heartily recommend.

So I’m in a good mood before the main band come on. I’m delirious after.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour are awkwardly named but absolute masters at the art of getting a crowd to have a great time. They play an infectious, brass-driven pop that soon has everyone lurching back and forth and grinning so much it hurts.

All eyes are on the extraordinary figure of Mette Lindberg, who is tightly constricted by a spangly black mini-dress that may have been sprayed on. She has long blonde hair falling all over her face and panda eyed makeup. Lady Gaga may have a lot to answer for.

Lindberg’s voice is very distinctive, a sexy Eartha Kitt style quack that is simultaneously petulant and pleasing. She jiggles around, banging a tambourine and flirting outrageously with the saxophone player Sven Meinilidz, who looks as though he would love to show her his horn afterwards.

Although they are plugging their debut album ‘Fruit’, the band find time for a wealth of new material, all of which sounds just as good as existing crowd favourites ‘Around The Bend’, Push The Envelope’ and ‘Satellite’. In fact it’s pretty much hits all the way. They even throw in a version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues’ for good measure.

For a breathless encore they unleash a brand new, Motown-inflected stomper that if anything tops the songs before it. It comes in at about ten on the pop Richter scale.

All good things have to come to an end, and sated, I boogie off into the night. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour have already snagged themselves an Ipod commercial, and their future looks stellar.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Plastiscines, Eight Legs at Camden Barfly, 17 November 2009


Tonight we’re off to cherchez les femmes. Dans Le Barfly in Camden.

However before we get to see the hotly-tipped Gallic gals who are headlining, we are invited to shake ourselves to Eight Legs.

This four piece have a great deal going for them. They have a succession of decent, catchy songs and a lively stage presence. They have a preening guitarist who tosses his hair and makes the girls squeal. They have a singer who cannot sing.

If front man Sam Jolly has the best set of pipes in the band, I’d surely hate to hear the others. Almost every song is robbed of about half its greatness by being barked out in a stone flat Billy Bragg honk. That this doesn’t stop Eight Legs being a damn fine band is testament to the talent that they possess, but sheesh, talk about fog horns.

And now here come the girls. Not as a drunken hen party accessorised with cheap cosmetics but as the proficient garage rock of the deliciously French Plastiscines.

The crowd go ape. In fact a small section of the audience are so rowdy and pain in the arse that it is hard to concentrate on the band, because of the possibility of having to wade in and settle their hash. However, eventually they calm down to within tolerable levels and equilibrium is reached.

The band rattles their way through a set that leans heavily on their new album ‘About Love’. Like many all-girl bands of a mock-combative nature they have a song about a ‘Bitch’. All their material is of a good standard, but none of it completely stands out. To be honest, if they weren’t drop dead gorgeous (singer Katty Besnard is going to be on the front cover of every magazine that writes about them), I doubt that they would garner more than minimal interest.

But they are fun and they make the right kind of noise and I’m not going to be churlish about them. Particularly after an encore in which they drag every girl in the place onstage for one final tumultuous pile-up of ‘Bitch’.

Vive le France. Vive le Difference!

Monday 16 November 2009

Sunday Driver, J-Marie Cooper, Gabriella Ellis - Cafe De Paris 13 November 2009

Sunday Driver

Back to the Café De Paris for a Friday of random pop acts. As usual, things are weighted more towards the X-Factor/ night club range of the spectrum, and there are some excellent performances tonight.

First off we get the leather jacket and spandex leggings of J-Marie Cooper, pouting and vamping through a series of fast tempo rock songs of the type that Pink would give her hefty tattooed forearm for. Long of leg and with a snarl on her lips, J-Marie is a formidable front woman, possessed of a piercingly powerful voice. Much better on the faster material, she also indulges in a couple of weepy ballads that are technically very good, but a bit icky for my tastes. Her only misstep is to finish with a slowed down and sanitised version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ – when the audience recognise the song there is a momentarily visible cringe and recoil. This is just a minor misjudgement – she is a terrific performer.

Next up comes Gabriella Ellis. She is accompanied by the Dark Diamonds - a bad-girl troupe of four dancers and together they raunch their way through a short set of steamy electro pop that reminds me of Britney Spears better stuff (i.e. the barmy Britney of 'Blackout').

Gabriella and the Diamonds writhe and preen and ripple with power, moving off the stage and among the audience. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.

Next up come Total Movement, who are the first band of the night. They are technically proficient in a non-threatening easy listening kind of way, but the vocals are autotuned to such a ridiculous extent that it is hard to get any feel for them. They are young and good looking, but they are either aiming at tweenagers or grandmothers. Which of course is the most lucrative market there is. It just doesn’t include me.

And then an act who are largely uncategorisable. Sunday Driver are dressed in Victorian garb (including some excellent stove pipe hats) and play a part Western, part Hindi type of rock on guitars, sitars and tablas. They are led by the very engaging Chandrika, who chats cheerfully and sings in a traditional Indian style. The combination of instruments is mesmerising and they go down hugely well. At times they almost sound like an Eastern Spiritualised. I purchase their album and although I experience a small degree of buyers’ remorse the following day, it is certainly a fine souvenir of a unique act.

The next act also flirts with the days of Empire. Lucid Jake and his band are dressed in cavalry jackets and blouson shirts. They start and finish their set with their front man centre stage, blindfolded and, to a military drum roll, feigning being executed by firing squad. As an attention grabber it’s…different.

Once the theatricals are out the way the band settle down to a series of keyboard heavy pop tunes, all of which are very easy on the ear, none of which entirely stick in the memory. LJ smiles and tosses his hair and looks as though he would eat himself if he were made out of chocolate. Still, you’ve got to admire his confidence.

Train difficulties mean that I have to cut short my appraisal of the final act, V Double E. From what I see, this is possibly for the best, as she appears to be an extremely basic rapper whom the likes of Goldielocks would eviscerate.

I always enjoy Friday nights down the Café De Paris. A great time is guaranteed and the whole evening is often as mad as a box of frogs. Recommended for anyone who wants to see the intersection of the music business and show business. For me, the stars tonight were J-Marie Cooper, who could give any TV variety contestant a good shellacking and Sunday Driver, who could entertain almost any type of crowd.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Yearner Babies, Narration, Kaputt, Sketches - Upstairs at Garage, 5 November 2009

This is a guest review from Clive, one of the Call Of the Wyld regulars. The views expressed are his own, but ones that I am happy to endorse.

"I’m off to see Kaputt, as apart from them being one of my favourite bands over the last few years I bumped into lead singer Silke at the weekend and promised to see her at their next gig. This is the third time at other gigs this has happened so I imagine that in her mind she is thinking, in German of course, “Yeah right, sure you will”. ("Yeah nach rechts, selbstverständlich werden Sie"- helpful Wyldman)

But this time there are no other clashes and I’m as good as my word. I’m expecting to clear off early tonight as Kaputt are on early and from what I know about the other bands that are on, Kaputt are the only likely candidates for producing sparks this bonfire night.

I pitch up at what is now known as the Relentless Upstairs Garage, I think Relentless relates to some sort of energy drink. Everybody is selling naming rights these days. Sketches are in full flow, they have a good little crowd of fans and for me they are ok as the opening band to warm things up and the guys are affable enough but this is not really my thing.

The Sketches fan club departs rapidly as they finish their set and we are left with about 25 people sparsely scattered across the room. This is as crowded as it gets for the rest of the night. I think everybody is out at pyrotechnic displays. Kaputt arrive on stage and after a slow start we are into some stomping old faves and I love Kaputt all over again. At the end, there is what I think is a new song, which is a special treat as I close my eyes and hear a sound so similar to the very much missed mighty KaitO. I chat with Silke after and share my latest gig list, she agrees to come along to some and I once again promise to see more of Kaputt, and I will.

Narration are up next and for me another ok proficient band, but not too my taste.

So it has just gone 10pm and I give the final band a chance, which means they have to hook me within the first three songs. Members of Yearner Babies have been in the crowd all night, some resplendent in military style jackets. I’m not expecting any fireworks from this lot and first song meets my low expectations and it looks like it will be an early finish, but bang whoosh scream in an instant that all changes, the tempo goes through the ceiling I’m listening to the Bookhouse Boys spliced with the Melys, fronted by a gorgeous Hilary Swank look-a-like, who goes by the name of Gee, who is throwing shapes and engaging gloriously with both crowd and band.

I want a bigger crowd and then we would all be dancing and singing along with complete uninhibited abandon. Works of art are scattered across the front of the stage and each piece relates to songs such as Pablo, Neville, Icarus and Mary. Also, there is a guy on stage dressed as a seagull. Obviously.

We are encouraged to sign up to their mailing list mid performance and I panic because the pen doesn’t work. They finish, its late, I run round them like a puppy begging for a CD and wanting to tell them in my slightly inebriated condition how great they are. They are saved from my further attentions by the insistence of staff that it is time to leave. My new favourite band next play in London on 16 December at Bar Music Hall."

Thursday 5 November 2009

The Phantom Band / Sir Yes Sir at The Borderline - 4th November 2009

Phantom Band

New York socialite Dorothy Parker once said of Katharine Hepburn that “She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B”. Miaow! I feel the same watching jovial guitar janglers Sir Yes Sir.

Somewhere I have a recording of the Wedding Present playing ‘Box Elder’ by Pavement. So, I would wager, have SYS. Not that there is anything wrong with that, to quote Jerry Seinfeld.

The Wedding Present - Box Elder Mo
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Sir Yes Sir ape their heroes right down to the check plaid shirts and yelped vocals. The guitars rattle along in a hundred mile an hour chime. There’s nothing deep, nothing difficult, just good clean fun.

The Phantom Band are a strange beast. Taking the stage, two of the band are shrouded in Chromehoof-style golden monk’s cowls. The rest look like they’ve just stepped off a fishing smack.

The single most impressive thing about them is how musically developed and confident they are. As far as I am aware they only have one (very good) album ‘Checkmate Savage’ behind them, yet their set is varied and strong, as though they have culled the finest bits from years of material. It already sounds like an oft-played Greatest Hits.

There is a strong Krautrock thread running through the best of their songs, powered by the cowled keyboard player and a battery of guitars. This driving groove is kept under tight rein, and never allowed to degenerate into any kind of freeform wig-out. Discipline is the key.

The variety of their sound is reflected in the use of unorthodox percussive instruments, many of which seem to have been hand fashioned from odd bits of metal or wood. At one stage, two of the band are playing melodicas, which when the tube disappears beneath a cowl makes the musician in question look like one of Doctor Who’s Ood.

Presiding over everything as master of ceremonies is singer Rick Anthony, flushed of face and squinty of eye, a jocular dead spit of Captain Haddock. Some of his gurning and mugging is a little ripe for my tastes, but he can certainly sing, often in a beautiful falsetto.

Everything is going swimmingly until we reach ‘Island’. This is a slow, long lachrymose dirge of a ballad that sucks all the momentum out of the gig. It is immaculately performed and the crowd go absolutely nuts for it, - it is clearly the Phantom Band’s signature tune, their ‘Stairway To Heaven’. And I just hate it. Which is a problem, because it is infuriatingly memorable.

It kills the rest of the set for me. I just can’t get back into them, even though it is followed by ‘The Howling’, which for me is the highpoint of their album.

So I finish the evening somewhat torn. That The Phantom Band are a formidable outfit is not in question. I like/love a good eighty percent of what they do. But that other twenty percent causes me big problems. I think that in future I’ll stick with their records.